Having pored over the advance copy of my forthcoming book The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga until the print was at serious risk of wearing out, I turned to the DVD mounted in the back cover.
The team at Ilex Press always saw a documentary DVD as an integral part of the package. It’s a way to put the reader more closely in touch with the artist, to give an idea of what Tezuka really looked like, the tone of his voice, the way he moved. Luckily there was plenty of material. Not only was Tezuka one of the most photographed and interviewed superstars in a culture where top comic artists are revered as the West reveres its rock gods, but he was never shy or precious about giving insights into his working methods.
With the assistance of the team at Tezuka Productions, we managed to secure rights for a book-mounted DVD showing the Japanese TV documentary NHK Tokushu Tezuka Osamu: Sosaku no Himitsu (Secrets of Creation.) Screened in Japan in 1986, it was filmed as Tezuka prepared for the Hiroshima International Animation Festival in 1985. It shows him working in his private studio and with his team, and gives glimpses of his wife, colleagues and old friends.
I found it surprisingly touching to see him at work in the same kind of cramped and messy surroundings that most artists I know seem to generate, and on the same punishing schedule so many artists work today – pulling all-nighters to finish work so he could go to the Festival, leaving parties early to finish more comic pages, juggling multiple projects that all had to be completed to impossible timescales, and never quite catching up with himself.
There are some beautiful moments here. He looks back at his childhood, walking among the wooded hills of Takarazuka where he grew up, showing the interviewer a comicbook where his mother had made a flicker-book animation in the top margin for him. We have one page of that book as an illustration in The Art of Osamu Tezuka, but to see him holding the book and making his mother’s animation move gave it a whole new dimension.
You don’t have to buy the book to get this DVD. NHK released it in Japan and you can get hold of it online through several Japanese retailers, who will happily ship overseas. However, it won’t play in Region 1 (sorry North America!) and according to CDJapan’s listing it won’t have English subtitles either.