Tezuka died of stomach cancer in 1989. His death had an immediate impact on the Japanese public. A museum was constructed in Takarazuka dedicated to his memory and life works, and Tezuka received many posthumous awards. Several animations were in production at the time of his death along with the final chapters of Phoenix, which were never released.
Tezuka was the eldest of three children in Toyonaka City, Osaka. His nickname was gashagasha-atama (gashagasha is slang for messy, atama means head). Later in life, he gave his mother credit for inspiring confidence and creativity through her stories. She frequently took him to the Takarazuka Theatre, which often headlined the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female musical theater troupe. Their romantic musicals aimed at a female audience, had a large influence of Tezuka's later works, including his costume designs. He has said that he has a profound "spirit of nostalgia" for Takarazuka. When Tezuka was young, his father showed him Disney films; he became obsessed with the films and began to replicate them. He also became a Disney movie buff, seeing the films multiple times in a row, most famously seeing Bambi over a 80 separate times. Tezuka started to draw comics around his second year of elementary school, drawing so much that his mother would have to erase pages in his notebook in order to keep up with his output. Around his fifth year he found a bug named "Osamushi". It so resembled his name that he adopted "Osamushi" as his pen name. He continued to develop his manga skills throughout his school career. During this period he created his first adept amateur works. During high school in 1944, Tezuka was drafted to work for a factory, supporting the Japanese war effort during World War II; he simultaneously continued writing manga. His time working for the military hardened Tezuka to the harsh reality of war, a theme that would become ever more clear in his manga in the future. In 1945, Tezuka was accepted into Osaka University and began studying medicine. During this time, he also began publishing his first professional works.
Tezuka came to the realization that he could use manga as a means of helping to convince people to care for the world. After World War II, at age 17, he published his first piece of work: Diary of Ma-chan. Tezuka began talks with fellow manga artist Shichima Sakai, who had pitched Tezuka a manga based around the famous story Treasure Island. Sakai promised Tezuka a publishing spot from Ikuei Shuppan if he would work on the manga. Tezuka finished the manga, only loosely basing it on the original work. Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island) was published and became an overnight success which began the golden age of manga, a craze comparable to American comic books at the time.
With the success of New Treasure Island, Tezuka traveled to Tokyo in search of a publisher for more of his work. After visiting Kobunsha Tezuka was turned down. However, publisher Shinseikaku agreed to purchase The Strange Voyage of Dr. Tiger and Domei Shuppansha would purchase The Mysterious Dr. Koronko. Whilst continuing his study in medical school Tezuka published his first masterpieces: a trilogy of science fiction epics called Lost World, Metropolis and Next World.
Soon after Tezuka published his first major success Jungle Emperor Leo, it was serialized in Manga Shonen from 1950 to 1954. In 1951 Tezuka graduated from the Osaka School of Medicine and published Ambassador Atom, the first appearance of the Astro Boy character.
By 1952, Ambassador Atom proved to be only a mild success in Japan; however, one particular character became extremely popular with young boys: a humanoid robot named Atom. Tezuka received several letters from many young boys requesting further appearances from the robot. Expecting success with a series based around Atom, Tezuka's producer suggested that he be given human emotions. One day while working at a hospital Tezuka was punched in the face by a frustrated American G.I. This encounter gave Tezuka the idea to make Atom a humanoid robot fighting evil and defending the innocent. On February 4, 1952, Tetsuwan Atom began serialization in Weekly Shonen Magazine. The character Atom and his adventures became an instant phenomenon in Japan.
Due to the success of Tetsuwan Atom, Tezuka became the most popular manga artist in Japan and would receive letters and even house calls from aspiring manga artists. Tezuka would often talk with his fans until late in the evening. In 1953 Tezuka published the revolutionary Shojo manga Ribon no Kishi (Princess Knight), serialized in Shojo Club from 1953 to 1956. It was the first Shojo manga given a serious plot line that deviated from the common comical or one-shot style.
In 1954 Tezuka first published what he would consider his life's work, Phoenix, in Weekly Shonen Magazine. In 1958 Tezuka was asked by Toei Animation if his manga Son-Goku The Monkey could be adapted into an animation. Tezuka accepted, but only if he could also work on the project personally. This marked Tezuka's debut in animation. While working on the team, Tezuka became confrontational, often disagreeing with other staff members about the direction of the film; this made Tezuka unpopular. Tezuka wanted the final scene of the film to end with the death of the protagonist's girlfriend in order to do something that hadn't yet been tried even by Disney. However, this too proved to be an unpopular idea - in the end it was decided the film would have a happy ending. The film would release in 1960; however, Tezuka felt slightly betrayed due to the decisions made.
In 1961, Tezuka entered the animation industry in Japan by founding the production company Mushi Productions as a rivalry with Toei Animation. He first began innovating the industry with the broadcast of the animated version of Astro Boy in 1963; this series would create the first successful model for animation production in Japan and would also be the first Japanese animation dubbed into English for an American audience. Other series were subsequently translated to animation, including Jungle Emperor Leo, the first Japanese animated series produced in full color. Tezuka stepped down as acting director in 1968 to found a new animation studio, Tezuka Productions, and continued experimenting with animation late into his life. In 1973, Mushi Productions collapsed financially and the fallout would produce several influential animation production studios including Sunrise.
Tezuka is a descendent of Hattori Hanzō, a famous ninja and samurai who faithfully served Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Sengoku period in Japan. His son Makoto Tezuka became a film and anime director. Tezuka guided many well-known manga artists such as Shotaro Ishinomori and Go Nagai.
Tezuka enjoyed bug-collecting, entomology, Walt Disney, baseball, and licensed the "grown up" version of his character Kimba the White Lion as the logo for the Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. Tezuka met Walt Disney in person at the 1964 New York World's Fair. In a 1986 entry in his personal diary, Tezuka stated that Disney wanted to hire him for a potential science fiction project. Tezuka was a fan of Superman and was made honorary chairman of the Superman Fan Club in Japan.In 1959 Tezuka married Etsuko Okada at a Takarazuka Hotel.
As a child, Tezuka's arms swelled up and he became ill. He was treated and cured by a doctor, which made him want to be a doctor. At a crossing point, he asked his mother whether he should look into doing manga full-time or whether he should become a doctor. At the time, being a manga author was not a particularly rewarding job. The answer his mother gave was: "You should work doing the thing you like most of all." Tezuka decided to devote himself to manga creation on a full-time basis. He graduated from Osaka University and obtained his medical degree, but he would later use his medical and scientific knowledge to enrich his sci-fi manga, such as Black Jack.
Tezuka was agnostic, but was buried in a Buddhist cemetery in Tokyo.
Tezuka died of stomach cancer on 9 February 1989 in Tokyo. His last words were: "I'm begging you, let me work!", spoken to a nurse who had tried to take away his drawing equipment.
The city of Takarazuka, Hyōgo, where Tezuka grew up, opened a museum in his memory. Stamps were issued in his honor in 1997. Also, beginning in 2003, the Japanese toy company Kaiyodo began manufacturing a series of figurines of Tezuka's creations, including Princess Knight, Unico, the Phoenix, Dororo, Marvelous Melmo, Ambassador Magma, and many others. To date, three series of the figurines have been released.
His legacy has continued to be honored among manga artists and animators. Artists such as Akira Toriyama (Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball) have cited Tezuka as inspiration for their works.
From 2003 to 2009, Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki adapted an arc of Astro Boy into the murder mystery series Pluto.
Tezuka was a personal friend (and apparent artistic influence) of Brazilian comic book artist Mauricio de Sousa. In 2012, Maurício published a two-issue story arc in the Monica Teen comic book featuring some of Tezuka's main characters, such as Astro Boy, Black Jack, Sapphire, and Kimba, joining Monica and her friends in an adventure in the Amazon rainforest against a smuggling organization chopping down hundreds of trees. This was the first time that Tezuka Productions has allowed overseas artists to use Tezuka's characters.
His complete oeuvre includes over 700 volumes with more than 150,000 pages. A complete list of his works can be found on the Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum website.
Tezuka's creations include Astro Boy (Mighty Atom in Japan), Black Jack, Princess Knight, Phoenix (Hi no Tori in Japan), Kimba the White Lion (Jungle Emperor in Japan), Unico, Message to Adolf, The Amazing 3 and Buddha. His "life's work" was Phoenix—a story of life and death that he began in the 1950s and continued until his death.
In January 1965, Tezuka received a letter from American film director Stanley Kubrick, who had watched Astro Boy and wanted to invite Tezuka to be the art director of his next movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Although flattered by Kubrick's invitation, Tezuka could not afford to leave his studio for a year to live in England, so he had to turn it down. Although he could not work on it, he loved the film, and would play its soundtrack at maximum volume in his studio to keep him awake during long nights of work.
Tezuka is known for his imaginative stories and stylized Japanese adaptations of western literature with reading novels and watching films that came from the West. His early works included manga versions of Disney movies such as Bambi. Tezuka's "cinematic" page layouts, influenced by Milt Gross' early graphic novel He Done Her Wrong, which he read as a child, became a common characteristic for many manga artists who followed in Tezuka's footsteps. His work, like that of other manga creators, was sometimes gritty and violent.
Tezuka headed the animation production studio Mushi Production ("Bug Production"), which pioneered TV animation in Japan. The distinctive "large eyes" style of Japanese animation was invented by Tezuka, drawing inspiration from Western cartoons and animated films of the time such as Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and other Disney movies.
The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum (宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館, lit. "Takarazuka City Tezuka Osamu Memorial Hall"), located in the city of Takarazuka, Hyōgo Prefecture, was inaugurated on April 25, 1994, and has three floors (15069.47 ft²). In the basement there is an "Animation Workshop" in which visitors can make their own animation, and a mockup of the city of Takarazuka and a replica of the table where Osamu Tezuka worked.
Outside of the building's entrance, there are imitations of the hands and feet of several characters from Tezuka (as in a true walk of fame) and on the inside, the entry hall, a replica of Princess Knight's furniture. On the same floor is a permanent exhibition of manga and a room for the display of anime. The exhibition is divided into two parts: Osamu Tezuka and the city of Takarazuka and Osamu Tezuka, the author.
The second floor contains, along with several exhibitions, a manga library with five hundred works of Tezuka (some foreign editions are also present), a video library, and a lounge with decor inspired by Kimba the White Lion.
There is also a glass sculpture that represents the planet Earth and is based on a book written by Tezuka in his childhood called "Our Earth of Glass."1957 Shogakukan Manga Award for Manga Seminar on Biology and Biiko-chan
1975 Bungeishunjū manga Award
1975 Japan Cartoonists Association Award—Special Award
1977 Kodansha Manga Award for Black Jack and The Three-Eyed One
1980 Inkpot Award, San Diego Comic-Con
1983 Shogakukan Manga Award for Hidamari no Ki
1984 Animafest Zagreb Grand Prize for Jumping
1985 Hiroshima International Animation Festival for Onboro-Film
1986 Kodansha Manga Award for Message to Adolf
1989 Nihon SF Taisho Award – Special Award
1989 Order of the Sacred Treasure, 3rd class (posthumous)
2004 Eisner Award for Buddha (vols. 1–2)
2005 Eisner Award for Buddha (vols. 3–4)
2009 Eisner Award for Dororo
2014 Eisner Award for The Mysterious Underground Men