5 Secrets About Osamu Tezuka's Creativity

Learn about the manga artist's life on a journey around the Osamu Tezuka Museum

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Entrance HallOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum was renovated in June 2020, with a view to making it easier to navigate and understand. Located in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture, where Osamu was raised, it welcomes a multitude of visitors today. If you bear these 5 key ideas in mind as you make your way around, you will better understand the nature of the man who many call the 'God of Manga'.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum HallwayOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), produced masterpieces such as "Astro Boy" (Kobunsha, 1952), "Black Jack" (Akita Shoten, 1973) and "Phoenix" (1954), alongside countless other works. A key theme of his works are thoughts and views about the future, and his messages about the environment and our changing lifestyles have permeated all subsequent manga to an extent that is difficult to overstate. His nickname - the 'God of Manga' - is a reference to this outsized influence.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Permanent DisplayOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

The history of the master

Over the course of his 60-year life, he drew about 700 titles, and no fewer than 150,000 pages(!). Nowadays, many manga artists work on only one work at a time, but Tezuka always had multiple work-in-progresses on the go - at one point, he was working on seven serials at the same time. An exhibit in the museum shows the chronology of his work, and pays homage to such a superhuman talent, who could simultaneously create a number of entirely different genres and styles.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Permanent DisplayOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

40 Capsules to get closer to the God

Immediately after entering the building, you will encounter one of permanent exhibitions, with 40 capsules modelled on the life support system from "Phoenix (Future Edition)". Each capsule offers some new insight into the story of Tezuka. Special exhibitions, such as those featuring Tezuka's works or other young talents, are held three times a year, with a view to ensuring that manga and anime culture are passed on to the next generation.

Osamu Tezuka "Pin Pin Nama chan"Original Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Key Idea 1: A childhood of leaning and creation

Tezuka's childhood was spent absorbed in the visual arts. He had been fond of drawing since he was little, and started drawing picture-story shows and manga even from elementary school. At the time, manga was far from being recognized or accepted as part of mainstream culture, but with the help of his (fortunately) manga-loving father and his understanding mother, he indulged it to his heart's content. Tezuka learned to get on with his schoolmates and win round bullies by lending and borrowing manga, including his own. Later, he spoke of the merits of manga during his boyhood.

From top, Osamu Tezuka's "Ludwig B", "Gringo" and "Neo-Faust"Original Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Reading gave depth to his manga

Reading written works - as well as manga - was a daily routine for Tezuka. He became fascinated with the science fiction of HG Wells, but he also delved into other non-fiction genres, reading about science and history. The knowledge he accumulated endowed his own manga with a greater depth and thoughtfulness, and allowed him to project his work outside of Japan, such as in "Neo Faust" (Asahi Shimbun, 1987), based on Goethe, or "Ludwig. B" (Shio Publishing Co. Ltd., 1989), depicting Beethoven.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Permanent DisplayOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Key Idea 2: The big world of tiny insects

The boy Tezuka was not only a proverbial bookworm, but he was also fascinated by real insects, and at one point dreamed of becoming an entomologist. On display, you can see many of his hand-drawn insect and butterfly depictions. The pictures are so precisely drawn that from a distance they look like photographs.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Atom Vision (Hi-Vision Theater) © Takarazuka City Tezuka Osamu Memorial MuseumOriginal Source: ©宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

The original anime of an insect

The museum exclusively screens three of Tezuka's original animations in its theatre, and also, experimental animations by Tezuka are screened on a monthly basis. One of the museum’s own productions, "Osamu and Musashi" (1994), is the story of Tezuka as a boy, and a ground beetle that he befriends. In reality, the ground beetle was Tezuka's favorite species of beetle. When he was in the fifth grade of elementary school, he added 虫, the character of insect to his name, 治, and nickname himself as 治虫. The short film, which was originally written and supervised by his son Makoto, is certainly worth seeing.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Messenger planeOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Ties around the manga world

The “messenger” machine in the museum has two movies - "Talks about Tezuka Osamu", by famous manga artists looking back at him, and "Tezuka Osamu talks", by Tezuka himself. Twenty artists famous in their own right - including such names as Takashi Yanase, Leiji Matsumoto, Fujiko F. Fujio, and Naoki Urasawa, reveal their thoughts and feelings about Tezuka. Fujio Fujio Ⓐ 's words - "I wouldn't have been a manga artist without Tezuka-sensei" - convey the depth of his influence on the next generation.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Manga History PanelOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

In honor of the history of manga

The stairs in the museum introduce the origins of manga, with roots which go back to animal drawings in early Japanese art.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Diorama: Takarazuka of Osamu Tezuka's Insect Diary © Takarazuka City Tezuka Osamu Memorial MuseumOriginal Source: ©宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Key Idea 3: Town of nature and culture

In Tezuka's childhood, in the mountains near the current location of the museum itself, there were even wild foxes and raccoon dogs. The mountain to the back of Tezuka's house became, to the young Tezuka, a stage on which to project his imagination – playing with insects, hunting for treasures, and creating secret societies with his friends. The nature around the town might have become, to his eager mind, a space station or a land of monsters. In the town itself, he learned about modernity and humanism, important concepts in his later works.

Osamu Tezuka "Kasugano-Yachiyo's portrait" ©Tezuka ProductionOriginal Source: ©手塚プロダクション

The Takarazuka Revue for unique heroine

The Takarazuka theatre, which was founded in 1913, remains a symbol of Takarazuka city. It is a mode of drama that involves dancing, singing and acting, with the unique aspect that only women are allowed to perform. Because his mother was a big fan of the theatre, and some of the stars lived next door, the young Tezuka often went to the theatre. His manga "Princess Knight" (1953), which depicts a princess dressed as a man, was inspired by the theater company.

Osamu Tezuka, "Jungle Emperor" (color composite manuscript)Original Source: ©手塚プロダクション

Key Idea 4: The preciousness of life

Tezuka also experienced dark times in Takarazuka. During the war, incendiary bombs landed nearby, and many were killed; he described the scene he saw at 17 as "humans and cows laying dead together". Understanding the fragility of life, Tezuka also understood its dignity. This contributed to his embrace of humanism; at one time he said that "no science can deny nature", and that his "gratitude at life naturally appears in every one of my works ".

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Statue of Black JackOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Medical manga based on his experience

One of Tezuka's ancestors was a doctor at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, and Tezuka had a lifelong affinity to medicine, debating whether to travel to Tokyo to work as a manga artist, or to stay in Takarazuka to pursue a career in medicine. Like his experience of the war, time he spent as a medical trainee at Osaka University convinced him of the preciousness of life. In "Black Jack", the hero - always prepared to defy authority - asks "Is it the doctor's duty to extend the life of a person unnecessarily, contrary to the providence of nature?"

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Osamu Tezuka LibraryOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Pick manga of the day

The library corner - where you can browse around 2000 books - covers almost all Tezuka manga. In addition to editions of many languages including English and Chinese, there are also works even in Esperanto. Tezuka smiles down from an illustration on the wall, surrounded by his characters.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Example of anime creationOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Key Idea 5: Passion for animation

The last key idea is to take note of Tezuka's work as a director of animations. From an early age, Tezuka was fascinated by Walt Disney's works, and proudly admitted that Mickey Mouse had an influence on the character design of Astro Boy. Tezuka tried to pay homage to Disney in the best possible way - by improving on his works.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Anime StudioOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Making anime that comes to life

At the museum's animation studio, you can experience and understand how an anime is produced. As well as introducing the history of anime, the wall shows a line-up of individual animation cells.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial MuseumOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

Many of those involved in the modern-day robotics industry in Japan cite Astro Boy as their strongest influence. Under its Japanese name of Atom, this manga has been read and enjoyed since it was first published in 1952. One of the Hall's attractions is an animated depiction of Astro Boy which mimics the visitor's movements.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Screen of the official appOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

As part of the renewal, a smartphone app has also been developed. As well as providing a guide to various parts of the museum, it has additional special gift contents. You can enter the museum as many times as you like on the same day, so you can enjoy Tezuka's works all day long.

Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial Museum Osamu Tezuka's working roomOriginal Source: 宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館

The “god” who promoted humanity

The humanity and charm of Osamu Tezuka - known as the 'god of manga' even in his own lifetime - permeates the museum. But the process by which he created it was often far from divine - frequently he would work throughout the night to get works finished, and his last words were "let me do my job", showing his commitment lasted even until the end. His work not only provokes us, encourages us, and sometimes makes us smile - it is also the start of something much more important, the legacy of manga that he helped to create for his 60 years of lifetime.

Credits: Story

This article was produced in July 2020, based on the interview conducted at the time.

The Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Memorial (1994) "THE OSAMU TEZUKA MANGA MUSEUM Pictorial Record" Tezuka Productions.
Osamu Tezuka (1996) "Save the Earth in Glass-To You in the 21st Century" Kobunsha.
Osamu Tezuka (1997) "My Manga Life" Iwanami Shoten, Publishers.
Osamu Tezuka (2016) "I am a Manga Artist" Rittorsha.

The Takarazuka City Tezuka Osamu Memorial
Tezuka Productions

Photo: Mitsugu Uehara
Text & Translation: Makiko Oji
Edit: Makiko Oji, Saori Hayashida
Production: Skyrocket Corporation

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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