An homage to the ‘god of manga’
THANKS TO the magic of lengthy column lead times, regular readers might be surprised to learn that between writing last week's column and this week's column, I managed to fit in a quick vacation in San Francisco.
Well, OK, so part of the reason was to do some research for an upcoming project -- and a special exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, "Tezuka: The Marvel of Manga," allowed me to vacation and learn at the same time.
For anyone who might not be familiar with the work of Osamu Tezuka, here's a quick primer: Tezuka is referred to by many as the "god of manga," a man who laid the groundwork for what would become the modern manga industry. His first work in 1947, "Shintakarajima" ("New Treasure Island"), depicted simple actions across multiple frames and used sound effects and dynamic page layouts, making his artwork seem like frames from a movie -- a technique he would use throughout his career.
(As an aside, Dirk Deppey of the Comics Journal recently reported that one of two known existing copies of "New Treasure Island" recently sold on Yahoo! Japan's auction site for 677,000 yen, or about $5,900. Quite a bargain for a piece of history.)
Tezuka would later go on to create "Jungle Taitei" ("Jungle Emperor") and "Tetsuwan Atom" ("Mighty Atom"), two series that later were turned into anime. Older American fans might know those series as "Kimba the White Lion" and "Astro Boy," respectively.
The exhibit focused more on his manga work than his influence on what was then an emerging anime industry ... but then again, there's quite a bit of ground to cover in his manga career to begin with.
Consider some of the other titles represented in the exhibit now in print in the United States or translated in the past: "Apollo's Song," "Black Jack," "Buddha," "Crime and Punishment" (a manga version of the Dostoevsky novel), "Metropolis," "Ode to Kirihito," "Phoenix" and "Princess Knight."
Throw in another series represented that fascinated me -- the as-yet-untranslated "Ludwig B," Tezuka's manga biography of Ludwig von Beethoven -- and one thing becomes clear: The artist really had a way of making simple drawings come alive off the page. It might not be possible to read the dialogue, which is all in Japanese, but the action just naturally flows, guiding the eye from one panel to the next.
There was another pleasant surprise I noticed in the museum's Manga Lounge, a room where visitors can kick back in beanbag chairs, read manga and, if they're so inclined, draw something to be posted on the wall later. Apparently, there were two people in town earlier who did just that.
Namely, there was an original sketch of Anise, Anpan and Nemu, characters from the Webcomic "nemu*nemu," by Audra Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga, among the posted pieces.
Talk about a small world.
Cel Shaded, a look at the world of Japanese anime and manga, appears every Monday. Reach Jason S. Yadao