Tezuka & Mangaka

By | Thursday, December 20, 2012 1 comment
I've noted repeatedly that I've been enjoying the series Bakuman. I was initially intrigued by the concept because I was eager to see a little more of the production process involved in creating manga and, as the main story focuses on two kids who are trying to break into the business, this seemed like a great way to get a sense of how everything worked. It turned out to be really engaging story, but it's also revealed a lot more about how manga is created than I had even hoped!

One of the aspects that's touched on is how the life of a mangaka is largely one in the studio. That is, the ongoing and perpetual deadlines necessitate working extremely long and hard hours. They repeatedly show the artists eating and sleeping at their studios. As I'm thinking about, I don't think we've seen Mashiro's actual home since volume one, and he has expressly noted that his life as a mangaka precludes a lot of 'normal' life experiences, like just hanging out with some friends.

Now, I had chalked at least some of this up to artistic license. But I started learning more about Osamu Tezuka.

Amazon had a sale recently on The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga. (The price varied a bit over the course of the day, but it was largely floating BELOW three dollars! It's back up to $26 now.) I got about half-way through before I opted to pop in the included DVD, which contains a previously unseen documentary about Tezuka.

I didn't see any dates on the documentary itself, but it appears to have been shot around 1987 or 1988. Tezuka was 60 years old. The documentary itself wasn't very good in and of itself; there's little in the way of context or a broader sense of Tezuka's own work, much less how he fits into the broader picture of manga. (It should be noted, though, that the book itself is EXCELLENT and covers this territory extremely well.) The documentary is more of a week-in-the-life look at Tezuka.

And while there's little context there, the footage itself is extremely useful for someone who does have at least a general understanding of how manga works. Like, say, if you've been reading Bakuman. Tezuka himself has a relentless work ethic, working any- and everywhere he needs to in order to hit his deadlines. Tezuka's assistants, too, find themselves working long hours, often sleeping at the studio and ordering bad take-out because there's not enough time to actually make even something simple in the attached kitchenette. Tezuka's editors are (to this Westerner's eyes) surprisingly unsympathetic to Tezuka as the legend he was even then, much less as a mangaka in general.

Tezuka is shown falling asleep at his drawing table, eating a riceball while working because he can't afford to stop penciling long enough to eat something with two hands, and he even pulls out a massage mallet that he smacks against his shoulders with one hand while he continues drawing with the other! Even though he has a very nice and luxurious house, he only stops in to see his wife there two days a week. The rest of his time is spent at the studio working.

It doesn't look like Bakuman was exaggerating much, if at all.

Towards the end of the documentary, Tezuka finishes his work on the one-shot he was working on. (Though he still had two ongoing series to keep up with.) He did take a moment to relax and enjoy the weight lifted off his shoulders by completing the job. And, while I'm sure there was some bit of deliberate editing at play here, there was a visible tinge of weariness on his face. He seemed almost to realize just how hard he'd been pushing himself and that maybe that wasn't a good way to live.

I'm sitting here in the United States with a decent job as a cube-jockey, where I can go home at the end of the day, every day, and be done with work. I might not have the creative outlet that Tezuka (or for that matter any freelance comic creator) has in how he made his comics but it's a life I enjoy. I expect you could catch a moment of wistfulness if you had a camera on me 24/7, but between what I've from Tezuka and in Bakuman, creating manga sounds like a HELL of a lot more work than in creating comics anywhere else in the world!
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Ethan said...

About the documentary: I think you could sense how detached he was becoming with people in general, especially when reflecting on how his later work had garnered negative criticisms from fans. My favorite moment is when he connects with his pet bird. (Was it a parrot or cockatoo? I can't recall.)