Manga Moveable Feast: The Astonishing Works of Tezuka Osamu Review

Posted on 24 February 2012 by VinnieAve

Let me first say that while this isn’t manga, it is from Tezuka. This is not one of his most well-known works but it is one of the essential parts of his body of works. Throughout his career he made several short experimental films. In 2009, Kimstim and Kino released a collection of these films. Part of the interest of this collection is that it is from a range of years from the early 1960s (pre-dating AstroBoy) to the late 1980s. I wrote more about some of these films since often there is much more to say than about these than others but I want to give you a feel for this collection.

Tales of the Street Corner (1962, 39:04)

The first film in this collection is about a group of characters (including little girl, mice, characters on posters,  and lamppost), visually it has a simple look until a military man appears who appears to be rotoscoped (I can’t say for sure)  but this is the only part of the film that has this particular look. This film is impressive for its variety of characters Tezuka’s ability to have each of these beings able to express emotion no matter what it is. As many of you know Tezuka was very anti-war and this piece is part of that world. I don’t want to talk too much about what happens but it should be pointed out this is a nice piece about propaganda.

Male (1962, 03:09)

In the three minutes we have cat complaining about a man spending time with a women. This film has a clever use of darkness and revealing parts of the scene (the entirety of the film takes space on one shot but shows different parts as needed). This is a nice clever piece. I wouldn’t say its one of the standouts but I have no complaints. It’s a nice cute piece.

Memory (1964, 05:40)

If these were to be batched into groups this would go into the bizarre category. The animation on this is mostly based on photographs. It was a funny little piece about how human memory works, and how men behave towards women.

Mermaid (1964, 08:17)

This is another piece with simple animation (seeing a trend), about a boy who finds a fish but thinks it’s a mermaid. Sadly, the society that he lives in is trying to fix this. He suffers greatly. This also has no dialogue (like Tales of the Street Corner). This one is fantastic, of his short films for the 1960s this was my favorite.

The Drop (1965, 04:18)

Here we have quick little drama about a lost sailor trying to get the last bit of water that he can, all in all not particularly remarkable. It’s similar to Male in many ways but this lacks any dialogue where Male is the only of these that really dialogue heavy.

Pictures at an Exhibition (1966, 32:56)

This is also one of the longer pieces in the collection, also one of the most notable in the group. This film uses Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as the music for the film. The easiest analogy to make to this is to Fantasia since they both are inventive animated works that use orchestral music and create wonderful animated stories. Here Tezuka looks at different characters that are portrayed in these portraits. If you are familiar with his work’s you know that Tezuka is not afraid to point out the faults of modern society. In this short film there are no less than ten short stories that are told. Each and every one looks at the way that people try to be perceived. This piece could easy have several long articles written about it and I hope that someday someone does.

The Genesis (1968, 04:02)

This one caught me a little off-guard. I was not expecting this to be based on the Biblical story of Genesis. It was interesting to see how Tezuka did this but the ending really threw me for a loop. It seems misogynistic, which after reading Princess Knight, I shouldn’t have been as surprised. That shouldn’t be a reason to skip this.

Jumping (1984, 06:22)

There is a significant gap in time between this film and the last. This film has more to it than it seems. At first glance and for the majority of it, there is this character just jumping, starting with small jumps and then growing to absurd heights. This feels to be the most accessible of all the films. The animation is of no distinct style (which is true of most of these films) but it also isn’t too simple to make it jarring. I said there is more to this and like many of Tezuka’s works there is a social message (however it isn’t too ham-fisted here). This is without a doubt my favorite of the short films.

Broken Down Film (1985, 05:42)

This is the funniest of the all the comedies in the bunch. It struck me a little odd that Tezuka would do a film that looked like Popeye but these are really neat experimental films so everything is up for grabs.  This was a nice little piece that played with the tropes of good guy/bad guy cartoons and stories of the American West.

Push (1987, 04:16)

This film has a very American look it, it almost looks like an animated comic strip. The world we see is a ruined and lost planet but there are still vending machines that can essentially replace everything. The style and message of this film are great.

Murasama (1987, 08:42)

This has the most anime look of everything on this DVD. This is most action-like of all of these being somewhat odd with its entirely serious tone throughout. At the beginning this man picks up a sword and whoever he kills he sees as a straw dummy. It’s an interesting discussion about those who have power and how they see those who are weak.

Legend of the Forest (1987, 29:25)

This is the crown jewel of this collection. While it is technically unfinished (only parts 1 and 4 were completed, although his son has said he plans on completing the full film), what was made is some of the best animation I have ever seen. This falls into the same category as Pictures at an Exhibition, in this case it is set to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. For me what makes this film so impressive is not the blend of animation and classical music but the at times nearly seamless shifting from one style of animation to another, ranging from still images that look like plates from a field guide to early Disney and then later Disney up to Tezuka’s own style for the last part of the part 1. That is somewhat interesting since Tezuka was a medical student so he had to know technical details like those found a field guide and sort of shifting through his influences and then looking at his own style that was so influential.

The second part is not nearly as interesting but still very good with us seeing some of the plot threads expanding and getting worse from the first part. It is more message heavy but still has the shifting styles. It manages to have a long plot for the duration. This film alone might make the DVD worth buying for any fan of animation in the world. Also if you are looking for things where the villain is Hitler, this is an example.

Self Portrait (1988, 0:13)

This is just a short little picture of Tezuka flipping through, it’s nice but since it comes right after Legend of the Forest, it can almost be forgotten.

There is one bonus feature that I am sure every Tezuka-phile would love. This is an interview conducted in 1986 where he talks about Jumping and his philosophy on animation, which boils down to he didn’t care about Japan as an audience by the end but was interested in finding a world market.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Anime Fans Says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this very detailed analysis. It definitely shows a lot of geek knowledge 😀 love, that! :)))

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