This weekend I went to opening of the exhibit Tezuka: The Marvel of Manga at the Asian Art Museum. I really don't know much about Tezuka other than that he was the most famous manga artist & animator in Japan, so this show was somewhat educational for me.
On this opening day, they had 2 informative lectures about his work. The 1st speaker, Phil Brophy, pointed out that a frequent theme of Tezuka's work is survival through childhood without a parent. He interpreted this as a reaction to the difficult conditions of life in post-war Japan.
The 2nd speaker, Yoshihiro Shimizu, was a Tezuka associate. He gave a comprehensive overview of Tezuka's work, presenting it as a series of innovations in both the design & subject matter of Japanese comics & animation. Seeing the way Tezuka's story-telling spanned comic books, TV, movies & merchandising & became a cultural phenomenon, it was hard not to think of comparisons with Walt Disney.
Unfortunately, the presentation ran a bit long, since each of Shimizu's remarks was translated from Japanese into English by Fred Schott. I didn't have as much time as I would have liked afterwards to visit the actual exhibit, which consists of a survey of Tezuka comic books. The images on display include large reproductions of pages from the comic books, cover art & the camera-ready artwork. The books were produced by a studio, & there are no preparatory drawings or sketches in the exhibit, so I was never convinced that I saw anything that Tezuka himself actually drew.
The subject matter of Tezuka's manga can be very unexpected: gory tales of a renegade surgeon; aliens come to earth disguised as a duck, a horse & a rabbit; a life of Beethoven. He even did a comic book treatment of Crime & Punishment!
Supporting the exhibit is a "Manga Lounge", basically a reading room for teenagers, stocked with manga in English & a display of collectibles. Spending some time browsing here might be the best way to learn about Tezuka. The museum is also screening a documentary containing lots of clips of Tezuka's animation, such as the astonishing shorts Jumping & Broken Down Film. Unfortunately he never completed a project called Legend of the Forest. It is set to Tchaikovsky' 4th Symphony, & each section is done in a different animation style. The fragments shown in the documentary look stunning.
But I really didn't spend all the time I wanted to at the museum. I also had to skip the Yoshitoshi prints, so I'll have to come back for that one as well.
That evening I went to the New Conservatory Theatre for their production of Take Me Out by Robert Greenberg. I remember reading about this play when it was on Broadway a few years ago. The hook is that it requires an athletic, all-male cast, most of whom appear naked at some point during the show. The action takes place in a locker room, &, yes, there's even a dropping-the-soap-in-the-shower gag.
The play itself is both funny & tragic. From scene to scene some new theme is always coming up, but in the end it's not clear to me what the play is really about. Afterwards it didn't make sense the more I thought about it.
It's still very entertaining. It's performed here by a very lovable cast. Especially outstanding are Jeffrey Cohlman, as the uncomprehending bad guy Shane Mungitt, & Patrick Michael Dukeman, as Mason Marzac, the accountant turned baseball fanatic. It's the happiest character arc in the play.