“Electric Atomu-Chan Orchestra”
Mixed Media Canvas/Giclee in Acrylic paint. Sean D’Anconia – 2010
Growing up, I was enthralled with the idea of Astro Boy, catching the show on trips to Toronto to visit my Mom. They only showed it in French in Montreal and I wasn’t keen on the voice used for Atomu (astro).
As I went through childhood, I was able to watch Kimba The White Lion on VHS, Phoenix (Hi No Tori) 2772 and others. Evetually, I caught Ken Steacy’s (illegal I think) rendition of Astro Boy for NOW Comics which was actually quite good and inspired me to seek out Tezuka’s original.
Then came Frederick Schodt’s “Manga Manga: The World of Japanese Comics” which opened the world to me. That book became my bible for many years and I still refer to it for information and pleasure something like what…28 years later? (I just checked and its exactly 28 years from when I bought it at Silver Snail in Toronto). Luckily, this book featured the first english translation of Hi No Tori (Pheonix) and I was able to read a full chapter which was incredible beautiful.
Years later, I would read the full volumes of manga released by VIZ and others including Adolph, the full Hi No Tori manga epic and my favorite – Apollo’s Song. I fell in love with this man’s work. Tezuka’s understanding, both stoic and zen-like, of human nature was incredible deep. And at the same time, this allowed me to grow much closer in my own heart to the Japanese way of seeing existence and life’s possibilities.
Tezuka was a wonderful humanist, individualist, philosopher, inventor and artist. And much more. I still love escaping into his worlds. And while Astro is not my favorite Tezuka manga these days, it is such a profound foundation for both my creative influences and life that I could not think of starting any Fine Art interpretations of his work without first paying homage to Atomu.
For the print, I drew an image of Atomu that while based on Tezuka, did not actually exist. I also added some irezumi tattoos. I thought that an interesting story could be a “Yakuza Eiga” in space starring Atomu. Perhaps he is re-created to serve an evil Oyabun in the future but breaks free. Anyway, the entire image is made up of several visual and painted effects – acrylic and print. I also added a chrome overlay to Atomu’s body keeping him both 2D and in part - 3D (I admit to being very disapointed with the American 3D movie version).
This work was originally created for the Nisei Week Festival “Art Sho” in 2010. I came up with the main concept after attending the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Memorial services here in Little Tokyo over the summer. Upon reflection after the ceremony, I was struck that a Japanese man could take the greatest military weapon ever used against humanity (and his specific society) and turn it into a national hero.* A symbol of man’s efficacy and perseverant nature. Wow. Tezuka was something else. Huge guts, “face” and soul.
It’s one of my great regrets to have not been able to meet Tezuka in person. But through his works, we get to know each other across time much like the characters in his stories. Like Matsumoto Leiji, he has a great soul which is eternal and lives on in his creations. No doubt that one day, Atomu will fly through the sky for real. I will be watching.
* Just a note. I am not in any sense a supporter of Japan’s Govn’t durng WW2 and agree that it needed to be decimated. However, I am not in favor of using Nuclear weapons against Civilian targets. For military ethics among “honorable enemies”, look-up Uesugi Kenshin. Or if that bores you, Kill Bill 1, hospital scene “doing that thing would lower us” in reference to killing someone in their sleep.