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Tezuka anniversary draws tributes for superhero of manga

Plans are in place to commemorate Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy and the Jungle Taitei, by building a theme park to rival Disneyland.

November 3, 1998

Asahi Evening News

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of Osamu Tezuka, the legendary cartoonist best known for his superhero character Astro Boy.

And with the manga master's creations still as popular as ever with all generations, a string of television broadcasts of his work are planned over the coming months.

Not that we need many reminders of Tezuka's lasting popularity. These days his animation characters are ubiquitous, popping up in a variety of forms in toy stores and appearing on TV science shows and commercials.

To mark the 70th anniversary of his birth, Tezuka Production, which now controls how the cartoonist's characters are used, announced in May a site for the long-planned Tezuka Osamu World theme park.

The amusement park will also feature a children's hospital, an animation film school and educational entertainment on nature and technology, both issues close to Tezuka's heart until his death in 1989.

Tezuka Production aims to complete the theme park in 2003, the year Astro Boy's fictional birth.

Plans for the theme park were first publicized two years ago and more than 100 local governments in the Kanto region offered to take on the project. Tezuka Production finally chose a 50-hectare plot of reclaimed land in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, beside Tokyo Bay.

Kanagawa governor Hiroshi Okazaki immediately welcomed the announcement, pledging "the utmost cooperation from local government" to realize the project.

Kawasaki mayor Kiyoshi Takahashi called the park a dream of the next century and said it would contribute to the redevelopment of the coastal area.

The park is expected to cost at least 200 billion yen to build and should attract some 10 million visitors each year, its proposers say.

But there remains several hurdles to negotiate before the park plan becomes reality, industry sources said.

Tezuka Production wants to establish a third sector company to take on the management of the park with the local government. But financial difficulties have forced Kawasaki to stop putting money behind such third sector ventures.

The amount the government can contribute to the theme park's construction is also in question. And access could also prove a stumbling block since there is no railway station near the proposed site.

In addition, new disaster preparedness measures will have to be worked out since the proposed site is in an areas densely packed with petrochemical complexes, Kawasaki officials say.

Tezuka Production officials say they owe it to Tezuka to tackle each problem step by step and found a park to rival Disney theme parks around the world.

Meanwhile, NHK satellite broadcasting plans to feature the works of Tezuka in a series of five programs from Dec. 21 to 25. These will include Astro Boy--known as Tetsuwan Atom in Japanese--and Tezuka's tale of a young lion, "Jungle Taitei" (Great Emperor in the Jungle).

In addition, DirecTV, a CS digital broadcaster, will set up two special channels, called "Tetsuwan Atom Channel" and "Tezuka Osamu Channel," on Nov. 15.

The two channels will be available for three months. The latter will screen a full-length version of "Jungle Taitei" and various lesser known short stories from Tezuka.

Tezuka originally hoped to become a surgeon. But after earning a degree in medicine from Osaka University in 1946 he chose a career as a newspaper cartoonist.

His best-known series, Astro Boy, was created in 1951 and brought him instant fame. The television version of Astro Boy which followed was also a triumph, both here and in the United States.

Through the narrative complexity of his many works, Tezuka is credited with elevating manga from being a mere children's entertainment to becoming part of mainstream Japanese culture.

In 1954, Tezuka began work on his masterpiece, "Hi no Tori" (Bird of Fire), an epic on the history of mankind which took him 30 years to complete.

Asahi Evening News, November 3, 1998

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