Manga Review: Film wa Ikiteiru (Tezuka, 1958)

I wrote my last batch of manga reviews the night after starting my new WoW account, so I figured it’d only be appropriate to do a new batch now that I’m 80! Also, probably going to split these up for more post quantity.

Film wa Ikiteiru, Osamu Tezuka, 1958-1959 1 vol comp, 130pgs. Serialized in Chuugaku 1nen Course/2nen Course.

For the synopsis, I’m going to defer to the spoilerific one that shows up at the beginning of every Tezuka Osamu Manga Zenshuu:

  • The Film Lives On

    This is the story of two animators during the period of the dawn of animation films.
    Two boys named Musashi and Kojiro, respectively, who were very fond of drawing cartoons, left the countryside and journeyed to Tokyo where they eventually became cartoonists.
    But the dream of Musashi and Kojiro was to create animated films. The two vied with each other in the production of such films. Musashi first created a full-length animated film based on the Story of the Yearling while Kojiro followed suit by producing a film whose theme was centered on Tiny Black Sambo.
    During the process of producing the film, Musashi loses the sight of his eyes but his girl friend Otsu comes to his rescue and Musashi finally manages to complete the animated film on the Story of the Yearling which becomes more popular than the film produced by Kojiro.

If the summary makes the story sound fairly simple, that’s because it is. Not necessarily in a bad way (I mean, it’s 130 pages), but overall what interested me most when reading the manga is seeing the way that Tezuka intertwines a whole mess of obvious and disparate references that end up being fairly central to the story, which otherwise is a fairly standard shonen hard work -> success story: the Miyamoto Musashi/Sasaki Kojiro rivalry, the history of animation, the life of Beethoven, and his own experiences, including what could be read as a foreshadowing of his future experiences in the world of animation. Oh, also this manga editor who reminds me of SSJ2 Carl Horn for some reason.

If I were doing annotations or something on this manga, I’d probably elaborate on all of these, but I’m not, so I’m just going to talk about the ones that I find most interesting, specifically the stuff in here explicitly about animation.

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To begin with, there’s this graph, which shows up in the third chapter, which spends most of its time away from the action of the story in order to explain some basics of animation, like the phenomenon of persistence of vision, the phenakistoscope, and the animations of Emile Cohl. The graph was interesting to me because it shows that Tezuka is definitely familiar with the world of animation at the time, (for the katakana-challenged, some highlights: Norm Mclaren under Canada, Disney, Quimby, Bosustow, Terry, Lantz, Fleischer, Iwerks under America (I was hoping for some Harry Everett Smith myself), Trnka and Hoffmann(?) under Czech, and so on.) but he doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion on Japanese animation at the time, and doesn’t mention a single Japanese animator by name. In fact, just a few pages prior he mentions that domestic animated films (called manga eiga the whole work) never really took off in Japan.

There’s also the matter of Musashi and the old, grumpy anime director that he meets, who seem to foreshadow a lot of Tezuka’s own career in animation. I’m going to warn you that it’s been a while since I’ve actually read a book about this, so please correct my horrible mistakes. On one hand, there’s Musashi, who is young, talented, original, and able to produce drawings at an incredible speed, but there’s also the animation director who is constantly telling Musashi that the motion in his drawings is “dead”, and that, as the title of the work reminds us, film is alive. In sticking to this philosophy, the director ends up being ruined because he always goes over budget and can’t meet deadlines. I guess I won’t tell you how this problem is solved in the manga, only that it involves dream sequences and being in love with a horse from your home town.

Overall, I’d say that this is a very competent Tezuka shonen manga, with some pretty interesting subject matter, if you’re into animation and Tezuka in general. I know I’m not really in a position to say this, considering that the only Tezuka I’ve read other than this are the one-shots that Vertical put out so it’d be like me talking about a “average Hitchcock” film after just watching Rope or something, but while it doesn’t really blow me away, it certainly kept me entertained and reading. Not to mention that it’s a pretty easy read, and that you can find it at Book-Off for like 100 yen. Maybe next I can buy some Tezuka that people actually talk about…

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