Atom, one of the first anime series in Japan

The Father of Japanese Anime : Tezuka Osamu

Home Info About Japan Anime, Manga and Game Guide The Father of Japanese Anime : Tezuka Osamu

Countless anime and manga series from Japan have captured the hearts of millions all around the globe, but where did it all start? Tezuka Osamu is one of the most important persons in the history of Japanese anime, which is defined as all animated content from Japan, and he is regarded as the father of Japanese anime. Let’s look into his life and work!

tezuka osamu pouch, one of the first makers of anime in Japan

History of Animation in Japan

The production of animation in Japan began in 1917 and was influenced by western animation films of that time which were imported in the early 20th century. But not many films were produced. It was only after WWII that the production of animation gradually increased in Japan.

One of the biggest movie companies in Japan is Toei. They made a department that was exclusively making animation films in 1956, and Tezuka Osamu founded his company Tezuka Production in 1961.

In 1950, TV broadcasting started in Japan. It stimulated the production of animation films and series, and finally, the series that made Tezuka a legend, ‘Astro Boy’, was first broadcast in 1963.

Tezuka Osamu’s Biography

Osamu was born in 1928 in Osaka. When he was a little boy, he was a child with plenty of curiosity and imagination. He grew up reading manga (cartoons) and watching animation. He especially loved Disney films, which were just starting to gain popularity during his childhood.

When he was five, he moved to Takarazuka in Hyogo Prefecture. There were a theme park and a concert hall that was the home ground of the Takarazuka Revue, an impressive all-woman musical company. His parents often took him to a restaurant and then a musical show, which the family enjoyed very much. Osamu was strongly influenced by these good childhood memories. In elementary school, he unfortunately wasn’t having an easy time as he was bullied by his classmates because he could not speak the local dialect.

It was creating manga that saved him. He had been drawing manga since he was little, and he finished his first manga work when he was in third grade. His teacher and classmates admired his work and the bullying finally stopped. On the contrary, they started to visit Osamu’s house.

Osamu was influenced by one of his classmates who told him about insects, astronomy, and science. Osamu had a strong interest in the insect world. That’s why he made his own illustrated insect guidebook. Because of his love for insects, he added the kanji character that means insect (虫) to his pen name. His real name is 手塚治, but he made his name 手塚治虫. The pronunciation, however, has not changed.

WWII started when he was a junior high school student, and Osamu had to work in the munition factory. He got caught up in the air raid on Osaka and nearly died, and obviously, this experience has also influenced him. In 1945, he passed the entrance examination of medical school, and he got a national license as a doctor while he was still creating manga. He made “Black Jack” based on his own experiences as a doctor. He was already making ‘Astro Boy’ at that time.

Major Works of Tezuka Osamu

manga of Tezuka Osamu guide

Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom)

This manga was serialized in a comic magazine between 1952 and 1963, and it became TV anime from 1963 to 1966. Astro Boy is the story of a robot energized by nuclear power in the 21st century. He was made by Dr. Tenma who lost his son in a traffic accident. So, Tenma made Atom to resemble his deceased son.

But a robot doesn’t grow up, so Tenma sold him to the circus. The chief of the circus named him Atom. Later, Doctor Ochanomizu took Atom under his care. Atom became a superhero who fights bad men and bad robots. Atom was not always happy because he was a robot but had emotions like human being. This is a science fiction story as much as a story about what it means to be human.


This is the biographical story of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. It was serialized in a comic book from 1972 to 1983. The characters of the story are both real figures and Osamu’s creations. Osamu made up some of the stories, but they are mostly based on facts, so this is a very educational manga series.

Phoenix (Hinotori)

This series is regarded as Osamu’s life work, because he started it when he was young and continued with it until the last stage of his life. It consists of 12 separate editions. There is a bird called phoenix, and people believe that if they drink its blood, they can attain eternal life. People fight, suffer, worry, and are tossed up and down by a cruel destiny. The settings of the stories are all over the world and even in outer space and take place in different eras.

Black Jack

This is the first authentic medical story in manga history. The theme is medical care and life. It was serialized from 1973 to 1978, and them irregularly in a conic magazine from 1979 to 1983. Doctor Black Jack was non-licensed, but he had a god-like gift to carry out operations. This way, he saved many people from outrageous medical fees.

Jungle Emperor Leo (Jungle Taitei)

This was Osamu’s first authentic work, it was serialized from 1950 to 1954 in a comic magazine. It is the story of a white lion family in the African jungle. Leo’s parents were killed by human beings, but at the same time made friends with a human boy. This is why he struggles between humans and wild animals.

Princess Knight (Ribbon no Kishi)

The main character is Princess Safire who has both a male and female heart. She disguises herself as a knight and fights with bad guys. This story was serialized four times from 1953 to 1967 in a girls’ comic magazine. Osamu was influenced by the genderbending Takarazuka Revue, in which both male and female characters are portrayed by ladies.

The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum

The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum opened in 1994, five years after his death. The museum is in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture where Osamu grew up. They exhibit documents and goods related to him in capsules that look like the ones that appear in the ‘Phoenix’. You can read almost all his manga and watch his animes here. The entrance hall looks like a palace of ‘Princess Knight’. There is a café in the theme of  ‘Jungle Emperor Leo’. At the anime workshop, you can try to make your own animation. If you are a fan of  Osamu, you will really enjoy this museum.

Entrance fee: 700 yen for adults/300 yen for junior and senior high school students/100 yen for elementary students

Opening hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm

Your Japan Tour

As seasoned Japan experts, we can help you create your perfect Japan tour including guides who can tell you all about manga and anime including the works of Osamu Tezuka. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!

Recommended Articles