Saturday, December 10, 2011

"The Astro Boy Essays" by Frederik L. Schodt

The perfect book for me to pick up at Shibuya Tower.  Somewhere between my personal desire and what others in Japan have given me, I find myself surrounded by Astro Boy toys and books.  When I first started to go to Japan,  Osamu Tezuka was one of the sources of understanding that culture and it was such a pleasant adventure.   Frederik L. Schodt's book on the culture and history of Astro Boy is a must-read for anyone who have even the slightest interest in manga and its history.  
Tezuka is without a doubt a major figure in pop Japanese culture - perhaps the key figure, and without a doubt a genius in his field.  He is also a mega-figure to write about, and Schodt's book is a good starter in the world of Tezuka, and by mostly focusing on his most famous work in the west - Mighty Atom aka Astro Boy.

part one of "Birth of Astro Boy"

part two of "Birth of Astro Boy"

part three of "Birth of Astro Boy"

The story of a boy robot made by a scientist who was grieving over his deceased son.  But that 'father' eventually disowns the robot due to the fact he doesn't age.  And therefore we have the consistent tension between robot and human.   Tezuka thought long and hard on this and Astro Boy is not a simple subject.  He's a mixture of popular science and all the hope it brings, but also the inner-danger of nuclear power and the arrogance of science.  And it is this tension that makes 'Astro Boy' into a major work.  Also Tezuka's skills as a writer and illustrator is pretty amazing.   For sure he's the Disney of Japan, but I think he's more then that - way more.  Schodt did a remarkable job introducing the world of Tezuka and why he's important.

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