Osamu Tezuka is well known for being "the father of manga", and for good reason. His prolific and pioneering works, and the way he redefined genres has rightfully earned him that title. It was Tezuka who developed and shaped the modern style of manga that we know today. Many considered him the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney. Tezuka's most famous work is arguably Astro Boy, which tells the story of an android with human emotions who is created by Umataro Tenma after the death of his son. But what about Tezuka's other works? They deserve some love, too. So, here's Osamu Tezuka's ten best works that aren't Astro Boy, ranked.
10 Kimba the White Lion
Kimba the White Lion tells the story of a young cub whose family is killed en route to a zoo before being shipwrecked on the Arabian Peninsula. After the stars form the face of his mother, Kimba must journey back to his home in Africa to become his father's successor.
Kimba was written early in Tezuka's career and he drew inspiration from post-WW2 Japan and the hardships and struggles they were facing. Kimba's story is an emotional tale about self discovery and overcoming adversity, serving as a touching metaphor for Japan's journey toward prosperity following World War II.
Metropolis is something of a precursor to Astro Boy, having been a sci-fi story released 3 years prior. Metropolis takes place in the near future where humans co-exist with their robot slaves. The story follows a young girl searching for her parents, all while being unaware that she herself is artificially created.
The manga explores themes of the nature of humanity in a technological society, drawing inspiration from the Cold War, which was still escalating at the time Tezuka wrote Metropolis. A lot of its elements may feel a bit dated now, but Metropolis is still worth checking out.
8 Princess Knight
Considered one of the first shoujo manga (manga aimed at a teenage girl demographic), Princess Knight tells the story of Sapphire, a young princess who has to pretend to be a male prince to be able to inherit the throne. In a setting where women are prevented from taking the throne, Sapphire becomes a trailblazer adored by the populous.
Its cartoony style has drawn comparisons to Disney's Snow White, and it has inspired such works as Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. Princess Knight is a delightful read for anyone looking to read about the adventures of a daring princess.
7 Apollo's Song
Apollo's Song is easily one Tezuka's darkest works, telling the tale of a sociopath named Shogo, raised without love, and cursed with an eternity of damnation where he's doomed to find love then lose over and over until the end of time. Like we said, it's one of Tezuka's darkest tales.
Tezuka uses Apollo's Song to explore the darker side of the human psyche, reaching the levels of a Greek Tragedy. Even with its pessimistic nature, Apollo's Song is still a romance at heart, even if that romance is one of love lost.
Ayako is considered to be one of Tezuka's most political works. It tells the story of a young girl from a powerful clan, locked away for most her life to hide her family's secrets, set during a post-war Japan going through vast social changes. Over the course of the story, Ayako plays an unexpected role in the crumbling of her family's hierarchy.
Ayako is a dense and sprawling narrative that uses the family as a metaphor for a rapidly growing superpower. While the family is fictional, the story is based on real historical events that occurred during the American occupation following the war and the cultural revolution that came after.
5 Black Jack
Black Jack is an extremely talented surgeon whose skills are so great, they border on miraculous. Despite his medical genius, Black Jack decided not to get a medical license, choosing instead to work from the shadows where he is free from bureaucratic regulations.
Black Jack is a twisted drama-comedy full of heartwarming moments and humor, but it's also not afraid of dealing with things like death and tragedy. It's really no surprise that Black Jack is Tezuka's third most famous manga.
4 Message To Adolf
Message to Hitler is set before, during, and after World War II, and centers around three men each name Adolf: one of them being Hitler, another being a Jewish man, and the third being a half-German, half-Japanese man. The story follows a Japanese reporter whose life becomes intertwined with the three men.
One of the first of Tezuko's more mature works to be translated into English, Message to Hitler explores such themes as nationality, ethnicity, and racism in this tale of suspense and espionage of a Japanese reporter discovering a document that proves that Hitler came from a Jewish bloodline.
Drawing on history, Buddha is Tezuka's retelling of the life of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, who abandoned his life of luxury to teach compassion to all. Tezuka sprinkles in some original characters in this eight-volume epic to help illustrate the Buddha's teachings.
Using his famous skill of visual expression, Tezuka mixes history and allegory to explore religion and philosophy. Tezuka's Buddha also does something most Western retellings of the Buddha's life doesn't: injects humor. Rather than being disrespectful, the humor helps elevate the story.
Dororo is a supernatural adventure manga and easily one of Tezuka's most beloved works. Set in the Sengoku period of Japan, a samurai lord makes a deal with demons to grant him victory on the battlefield and prosperity for his lands. In exchange, the demons take numerous organs from the lord's newborn son.
Dororo follows the adventures of this son, Hyakkimaru, as he travels the country hunting down demons to reclaim his body one piece at a time. Joining him on his travels is Dororo, a young orphan child, and they both learn becoming what one is meant to be. It's filled with monsters and action but has a healthy dose of heart, too.
Phoenix is widely regarded as Tezuka's masterpiece, and one that he himself called his "life's work". It's a multi-volume epic that spans decades in writing and eras in story. Each volume tells its own self-contained story that takes place in a different time period, but each story is connected by the presence of a Phoenix, who bears witness to each story.
Phoenix is a series about reincarnation, with each story dealing with a search for immortality in some way. Many of the stories in this series feature experimental panel layouts that are complimented by Tezuka's stunning art. Unfortunately, Phoenix was left unfinished after Tezuka's death in 1989.