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Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews

Nov 27, 2009

Just because someone is important doesn't mean they can't suck. I recognize Tezuka's importance and influence, but yeah, what I've read by him sucks. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is seen as the Great American Novel and he is seen as the Great American Writer, but you know what? I think that book was boring and I find his humor unfunny and that it is a tragedy that he represents the US. Do you have to like Elvis to enjoy current pop and rock? Or can you just laugh and point at him because he is so ridiculous? In other words, he sucks. My point in writing my blog entry was that it's ok to think Tezuka's work is worthless. In fact, hate it because it IS deemed important by so-called authorities.

I'm trying to read Dororo right now and am encountering the same stumbling blocks I encountered with his other works:

1) Boring character designs. Everyone pretty much looks the same. Cartoony and lazy. Tezuka's art never seemed to evolve beyond a daily cartoon feel as though he didn't have much time to spare. Or that he was more interested in telling a story with words and action than with making his characters have any visual appeal. And anytime an animal comes in, bring in the Walt Disney copyright for anthropomorphic animals!

2) Spacing and pace reign triumphant. I will say this. Tezuka is an expert at pacing his panels and also how he spaces the action and characters within each one. But again, the actual ART inside them is really unimaginative. He never evolved. You could say the same thing about Rumiko Takahashi but she tells much better stories.

3) Vertical continues the questionable translation of Dark Horse. What do I mean by this? The inclusion of current slang and catchphrases (and outdated ones as well). Do Japanese people actually use words like "Yowza" and "Yoiks"? "Doofus"? "Bro"? This is exactly why I couldn't get into Buddha. The Buddha walked around talking like he was at a New York Mets game. Ok, the vocabulary is already out of context because the book is set in Japan hundreds of years ago. But then putting in odd Americanisms, some from the 1920s, is even more jarring.

4) Tezuka is a clumsy storyteller. To me, Tezuka never seemed to solve the problem of juggling comedic and dramatic elements. I think part of this lies in the translation, but most of it has to do with Tezuka himself. He can't get out of the way of the story. His ego was too important. Early on in Dororo, he even includes himself in all his goofy beret glory getting hit by a hail of rocks as he tells about Hyakkimaru's childhood. It totally ruins the flow. It's like having Oprah putting her ugly mug on everything she does or M. Night Shymalan inserting himself forcefully in every movie he makes. It smacks of ego trip. Or Osihii's bassett hounds. Look at a master like Hiromu Arakawa. She is able to balance humor, great character designs, drama, and real to the bone human interactions. Or Hiroki Endo, who takes it to even a higher level. Tezuka is a baby compared to them.

5) His pulp sci-fi explanations. Back in the old days sci-fi writers didn't have to explain things. But people are smarter now. Even if it's magic fantasy, audiences demand at least a cursory explanation of how an imaginary world works.  Because Tezuka is so old school, he hardly ever throws the reader a bone. Hyakkimaru has no eyes, but he can "see" intuitively? How does that work exactly?

So hopefully, this entry clears up things as to why I think what I do about Tezuka's work...up to this point (I'm still attempting to appreciate him). Just because Japanese manga artists are AWARE of Tezuka doesn't mean they are influenced by him. The anime/manga establishment makes it seem that EVERY SINGLE person in Japan loves Tezuka and that any American fan has to recognize his deification. I say you don't. It's all a myth. In my opinion there are much more important and talented manga artists at work today in the here and now. Even a title like Death Note, with all its improbabilites and flaws, is far better than anything I've read by Tezuka so far. Whatever issues he took on back in the day, there is someone doing it better.

over eleven years ago

As far as aesthetics go, I guess that sort of thing is in the eye of the beholder. All I can say is that it was a product of its time, and that shouldn\'t be a knock against it. It\'s a bit unfair to compare his work to the likes of Hiroki Endo and Hiromu Arakawa when they\'re working in a manga industry that\'s matured a great deal since the early days, and they\'ve had a wealth of influences to draw from and build upon. Some of the topics he\'s covered may have been done better since then, but there\'s also something impressive in the fact that he was doing such things at all in a time when elsewhere, like the US, comics were mostly men in tight fighting bad guys.
Sure his art might be simplistic, but a lot of its charm is in its simplicity. Also, it\'s a known fact that Disney was a huge influence on him. And some of his characters aren\'t just lookalikes, but actually the same characters across different series. He used a \"star system\", where the characters are like actors playing different roles, which is why you\'ll see characters like Rock and Hamegg over and over again.

You can dislike him all you want (there are plenty of odd quirks in his manga that will simply be too much for some), but like Ed says above me, you can\'t really deny his influence. His work isn\'t infallible, but his influence is incontrovertible. When he made New Treasure Island, he did things that simply hadn\'t been done before. The manga industry as we know it today was still in it\'s early days, and he was the one taking the big baby steps, and things snowballed from there. He\'s called the god of manga for a reason. He had plenty of ambitious works, like Phoenix and Adolf, and he influenced different genres including shonen (Astro Boy) and shojo (Princess Knight). How many managaka today create manga in several different genres, much less create highly influential works in each of them?

There are probably many mangaka today who wouldn\'t say \"I was directly influenced by Tezuka in such and such a way\", but they\'re probably influenced by someone who could say that. Is every director directly influenced by Birth of a Nation? Probably not, but racist content aside, it\'s still important to film history because it did things that are taken for granted now.

Tezuka drew A LOT of manga, so there are bound to be some clunkers, and I\'m pretty sure Dororo was a canceled, yea. I suggest reading Phoenix, particularly the second volume, Future. That was the one that made me a believer.

Cat, Chaps and Emma
over eleven years ago

Hi - FYI - basset is spelled with one t.

I just thought you would want to know...Cat

Ed Sizemore
over eleven years ago

I can\'t debate your personal reaction to Tezuka. If the point of your post is to say it\'s okay to hate Tezuka, then nobody is going to disagree with you. If the point of your blog is to deny the influence of Tezuka, Twain, or Elvis, then your simply wrong. You can hate a foundational figure, you can\'t deny their influence.

If you want to understand the influence of Tezuka, then I suggest you be in Washington DC on Sunday Dec 13th. From the Smithsonian\'s website: \"In person: Yoshihiro Shimizu, General Manager, Tezuka Productions. Join Yoshihiro Shimizu in a journey through the history of Japanese anime, with a special emphasis on Tezuka\'s influence.\" I will definitely be there myself. Or attend Fred Schodt\'s lecture on Astro Boy. Schodt\'s is touring the country giving the lecture. I think you\'ll find it quite eye opening.

I\'m sorry you don\'t like Tezuka, I find his stories inspirational myself. But I understand his art and storytelling styles aren\'t for everyone. I\'m glad you at least gave it a try.