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

Mardock Scramble: The Third Exhaust

£14.99
sale_tag
was £19.99
Rune Balot's struggle to bring the man who killed her to justice continues amid the world of high-stakes gambling and glamour at the Eggnog Blue Casino. The odds are stacked heavily in the house's favor, and even with the aid of Dr. Easter and Oeufcoque, a universal item capable of turning into anything and everything, Rune's chances of winning are slim. But winning the golden chips containing Shell Septinos' memories is only the next step on a long and treacherous road.
Run will still have to live long enough to bring those memories before the court, and even that isn't the end of the journey. Rune's search for answers to the questions that haunt comes to a shattering climax!
Contains both the television version and director's cut of Mardock Scramble: The Third Exhaust.
Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Rebuilding the Mardock Scramble heroine

Andrew Osmond has the technology… to watch Mardock Scramble
In Mardock Scramble: The First Compression, the young heroine is burned to a crisp, then remade Frankenstein-style. Fifteen year-old Balot is blown up in a car by her sugar-daddy Shell, a serial-killer. Then a seedy scientist rescues Balot’s charred body, plops it into an underground vat and refashions her as a super-avenger.

Mardock Scramble Manga

Andrew Osmond shells out for the Mardock comic
In the West, we’re still inclined to think of anime as coming out of manga, as naturally as eggs from chickens – one line into a Mardock Scramble piece and we’re already talking about eggs again). In Mardock’s case, both the manga and anime are alternative versions of a novel by Tow Ubukata, published as a trilogy in Japan and collected into one volume by the publisher Haikasoru. It’s comparable to what happened with Battle Royale, a novel which spawned a live-action film and an even more lurid manga.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

Sir Run Run Shaw (1907-2014)

Remembering a giant of Asian cinema
At their production peak, Shaw Studios sanded down some of the historical elements in their epics, concentrating on acrobatics and heavier violence. This, in turn, made them more palatable or at least accessible to non-Chinese audiences, and inadvertently stoked the fires of the Kung Fu Boom.

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.

One Piece Cosplay: Madame Sharley

Paul Jacques nets the best anime costumes
Elizabeth Coombes cosplays as Madame Sharley, the sharky mermaid to be found far off in the 500s of the One Piece anime. Also known variously as Shyarly and Shirley -- even the subtitles sometimes change their mind. Shirley some mistake?

Jormungand

This Koko is no clown
Opening with a running fight down a freeway where anti-tank missiles and heavy vehicles are tossed around like party favours, the first episode never lets up, setting a standard that the show maintains throughout.

Cosplay: One Piece

Paul Jacques rounds up the best dressed fans
With a tip of the hat to the best-selling One Piece, Fayyaz Dawda cosplays as the bendy-limbed hero Luffy.

Cosplay: Dragon Ball Z

Paul Jacques goes on the prowl at the London Super Comic Con
Cosplayer Kasey Wolfe goes for a beardy version of Gohan from Dragon Ball Z, caught by our roving photographer Paul Jacques at the London Super Comic Con. Dragon Ball Z is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Eureka Seven Ao Part Two

Spoilers for part one ahead, as Andrew Osmond gets timey-wimey
The show’s finale is squarely in anime traditions, combining heartfelt child-parent reunions, a boy’s resolution to ‘lift the curse’ of his origins, and an orgasmically explosive deus ex machina that lets a character write the end he wants – one that happens to have shades of another Gainax anime classic, Gunbuster. There’s fanservice for you!

Madoka Magica Cosplay: Tomoe & Akemi

Paul Jacques conjures up the best anime costumes
Clarice Downs and Blair Armitage work their magic by cosplaying as Akemi and Tomoe from the hit magical-girl series Puella Magi Madoka Magica

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...
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.