The U.S. Influence on Japanese Manga & Anime

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on mouseover Lion King

Tezuka Osamu, M.D. (手塚 治虫; 1928-1989) is where today’s anime style starts with pioneering techniques, and innovative redefinitions of genres earned him such titles as ‘the father of manga’, ‘the god of comics’, though many Americans remain unfamiliar with his name and his works ―in fact, his complete oeuvre includes over 700 manga with more than 150,000 pages; the vast majority of his work has never been translated from the original Japanese and is thus inaccessible to people who do not read Japanese.

Roland Kelts, an American writer and an editor hints on in his book, the strong influence of Disney on Tezuka who created the blueprint for Japanese Manga and Anime artists:
“The U.S. influenced him dramatically” Shimizu Yoshihiro, who worked alongside Tezuka for eleven years says, “singling out the works of Disney and Max Fleischer, the Austrian-born animation pioneer responsible for bringing Betty Boop and Superman to the movie screen, among other achievements. Also he loved movies in general. And he loved the natural world.” He loved Bambi so much that he claimed to have seen it eighty times, memorizing the film from start to finish.”

Tezuka works

Tezuka loved the Disney stories and illustrations so much, he copied them line for line―not from comic books, but by going to the movie theater and sitting with his sketch pad through several showings of the Disney films. Although a strong rumor persists that the Disney company’s The Lion King, released in 1994, five years after Tezuka’s death, plagiarized numerous story and character elements from Tezuka’s Kimba the White Lion released thirty years earlier, Tezuka didn’t take up the case. Shimizu implies the relationship between the two artists is what counts―not the legal issues, not the profits. “If Tezuka were alive when Lion King was released,” Shimizu concludes, “and if he knew about even the rumor that Disney might have copied elements of his work, he would have been proud."

Tezuka Osamu

on click to enlarge image

“In Tezuka’s print work, you can see the “broken frame” that drew Alpert, who worked for Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli as the Director of International Relations, into the kinetic Japanese style―the sheer unpredictable movement of the visuals. Shimizu explains that Tezuka was frustrated by earlier comic renderings, which bore a grater resemblance to the staging of a play: one character enters stage left, exits stage right, and so on. He wanted to apply the freer movements of cinema to comic format,” says Kelts.

Although the strong influence from American animations via Tezuka, “Japanese anime and manga view the world differently - as Ghiburi's Alpert suggested, they are rooted in a tradition of visual perception that is starkly different from most others. Japan has long been a relentlessly visual culture, from its kanji ideographs to ikebana.”

—ODAKANE Fuji

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