0 Items | £0.00

VIEW BASKET

How Tezuka's Astro Boy changed the world

Monday 31st December 2012

Helen McCarthy on how Astro Boy changed the world

Astro BoyNew Year's Day 1963: Japanese families observed ancient holiday traditions before settling down together to a new one – watching TV.

In the Tokyo suburb of Nerima, the Tezuka family watched the first episode of Father's first animated TV series. Father was "god of manga" Osamu Tezuka; the series was Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy,) made in his purpose-built studio next door. Everyone on the crew was hoping for success, but not even Tezuka could have foreseen what was to come.

Astro Boy wasn't the first domestic animation, or animated series, on Japanese TV. But it was the game-changer, kick-starting the TV anime boom and setting up the paradigms and problems that would dominate the industry for half a century.

Throughout the 1950s, Japan struggled with the after-effects of defeat and occupation. High-value items like TV sets were out of most people's reach. In 1959, though, every Japanese family that could scrape the money together bought a TV to watch the Royal wedding of Crown Prince (now Emperor) Akihito. Rising audience figures meant more demand for programming. Tezuka, who had always wanted to make animation, saw his opportunity.

Most cartoons on Japanese TV were bought from American networks. Analysing the limited animation of shows like The Flintstones, Tezuka knew he could make cartoons locally, based on his own comics. He also knew there was an emerging foreign market for Japanese animation. Toei Studios set out to sell animated features overseas, starting with Hakujaden. Their film of his manga Saiyuki appeared in the US as Alakazam The Great in 1961.

American shows were offered to Japanese TV at low prices because they had already earned back their production costs at home. Tezuka decided to undercut them. Successful character merchandising based on his comics, plus the prospect of foreign sales, convinced him that he could make enough profit on spinoffs to cover his losses on production costs. He adapted the standardised systems he used to boost output on his comics to animation, cutting costs back to the bone.

The success of Astro Boy sent established and new studios scrambling to follow Tezuka's example. It was a massive gamble, and it didn't really work. Tezuka spent most of his income from manga subsidising anime, but his first company still went bust. The anime industry has never broken the pattern he set. Networks expect to pay low prices and studios have to hustle to bridge the gap with sponsorship and merchandising. Quality and originality come behind riding the current trend to profit, or at least financial viability.

But watching Astro Boy, none of that matters. What Japanese audiences saw on New Year's Day 1963 is still magical. Halfway round the world and half a century on, the sheer power of Tezuka's story of discrimination, cruelty, love, innocence and courage makes his child robot a hero fit for the scientific age to come, as well as the one we're living through.

So maybe Tezuka's gamble did work, after all.

Happy anniversary, Atom. Happy New Year, anime.

How Tezuka's Astro Boy changed the world

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Dragon Ball Season 5 (episodes 123-153)

£26.25
sale_tag
was £34.99
In the aftermath of his epic battle with Piccolo, Goku embarks on an electrifying quest to rescue his fallen friends from the realm of the dead. His perilous journey will take him to the heights of Korin Tower - and beyond - as he searches for Kami, a mystical being with the power to resurrect Shenron and restore the magic of the seven Dragon Balls!
But even if Goku succeeds in raising the dead, there's no guarantee he'll live long enough to enjoy a reunion with his slain comrades. The World Martial Arts tournament is just around the corner, and an eerily familiar foe known only as Junior wants to teach Goku the true meaning of pain! To survive the tournament and finally earn the title of World's Greatest Martial Artist, Goku must train his mind as well as his body in order to complete his amazing transformation from a bushy-tailed boy into a man to be reckoned with!
This epic box set contains the Piccolo Jnr. Saga Parts 1 and 2.

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Who's Who in Dragon Ball 1

Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth?
Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

Who's Who in Dragon Ball #2

Continuing our round-up of the usual suspects
Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth? Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

Who's Who in Dragon Ball #4

A rogues' gallery from the latest DVD box set
Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth? Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

Who's Who in Dragon Ball #3

Wonder no more, as we reveal the origins of Akira Toriyama’s creations!
The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

Who's Who in Dragon Ball #5

Ever wonder just how Goku and friends became the greatest heroes on Earth?
Wonder no more, as the original Dragon Ball reveals the origins of Akira Toriyama’s beloved creations! The faces may look familiar, but everything else is different in this classic series!

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

Schoolgirls, Money and Rebellion in Japan

Sharon Kinsella's new book reviewed
It’s a truism widely acknowledged in the anime world that so many Japanese cartoons are obsessed with fantasy figures of 15-year-old schoolgirls because they are aimed at audience of desperate teenage boys. But Sharon Kinsella’s latest book, Schoolgirls, Money and Rebellion in Japan, points to a wider media malaise...

Bleach Music: Universe

Tom Smith on series 13’s rainbow rockers...
While the Soul Reapers form an uneasy alliance with the Visoreds in Bleach series 13 part 2, the band providing the episode’s ending theme have an uneasy alliance of their own.

Last Exile versus Fam, the Silver Wing

A Versus feature with a difference: Last Exile against Last Exile!
With the first part of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing now available in the U.K., we can finally compare it with its predecessor, Gonzo’s 10th and 20th anniversary specials pitted against each other. What do they tell us about the industry then and now?

Nigeria's Astro Boy

Jasper Sharp on the oddest anime export yet
By the time you’ve read this, the eight 15-minute episodes of Robot Atom will have been aired by the Nigerian broadcast network Channels TV. Based on one of anime’s most iconic creations, Tezuka Productions’ Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu), this Nigerian-Japanese co-production brings a new slant to glocalization

Podcast: The Evangelion Two-Step

Box sets and brutal violence, in our 23rd podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani and Andrew Hewson for our 23rd podcast., featuring cover woes, delayed shows, and several uses of the word Slash. Your questions answered, dodged or otherwise belittled, while Jerome confesses to his Facebook addiction, and Jeremy is reprimanded for flagging his own segues.

Podcast: Speaking of Hugos and Gareths

More than one way to skin a catbus, in our 24th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements, for a series of rants and ill-informed commentary about anime, manga, the storm over the Hugo Awards, and your most awkward convention moment.

Unboxed: Magi the Labyrinth of Magic

Jeremy Graves rubs a DVD and makes three wishes
Magi the Labyrinth of Magic, part one, is available on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 24th February.

Ghost in the Shell: Live-action?

Will it be Robbie the robot...?
Hollywood blog Deadline reports that DreamWorks is in "early talks" with actress Margot Robbie to play the leading role in a live-action version of Ghost in the Shell.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. How Tezuka's Astro Boy changed the world from the UK's best Anime Blog.