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The Astro Boy Essays

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Cover art for The Astro Boy Essays by Frederick Schodt, published by Stone Bridge Press

The Astro Boy Essays by Frederick Schodt

© Tezuka Productions / Stone Bridge Press

The Bottom Line

A comprehensive, multi-dimensional survey of the cultural influence and history of Astro Boy (a.k.a. Tetsuwan Atomu) and his creator Osamu Tezuka, The Astro Boy Essays offers insightful opinions and uncovers little-known facts about this iconic figure of Japanese manga and anime. It's an interesting read for any one interested in the history of Japanese pop culture, but it might be a bit too scholarly / in-depth to be of interest to the casual reader of manga.
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Pros

  • A multi-dimensional look at this beloved, yet often misunderstood manga and anime character
  • Offers a rare glimpse of Tezuka's human side by describing his flaws as well as his talent
  • Includes a lot of insightful observations about Japanese pop culture and history

Cons

  • Somewhat scholarly and detailed – not a light read for the casual manga fan
  • A bit narrowly focused on the Astro Boy phenomenon vs. Tezuka's other works

Description

  • Author: Frederick Schodt
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
  • ISBN: 978-1-933330-54-9
  • US Publication Date: July 2007
  • Retail Price: $16.95
  • Book Details: 248 pages, paperback; includes color and black and white illustrations
  • Other Books by Frederick Schodt:
    • Manga Manga! The World of Japanese Comics
    • Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga

Guide Review - The Astro Boy Essays

Frederick Schodt, the author of two influential books about manga (Manga! Manga! and Dreamland Japan) has come out with a book about a topic near and dear to his heart: Osamu Tezuka and Tezuka's most famous creation, Astro Boy.

As Tezuka's friend and translator for the English editions of the Astro Boy comics series, Schodt had a long-standing, personal relationship with the man many regard as the "god of manga." With this kind of first person experience to draw from, Schodt shares his insights on this legendary artist's all-too-human flaws and mistakes as well as a connoisseur's appreciation of Tezuka's creative impact on manga, anime and Japanese pop culture.

The result is an multi-dimensional view of Tezuka: the man, his creativity, his insecurities, his workaholic tendencies, his world view and his love-hate relationship with his most famous creation, Astro Boy. Schodt also discusses how Astro Boy has influenced the development of robotics technology and why the little robot has become symbol of Japan's aspirations for the future.

There are lots of nice illustrations of Astro Boy comics, but it would have also been great to see examples of artwork from Pluto, Naoki Urasawa's revisionist take on Astro Boy and other examples of Tezuka's other works to really explain Tezuka's range and artistic innovations.

The other downside to this book? It can be a bit on the scholarly side, which can make it pretty dry reading for a casual fan. If you're more interested in manga for its artwork and stories than examining manga's cultural impact and historical context, then this is probably not a book for you either. But for anyone interested in Japanese pop culture and the history of manga, The Astro Boy Essays offers a rare glimpse into the world of the man who helped create manga.

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