If there’s one individual that you can truly say made a mark on the entire manga community, then look no further than Osamu Tezuka. Known by many as the father of manga, Osamu Tezuka is the genius behind such works as Astro Boy, Black Jack, and Phoenix just to name a few, and he is the prime reason why so many mangaka today are successful. He’s essentially the gardener who planted the seed, and from that very seed sprouted a tree what would later branch off and create more seedlings that would change the entire landscape of manga as we know it. Many of the famous mangaka today will most definitely say that Osamu was a role model to them, and even some will state they’ve worked alongside him and witnessed the master at work. Whatever story you hear of Osamu, it’s most definitely always a positive one, so let’s take a look at some of his works that have not only changed the world of manga, but the entire world in general.
6. Jungle Taitei
- Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
- Volumes: 3
- Published: November 1950 - April 1954
Panja was the ruler of his surroundings and was given the name, Emperor of the Jungle, but sadly he was tragically killed by a hunter. Panja’s wife was apprehended by the hunter but through the ordeal, gives birth to a new son, Leo, along their way to the zoo. She then tells him to escape the ship and return to Africa and become his father’s successor. However a sudden storm hits the ship overturning it, leaving Leo and his mother fighting for their lives. Sadly his mother doesn’t make it but Leo finds himself washed up on the beach of a port town in the Arabian Peninsula. From here, this is where Leo’s life truly begins, and many adventures await him.
Jungle Taitei is one of Osamu’s earlier titles, which speaks volumes considering just how much he wrote during the time. A lot of his inspirations came shortly after the second world war and he created these as a remedy for the hardships that Japan had been going through during that time. Leo’s adventures are inspirational because it tells the impactful story of a young cub who must now come to learn of the world around him, without the supervision of his parents to carry him forward. He learns to build responsibility through dealing with adversities along the way, such as avoided near death, to building new friendships along the way. It’s truly touching because it behaves as somewhat of a metaphor for Japan’s then struggling times, as they came from a time filled with adversity and suffering, and developed self empowerment to become a superpower and journey towards prosperity. Leo’s journey is emotionally riveting, as you’re right there with him through every step of his self discovery, rooting him on to live out his mother’s wishes and become the king he rightfully deserves to be.
5. Apollo no Uta
- Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Shounen
- Volumes: 3
- Published: April 1970 - November 1970
The story of Apollo no Uta follows the life of a young boy whose abusive childhood has provoked him to completely avoid anything related to love, and act out in violent ways as a way to express the pain and suffering inflicted. His hate has become such a problem that the gods themselves have to step in and alleviate the situation by cursing Shogo, leaving him to experience endless love and then have it taken away from him every time.
Shogo’s life is nothing to celebrate about as his upbringing was stained with constant abuse and constant hardship, and this is where your heartstrings start to get pulled. Osamu was very notorious for really using real life scenarios to bring out more of his story, as it really helped to resonate more with his readers. Shogo had to deal with his inner demons while trying to understand what love really meant, since for most of his youth he was bereft of it leaving him feeling empty and lost. It’s tragic for the most part because it paints a very realistic picture of just how child abuse is still prevalent and that many of us are either blind to it, or don’t have the guts to stand up and change it. Shogo desperately wants love in his life but always has it taken from him, which just leaves you in this mental mess because you can’t help but cry every time you see the young boy cling onto hope that someday it’ll all come his way.
4. Hi No Tori [Phoenix]
- Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 16
- Published: January 1967 - February 1988
Hi No Tori, also known as Phoenix in the west, is another masterpiece from the genius Osamu Tezuka which is made up of 12 stories, linked by the mythical bird recognized by many historians as the immortal guardian of the universe. The Phoenix is the bird that oversees all in the world in which we live in, and governs the way we live through various virtues along with laws. Those who’ve come into contact with the blood of the Phoenix have been said to be granted unimaginable powers and eternal life, while those who’ve been torched by it are to be reincarnated to reflect on the many sins they’ve committed in other lifetimes.
This powerful manga full of philosophical anecdotes is simply a breathtakingly beautiful story that sadly had gone unfinished due to the untimely passing of Tezuka. Starting from Dawn, the story looks at the origins of how the Phoenix came to be and how many have yearned for eternal youth, to the finale known as Sun which is the longest volume out of the entire collection. It tells the story of mythical creatures from a more profound perspective, shedding light on the more historical figures such as Oni, Tengu, and more notably the Youkai. Each of the 12 stories all have their own differences in historical time frames, but the premise is what remains in tact, which is the constant search and struggle for immortality. With a plethora of twists and turns along with suspenseful moments with every page you read, Hi no Tori leaves this everlasting impression on your conscience to really take notice of the world around you, and never take things for granted. It felt like reading a history book which not only became more and more satisfying as you read it, but it left you feeling enriched and somewhat reborn in a metaphorical sense in the case of the Phoenix.
- Genres: Drama, Historical, Supernatural
- Volumes: 14
- Published: September 1972 - November 1983
Buddha is nothing short of sheer brilliance as Osamu takes the remarkable story of the young prince Siddhartha, and transforms his spiritual journey into a manga for everyone to relish in. For those who are fascinated by the buddhist culture and scripture, this manga will surely educate you in more ways than one. It follows the life of Siddhartha, who at the time, was quite spoiled as a prince and never really understood or more succinctly, never really had a chance to see the outside world. It was his curiosity that sparked him to leave his wealthy home to embark on a journey to see what the real world had to offer, and what he saw completely changed his life forever.
Osamu uses such incredible visual expression to emphasize the message that Siddhartha’s life is about to change. He uses various anecdotes from Buddha’s ideas such as the whole premise of inner conflict, dealing with extreme emotion, and coming to the present moment to truly understand reality itself. It’s a philosophical journey that follows Siddhartha through paths of hardship, disease, and famine until he finally reaches a pivotal moment in his life where enlightenment is achieved through a deep concrete understanding of just what life truly represents. What many in the west would consider to be humor or drivel, Osamu puts you in check by helping the reader realize just how ignorant we all are and that everything incorporated in this manga is a wake up call to understand the concrete truths about our life and well being. A most definite must read for any aspiring philosopher or simply anyone who just needs a nice smack in the head with the hand of truth.
2. Black Jack
- Genres: Drama, Psychological, Shounen
- Volumes: 25
- Published: November 1973 - October 1983
Black Jack looks at the life of a distinguished doctor but never gets a chance to explore deeper into the medical field due to never acquiring his license. Kuroo then takes matters into his own hands and offers his services but at an exceptionally high rate, but due to this he’s classified as a cold hearted rogue. The problem is that many people don’t seem to realize just what good Kuroo is doing, but it’s now his mission to show them just what he’s capable of, in spite of the backlash he may receive along the way.
We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” and this is exactly what you’ll realize in the story of Black Jack. Kuroo, for the longest time, has been labeled a crook, having no shame and only relishes in his greed, not living for the sake and well being of others. However when you read more into the story you come to realize that Kuroo is none of what the naysayers have branded him with, and you often come to see the truth that Kuroo is just a very smart man who works hard and has become very successful because of it.
Osamu tries to point out in the series that many of us men and women who are seen as devoted and seek out what we’re worth, are captured in a negative light because the rest of the world can’t seem to wrap their head around wealth and hard work. Kuroo in his mind feels like he’s doing the world a service by providing a higher standard of medical practice, and is very anti-greed in his behavior. While some of the themes are exaggerated to some degree, the point Osamu is trying to accentuate with Kuroo’s character is that many of us have this contradictory mindset to wealth, especially when we don’t have it ourselves. So we impose our insecurities on those who actually are successful in hopes that our ignorant politics can drive a man out of his purpose to serve those in need.
1. Astro Boy
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Shounen
- Volumes: 23
- Published: April 1952 - March 1968
Astro Boy is arguably Osamu’s best known work in Japan, as Atom has become a staple character in Japanese pop culture, due to his historical reference and an inspiration to what was once a very struggling nation crippled by the after effects of war. The story takes place in a future where robots have taken over, and a utopian society was in place. Dr. Tenma, crippled by the loss of his son, decides to create a robot in hopes that it could replace the void that was left in his heart, but when he realizes that it was merely an imperfect copy the Dr. discards it. One professor however discovers the robot Tobio in a scrap heap and decides to revive it, and thus the young hero known as Astro Boy came to be. Atom is then given the mission to defend Japan and the world from any threats what would impact humanity, using his incredible strength to become a role model for millions of other robots.
Another great piece of work from this genius writer, Osamu illustrates very clearly that the world in which we live in desperately needs peace, and what better way to advertise that by creating a character that most can relate to. Japan had just come out of an incredibly deadly war which left the entire nation ravaged and torn, and Astro Boy came at a time when the country was moving in the direction of restoring peace. Astro Boy was that spokesperson for the country and throughout the years of its release, it became such a powerful manga because it not only reinvigorated the souls of those who were greatly affected, but it helped to bridge the gap and bring self empowerment back into the country. Atom’s character was merely a personified version of Japan’s determination to become a better role model, and that despite what happened in the past they could be reborn and possess greater strength through helping others. This is a must read for any Osamu fan or those who simply are looking for an inspirational masterpiece to learn from.
Osamu Tezuka was known to be an extremely devoted individual to his work, and never took his eyes away from what needed to be done. It was due to that hard work and determination that cemented him with the title of being the father of manga, and led him to creating well over 700 manga series in his lifestyle. That’s most certainly a feat that most current mangaka aspire to achieve, but no one can ever compare to the man who breathed life into what was once a struggling industry. Which of Osamu’s work did you enjoy the most? Let us know in the comments section down below, and also be sure to like, subscribe, and tweet our articles out to keep the community buzzing!
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