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

One Piece Film: Z

£14.99
sale_tag
was £19.99
Destroy All Pirates!
Said to be comparable to the Ancient Weapons of old, the Marines' trump card, the Dyna Stones, have suddenly been stolen by a group of renegade vigilantes. The terrifyingly powerful man responsible, former Marine Admiral Z, now stands in the path of Luffy and his Straw Hat Pirates. Can the Straw Hats defeat Z and his crew, or will the New World meet its end at the hands of this mad man?
Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

2014 at the Japanese box office

Jasper Sharp runs the numbers on newly-released statistics
The incendiary claims put forward last October by Takeshi Kitano that “the Japanese film industry is going to ruins” seemed to hit a raw nerve with many in the industry and were widely reported in the international press.

The Wind Rises

Andrew Osmond on the controversy of Miyazaki's last feature
As Miyazaki’s film itself makes clear, Horikoshi was a cog in Japan’s military machine at the time of the country’s most aggressive expansion. This was when Japan was moving into China, proclaiming what it called the “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere,” which really meant Japanese imperialist supremacy in East Asia.

Naruto Music: Okamoto's

Tom Smith on Naruto Shippuden’s 18th ending theme
As Naruto ups the ante and swears to take on Sasuke alone in box set 18 of Naruto Shippuden, the team responsible for the encompassing episodes’ ending theme have also took it upon themselves to up the pace.

SWORD ART ONLINE MUSIC: HARUKA TOMATSU

Digital transvestite Tom Smith on the girl who’s hearing voices
Before taking on the part of Asuna, Haruka Tomatsu had accumulated over one hundred titles featuring her vocal talents, spanning anime, videos games and drama CDs. Achievement unlocked.

Claymore versus Corpse Princess... versus Ichi

If you liked that... you might like this...
Claymore creates a whole race of silver-eyed babes in armour, while Corpse Princess serves up a present-day warrior schoolgirl who appears to be going commando under her skirt.

Nura Rise of the Yokai Music: LM.C

Tom Smith on the rise of the UK clan
LM.C are amongst a very elite type of Japanese musician. The clan they belong to is so exclusive that its numbers barely reach into the double digits. And its members are also a diverse bunch, including a guitar legend named Tomoyasu Hotei, a boiler-suited new-wave trio called POLYSICS, to a dark, heavy noise making machine dubbed Dir en grey. There’s even pop goddess Hikaru Utada in there too to balance things out.

The History of Evangelion

Andrew Osmond on the prelude to the First Impact
Evangelion started as Neon Genesis Evangelion, a 26-part TV serial in 1995. It used a familiar Japanese plot template: the teenage boy who drives a giant robot (or in Eva’s case, cyborg), using the huge and frightening body to fight monsters and save Earth. The lyrics of the TV song express the myth. “Like an angel without a sense of mercy / Rise young boy to the heavens as a legend!”

Cosplay: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Paul Jacques rounds up the best dressed fans
Amy Sun is in the pink as Ultimate Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Blood versus Blood

The live-action Last Vampire against the anime
With the animated versions of Saya’s vampire-slaying adventures now into its third incarnation in both TV and feature versions, most recently featured in the release of Blood C: The Last Dark, one feels compelled to ponder in some depth the abject failure of the 2009 live-action version one of Sony’s few key 21st century animated franchises.

Mysterious Cities of Gold: The Game

Some day we will find...
The game Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is rolling out as a digital download across multiple platforms. This month it becomes available on the Nintendo 3DS and Amazon, following launches on the Wii U, iPad, iPhone and Steam.
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.