the osamu tezuka manga museum

On the second of December, J.’s friend Dan Nishimoto, who was in Japan to see his relatives, came to visit us in Osaka for a couple of days. Dan (who’s name is pronounced ‘Don,’ as in Don Corleone) used to work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, but he now spends most of his time writing about music and being a DJ. This is nice because Dan brought his iPod with him so I had a chance to listen to a lot of great recently released hip-hop, as well as the new Miho Hatori album, Ecdysis.
On Sunday the 4th, J. was sick with a cold, so Dan and I decided to head over to the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum, which is only twenty minutes away from my house on the Takarazuka line. Takarazuka is most well known for the Takarazuka Revue, a stage show in which women play all of the parts. Takarazuka is really interesting because not only do the women need to be single to be part of any one of the many Takarazuka troupes, but once an actor has been placed into a role she plays only characters of that gender from that moment on. The shows tend to be kind of like Vegas meets drag meets tragic love story, and they’re immensely popular (there’s an entire cable TV channel devoted exclusively to Takarazuka and you have to pay extra for it).
Because of the Revue, the town of Takarazuka has a kind of pseudo-European Disney castle feel to it, which the Tezuka museum has taken on in spades. But with robots. According to the pamphlet that comes with the price of admission, “Its external appearance suggests an ancient European castle, with beige walls, and it has been designed with both the image of Tezuka comics and the surrounding townscape in mind.” There is also a cylindrical domed tower with a weird kind of shimmery rainbow titanium cladding which “with its glass dome, shaped like a world globe, is evocative of Tezuka’s posthumously-published work, ‘Our Earth Made of Glass.’” You enter the building through the Phoenix Air-lock and you can take a rest in the Jungle Emperor Rest Area.
While the museum is quite fun because of the abundance of characters represented in fiberglass, as well as the designers’ attempts to create displays in come-to-life Tezuka environments, there should have been more of an emphasis on Tezuka’s original works, of which only a few were on display. There were some interesting artifacts, including Tezuka’s medical sketchbooks, some childhood attempts at manga, and his startlingly precise scientific drawings of insects. There was also a notebook on display in which you could see his incredibly tiny handwriting — elaborate kanji written within the confines of a one or two millimeter graph-paper square. There was a also a really nice Tezuka reading library, though I was disappointed that the museum store wasn’t selling any Tezuka manga and concentrated on tchotchkes instead.
Probably the most fun that we had involved the creation of our own animated figures in the Animation Workshop, an area intended to let kids learn a little bit about how animation works. We created strange looking robots and then were able to choreograph their dance steps within limited parameters, including the decision of whether or not to use the jungle backdrop, or the space backdrop.
I like the ‘container bots’ that encased the artifacts of Tezuka’s early life. There were two sets of these, lining the hallway.
It’s Tezuka. Unlike Disneyland, however, he didn’t move or recite the Gettysburg Address.
This is a crazy room full of computer desks where kids can come to learn about animation, and then make some animation themselves. Since Dan and I were the only kids in the area, we decided to have a go. The woman on the left is one of the museum attendants, all of whom were dressed like airline stewardesses with funny white Déjeuner sur l’herbe type hats on. (Alright, I know there are no white hats in Le Déjeuner — but you know what I mean!)
I created a teenage robot! This is a screen shot of my Frankenbot throwing a mid-samba disco punch.
Dan is turning the crank on one of those mechanical proto-animation devices, the zoetrope. You know — it’s one of the ones where you look through the slit and when you turn it at the proper rate you get the image of a running horse. Apparently there was also an improved version of the zoetrope, known as the Praxinoscope.
Dan stares in awe at the stained-glass glow of Tezuka heaven.
This is a plaque of Blackjack, Osaka University’s unofficial mascot. Like Tezuka, Blackjack graduated from Osaka University with a medical degree. Unlike Tezuka he went on to become the world’s most brilliant rogue surgeon.

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