In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Osamu Moet Moso:Imagining Lines of Eroticism in Akihabara
  • Patrick W. Galbraith (bio)

September 18, 2010: the Tokyo Anime Center in Akihabara is hosting a preevent for a new exhibition on Tezuka Osamu. I walk in expecting to see a tribute to the father of modern manga and anime, a man deified as a "god," but find instead Osamu Moet Moso (Osamu moetto mosso). The exhibition claims as its mission "to extract and embody Akiba-like elements contained in Tezuka Osamu's works."1 This seems to mean extracting "moe elements," or those elements that trigger an affective response in fans, from Tezuka's characters and aligning them with popular manga, anime, and games in Akihabara, a hotspot of otaku consumption and culture.2 Among those contributing illustrations to the exhibition are Itō Noizi, Kei and Yoshizaki Mine, known for their bishōjo (cute girl) characters.3 In line with contemporary and local tastes-and despite the involvement of Tezuka Productions, a company entrusted with preserving the creator's legacy-many of the characters on display look more erotic than wholesome. I stop in front of a rendition of Astro Boy, noting that his red boots have been elongated to look almost like "knee socks."

This is unmistakably the work of Pop, whose focus on the thighs has been a trademark since his debut with Moetan (2003). Even a cursory examination [End Page 279]

Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 1.

Tezuka Osamu's Astro Boy character illustrated by POP, famous for his work on Moetan.

[End Page 280]

of signage in Akihabara demonstrates wide support for Pop, but his sexualized girl characters have also drawn criticism from mainstream and global audiences. Nonetheless, one of his illustrations has made its way into the Tokyo Anime Center, a tourism hub and showcase for Japanese popular culture, in the form of Tezuka Osamu's most beloved character. A global icon has been redrawn in the style popular in Akihabara. But Osamu Moet Moso did not stop there. After the pre-event, it traveled to Marui One in Shinjuku, Printemps in Ginza, the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka and so on (Figure 2). The more it traveled, the more attention it gathered, connecting unlikely sites and audiences. Printings of Pop's Astro Boy were sold at both high art galleries and Comiket. Even as elements of Akihabara moved across Japan along

Click for larger view
View full resolution
Figure 2.

Pamphlet for Osamu Moet Moso exhibition at the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka in 2011. Used by permission of Tezuka Productions Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

[End Page 281]

with the exhibition, Tezuka was connected ever more intimately to Akihabara as otaku saw elements of their favorite characters in his work. This exposure to an Astro Boy made strange disrupted assumptions about Tezuka and opened up new possibilities. In Osamu Moet Moso and Akihabara, one could comment that "Astro Boy is practically the original moe!"4

Akihabara is not the source of any specific mode of representation. Rather, in the 1970s and 1980s, otaku actively appropriated from mainstream manga and anime and formulated a style in fan works, niche magazines, and related markets. As these elements converge in Akihabara, it has become a frame for retrospectively recognizing stylistic antecedents in Tezuka. In this article, drawing on personal and published interviews, I reconstruct the discourse integrating Tezuka into the history of the "cute erotic" (kawaii ero) aesthetic in Japan. Philip Brophy states that the "hyper-kawaii face" of Japanese manga appears equally in "saccharine kiddie stories and extreme pornographic scenarios," but we must remember that this was not always the case. Contemporary historicizing of cute eroticism begins with people like Tezuka telling mature stories using manga forms (as opposed to gekiga), moves through the mainstreaming of shōjo manga in the 1970s, and ends with the rise of fans and artists responding to and appropriating Tezuka and shōjo manga characters.5 Due to issues of space, and the theme of this issue of Mechademia, I will for the most part focus on Tezuka in this article and leave the discussion of shōjo manga for a later date.



Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 279-297
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.