New Kinokuniya Bookstore Opens With Massive Anime Party

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Kinokuniya Bookstores The large Japanese bookstore chain Kinokuniya, which already has a widely-known store in Rockefeller Center, New York City, is opening a new flagship store in the city, on the Avenue of the Americas. To celebrate this event, the store will have a week-long opening "party" in which artists, editors, and other staff from Viz will be on hand to answer questions and speak to fans. In addition, they will hold an art show containing art by the "grandfather of manga" himself, Osamu Tezuka, creator of AstroBoy. The opening will be held during a tentative week in early October.
[via Publisher's Weekly] Continue Reading...

Astro Boy, Other Tezuka Classics Get iTunes Treatment

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Astro Boy, Black Jack, and Phoenix, three classic anime series by the "grandfather of anime" Osamu Tezuka, have made their way to the iTunes Store, allowing anyone to buy them for $1.99 an episode or $9.99/$14.99/$29.99 (Phoenix/Black Jack/Astro Boy) a season. To clarify, Astro Boy is the 1980 52-episode remake, Black Jack is the 1993-2000 10-episode OVA, and Phoenix is the 2004 13-episode series. They are all dubbed only, and the movies Jungle Emperor Leo: The Movie (Kimba the White Lion) and eight of Osamu Tezuka's short experimental films will be released soon.

I'm pretty excited about this, and this might just convince me to finally buy anime from iTunes. While we only get dubbed versions, for those interested in seeing some classic Tezuka, a low price of admission like 10 or 15 dollars makes this an impulse buy. Continue Reading...

Review: MW (Manga)

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MW Media: Manga
Genre(s): Drama, Thriller, Political
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Number of Volumes: 1
Licensed? Yes (Vertical)

Uncovering the ultimate motivations and true history behind Yuki, MW’s antagonist, is entertaining in a sadistic, morbid way. His goal is horrifying, and how he gets there is equally disturbing, but seeing it play out is like watching the most beautiful train wreck play out in slow motion. Osamu Tezuka’s brilliant presentation in the darkest, most racy story written across his entire career is unsettling, sickening, and truly one of the most fantastically told tales ever created.

It was also, for me, a hell of an introduction to the man’s work.

Jeez, even the cover will make you uneasy. The hardcover-slip screams “panic,” while the spine-image hints at (falsely, I’ll point out) bestiality. Beneath it, a black and white gas mask screams of fear, while the inner covers contain images of homosexuality at its most intimate. This isn’t exactly the kind of manga you’d want your mother to find, no matter how smart and well done it is. If your poor maternal-figure/guardian were to open to any page, they’d be privy to any number of unsettling things; rape, murder, cross-dressing, spousal abuse and vivid sexual activities, to name a few.

Yet these things are integral to the story. Everything that makes you feel sick or disgusted should, as it isn’t there to be glorified in any way. Tezuka’s portrayal of evil incarnate is the perfect contrast to protagonist Father Garai, a priest whose beliefs are questioned and morality is challenged. His lifelong relationship with the tricky but still-loyal Yuki is a constant issue for Garai as he struggles between helping his “sinful” lover and doing the right thing, which causes some of the most intense narrative tension in the entire 582 pages, with a crescendo to a climactic finale that pays off in spades.

I’ve yet to mention any specific details about the story, but that’s not an oversight. The detailed plot is so intricate and full of life that to spoil it would ruin what MW is all about. With such a heavy focus on story, it relies on your naiveté to its direction to succeed, which it absolutely will if you opt to avoid any details.

The character evolution of Garai and the inversed progression of Yuki clash in a dramatic story of lifelong revenge against humanity in what is without a doubt Tezuka’s most politically charged and mature story. The design is simplistically classic and what we’ve come to expect from the artist/author, but specific detailed imagery throughout brings forth a more daunting atmosphere in an already completely-grim thriller.

MW is a must-read for anyone with an open mind. The ultra-serious overtone is something that’ll catch fans of most of Tezuka’s work – even more so than Ode to Kirihito – totally off guard. I can’t emphasize enough how messed up everything is in this single stack of hardcover excellence, but everything becomes clear as the stunning narrative advances, builds up, and comes completely crashing down on itself in the best way.

Art: 3.0 Average:

(3.667 stars)
Plot: 4.0
Overall: 4.0

Release Quality: 4.0
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Review: Black Jack vol.1 (Manga)

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Black Jack volume 1 Medium: Manga
Genres: Drama, Medical
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Number of Volumes: 17 in Japan
Licensed: Yes (Vertical, Inc.)

Three decades is a long time to wait, but Doctor Black Jack has finally reached the shores of North America. Osamu Tezuka's most popular adult manga, and his second most popular manga ever (behind Astro Boy) has for a long time been missing from the shelves of American bookstores. In 2008, manga fans here in North America could finally feast their eyes on the timeless masterpiece that is Black Jack.

As with most Tezuka comics, the story of Black Jack is quite simple. Doctor Black Jack is an enigmatic surgeon-for-hire, a man without a medical license who charges exorbitant prices for his work. The price is worth it, however, since Black Jack also happens to be the greatest surgeon the world has ever known. He wanders the world taking any job that comes his way, with only his assistant Pinoko at his side.

In Black Jack, Tezuka – known by most fans for his "childish" manga Astro Boy – does a seinen manga just right. These stories are definitely not for children or the faint of heart, as they contain detailed depictions of surgery and various references to violence and depravity. Still, they are so much more than just examples of gruesome situations and the crazy solutions to said situations. Black Jack is a complex character, and while his face may seem cold and immovable, he is far more expressive than the seinen posterboy Golgo 13.

Therein lies Tezuka's most resounding success in Black Jack. The title character wears all black and has a scarred face, but he is not a jaded man who has turned his back on the world. At times he will take jobs without payment, risk his life for the sake of a patient, or even fall in love. The dichotomy between Black Jack's image as a heartless mercenary and his true identity as a caring, thoughtful person forms the backbone of each of his stories.

And what stories they are! In one, a man is diagnosed with a face-sore with its own personality that seems to quell his own murderous addiction. In another a painter is caught in a nuclear blast, and calls on Black Jack to keep him alive so that he can finish his masterpiece. In one of the most important stories of all, Black Jack is tasked with removing a "teratoid cystoma" (a sort of internal Siamese twin) from an eighteen-year-old-woman. Despite the protests of his clients, the doctor saves the jumbled mass of organs and constructs a living girl out of them: his assistant Pinoko, who must live in the six-year-old's body that Black Jack has constructed for her.

The artwork is pure Tezuka – stark, simple, and very reminiscent of the Fleischer Brothers and Walt Disney. Sometimes (especially when showing natural backgrounds or medical scenes), the versatile artist will lapse into the beautiful, dense artwork that readers might recognize from his masterwork Buddha. Of course, Tezuka's simplistic character designs have always been the groundwork upon which all of manga is built, and the incredibly expressive characters of Black Jack are no exception.

Despite Vertical's ugly, difficult-to-read cover design for the first volume of this series, Black Jack is a fantastic read, perhaps the best one manga fans have gotten in 2008. Tezuka's classic should have been here a long, long time ago, but that takes nothing away from the magnificent yet subtle power of this enduring work.

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Ani-Gamers Podcast #016 – Pinoko Is A Creepy Stalker

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The central cast of Black Jack

Hosts: Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto, Mitchell Dyer, Elliot Page
Topic: Black Jack (Manga: JP-1970, NA-2008)

In this episode, Mitchy reappears to talk about Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack manga, which we've wanted to review since last fall when it began its English language publication courtesy of Vertical, Inc. Our second guest, Elliot from Luke and Elliot's Bearfighting Extravaganza, was invited onto the podcast between the first segment and the review, so he joins us for the remainder of the episode.

This episode was recorded the weekend after the last episode was released, which seems like a fairly reasonable schedule for the podcast going into the future. Maybe we'll end up doing that.

Or maybe I'll just end up not having enough time and the episodes will come out weeks late like usual. Which would be terrible. So, look forward to an attempt at a regular, every-other-week schedule from now on, but don't be surprised if we have to skip a week sometimes.

Show notes and links can be found after the break.

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - RSS Feed - iTunes - Send us Feedback! - More episodes

(Runtime: 53 minutes, 58 seconds)

[0:00:00] Intro: Time to sync up our claps!

[0:00:09] Opening Song: "R.O.D Theme" by Taku Iwasaki (R.O.D. OVA opener)

[0:00:25] Evan begins the show by shamelessly pimping his appearances on the Anime3000 Panel. He was on both parts of the Gaming episode: part 1 and part 2.

[0:01:30] What'cha Been Doing? Evan has been watching the 1980 Astro Boy anime remake, reading volume 3 of the Astro Boy manga in preparation for reading Naoki Urasawa's Pluto, and playing more Far Cry 2. Mitchy has been playing UFC Undisputed and Red Faction: Guerrilla.

[0:14:16] Promo: The Big Bald Broadcast

[0:15:35] Discussion: Elliot of Luke and Elliot's Bearfighting Extravaganza podcast makes a surprise appearance, and joins Evan and Mitchy for their Black Jack volume 1 review. But since he has read into the later volumes, Elliot provides some much-needed temperance to some of the generalizations (and Pinoko-hating) that come up. Highlights of this segment include: Having sex with 12-year-old elves, operating on a self-aware computer, and a child constructed out of jumbled human organs. One of those things doesn't happen in Black Jack. We'll let you be the judge of which one.

[0:42:41] Break: SushiTV pilot

[0:43:23] Links of the Day: Elliot stays on for this segment, where Evan begins with the pilot for the failed anime TV block SushiTV (provided to the Internet by Justin Sevakis). Then Mitchy suggests a Wired article about Catan. And finally, Elliot has the announcement of, and video footage from, the new Team ICO project, dubbed "Trico." An argument between Mitchy and Evan about Shadow of the Colossus ensues. They once recorded a similar argument about the game that never made it to the podcast due to technical problems.

[0:48:54] Mitchy was writing one-paragraph reviews last month over at DownWriteFierce, and Luke and Elliot have been talking about silly things like Angels and Demons and Star Trek over at their podcast. Here at Ani-Gamers, Ink is continuing his column, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Brotherhood Diaries.

[0:52:05] This ending is SO GAY. And we're all good with that.

[0:53:30] Ending Song: "WORLD END Instrumental" by FLOW (Code Geass R2 second opener)

[0:53:46] Outro: Protip - It's alwaysEvan's fault.
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Prediction: Vertical's new Tezuka title will be Ayako

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The Japanese cover of the Kodansha Complete Works edition of Ayako

If you're addicted to the Twitter you might already know this, but Vertical, Inc. has got more Tezuka in the pipeline. Marketing Director Ed Chavez recently announced that the publisher, known for their growing catalog of classic manga by the likes of Osamu Tezuka and Keiko Takemiya, is in the process of licensing yet another manga by the "god of manga" himself, Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Black Jack, Buddha). Mr. Chavez did not name the title, but he did post a tweet listing some of the details of the release, letting slip, "It's gonna be a whopper! 704 pages. Great female lead. Cover design by P Mendelsund!!" (Mendelsund designed the striking, if a little confusing, Black Jack covers.) The manga is also "tentatively" set for an October 19, 2010 release.

So, it seems that Mr. Chavez has given us enough clues to piece together the identity of our mystery series. I've got two possible guesses that have prominent female leads and page counts of approximately 700 when compiled. The first is Princess Knight, the famous shōjo manga that inspired later series such as Rose of Versailles and Revolutionary Girl Utena. The other guess is Ayako, a darker drama from later in Tezuka's life. Princess Knight is obviously more influential and well-recognized than Ayako, but it's an earlier Tezuka series that doesn't really fit in with the rest of Vertical's catalog. Ayako, on the other hand, is a dark, politically minded drama published around the same time as MW, one of Vertical's most popular Tezuka releases.

Thus, my prediction goes with Ayako, and we'll find out if that's right when Vertical officially announces the title next week. But for now, what about you guys? Any other predictions? Do you think Princess Knight has a better shot than Ayako? Sound off in the comments.

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Amazon listing reveals Ayako as potential Vertical license

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Ayako, by Osamu Tezuka

An Amazon listing that appeared this past Tuesday shows the Osamu Tezuka manga Ayako, apparently published by manga and Japanese prose publisher Vertical, Inc. The manga is a three-volume historical series by the "god of manga" that examines the breakdown of Japanese society in the post-war occupation. It was created around the same time as MW and Ode to Kirihito, two dark Tezuka tales that have sold quite well for Vertical.

Vertical's Marketing Director Ed Chavez also announced a new Tezuka title for the publisher at a recent "Vertical Vednesday" event in New York City, and while I attended the event, the name of the Tezuka manga is under embargo for the time being, and Mr. Chavez has refused to comment on the presumed Ayako leak. Please note that Ani-Gamers is not at the liberty of confirming if Ayako was announced at the event or if it was another title.

However, if Vertical is indeed looking into licensing Ayako, it is important to note that the book might never see the light of day in America because of this Amazon debacle. The title being listed on Amazon does not necessarily mean that licensing deals are complete, so a major hiccup such as this could break down any talks that might be going on between Vertical and Japanese licensor Shogakukan.

I predicted that Ayako would be Vertical's newest Tezuka license earlier this week, and this listing certainly lends some validity to my prediction. Mr. Chavez also hinted at a few new licenses during yesterday's Vednesday event, which I have already begun mulling over. I'll be sure to write up a post if I come up with a prediction for those.

[via Kuriousity]

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Vertical, Inc. confirms Ayako license [EDIT]

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The Japanese cover of the Kodansha Complete Works edition of Ayako

At last, the veil of the embargo has been lifted, and I have been given the OK to confirm what most readers have likely already suspected: Vertical, Inc. Marketing Director Ed Chavez did indeed reveal to the press one week ago today at a "Vertical Vednesday" event that Vertical was in the process of acquiring publish rights for the manga Ayako. The series, which appeared on Amazon last week before Mr. Chavez had even gotten a chance to announce it, is a historical drama from the "god of manga," Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Black Jack, Buddha).

Despite Vertical's clear interest in the title, some in the manga world feared that the leak, which shattered the company's plan for a more controlled promotional roll-out, would jeopardize the license itself, and might cause Vertical to be unable to release Ayako in the United States. Thankfully, though, Mr. Chavez confirmed to Ani-Gamers in a Twitter message that Ayako is "locked up ... for the most part." Assuming that Chavez's original release date still stands, we will see Ayako on store shelves on October 19, 2010.

EDIT: By the way, this means that my prediction was totally right. Score!

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Celebrate Osamu Tezuka with us next month!

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The Phoenix, one of Tezuka's most enduring characters

Astro Boy. Black Jack. Kimba the White Lion. The Phoenix.

Through decades of anime and manga history, one creator has stood out as the defining artist of an entire medium. His style laid the groundwork for much of what we call anime and manga today, and his series are seeing a startling marketing push here in the West of late thanks to pioneering companies like Vertical, Inc., Viz Media, and Digital Manga Publishing. That man is Osamu Tezuka, the "god of manga."

To coincide with Vertical, Inc.'s upcoming republication of a number of their Tezuka manga (MW, Ode to Kirihito), Ani-Gamers will be dedicating the month of March to the appreciation of the artist's unique triumphs (and the illumination of some of his flaws as well). Through reviews, podcast episodes, essays, and giveaways, we will be looking at a wide variety of titles created or inspired by Tezuka, from the Black Jack manga to the Phoenix anime to the Astro Boy Gameboy Advance game all the way to Naoki Urasawa's Pluto. The exact titles that we'll cover aren't 100% set in stone, but rest assured that you'll find some famous series as well as a number of more obscure titles.

I would also like to get some participation from our audience. If you want us to cover a particular Tezuka series, or if you're a fellow anime/manga writer who would like to do a guest review for the theme month, please get in contact with us.

That's about it. I hope you enjoy our first-ever Ani-Gamers Theme Month!

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Welcome to Osamu Tezuka Month at Ani-Gamers

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Osamu Tezuka as depicted by himself in his own comics.

We know you've all been waiting with bated breath for Osamu Tezuka Month, and now that we've reached the first week of March, it's time to begin the month of themed posts. We will be starting off with two reviews: one of the first volume of the Phoenix manga (written by Uncle Yo) and one of Helen McCarthy's new art/reference book The Art of Osamu Tezuka (written by me).

In an upcoming giveaway, two lucky Ani-Gamers readers will be receiving a fabulous prize from Vertical, Inc., and depending on how it pans out, there might also be some prizes from other publishers in there. I'm lining up some guest articles from INTERNET SUPERSTARS and planning on at least one Tezuka-themed podcast. Trust me, guys, this is going to be a fun time.

So, without further ado, I hereby declare the beginning of Osamu Tezuka Month! To keep track of the theme month and the articles posted in it, check out our Theme Months page, which contains links to all of the articles that we have posted in the month:

If your need for Tezuka just can't be sated, feel free to go back and read some of our older reviews of his works. Our previous coverage of him has, admittedly, been limited (compared to how much we love his series), which is precisely why we have dedicated a month to the artist.

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Review: Phoenix, vol.1 – Dawn (Manga)

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Dawn, the first volume in Tezuka's lifework, Phoenix Medium: Manga (12 volumes)
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Publishers: Various (JPN), Viz Media (NA/UK)
Release Dates: 1967 – 1988 (JPN), Mar 2003 (NA/UK)
Age Rating: Rating Unknown

As legend has it, the phoenix is an immortal bird reborn in fire, ever watching over man and making jest of our race against death. Legend also mentions that Osama Tezuka passed away before he was able to complete the epic bearing the same name. Even with its tremendous first volume, the Kami no Manga's (Ed: “god of manga”) ambitious epic weaves a story with as much humor and pathos as classical Greek drama with the flair we expect from the master storyteller.

Volume one of Phoenix is aptly named “Dawn.” It tells the story of man’s struggle against the harsh world of the third century B.C. through the fall of a nation and the rise of hope in humanity. The title character, the phoenix herself, is seen only a handful of times, though her presence is always felt and her influence on human desire is enough to change the world. She is hunted for the belief that drinking her blood will bestow immortality and becomes a Holy Grail that inspires maddening passion. Like many of his historically set works, Tezuka takes a lot of creative license to explore rumor through his cast of stock characters. Many of the human characters are reincarnated repeatedly to emphasize the theme of longevity and the repetitious nature of humanity. Mankind’s ultimate blight of futility is its struggle and campaign to possess the phoenix for reasons both noble and selfish.

The final goal of every character, which demonstrates Tezuka’s brilliance at working from a theme, is to ensure a legacy: a reputation, a clan, or one’s place in history. The mystic queen Himiko seeks to battle off the leg-humping dog of aging. The warrior-slave Nagi seeks the power to become his own man. His captor, the mighty general Saruta, trains Nagi to become his heir and son, a minute, personal legacy compared to the bloody Manifest Destiny of the villainous conqueror Ninigi.

According to my research, the other eleven volumes of Phoenix roam between the extreme future and the ancient past, each regressing until they reach their pinnacle story during the “present” of the mid-1980’s. That is the intrinsic genius of Tezuka: to craft a story of human legacy that reaches beyond imagination, only to climactically conclude while staring you dead in the face, questioning the cost and worth of our own legacy.

From a technical direction, “Dawn” is nearly flawless. Tezuka’s framing may appear flat and cartoony to Western readers, but his panel pacing is uncanny. Three panels may take you inside a volcano, straight into a hurricane, or deeper into Saruta’s eyes as tears well inside them. There is a wonderful balance between large and small panels, between close-ups and cinematic landscapes. Larger events, such as the massacre of Nagi’s village by Saruta’s people, and then later Saruta’s national battle against Ninigi’s army, are given additional depth by the personal stake of the characters. Few manga writers truly understand the important balance of plot and character the way Tezuka did. For him they dance and flow as smoothly as his action lines.

I wouldn’t be Uncle Yo if I didn’t mention the small touches of humor that round out the story so well. Tezuka is famous for putting himself into his works as a supporting character or as an incidental gag. He appears twice in volume one, enjoying a soak in a volcanic lake, and waiting in line for a public restroom. During a training scene in which Nagi masters the bow and arrow, a pack of wolves charge him in every style known to man: from Kabuki to Disney-style. My favorite satirical moment comes in the treatment of the selfish Queen Himiko, whose orders are given in the same costume and language of Adolf Hitler, then Mussolini, then Napoleon. Even humorous parody can be used to demonstrate Phoenix’s theme of man’s repetitious behavior. A tyrant, in any time or by any name, is still a tyrant.

In the end, the firebird is as elusive and free as the wind that carries her, and her enduring presence is the greater metaphor for man’s quest for legacy. And as a fitting conclusion, the story comes full circle with a secret tribe of man (founded by one the spy and renegade character Em Dee,) sends its eldest son to climb beyond the fertile womb of their enclosed mountain valley and into the blinding light of the sun. It is a marvelous shock as mankind is given another chance at rebirth, to carry forward, to persevere against hardships. For fans of that first episode of Gurren Lagann, you’ll find a striking parallel in composition and theme, for at the story’s end the adventure only begins anew, and the ballad of the phoenix rises for another glorious reprise.

It’s Osama Tezuka. He is that good. Only better.

[Highly Recommended]

This review is based on a Viz Media graphic novel purchased by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Review: The Art of Osamu Tezuka – God of Manga

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The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga Medium: Coffee Table Book
Author: Helen McCarthy (foreword by Katsuhiro Otomo)
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts (NA/UK)
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2009 (NA/UK)

The inside cover of The Art of Osamu Tezuka depicts the schematics of famous manga character Astro Boy, with notes pointing out each of the functions of his robotic body. It is fitting, then, that the following 260 pages of Helen McCarthy's new coffee table-style book represent a "schematic" of the life of Osamu Tezuka, easily the most influential artist in anime and manga history.

"Osamu Tezuka is not the founder of Japanese animation," reminds Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Domu) in the book's foreword, but he most certainly was the single greatest influence on its evolution. The manga artist-turned animator created countless unforgettable characters (including the titular characters of Astro Boy and Black Jack) and revolutionized the post-war animation industry. Thus, for fans looking to the past for evidence of where anime evolved from, all roads lead to Tezuka. The Art of Osamu Tezuka is at once a celebration and an analysis of this star-studded career, debunking myths about the artist's influence while emphasizing the all-important changes that he did make to Japan's anime and manga culture.

The first chapter depicts Tezuka's young life before his debut as a major comic artist, beginning (delightfully) with a photograph of the boy at only one year old. This unique window into Tezuka's early life shows fascinating insight into later works in his career, though McCarthy's assumptions regarding childhood influences on his art are certainly debatable. Most interesting of all, though, are the doodles from Tezuka's elementary school days, which include some characters (like Hyōtan-tsugi) who appear frequently in his adult works.

Chapter two features an encyclopedia of Tezuka's "Star System" — his unique way of grouping his characters into an "acting troupe," with different players playing different roles in different stories. While this list naturally includes big stars like Astro Boy and Rock Holmes, it also includes a lot of lesser-known characters such as Geta (Ayako, Rainbow Parakeet) and Notaarin (Metropolis).

Later chapters each focus on a decade of Tezuka's life, beginning with his debut of Ma-chan's Diary in 1946 and ending in the late 1980s with the artist's death. Throughout, McCarthy provides descriptions of what was going on during each decade of Tezuka's life, detailing — through full-page photos and brief sections of text — his struggles and triumphs in both his professional and personal life. Then the chapter moves to a title-by-title analysis of the major works of that decade. Some are notably left out (including many Vertical releases such as Apollo's Song and Ode to Kirihito), but the analyses, often brief, provide valuable insight for anyone looking to plumb the depths of the Tezuka catalog. Still, McCarthy chooses to spoil the endings of some series, which may disappoint some Tezuka fans hoping to track down these anime and manga themselves.

McCarthy has a reputation as an "anime academic," but her writing in The Art of Osamu Tezuka is far from the indecipherable treatises of most academic papers. Instead, it frequently flows with the enjoyable style of a journalism piece, despite quite a few paragraphs that seem to be nothing but a series of simple sentences starting with the same word. (To be honest, this is probably just my editor's mind making me so nit-picky.)

Included in the back of the book is a subtitled documentary entitled Osamu Tezuka: The Secret of Creation. The slightly odd 45-minute video, produced by Japanese television network NHK, follows a TV crew as they document the day-by-day schedule of the manga master, complete with charming moments of humanity that we rarely see through all of the discussion of the man's artistic achievements. The video (even though it was produced independently of the book) has an incredibly authentic atmosphere that serves as a fantastic capstone to McCarthy's humanization of Tezuka throughout her book.

It might miss a few steps here and there, but overall The Art of Osamu Tezuka is an absolute joy for Tezuka fans old and new. At once an encyclopedia of Tezuka's work and a narrative journey through his incredible life, McCarthy's guide is an inspiring examination of the artist's impact on anime and manga. With its wealth of fascinating information and the added value of The Secret of Creation, this is a book that belongs on any Tezuka fan's bookshelf — or coffee table for that matter.

[Highly Recommended]

This review is based on a hardcover retail copy purchased by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Weekly Astro Boy Magazine app now available to new lands

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Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) from Tezuka Productions

Starting today, anyone who owns an iPhone or iPod Touch (or even, presumably, an iPad, in the future) and lives in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand or other listed countries can download the stonking good App “Weekly Astro Boy Magazine”. They join Japanese, Canadian and American fans who have been able to get the app since its original launch in 2009.

While this would be great news at any other time of year, this is especially timely given the ongoing Ani-Gamers Tezuka Month celebrations, and that fact that I personally have been awaiting the release of this App with baited breath since its initial announcement.

The app works by first asking you to download a small reader application — costing $1 or the local equivalent — and then each week additional “issues” are published which the user can purchase, each for an additional $1. The individual issues contain a mixture of chapters from various Tezuka works including the titular Astro Boy, Black Jack, Dororo, and Phoenix. The translations are the same as those used in the domestically published works due to the program makers agreements with Tezuka Productions and publishers — for example the Dark Horse translation is used for the Astro Boy chapters.

A free version, containing the first issue of the magazine, is available for you to download and try with no obligation. In addition, you are under no obligation at any point to purchase new issues so you don't have to worry about the app siphoning money out of you.

A nice bonus is that all the previously released chapters are available for download in English in the new territories right now — I will freely admit abusing the wi-fi at my work office downloading additional issues of the magazine this afternoon.

From a brief play with the application this afternoon I am very happy with the viewing software — the user interface is well built for viewing the manga pages, if perhaps a little awkward when you want to change the issue you wish to read and I have a bad habit of exiting the reader application entirely when trying to do this. In addition there is no real way to know which chapters you are receiving each week short of subscribing to the Application's twitter feed (included at the foot of this post) The official website only lists the titles present in a volume, not the chapter names or any additional details. I would be interested to see how it performs on a iPad once they are released, due to the larger viewing area.

A special bonus for me is that the first Astro Boy Story serialised in the magazine is “The Greatest Robot on Earth”, the origin for the Naoki Urasawa adaption "Pluto" and a story I have wanted to read for a long time but never had the opportunity.

I heartily recommend that you give the App a try should you have an iPhone or iPod touch — it does have a free version after all.

[via, AstroBoyMag official Twitter]

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Win a copy of MW for Tezuka Month!

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MW, one of Osamu Tezuka's darkest manga series

To begin the first of three — yes, three — contests for Tezuka Month here at Ani-Gamers, we will be giving away two new paperback copies of one of the darkest manga series ever to come out of the mind of Osamu Tezuka: MW. The story follows the exploits of the bisexual criminal mastermind Michio Yuki and his lover, Catholic priest Father Gurai. Both men were survivors of a poisonous gas leak, and the effects of the poison have warped Yuki's mind, turning him into a twisted monster. The series, created in the late 1970s, represents the darkest time for Tezuka, both in his personal and professional life.

For more information on MW, read our very own Mitchell Dyer's review of the mind-blowing one-volume story. But how do you get your hands on a copy from us? Well, we're starting this first contest off with something pretty simple. In the comments below, let us know what your favorite Tezuka manga is, and WHY (that part is important). If you haven't read any Tezuka manga, let us know which one you're most looking forward to checking out and why.

At midnight EST next Sunday (March 14), we will randomly select two winners, and they will receive brand-new paperback copies of MW, courtesy of the fine folks at Vertical, Inc. Have fun, and don't hesitate to discuss your choices with each other in the comments!

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!

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Review: Black Jack – The Movie (Dub)

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Black Jack: The Movie Medium: Anime Film
Genres: Drama, Medical, Suspense
Director: Osamu Dezaki
Studio: Tezuka Productions
Release Dates: 1996 (Japan), Apr. 24, 2001 (Palm Pictures–N.America)
Rated: R

Black Jack centers around a uniquely skilled surgeon who’ll attempt to and eventually (successfully) resolve any proposed medical emergency ... for the right price. This particular movie focuses on a publicly unexpected explosion of talent by formerly milk-toast members of society involved in the fields of athleticism, art, and science, and Black Jack’s subsequent involvement as detective and savior in their rehabilitation in the midst of a medical and commercial conspiracy. Black Jack is hired to basically fix an unforeseen defect in the genetic engineering of “superhumans” and, in time, comes to realize that his employers are *gasp* the deviants behind the medical mystery.

Although released in 1993, Black Jack (written and directed by Osamu Dezaki, Osamu Tezuka’s protégé) is beautiful in the way vinyl is authentic and 35 mm film should never be abandoned for digital. It’s a bit of a throwback in style and noir-ish in execution but remains very effective for the story told. Appropriately dominated by dark colors and lack of light, each frame, even those frozen in Dezaki’s characteristic “postcard memories,” infers a sense of haplessness, an underground mindset, and the uncertainty named boogeyman hiding beneath every young child’s bed.

The movie works within a theme of capability vs. morality, which is formally and effectively portrayed by the main character’s non-existent Hippocratic oath, and examines three prevalent opinions: that of the optimist, the independent, and the corrupt.

The optimist is wisely not the main character. Fantastically, it is the villain. She who hopes above all to push through a drug capable of advancing mankind but is so focused on the end that she does not concern herself with the means being undertaken in the process of getting there. In a likewise bit of genius, the corrupt is not the villain mentioned formerly, but the test subjects: ordinary people who volunteered to be artificially altered to obtain a greatness undeserved and who pay the ultimate price for their greed, either at their own hands or those of the addictive drug’s eventually mortal side-effects of fortune and fame.

Black Jack falls nicely in-between, serving as a polished stainless steel scalpel reflecting both sides as he cuts away the infection. In such a position, Black Jack is free to perform the surgeries necessary to save lives while standing the moral ground of not being involved in an experiment. He’s got abundant natural talent but never lets it exceed his own purpose in life, which he regards with the determination of an uncompromised licensed physician. He exists as a neutral tool himself, tasked with the duty of doing whatever legally possible to save the life in his hands.

Just because all three types of characters are complex doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. There’s the hyper-energetic comedic relief of Pinoko, Black Jack’s sidekick, and allusions via her puzzles to Osamu Tezuka characters. There is also some decently dry humor sparsely threaded into some of the less tense moments of the movie.

All things considered, Black Jack is a wonderful anime deserving of your indulgence. The art may look retro and the character designs may look a bit antique, but this is a labor of love by student for teacher that manages to retain many facets of his talented sweat. As long as you’re into well-rounded characters, distinctive visual storytelling, and an engaging (albeit predictable) plot, this movie is recommended to all adults.


This review is based on a Netflix video stream paid for by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Review: Astro Boy, vol.3 (Manga)

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Astro Boy, volume 3

Medium: Manga (23 volumes)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Publishers: Kodansha (JPN), Dark Horse (NA/UK)
Release Dates: Apr. 1952 – Mar. 1968 (JPN), Mar. 15, 2002 (NA/UK)
Age Rating: Not Rated

To be honest, much of Tezuka's work is old. We can talk about how influential his series are on anime and manga, and we can discuss the depth of his themes, but the fact remains that many of his early works, including Astro Boy, just don't age very well. Astro Boy volume three, a Dark Horse release that compiles two stories from the Astro Boy universe, is no exception, but it is still completely worth reading for a quite unexpected reason.

Specifically, this volume is a treasure trove for fans of Tezuka adaptations. The bulk of the book's 208 pages is filled with a story called "The Greatest Robot on Earth," which pits Astro against Pluto, a giant, horned robot programmed to destroy the seven most powerful robots in the world (including Astro), thereby making him king of the robot world. The kindly Dr. Ochanomizu tries to keep the boy robot from fighting Pluto, as the colossal enemy proves time and again that Astro's 100,000 horsepower isn't enough to defeat Pluto's own one million. Meanwhile, Pluto forms his first and only friendship with Astro's robot sister Uran, and faces a fundamental moral dilemma: to destroy Astro would be to rob his only friend of the most important person in her life.

"The Greatest Robot on Earth" is, according to Tezuka's brief introduction at the beginning of the book, among his most popular Astro Boy story arcs, and its popularity has even spawned Naoki Urasawa's fantastic seinen retelling, Pluto. However, readers expecting the dark murder mystery tones of Pluto will be sorely disappointed to find a comic squarely aimed at children, as this was naturally the demographic for which Tezuka wrote Astro Boy. The pacing is also brutally fast, forcing much-needed exposition into a mere two speech bubbles in a single tiny panel.

The truth is that this story has simply not aged well. It is often hard to understand what's going on as Tezuka barrels through the story at a breakneck pace, and many of the robots that Pluto destroys are barely given more than a page for character introduction before they are wiped out. Even the fight scenes, which Tezuka builds up with commendable tension in so few pages, are tragically brief, a shame considering the exciting style with which the artist depicts them.

Despite all this, "The Greatest Robot on Earth" is worth it because, despite the shortcomings of the storytelling style, Tezuka has important things to say about love, friendship, family, and most of all duty (in Pluto's case) and self-acceptance (in Astro's case). Pluto faces a classic military conundrum: to obey a corrupt order or to do what you believe is right, while Astro must choose to raise his horsepower from 100,000 to one million, even though Dr. Ochanomizu insists that being the greatest robot in the world is all about his heart, not his horsepower. In the end, even though Pluto chooses to do the right thing, it is Astro's decision to embrace the philosophy of "might-makes-right" that leaves an appropriately unsatisfying conclusion to the tale.

With so much going on between the lines, it is no wonder that this one story has been adapted into arcs in all three Astro Boy anime series as well as Urasawa's Pluto. Each of these four adaptations provides an entirely different look at the same themes. For example, Urasawa's manga delves into the private lives of each of Pluto's robot victims, while the 1980 Astro Boy anime reverses Astro's decision regarding his horsepower, painting a much less grim picture than Tezuka does at the end of this manga arc. The 2003 anime takes the story a step further, casting Dr. Tenma (Astro's father) as the scientist behind Pluto's creation.

After such an adaptation-friendly chapter, it is only natural that the balance is taken up by "Mad Machine," a brief story about a machine craeted by Dr. Fooler (a regular character in Tezuka's "Star System") that causes every robot in Tokyo to go haywire. Dr. Ochanomizu manages to take Astro Boy apart before the Mad Machine is turned on, and sends the boy to destroy it as it takes a three-minute break to recharge. Keen readers will remember that a similar machine is used by Duke Red in Rintaro's Metropolis to fry the circuits of all of the robots in Metropolis. Unsurprisingly, the scientist at the helm of Rintaro's Mad Machine is the very same Dr. Fooler.

On its own, volume three of Astro Boy is hardly enjoyable for anyone but Tezuka addicts and children, but in the context of the adaptations that it has spawned, this particular volume just might be one of the most important in the whole series. If you haven't read any adaptations of "The Greatest Robot on Earth" yet, the original manga version is easily the best one to start with. It will provide a basis of comparison as well as a few interesting themes to toy around with before you move on to Pluto or any of the anime story arcs.


This review is based on a Dark Horse graphic novel purchased by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Tezuka Contest #2: Ode to Kirihito

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The prizes just keep rolling in this month, as we move on to our second contest of Osamu Tezuka month. This week we'll be giving away four copies of Vertical, Inc.'s new two-volume release of Ode to Kirihito. However, this week we're switching up the way to enter. Instead of just commenting on this post, you'll be entered into the contest simply by commenting on any Tezuka Month post during this week (including this one).

If possible, please include your e-mail address so we can get in contact with you to send you the prize. We'll randomly pick four winners next Sunday at 11:59pm. Watch the site next week on Monday for a post announcing the winners.

I'll start us off with a conversation topic in this post: Personally, I have found that Tezuka is particularly good at evoking strong emotions in simple yet memorable single panels. What are some of the most memorable "Tezuka moments" that you have seen in his anime and/or manga? One of my personal moments is in Ode to Kirihito, where Dr. Urabe gets a startling call about the fate of his former patient. Torn apart by this new information, he slowly turns from the phone, and on the next page, we see his face up close, a grotesque mask of anger and guilt. Though he is entirely human, Urabe looks far more beast than man in that single moment.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!

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Review: Black Jack, vols.1-9 (Manga)

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Black Jack, volume 8 Medium: Manga (17 volumes total, 9 released in US/UK at the time of writing)
Genres: Drama, Medical
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Publishers: Shōnen Champion (JPN), Vertical Inc. (NA/UK)
Release Dates: 1973 – 1983 (JPN), Sept 2008 – ongoing (NA/UK)
Age Rating: Unknown

Sometimes, when I have a spare moment, I wonder what would have been if I had followed a different path in life. Maybe I could have become a concert pianist, or a doctor. The thing is, even if I had trained to be a doctor, I would certainly have turned nowhere near as awesome as Black Jack is.

Black Jack, the titular character of Osamu Tezuka's manga, is a roguish, outcast surgeon who scorns the medical establishment and instead follows his own personal code of honor as he goes around fixing people up and then charging outrageous sums of money for his services. Black Jack is, like his scarred body, a patchwork character with many interesting facets to his personality — he can be comfortably introduced as a rude, blunt dick but is set apart by his endless drive to preserve life. Thankfully his character is free from many dull tropes; he does not have a "Heart of Gold" by any stretch of the imagination, nor does he neatly fit into the mold of a typical "anti-hero".

You may remember Ani-Gamers Podcast #016, in which we discussed Black Jack and talked quite a bit about how we disliked Pinoko, the other main character in the series who for some will be an absolute turn-off. To give you a brief introduction, Pinoko is a girl "born" of a Teratoid Cystoma who believes she is Black Jack's wife. She is generally very immature, speaks a lot of garbage with a comedic lisp and is very disruptive when involved with the story. While I am still not her greatest fan by any stretch of the imagination, I have warmed to the character with her repeated appearances, as she is a genuinely interesting character.

The art leaps seamlessly from clean character art and background to hyper-detailed shots of surgery — Tezuka's own medical training no doubt shining though. I am rather squeamish to be quite honest, and thankfully any internal body shots or injuries are shown very matter-of-factly.

Black Jack's introduction in volume 1

One of the wonderful things about Black Jack, at least for me, is that almost every story is completely self-contained, even those that reference older events.

This length is a major strength of the series — each self-contained chapter is only around 20-25 pages all told. Should you find yourself disliking a story for whatever reason, in a few pages you can simply move on to the next. This also allows each tale to have it's own individual impact, with brevity bringing the best out of the storytelling. The individual tales waste no time in getting to the point and setting things out — sadly this can lead to very abrupt endings, but this pace is a nice way to present the story. Most importantly, it prevents the story from getting bogged down in details, hanging plot threads, or an overarching plot. There are distinct themes throughout the manga, which are usually tied to supporting characters, but these are used sparingly and are a treat when they appear. This short format also helps out with the dialogue — no one ever minces words and everything said is important to your enjoyment of the story.

Overall the stories have a great mix of tone; the subject is grave, life-or-death indeed, but it retains a playful air. The use of lighthearted elements is especially effective at helping to maintain suspension of disbelief for the more outlandish or flat-out crazy situations. (Like the time Black Jack operated on a supercomputer! Or the time he had to excise a talking facial deformity! Or when he had to hunt down and operate on a super-intelligent stag!)

Normally in reviews you would now expect the line of "Oh, one of those is fake, but I bet you can’t guess which one!" No, all of the above happen at some point in Black Jack.

Some of my personal favorite stories are, quite simply, ones where the ending is a downer. Sometimes a case is beyond even Black Jack, or external pressures interfere, and so for whatever reason things don't turn out for the best. It’s honestly great that not every chapter ends positively — it keeps you on your toes while reading. These conclusions are often quite arresting — more than once I found myself putting the volume down to process what had just happened because it had emotionally effected me.

Meanwhile, the main thrust of the manga's varied messages deal with the sanctity and importance of preserving life above all else as well as scorning the established medical community (one of the reasons Tezuka himself never applied his medical training directly) and other confounding variables that can get in the way of saving life.

Black Jack builds Pinoko from her scattered organs.

One of the facets of this overarching philosophy is in regards to euthanasia, and is one of my personal issues with the series. Without getting too political or turning this review into a soapbox, I am a personal proponent of euthanasia and assisted suicide, whereas Tezuka (via Black Jack) is dead set against the idea in any form. One of my favorite characters, Dr. Kiriko, assists those who wish to die and has his own back-story and issues to grapple with as he does his grisly duty. Sadly all the stories that involve him end up becoming one-sided lectures with those who suggest euthanasia coming off as straw men whom Black Jack successfully discredits by the end. After a while this begins to feel rather immature as the larger issue is stunted by the short format of the series.

To be frank, the first volume is probably the most uneven out of the volumes released thus far. The selection varies wildly between some great stories, most of which are vital in filling in back-story or introducing the few principal cast members, and other lesser chapters that left me skimming the page waiting for the story to end. As the series has continued, and I have become more familiar with the cast, the overall quality of the stories (and perhaps my appreciation for them) has definitely increased. The last two volumes I purchased I read voraciously over the course of a single weekend.

Despite its (admittedly few) flaws, I would not hesitate to recommend Black Jack to almost anyone. Not just those who like manga, but anyone who wants to read a succinct, clear, medically themed drama and isn't afraid of having it displayed pictorially. In order to write this review I had to recall some volumes that I had lent to various friends I was trying to introduce to the series — a task more difficult than it sounds as some did not wish to return the books.

[Highly Recommended]

This review is based on Vertical, Inc. graphic novels purchased by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Review: Adolf (Manga)

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The cover of the Cadence Books release of Osamu Tezuka's Adolf

Medium: Manga (5 volumes)
Genres: Drama, Historical
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Publishers: Bungei Shunju (JPN), Cadence Books/Viz Media (NA/UK)
Release Dates: Jan. 6, 1982 – May 30, 1985 (JPN), 1997 (NA/UK)
Age Rating: Unknown

Due to Japan’s strict policies against fictionalizing the events of WWII, Osamu Tezuka had to wait nearly forty years after the war before setting a story in that era that did not rely heavily on metaphor and robots. Released in the mid-1980s, Adolf is a complex story about three young men all sharing the same name: Two of their tales span the entire war as a young German Jew and a young German Aryan who grow up as friends, then become enemies as the war develops. The third Adolf is easy enough to guess in a story about WWII.

The massive tale begins at the Olympics in Berlin, where reporter Sohei Togi searches for his missing brother only to uncover a murder conspiracy. While his journey spans across both Germany and Japan, Adolf Hitler’s influence spreads as the Hitler Youth rises like an approaching drum line. His investigations discover a pinnacle secret about Hitler upon which the decade-long story pivots. This makes him the target of many assassination attempts until he can slip away into secrecy.

Meanwhile, as one race rises to superiority, Adolf Kaufmann uses his diluted Aryan background as grounds to feel superior to previous childhood friend Adolf Kamil. In the fifth volume, their parallel return to their hometown is a dark blessing at best, especially once Kaufmann discovers his mother has remarried to Japanese reporter ... Sohei Togi!

Having spent last month reading Tezuka’s Buddha and Phoenix, the stark, serious nature of this story came as a surprise. There are very few moments of comedic relief, and almost no chibi exaggerations from Tezuka’s earlier works. Even the drawing style has very detailed character design and backgrounds that emphasize the brutal nature of the environment. It is also necessary to note that Tezuka did not use any of his cast of stock characters (Ed: the "Star System") when composing this piece: every character in Adolf is designed and used solely for Adolf. When metaphor is used, however, it is vivid and striking. The most memorable moments for me in this five-volume epic are the depictions of rape: Tezuka streaks the feminine form in heavy shadows that contort into barbaric teeth and animal fangs to deliver his point across. As with most of his works, this is a testament to humanism and the flawed raison d’etre of nationality. Tezuka is unrelenting in his portrayal of pettiness driven by race and man’s need to rise higher than his peers.

Adolf’s message and story have no place remaining in obscurity for all but the fans who find the graphic novels translated by Cadence Books (a former division of Viz Media). Tezuka’s lack of Jewish perspective is compensated by his intimate knowledge of Japan’s unsettling cultural reset at the war’s end. He is able to translate that fear and instability flawlessly in the Adolf’s western Germany community. In a poignant moment, both Adolfs and their cultural groups are huddled in darkness in a single bomb shelter. The irony and the misery are captured by Tezuka’s honed sense of lighting and composition. You feel pressed against the sweating shoulder of your enemy while, above, the town you both deserve is being blown to fiery debris by America.

Graphic novels like Adolf offer so much political and historical context, it is a shame that the current generation will lose it amid their Hetalia hug pillows.

Read Adolf. Plaster its images above your bed. Organize the youth of your communities and march in the streets until Tezuka’s banner becomes the only banner this nation reads ... uh-oh ...

(Ani-Gamers does not condone the use of Osama Tezuka’s works as propaganda or prejudice against Axis Powers Hetalia nor its creator. We would just encourage you to read more Tezuka if given the opportunity.)


This review is based on Cadence Books graphic novels purchased by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Review: Astro Boy – Omega Factor (GBA)

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Astro Boy: Omega Factor for Game Boy Advance

Medium: Video Game (Game Boy Advance)
Genre: Action
Designer: Tez Okano (Director/Game & Visual Concept/Story)
Developers: Treasure, Hitmaker
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date(s): Dec. 18, 2003 (JP), Aug. 18, 2004 (US), Feb 18, 2005 (EU)
Rated: E for Everyone

I bought this game in early 2005 and, to be utterly blunt, I would have passed it by entirely if it had not been for the prominent logo of the developer on the box. Gunstar Heroes on the Mega Drive/ Genesis is a cornerstone of my youth and as a result I have a rather shallow policy of buying any Treasure game I see.

At the time of Omega Factor’s release I was starting to get into anime in a serious way. Instead of just passively watching, I was starting to do background research — finding names of directors, checking the Internet, crawling about for more information on what to watch.

In its own way this game was a massive help as an introduction to Tezuka's work as it incorporates a great number of the Star System of characters, and even includes a barebones mini-reference guide in the options screen. Some of the characters are flat-out obscure even now, but if you know who they are it is endlessly gratifying to see them all line up and take part in the plot. Hell, one of the pivotal moments in the plot has you protecting Black Jack while he operates on someone — an honestly badass moment.

Omega Factor puts you in the role of Astro Boy (bet you didn't see that coming), and follows a complete storyline from his initial activation onwards through a series of discrete stories that are initially independent but slowly coalesce into a single, larger plot. The storyline is well-paced and simply presented, told primarily through static cutscenes with text dialogue. The storyline sucks you right in, however is deeply marred by the fact that the entire story arc requires you to play the bulk of the game's levels twice in order to complete it. However, so engrossing is the gameplay that even on my recent playthough it took a good long while to actually notice that I was replaying the majority of the levels for a second time with very little change apart from the toughness of the enemies.

Towards the end there are one or two easy-to-miss links in the storyline, particularly if you are ham-handed and accidentally skip past some key dialogue like I did. These small slip-ups required me to go scurrying to GameFAQs in order to find out how to continue. I also experienced a rather irritating glitch where a plot event would not fire properly and so I had to reset the console and re-do some earlier events in order to make the game progress.

But these small issues do not detract from the games very satisfying resolution — it is (surprisingly) emotionally powerful, especially for an action game.

The moment-to-moment gameplay comes generally under one of two main types — some stages are laid out like a side scrolling beat ‘em up and others like a shoot ‘em up. Both modes share the same controls and attacks, allowing the gameplay to shift quickly and frequently between the two without needing to explain the change each time. Neither play style is outstanding on its own but the frequent switching helps to keep the game fresh, especially as levels will often drag on a lot longer than is enjoyable, with too many waves of enemies showing up to the party. The same can be said of the game's bosses — due to a quirk of the storyline you will end up fighting all of them at least twice, each time more difficult than the last. The endgame boss rush event is difficult to the point of wanting to throw your console at the wall; I have only ever completed it once on Normal mode, no matter how often I try. Still, it was an amazing feeling when I finally managed it.

Another complaint to level against the game is that it contains a particularly aggravating quick-time event — they were a lot more novel in 2005, but even then the idea of pressing the "A" button 12 times in succession without missing once to progress the plot must have seemed bonkers.

The game shoves a remarkable amount of action onto the Game Boy screen, causing rampant slowdown in some places due to the number of enemies that are visible on the screen at one time — the fact that each time you strike an enemy a collection of stars fly out to show the damage doesn't really help this.

The different difficulty modes Omega Factor offers are very well-made, with each mode feeling like an entirely different game and providing a nice chunk of re-playability. Just don't try playing on Hard mode the first time around; otherwise you are going to sound silly when you have to explain to the doctor that a fight against your asshole robot brother on the moon is the cause of your sudden high blood pressure.

The game includes a very light RPG-style element with the application of an upgrade system over the course of the game. This is nothing outstandingly original, but the source of the upgrades is rather inventive and in keeping with the general "feeling" of Astro Boy — as you meet and understand the motivations of other characters in the story you are awarded extra points to upgrade your abilities. By the end you will have everything maxed whether you go looking for additional characters or not, so there is no need to worry about having to trawl through an FAQ to avoid being horribly gimped for the later game stages.

Shortly after I agreed to write this review, I was hit by a sudden worry. "Oh crap," I said to myself, "It's going to be a kick in the pants to the reader if I review this and it turns out you can no longer get a hold of it." A quick bit of searching shows that you can quite easily nab a copy, even so many years after its release date. Hell, you may have walked past a used copy in your own local games store before. Despite my many gripes, the core of Astro Boy: Omega Factor is solid gold. I would honestly recommend picking up a copy if you see one.


This review is based on a retail copy of the DS game purchased by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Metropolis: Taking a Stroll Through the "Tezuka Backlot"

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The movie poster for Rintaro's Metropolis anime

Warning: The following article discusses important plot points in the Metropolis manga and anime. Don't read it if you're avoiding being spoiled for a manga that came out over fifty years ago or an anime that came out nearly a decade ago. If you're not a wimp, however, then read on!

One of the most amazing things about reading and watching Tezuka manga and anime is the incredible depth of the world that his works maintain amongst themselves. Beyond the universes and stories created for each anime and manga, Osamu Tezuka constructed an entire backbone to his stories, a meta-story of sorts revolving around his "Star System," a so-called acting troupe filled with the familiar faces from his manga series. In a way, he has left other manga artists and animators with more than the backbone of the anime and manga industries and aesthetics; he has left behind what might be called the "Tezuka Backlot": a universe behind the stories that opens up pathways for newcomers to work with his actors and environments to create new stories from the old. Let's take a walk through director Rintaro's unique vision of this backlot, as I analyze his 2001 film, Metropolis, through the lens of Tezuka's original 1949 manga version of the story.

It is important to note that Rintaro's vision of the backlot is distinctly different from Tezuka's manga, which, legend has it, was the artist's least favorite creation. What makes the movie so interesting is that the director takes a pre-Astro Boy Tezuka manga that was admittedly not very good to begin with (due partly to cuts forced by Tezuka's editors) and infuses it with the knowledge of Tezuka's entire canon. Thus, it serves as a powerful tribute to the life and work of its original creator just as it is a technical and emotional achievement of its director.

Duke Red coerces Dr. Lawton into creating a synthetic being for him. (Sorry, I couldn't find a scan of a manga page in English!)

Both stories begin, delightfully, with a scientific conference held by the greatest minds in the world in the greatest city in the world, the futuristic Metropolis. Tezuka's vision holds a distinct charm with its fifties-era kitschy sci-fi look, but Rintaro makes an interesting choice: Metropolis looks (at least partially) like the futuristic world foretold in Fritz Lang's seminal 1926 science fiction film of the same name. Even though Tezuka "hadn't seen the movie and [...] didn't even know what it was about", and his idea for the manga came only from a single promotional shot of "the female robot [Maria]'s birth scene," the choice to integrate this aesthetic into the adaptation shows a fascinating reverence to not just Tezuka, but his influences as well (Tezuka 164). In fact, the "Ziggurat," a giant tower that serves as a primary visual and narrative cue in the film, is itself based on the tower in Lang's movie, and it also never actually appeared in Tezuka's manga.

It is into the bustle of this city, filled with excitement spurred by the completion of the Ziggurat's construction, that antagonist Duke Red steps into the spotlight. Seen only as the shadowy leader of the "Red Party" in the manga, Duke steps up his position in the anime, becoming not just a nobleman (as his title implies), but the most powerful man in Metropolis, with the political and economic clout to control the mayor and president, not to mention privately fund the construction of the Ziggurat and maintain a private army called the Marduks. While Duke Red was at the beginning of his career in the manga, this depiction shows him after his many roles shaped him into a far richer, more powerful figure in Tezuka's stories. But Duke Red also gained something far more meaningful through his years as a Tezuka character: a son.

Kenichi and Tima from the Metropolis anime

Rock Holmes, a boy hero who made his first major appearance a mere sixteen days after the publication of Metropolis in Detective Boy Rock Holmes (1949), shows up as a villain in Metropolis (EDIT: the movie version), reflecting his evolution from an innocent child to a dark, charismatic villain later in Tezuka's career. However, Rock notably does not appear in the original manga. Here Rintaro truly expresses his attention to the backlot, as he brings in a longtime actor and all of his emotional baggage to fill a spot in a story that didn't originally feature him. Rock is often depicted as the son of Duke Red (just take a look at the first chapter of Black Jack), so his dedication to his (adopted in this case) father fits in perfectly with his character. However, the Duke denies his familial love, treating him instead as nothing more than a pawn in the Marduk Party.

From the earliest moments of the story, Rock takes out his frustration with this situation out on the people around him. Most notably, he hates robots — an act of discrimination that firmly casts him as the villain in Tezuka's meta-universe — and dedicates himself to destroying any that go out of line in the city. At the very beginning of the story, he even tries to destroy the robot girl Tima (the anime's replacement of the manga's gender-changing "Michi") commissioned by Duke Red, and his final act of the film is to make a desperate stab at the robots encircling him and his father. His deep hatred of robots replaces Duke Red's nonchalant mistreatment of such in the original manga, and provides a perfect counterpoint to the embracing philosophy upheld by the anime version of the story's protagonist, Kenichi.

Duke Red (left) scolds his adopted son Rock (right)

In the manga, Tezuka definitely explores the themes of culture clash that he would later expand upon in Astro Boy, but they are shown in a distinctly different light than the movie version. The clash is between Detective Shunsaku Ban, who is trying to unmask the Red Party's activities, and Duke Red. While Duke Red creates robots and drives them to work without a care for their well-being, Ban befriends one of the workers, who is quickly melted down by the Duke. Later, Tezuka transfers this robot friendship to active hostility, as Michi discovers that she is an artificial being and decides to join with the robots to tear down Metropolis, the pride and joy of the race that created and subjugated them.

Meanwhile, the Metropolis anime, for all of the subtlety that it infuses into Tezuka's original (which is quite blunt in how it states the moral about humans "destroying themselves with their own science"), squanders this in some ways by explaining exactly what moral it is trying to get across. The human rebel Atlas — yes, a human reincarnation of Astro Boy's rebellious robot brother — monologues to a stoic robot detective about the purpose of emotions in motivating humans to violence, and when Tima finally joins with the Ziggurat's systems and takes control of the hidden weapons inside, she lets everybody know that "this is punishment for toying with robots."

The dramatic final battle between Kenichi and Michi at the end of the Metropolis manga

However, despite the sheer number of new cast members and set pieces that it adds, the Metropolis anime winds up being far more personal than its source material. Tezuka's manga jumps all over the place, focusing on a variety of characters and never stopping long enough to develop any of them. Kenichi and Michi are only given brief moments to show their personalities: Kenichi is a cocky yet intelligent kid and Michi is, well ... just a nice little boy I guess. In the anime, Rintaro is given a chance to show Kenichi in the grand scheme of things by contrasting him with Rock, as mentioned earlier. In doing so, he focuses less on the sprawling city of Metropolis and more on the interactions of its characters. Rock and Kenichi's brief battle on the steps in the snow is a particularly poignant struggle between two Tezuka boy heroes, forced to fight by their differing ideologies. Rock also tries to kill Tima, who is essentially "taking the place of Astro [Boy] as the robots' champion" (Palmer), though such unforgivable murders of revered characters are old hat for Rock, who already attempted to kill Osamu Tezuka himself in the Vampires manga.

Finally, both stories provide interesting viewpoints on the relationship between Kenichi and Michi/Tima. In the manga, it was little more than a brief friendship, erected mostly for the purpose of indulging children in the fantasy of how awesome it would be to have a best friend with superpowers. The anime softens Kenichi's slightly arrogant personality, necessarily making him the nice guy to Rock's mean guy, and adding much needed philosophical tension to their single face-to-face confrontation (which is, by the way, the only time Kenichi attacks anyone in the whole film).

Nevertheless, it is in the final moments that the movie shows the deepest change in Kenichi's character. When faced with being thrown off of the top of the Ziggurat by a malfunctioning Tima, Ken does not choose, as he does in the manga, to fight her in order to stop her rampage against all of humanity. No, this softer Kenichi calls her name, trying in vain to get her to return to her senses. In the end, just like his manga namesake, the boy is unable to save the girl, but her loss is made even more emotional for viewers with a knowledge of the manga.

Robot detective Pero, Detective Shunsaku Ban, and his nephew Kenichi

The two stories of the anime and manga, when combined, form a tale of the futility of escaping death that Tezuka surely would have appreciated. That is to say, when Kenichi uses force to stop Michi/Tima from destroying mankind, he cannot save her from death, and when he uses kindness, he again cannot save her. To a viewer experiencing both versions of the story, it feels like Michi/Tima has died twice, and no matter what way we might want Kenichi to try to help her, he will never be able to.

When it comes down to it, Metropolis is much more than a visually stunning, dramatically powerful movie. On its own, it certainly might have wowed audiences, but as a capstone to a readthrough of Tezuka's broad body of work, the film is unbelievably poignant. Simply reading some of Metropolis, Astro Boy, and Black Jack can be enough to provide a simple education in Tezuka's Star System that will greatly enrich a viewing of the Metropolis movie. As with most any Tezuka adaptation, this is a movie that absolutely must be experienced alongside the original version to achieve the full effect.

Quotes, dates, and facts cited from:
  • McCarthy, Helen. The Art of Osamu Tezuka. New York: Abrams, 2009. Print.
  • Palmer, Ada. "Rock Holmes: Transformation." Tezuka In English. N.p. 23 Mar. 2010. Web. <>.
  • Tezuka, Osamu. Metropolis. Trans. Kumar Sivasubramanian. Milwaukie: Dark Horse Comics, 2003. Print.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!

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Guest Review: Nextworld, vol. 1 (Manga)

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The first volume of Osamu Tezuka's Nextworld

Medium: Manga (2 volumes)
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction
Author: Osamu Tezuka
Publishers: Various (JPN), Dark Horse Manga (NA/UK)
Release Dates: Jan. 10, 1951 – Feb 10, 1951 (JPN), 2003 (NA/UK)
Age Rating: Unknown

This is a guest review written by Phillip of the Eeeper's Choice Podcast. Thanks, Phillip!

Part of Osamu Tezuka’s "Science Fiction Trilogy," comprised of Nextworld, Lost World, and Metropolis, Nextworld serves as a cautionary tale of using science for the wrong reasons and what unchecked warring could do to the human race. First published in 1951, the two-volume series begins when Professor Yamadano ("played" by Tezuka stock player Dr. Hanamaru) explores Horseshoe Island, an island that the Nation of Star (it’s America, folks) has used as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. After finding a fantastic menagerie of creatures (which he describes as Verderungen, a German word which basically means ‘changed’) that are not part of the natural order, he discovers a small humanoid creature, which he decides to bring to the Nation of Star’s international conference on atomic energy to prove that atomic weapons are wrong to use. Unfortunately, due to interference from a certain Detective Mustachio (Tezuka stock player Higeoyaji), the creature escapes, an invisible hand carries off Mustachio, and Yamadano is left alone. Meanwhile, at the conference, the Professor’s attempt to warn the world is all for nothing as the Nation of Star and the Uran Federation (it’s Russia) squabble and bicker about whether or not nuclear weapons are necessary.

It is into this world we are thrown headfirst by Tezuka from his 50’s output, marked for its exploration of the themes of science versus man and identity exploration. Reading the first volume, you would never assume that the childish squabble that breaks out at the conference could be matched by the sight of enormous battleships trying to level one another, but maybe there’s a weird parallel between the two concepts. The two big nations fight and bark at each other like a pair of spoiled children, so their encounters with each other really are the same only magnified. As with Metropolis, the different strands of the story are initially taken at face value with no real significance as to the gravity of the situation the characters find themselves in. Only as the volume closes do we realise the magnitude that some characters’ choices have on people. Now, you can read as much or as little as you like into the story, but I always suspect that the author has more going on than simple gags or people behaving irrationally (even though the former does happen).

Nowhere is Tezuka’s ability to throw you off more highlighted than the character of Poponyo. A childhood friend of Ivan Redonov, the son of the Uran Federation’s ambassador to the Nation Of Star, she is — on first inspection — a happy go lucky sort of girl with nothing but love for her friend. Too bad she works as the manager of the Underground Factory, a facility run in the Uran Federation by the Ministry of Science with prisoners as slave labor. Working people into the floor, she sees no reason to go easier on the prisoners except when Ivan makes her do it. Here is a character that should be living life to its fullest, and in fact Tezuka inserts another character called Cocoa who does live the life that Poponyo should have, but who will never know anything except how to hurt other people. But Dr. Tezuka doesn’t simply make his heroes heroic and his villains villainous. One of the manipulators of the story, Ambassador Redonov, is seen writing poignantly to his son Ivan on the boy’s fifteenth birthday to let him know that he is thinking of him and that he loves him. Redonov knows what asking the boy to go to the underground factory will mean to Ivan but he asks nevertheless because he only wants what is best for him.

Tezuka would again visit the idea of nations having weapons that should never be deployed against anyone on a more personal level with 1976’s MW and in a more general way with 1949’s Metropolis with scientific progress for scientific progress’ sake. But here, instead of us doing it to ourselves, we are doing it to others first.

As the manga draws to a close Tezuka invokes the Bible and the story of Noah as the world of the Fumoon, the creatures Yamadano found on the island, and the world of humans come crashing into one another. As the two groups prepare to fight, it is clear that humanity is hopelessly outmatched even before the fight has begun, and this is not an underdog kind of fight we are witnessing. Using a simple peasant village people as his example, the villagers ask their priest why their world will be washed away in God’s final judgment when they themselves were a peaceful people and had never done any harm to anyone. Maybe this is Tezuka’s way of saying that when men play God in life and death decisions with the world in the balance, it’s the little people who ultimately pay the highest prices.

On a personal note, Dark Horse have included an explanation for how certain "people from Africa and Southeast Asia," as depicted by the author, are presented without changes. They claim that they understand how people could be upset by such depictions, but they have released it unchanged so that people can get an understanding of how the world viewed certain groups in that era. I find it ironic that Tezuka and Tezuka Productions, people who the larger manga/anime audience have ignored, would go to the trouble to explain themselves when there are a slew of popular artists and writers working today who depict people from other countries any way they chose (for example, all blonde girls from America are presented as being somehow "easy") and don’t apologize for it. Were there more like Tezuka, the experience we have as readers and viewers would be greatly enriched.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Dark Horse manga purchased by the reviewer.

Check out more articles about Osamu Tezuka in our March 2010 Tezuka Theme Month!
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Ani-Gamers Podcast #028a – The Greatest Podcast on Earth, Part I

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A great comparison of the original Astro Boy manga (in orange) and Naoki Urasawa's Pluto retelling (in black). Source unknown.

Hosts: Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto, Frederik L. Schodt, Ed Sizemore
Topic: Comparison of all versions of the Astro Boy story "The Greatest Robot on Earth" (original manga, 60s anime, 1980 anime, 2003 anime, and Pluto manga)

In a last-ditch effort to release a podcast for Osamu Tezuka Month, I recorded this episode with manga translator Fred Schodt (author of The Astro Boy Essays, translator of Astro Boy and Pluto) and manga reviewer Ed Sizemore (Manga Worth Reading), featuring an in-depth discussion of the Astro Boy story "The Greatest Robot on Earth" and all of the adaptations thereof. The episode was quite long and I wanted to get something out before the end of the month, so this is only the first part of the show.

In it, we only get to two of our discussion topics: Astro's fateful decision to increase his horsepower and the dichotomy between the philosophies and depictions of Dr. Ochanomizu and Dr. Tenma. In addition, there's a quick announcement of an Ani-Gamers Podcast contest at the end of the episode, so stick around to find out how to win some fabulous Tezuka-themed prizes, courtesy of Vertical, Inc.

Show notes and links after the break.

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(Runtime: 37 minutes)

[00:00] Opening Song: "R.O.D. OP" by Taku Iwasaki (Read Or Die OAV OP)

[00:16] Evan introduces our two awesome guests.

[02:07] We move on to some background and a plot synopsis of "The Greatest Robot on Earth."

[05:31] Our trio begins with a quite long conversation about Astro's decision to upgrade his horsepower from 100,000 to 1,000,000. In doing so, we also bring up the central themes of "The Greatest Robot on Earth" and get into the underlying characterizations of Astro, Dr. Ochanomizu, and Dr. Tenma.

[31:17] Continuing with our discussion of the two doctors, we begin with Evan's idea of the two as representing an angel/devil dichotomy. (In discussing the topic, Ed brings up an alternative model of the two as representing a yin-yang.)

[35:58] That's it for this half of the show. Evan announces the (late) Tezuka Month contest for the podcast.

[37:27] Ending Song: "Tetsuwan Atom" by Atoms (Astro Boy[1980] OP)

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Guest Post: Tezuka and the 108 Stars of Destiny

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A Tezuka drawing depicting a staggering number of his famous manga characters

This is a guest post written by frequent Ani-Gamers collaborators Hisui and Narutaki from the Reverse Thieves anime blog. Thanks, guys!

Evan has dedicated the month of March on Ani-Gamers to the legendary "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka, and while several of the writers at Ani-Gamers are contributing their thoughts and reviews, we at Reverse Thieves heeded Evan's call for guest posts as well! But what to do proved a little difficult; another review wouldn't be much help, so when Evan suggested an essay about some aspect of Tezuka, that really got us thinking. One of the artist's most famous aspects is what is lovingly referred to as Tezuka's Star System, in which his characters appear over and over in again in various works. This has become a unique trait to Tezuka that has gone on to influence a world of manga in various ways.

The Star System is a device that Tezuka uses to have characters appear in similar roles from series to series with the same character design but different names. A character like Duke Red will almost always be a villain, whereas Higeoyaji (a.k.a. Shunsaku Ban) might play a wide variety of middle-aged man roles. Tezuka often remarked on the system and likened it to a director reusing the same actors again and again after finding he liked their performances. Considering Tezuka's nigh-obsession with film and the theatre, and his frequent exposure to these media at a young age thanks to his parents, there is little doubt that they went on to not only inform the way he drew comics, but also the way he saw his characters.

At first you may think this is just a cleverly disguised way of recycling character designs, but it goes deeper than that. Ask most any writer and they will tell you that their characters are often very close to their hearts. Even take a look at yourself and how attached you may become to a character during the course of the story. There is a personal connection that occurs when someone creates a character, a history, and a story for them and Tezuka was no exception; in fact he might have felt it more strongly than most. Tezuka even went as far as writing up lists of the various "actors" he used in his Star System, with notes like how much each was paid. Tezuka fans love the Star System since it rewards readers for reading multiple series, giving them a silent wink and a nod when they notice Star System characters. It is a delightful reward when you spot, say, Rock Holmes in both Black Jack and Astro Boy.

Star System characters Dr. Hanamaru (bottom left, bearded) and Skunk (bottom right, dark scrub) argue about a surgery in this page from Black Jack

As the "God of Manga," Tezuka's influence can be seen on almost all aspects of manga and anime, and this includes other people using the Star System. While Go Nagai would go onto influence manga in innumerable ways himself, you can see the traces of the Star System in his own manga. Numerous characters from The Abashiri Family and Harenchi Gakuen reappear in Go Nagai's Cutie Honey. Violence Jack is not only a sequel to Devilman but Go Nagai also repurposes characters from several other series for it. You can also look to the prolific Rumiko Takahashi's stories for nods to the Star System. Takahashi has stated that her main character can be seen as the same character viewed during different parts of his life from a child to a young adult.

The Star System also plays a big role in Naoki Urasawa's work. Urasawa makes no bones about him being a huge fan of Osamu Tezuka — made even more clear by his writing of Pluto — but long before that he was taking cues from the Star System. He almost always uses a character that looks like Kosaku Matsuda or Yawara Inokuma in his series as well as several other recurring actors. The Star System reaches beyond manga too, as some anime directors can even be seen using it. Yasuhiro Imagawa is famous for plucking characters from many of the creator's sources when adapting a manga into anime. In Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, not only does he re-imagine Mitsuteru Yokoyama's classic, but he practically turns it into an homage as he pulls characters from Outlaws of the Marsh and Romance of the Three Kingdoms into the story. Imagawa went on to bring a similar feeling to Go Nagai's Shin Mazinger Shogeki! Z Hen.

It is easy to mistake someone using the Star System for an inability to vary their character designs. Although some manga-ka (Ed. note: manga artists) use the Star System, it is hardly a universal staple of the world of manga. At times it might seem that a manga-ka is using the Star System but in is in fact just reusing character designs due to lack of ability, laziness, or time constraints. Much like the difference between homage and rip-off, it can be a tricky matter to determine which is going on without the manga-ka commenting one way or another. But it can also be a fun and insightful line of conversation, because it is no secret that Tezuka's influence runs quite deep indeed.

This is merely an introduction and light examination of Tezuka's Star System. The system itself is more complex and its influence more far-reaching than this simple overview could give. If you wish to learn more about the Star System, you should track down the following books for more information about Tezuka himself and the many unique and influential traits of his manga:

You can also check out the following web sites, which are great resources for learning more about Tezuka:

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Ode to Kirihito contest winners are in

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A page from Osamu Tezuka's Ode to Kirihito

I decided to expand the Ode to Kirihito contest a little bit by putting people into the running even if their comment was after midnight on March 31. (Double posts didn't give you an extra chance however.) So, with that in mind, the four randomly-selected winners of the Ode to Kirihito contest for Osamu Tezuka Month are F-Man, Ninjatron, Steve, and Yan.

Everybody on that list but F-Man has their e-mail address in their Blogger profile, so I can easily get in contact with all of you. If you're reading this, F-Man, send me an e-mail at evanm [at] anigamers [dot] com to claim your prize and tell me your address!

Also, I'd like to thank everyone who commented, and particularly commend you on contributing more significant content than "hey I want a prize too lol." You guys made writing the articles this month that much more worthwhile with the knowledge that somebody out there was reading them and appreciating them. Thanks!

Meanwhile, I've still got prizes to give away here. (Thanks for all of the great stuff, Vertical!) To find out how to enter the third Tezuka Month contest, which is totally running over into April, you'd best listen to Ani-Gamers Podcast #028a for the details. Good luck!

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