UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Drawing the self : race and identity in the manga of Tezuka Osamu Whaley, Benjamin Evan


This thesis explores the construction and mutability of the Japanese race and ethnicity in the print comics of Dr. Tezuka Osamu (1928–1989), Japan’s “god of manga” and the creator of such beloved series as Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. By investigating three of Tezuka’s mature, lesser-known works from the 1970s and 80s, I will illustrate how Tezuka’s narratives have been shaped by his consciousness of racial issues and his desire to investigate the changing nature of Japanese identity in the postwar era. First, the works are contextualized within the larger manga history of the 1960s and 70s, specifically the gekiga (lit. drama pictures) movement that heralded more mature and sophisticated stories and artwork. Chapter one analyzes Ode to Kirihito (1970–71, 2006 English), and introduces Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection to show the ways in which Tezuka bestializes his ethnically Japanese protagonists and turns them into a distinct class of subaltern. Chapter two examines intersections between race and war narratives using Adolf (1983–85, 1995–96 English), Tezuka’s WWII epic about the Jewish Holocaust. The concept of hybridity is utilized and the case is made that Tezuka ultimately denies his racially mixed characters the benefits of their Japanese identity. Chapter three investigates the manifestation of Japanese masculinity in Gringo (1987–89), one of Tezuka’s final works. In this chapter, Japanese identity, masculinity, and sexual ability are linked to the national sport of sumo wrestling. A discussion of diasporic communities is included in order to discuss how the Japanese race is conceptualized as it moves through different geographical and cultural spaces.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported