Tezuka Osamu is one of the most prolific artists Japan has ever produced. Animation as we know it today would most likely be something completely different if it wasn’t for Tezuka’s immense body of work, which consists of over 400 volumes of graphic novels – known to many as manga – including memorable titles such as Black Jack, Phoenix (Hi no Tori), Kimba the White Lion, and Buddha.
I was recently rereading his Sci-Fi classic Tetsuwan Atom (which was translated into Astro Boy, a preferable title compared to its literal equivalent, “Mighty Atom”). Just FYI, but according to Rika Ohara, Tezuka decided to write the story of the nuclear-powered, yet peace-loving, boy robot after being punched in the face by a drunken GI (Japan was still under military occupation).
Considering that Astro Boy was written during the early 1950s, a time, in Japan, when the one thing on people’s minds was how to rebuild their country from rubble, Tezuka’s stories were whoppingly visionary. The underlying theme of the story is the moral dilemma surrounding artificial intelligence, and whether or not robots should be treated as equals.
The simple fact that Tezuka was able to imagine robots as part of society 50 years in the future – the setting for Astro Boy – is quite spectacular. And his cityscapes, as seen in the images above, with their tall skyscrapers and elevated train rails, closely resembles the cities of today.
But Tezuka’s intoxicating vision of the unfettered possibilities of the future come to a screeching halt when his antagonist picks up the receiver of a black rotary telephone. With a cord. Yes, a cord. That is curly! I threw up in my mouth, just a little bit. So, Mr. Tezuka, how is it possible for someone like you, with incredible foresight, often referred to as “the god of comics,” to not foresee the wireless revolution?
PS I’m just playing around with you Mr. Tezuka. I know it was low but it was the only shot I could take considering how genius your work is. I was just jealous.
PPS Did you know that Stanley Kubrick invited Tezuka Osamu to be the art director of 2001: A Space Odyssey? But he was turned down… I always wonder how different the movie would have been if that collaboration had taken place…