Some hardcore fans of manga comics take their devotion to an almost religious fervor. So strong is their enthusiasm that Osamu Tezuka, the medium’s more prolific and prominent pioneer, is commonly referred to as “The God of Manga.”
Manga, however, is far from a monotheistic religion, and in the 25 years since his passing, other artists have seen their creations go on to achieve the same fame and popularity as Tezuka’s. A recent survey of 24,420 Japanese comic fans recently chose four other artists for the pantheon.
When asked the question of who Japan’s greatest manga creator is, Tezuka was the runaway winner. It’s hardly a surprising choice, seeing as how Tezuka’s works were some of the most influential and groundbreaking, including classics such as Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy, Princess Knight, one of the first manga for girls to incorporate the adventure aspects of boy’s comics, and the medical drama Black Jack, into which he incorporated his education to be a medical doctor.
Tezuka showed a strong sense of intellectual curiosity even as a young boy, when one of his favorite pastimes was insect hunting. The hobby had such a hold on him that for his pen name, he added the kanji character for 虫, meaning “bug,” to the end of Osamu, despite it not affecting his name’s pronunciation at all. Tezuka’s love of entomology can also be seen in the animation studio he founded, Mushi (“Bug”) productions.
▼ Could the reason Tezuka favored berets be because they make handy substitutes for bug-catching nets?
Coming in second in the poll was Fujiko F. Fujio. Born Hiroshi Fujimoto, Fujiko F. Fujio was one half of the manga team known as Fujiko Fujio.
▼ “Whoops, sorry. Thought I heard my name.”
The two collaboratively created Doraemon, the beloved story of a robot cat from the future which began serialization in 1969. After the two members of Fujiko Fujio began drawing independently in 1987, it was Fujiko F. Fujio who would continue to pen Doraemon, thus accounting for his higher ranking in the poll than his former partner’s.
Motoo Abiko, the other half of Fujiko Fujio, finished in fifth place under his solo work pen name of Fujiko Fujio A. His lighthearted adventure titles Ninja Hattori-kun and Kaibutsu-kun, which follow groups of ninja and monsters, respectively, have achieved such deep-rooted popularity that both have received live-action theatrical film adaptations in recent years.
▼ Basically, one of the members of Fujiko Fujio drawing a blue-colored lead is a license to print money.
Things got a little more modern at the number three slot with Akira Toriyama, whose big break was the 1980 sci-fi comedy Dr. Slump and who also serves as character designer for the popular Dragon Quest role-playing video game franchise. Toriyama’s real claim to fame, though, is as the creator of Dragon Ball, and therein Dragon Ball Z, which would go on to spawn hundreds of animated TV episodes, over a dozen animated feature films, and exactly one Hollywood movie (largely considered one too many).
▼ Our apologies to the many, many people who spent the last five years repressing this memory.
Finally, fourth place went to Eiichiro Oda. Unlike the other artists on the list, Oda has just one major serialized manga on his resume, but it’s a doozy: the pirate adventure tale One Piece. One Piece was first published in 1997, meaning it’s just now getting old enough that not only is it a nostalgic treat for those who have been reading it since the start, there’s a second generation of fans waiting in the wings as parents who loved it in their own childhood pass that passion on to their kids.
Not only is Oda the only manga deity chosen by the poll with just a single hit, he’s also the only one still actively drawing. Even as it approaches the 20-year mark, One Piece shows no signs of slowing down in terms of popularity or narrative, and at just 39, Oda could just be hitting his creative prime. Will he eventually topple Tezuka from atop the manga version of Mt. Olympus? Or will another worthy challenger step up to challenge the legacy of these five now legendary creators? Only time will tell, but manga fans the world over are sure to enjoy watching the situation play out.