Robots, Cyborgs & Androids in the Manga of Osamu Tezuka

unpublished slide lecture for the birthday of Astro Boy, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, April 3rd 2003
reconfigured for various lectures on Osamu Tezuka for the Marvel of Manga exhibition, 2006-2007

Astro Boy birth countdown clock (2002); Tezuka Productions 30th Anniversary clock (1989)


Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy is his most famous creation, spanning manga, anime and marketing since its inception in 1951. Less known to western audiences is the broad range of robotic, mechanical and neural beings which populate the 400-plus manga produced by Tezuka up to his death in 1989. Cute robots, sexual cyborgs and angst-ridden androids are detailed in numerous astounding titles like Metropolis, Glass, Microids, Ambassador Magma, Black Jack, Song Of Apollo, Tiger Books, The Crater and many more.

I Am Robot And Proud is an audiovisual presentation that traces Tezuka’s family of disenfranchised post-humans. In stark opposition to the European model of Frankenstein and his ‘workshop of filthy creation’, Tezuka typifies an entirely opposed merger of humans with non-humans. In Tezuka’s world, the nursery breeds psychosis and the tomb unleashes ecstasy, as his replicants, clones and simulations exude a refreshingly amoral non-religious celebration of artificial life.

Robot Feelings

Astro Boy = Tetsuwan Atomu

Astro Boy: Biggest Robot On Earth (1964); Astro Boy: Lightning Man (1955)

Astro Boy fights Pluto. Astro Boy mourns Pluto & the other robots
Lightning Man is destroyed – Astro Boy mourns

Robot family trauma

Astro Boy = Tetsuwan Atomu

Astro Boy: The Blue Knight (1965)

Flashback by Ross: Blue Knight mourns his wife Maria & son Tonto killed by Brug. Prof.Ross & Prof.Ochanamizu conclude: Blue Night reveals … he contains Maria & Tonto inside him as designed by Ross using their heads! Overview of Prof.Ross’s design

Ambassador Magma = Maguma Taishi

Ambassador Magma (1965)

Cover – Magma is created by Earth in preparation for Goa who millions of years ago prophesized his take-over of the planet.
Magma arrives & takes Mamoru’s camera; transforms into jet then departs. Earth introduced Mamoru to Magma & his wife Mol; Gam is made to look like Mamoru. Gam transforms to jet and takes Mamoru.

The creation of life

Astro Boy = Tetsuwan Atomu

Astro Boy: Frankenstein (1952); Astro Boy: Resurrection (1966)

Frankenstein is created. Astro Boy Battles Frankenstein.
Prof.Ochanamizu discusses resurrection plans. Astro Boy is resurrected.

The Devil Garon = Garon

The Devil Garon (1960)

Cover – Garon’s heart is a separate being – both hit earth from two meteorites from another planet.
Satellite hits earth and is dug up and shipped onto truck …. A professor who starts sorting out all the parts. He builds Garon. With electrical voltage, Garon comes to life. Garon destroys the laboratory and kills the Professor. Flashback: the Professor’s assistant plays back the Professor’s tapes and discovers the heart-shaped hole in Garon. Garon’s ‘heart’ is found and takes residence inside Garon.

Paternal love objects

Pinocchio = Pinokyo

Pinocchio (1952)

Black Jack = Buraku Jaku

Black Jack (1976 - 1980)

Black Jack & Pinoko puppet
Cover – Black Jack is a renegade doctor who does operations for cases no-one else will touch. He lives as an outsider to the medical fraternity and humanity. Black Jack bears a deathly part of his being and psyche as noted by the scar that lines his dead (blue) flesh). He has made Pinoko out of body parts: she is his nurse/daughter/girlfriend.
Black Queen performs amputation. Black Queen loses her nerve when she has to operate on her lover Rock. Black Jack reconstructs Rock’s leg
Megumi tells Pinoko. Flashback: Black Jack operates on Megumi – sex change?. Flashback: Black Jack operates on Megumi – sex change?; Black Jack interrupts. Pinoko snuggles into Jack; Megumi leaves on ship.

Dororo = Dororo

Dororo (1969)

Cover – Hyakki-maru’s father sacrificed his about to be born child’s 48 body parts to 48 demons; the child is born a blob of flesh and set loose in river; Hyakki-maru grows up after doctor makes him artificial limbs; he embarks on quest to kill the 48 demons; Dororo is a parent-less child thief whom he befriends.
Hyakki-maru moves toward the doctor. The doctor starts to make artificial limbs for Hyakki-maru. Doctor starts sewing everything into Hyakki-maru’s body. Hyakki-maru’s body is complete; he takes his first steps. Hyakki-maru attacks with a rage carving up his enemies’ bodies. Hyakki-maru has blades within his fake arms. Hyakki-maru slices up a demon. Hyakki-maru can also shoot acidic water from his legs.

Tiger Books: Glass Brain

Tiger Books (1971)

After a baby survives a huge train accident, she goes into a coma; widely televised on TV, a young boy sneaks in to visit her, and believes he can wake her by kissing her. He does this for over 15 years … One night during a huge electrical storm, he kisses her – and she awakens. He is assigned to be her carer, and though in a teen woman’s body, she behaves like a baby. They both grow up and marry – but only in time for her to die in his arms on their wedding night!

Replication of Self

Astro Boy = Tetsuwan Atomu

Astro Boy: Moeba (1955)

Prof.Temma shoots replicant Prof.Temma. Prof.Temma dodges hovering manifestation of Moeba.

The Adventures of Rock = Rokku

The Adventures of Rock (1952)

Cover – also known as ROCKHOME’S ADVENTURES. Dimon – a similar planet to Earth – has become Earth’s new moon. Rock visits it and discovers the Luborooms who are slaves to the birdlike Epooms. Rock works with both of them to eventually establish harmony.
On Planet Dimon, Rock encounters Luborooms. The Luborooms take on Rock’s form; he smashes them/him! There are too many Luborooms; they take Rock to their master.


Big X = Bigu Ekusu

Big X (1963)

Cover - Akira is the grandson of Prof.Asagumo who developed formula for enlargening cells for Nazis but hid formula in his son Shigeru’s stomach. After Shigeru dies from neo-Nazi League, Prof.Hanamaru passes on the formula to Akira.
Prof.Hanamaru passes on the formula to Akira via special injection pen. Alira is now enlarged into Big X.

I.L. = Aieru

I.L. (1970)

Cover – Imari Daisaku is an out-of-work movie director. Count Alucard gives him a doll who can transform into anything. Imari starts a business renting her out to avenge bizarre psycho-sexual crimes.
Count Alucard give Imari the doll IL. IL poses as the wife of an industrialist who is turned on by moths! IL poses as a hippy chick a curator of a skin museum murdered!

The Amazing Three = W3 / Wanda Suri

The Amazing Three (1965)

Cover – Galaxy Patrol decides to destroy Earth because of the planet’s unending wars, etc. 3 members of Galaxy Patrol – Bokko, Nokko & Pukkop - are sent to Earth to blow it up one year later if they can’t find reasons to save the planet. Transformed into a rabbit, horse & dog, they are befriended by Shin’ichi – whose older brother poses as a manga artists while actually working for Phoenix – a peace organization for mankind.
Bokko is transformed into a rabbit. Bokko is transformed into a copy of Shin’ichi’ girlfriend Kanoko. ‘Kanoko’ is found by humans and presumed to be a lost child.

Marvelous Melmo = Fushiga No Merumo

Marvelous Melmo (19711)

Melmo’s deceased mother visits her and gives her the growth pills. Melmo takes one and grows up into a woman.

Robot love

Tiger/Lion Books: Distant Star = Harukanaru Hoshi

Tiger/Lion Books (1971)

Document of the Glass Chateau = Gurasu No Shiro no Kiroku

Document of the Glass Chateau (1970)

Reincarnation ….

Song of Apollo = Apporo no Uta

Song of Apollo (1970)

Phoenix = Hi No Tori

Phoenix (1966)
Text © Philip Brophy. Images © respective copyright holders.