Unexpected schedule changes wiped out most of August for me, so it’s been almost three weeks since I last posted anything longer than a tweet here. The tweets about Satoshi Kon’s untimely death were so numerous they must have been heard in space. We also said farewell to Kihachiro Kawamoto and to Shojuro Yamauchi, but Kon’s death was so unexpected that many didn’t believe the first postings. Of course, I didn’t know him, though I had interviewed him a few years ago for a magazine; but his art had made a huge impression on me. He was such an intelligent film-maker, both visually and in narrative terms, and he combined that intelligence with true humanity and a rare degree of playfulness.
Much has already been said about him, none of it adequate to sum up his great gifts and the anime industry’s great loss. Patrick Macias has a short tribute here and Andrew Osmond contributed a thoughtful obit to The Guardian. A podcast I recorded yesterday with Zak Bertschy, Andrew Osmond and Sean Russell of Anime 3000 is coming online in the next few days, plus some comments that may or may not surface in newspaper columns, depending on editorial whim. I’d like to pay some more substantial tribute, but at the moment I can’t find the words to do the job.
But however great the talent or beloved the person, the world ends one person at a time. The rest of us keep going. A couple of days later I was tweeting about fashion socks and the Asakusa Carnival, writing for a forthcoming book, indexing another. I was arranging to spend a day with my oldest and dearly loved girlfriend and her family, excited at seeing her for the first time in three years. I was thinking of another much loved girlfriend who passed away two years ago. Time, events and trivia make wonderful distancing mechanisms.
And then life decided to give me a couple of treats.
On Saturday morning, as I was getting ready for my eagerly-awaited day out, the postman delivered a bulky and unexpected package that turned out to contain author copies of the French and Italian editions of The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga. I knew that translations were being prepared, and I’d exchanged emails with the French translator, Jean-Paul Jennequin, but I’d lost track of the publishing schedules as the summer turned chaotic. Now here were the finished books, in my hands, large and heavy and giving off that wonderful new-book smell of fresh cut pages and excitement.
They are, of course, both beautiful. The internal design is unchanged, the new text flowing seamlessly around the existing layouts. The French translation is beautiful – Jean-Paul has done an excellent job. The Italian, by Fabio Deotto, also seems first-rate. My understanding of Italian is so poor that it’s wasted on me, but I hope that thousands of Italian readers will give it the respect and appreciation it deserves.
The covers are very different. The French version, published by Eyrolles, has the same high-gloss transparent PVC overcoat as the American edition, with “Osamu Tezuka” printed on it in stark white capitals. The book itself has the subtitle “Le Dieu du Manga” and my name, plus that iconic Astro Boy die-cut.
The Italian publisher, Edizioni BD, got designer Giorgio Cantù to completely revamp the original cover concept. A silhouette of Astro Boy in high-gloss black with a white keyline on a matt red ground makes a striking statement on the front cover, while the back has been completely redesigned to focus on Astro Boy’s wide eyes and Tezuka’s signature. The half-title page has the same design and information as the cover, while the French half-title is a classic design with nothing but the title in large black text at the top of an otherwise blank red page.
Both editions have the same light red endpapers with the familiar Astro internal diagram artwork. The Italian edition has no dustjacket. The book is numbered #06 in BD’s Icon series, which has already covered Jim Lee, Brian Bolland, Jack Kirby, Massimo Carnevale and Vampirella.
Neither edition features the bonus documentary DVD that came with the English language version, but they’re beautiful books that left me absolutely delighted.
So I left the house feeling thoroughly happy, and had a wonderful day with people I love. In the evening we went to one of those rare London restaurants where they cook beautifully and serve their food imaginatively in a room with a lovely ambiance, without asking for your house or the keys to your Ferrari in return. We had dinner to celebrate being together again, and the fulfilment of my god-daughter’s dream of getting a university place to study Japanese.