US pundit Daniel Pink has made The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga one of his Top Ten books for 2009. Since his website gets a lot more hits than mine, this is a fantastic boost for the book in marketing terms.
He describes Tezuka as “probably the most extraordinary cultural figure most Americans have never heard of… In Japan he’s a combination of Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and Elvis.” He also pays tribute to the beauty of the book, a well-deserved thumbs up to the design team at Ilex.
Pink’s 2005 book A Whole New Mind celebrates the importance of right-brain creativity and sketches a future where creativity, playfulness and intelligence will be pathways to “professional success and personal fulfilment”.
That was the way Tezuka worked. He had no conventional business acumen whatsoever, taking on project after project with absurdly short deadlines and ridiculously low returns. Yet his creative energy, interest in everything, and sheer determination enabled him to produce a huge quantity of work across an impressive range of media, genres and audiences, while his personal qualities attracted and kept the colleagues and supporters he needed to keep that vast output going.
Maybe the time is right for an examination of his work as a management or lifestyle guide. When adman Dave Marinaccio produced All I Really Need To Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek in 1995, he wasn’t wholly serious, though the joke saw him laughing all the way to the bank. His book and the many like it are variations on Unitarian minister Robert Fulghum‘s 1986 work All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten – a collection of essays often criticised as trite and saccharine, but massively influential.*
But if Daniel Pink is right in predicting the rise of the right-brained, then Tezuka’s life and work has all the attributes needed to function as a primer for those seeking creative and personal guidance. Parents can hold him up as an example to children because he finished medical school while creating comics. Kids can use him to convince parents that a comics career doesn’t have to exclude academic success. All of us can learn something from his absolute determination to squeeze the most out of life: he lived every waking second to the full.
All I Really Need To Know I Learned from Osamu Tezuka – coming soon from a management guru near you? Maybe, but why wait? Just go out and find some of his work. His comics and animation are becoming more widely available in English and Tezuka Production has plans to make the entire Tezuka comic catalogue available for download. If you’re in the market for a guru, you could do a lot worse.
* To counter this sweetie-pie image, Fulghum was a founder member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band of famous authors who get together for occasional charity gigs. Other members include Stephen King and Matt Simpsons Groening.