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Naoki Urasawa

Naoki Urasawa is a famous artist and writer in Japan, having penned several series of popular graphic novels, some of which have been released in alternate forms of media, such as the anime Monster, and the movie trilogy of 20th Century Boys.. He is not a typical writer or artist by American standards, because he usually does both parts of the story, that of writing and art. So the best term for his profession is manga-ka, which is used generically to denote someone who draws and writes manga.

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Cover Art for 20th Century Boys

In doing both art and storywriting, one might think that one or the other would suffer, especially as manga tends to be released monthy, and often weekly, prompting tight deadlines. However, even through this, Urasawa wrote highly detailed works with intricate layers and deep psychology, with art to match.

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Scene from Monster

The series shown above is a story called “Monster” and is about a series of events in Dusseldorf. It involves a doctor who at the beginning is forced to chose between morals and his job, and save either a child or a politician, and he chooses to save the child. However, to add another layer, the child in question is already an accomplished serial killer, and continues to kill, leading the doctor to attempt to chase him down in order to answer for both his crimes, and for moralities sake. Beyond this, it gets deep into the idea of what is oneself, and the importance of names, what is identity, and what leads humanity into the darkest of developments?

Naoki Urasawa is a Japanese native, and has been drawing and writing manga since 1981 with a single issue comic called Return. Since then, he’s done many works, and is known for writing intricate plot lines, usually based around the world, and his comics are known worldwide. From comedies about a female judo champion to stories about saving the world from crazed lunatics, he’s done much work, and has won many awards. His most popular stories, Monster, 20th Century Boys, and his remake of Tezuka’s Astro Boy, Pluto, all show both a vast skill at creating compelling tales mixed with psychological intruigues. Another one of his stories, his latest and still running, Billy Bat, is a thriller that starts out about a Japanese-American comic writer who ends up involved in a deep plot involving conspiracies and knowledge of the future. And he seems to also love to write layered tales, that is, layered in different times, using flashbacks and flash-forwards to great effect in order to tell backstory, and the way he does it weaves a very intricate tale, even if it can be hard to follow.

Naoki Urasawa’s works aren’t that well known outside of Japan yet, however, as they spread more and more appreciation is shown to them. One way his work is spreading is the Sci-Fi network beginning to air the anime version of his psychological thriller, Monster.

Art from the Monster Anime

Art from the Monster Anime

And while he may not be as popular in America as say, Akira Toriyama (Dragonball), he has won many awards, most notably, Osamu Tezuka’s (Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion) Cultural award twice. His style of art is varied, while it is mostly consistent, he will sometimes go out and throw out his detailed style for a more simplistic style, for that of a plot point.

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Comparison of Art within Monster

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Comparison of Art within Billy Bat

As a writer in Japan, he shows incredible knowledge of other countries as well, which isn’t that common for manga, going so far as to create entire series outside of Japan, keeping culture correct and consistant.

Urasawa shows a vast and deep talent as both a writer and an artist, including, beyond the physical media, skill at writing music.

The video listed shows Urasawa and his band playing a song that he wrote in accompaniment to the manga 20th Century Boys, and later, was used for the movie trilogy based on it. It’s the sort of crossover and depth that he puts into his work which helps to make it such a success, and so powerful. The song is question is titled Bob Lennon, and it is originally shown as a small thing, the main character playing it on the sidewalk, but later becomes a powerful movement to free an oppressed world.

11Later Bob Lennon

The movie version of this series isn’t quite as good, and it tends to be very hard to follow, however, it also maintains a very close relation to the original story.
20thcen

So in the end, what I’ve shown here is how even a comic book artist and writer can be just as deep as a traditional novelist. Further more, I hope that by showcasing a portion of his work, and a fraction of the depth, that at least one person will go further and look into some of his work. Monster is currently airing on the Sci-Fi network, 20th Century Boys is due to be released as a trilogy soon, and the manga is being slowly released as well.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naoki_Urasawa

http://lambiek.net/artists/u/urasawa_naoki.htm

http://www.gottsu-iiyan.ca/gib/index.php/2009/10/22/naoki-urasawa-on-making-comics

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/archives/2009/02/comics_come_out.php

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1780055/

http://www.onemanga.com (Scanned and translated copies of manga, including the below)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto_(manga)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monster_(manga)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20th_Century_Boys

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