Sunday, October 9, 2011

Late Tezuka

Fans of Osamu Tezuka who grew up reading Astro Boy and Kimba are already aware of his darker and more adult/mature stories like Budhha, Phoenix, Black Jack and even Hitler, which was translated and published by VIZ Media in the 1990s. But what we didn't expect were the late Tezuka stories from the 1970s that Vertical has been putting out in recent years.

I'm talking about Apollo's Song, Ode To Kirihito, MW and Ayako. These are stories where Tezuka tried to out-gekiga gekiga.

If you have read Tatsumi's A Drifting Life (or watched the Eric Khoo movie), you'd know how much Tatsumi had admired Tezuka. There was a scene where Tatsumi was seen posting his gekiga manifesto to Tezuka, wondering how his hero would respond to his vision for manga for adults. It was not revealed in A Drifting Life, but if you were to read biographies of Tezuka, the latter responded negatively to the movement.

However, by the 1960s, there was a new gekiga movement, which Tatsumi was not so involved in. (thus a man constantly out of time) This new movement centered around Garo and artists like Sanpei Shirato, Yoshiharu Tsuge and Takao Saito. Even Lone Wolf and Cub could be considered as gekiga.

Tezuka must be feeling the heat in the 1970s and dived into murder, incest, homosexuality, debauchery, politics and history to salvage the situation and his reputation as the godfather of manga. Reading these stories today makes you wonder how teenagers who grew up reading Tezuka in the 60s responded to Late Tezuka.

I enjoy them as I learn new things about Tezuka. He wasn't such a square after all. MW was weird and Ayako was almost porn in some ways. But Tezuka tied up the events with real incidents that happened in post-war Japan such as the "Shimoyama Incident" of 1949 and the Yazuka wars of 1972.

Present biographies of Tezuka still put Astro Boy, etc on the cover. That may change in time to come as the Late Tezuka stories get revived and re-evaluated.

Next, to read the Book of Human Insects, Dororo and Swallowing the Earth.

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