The Best Manga by Osamu Tezuka

Guide to Graphic Novels by the "God of Manga"

Astro Boy on dispay at convention

Junko Kimura/Stringer/Getty Images

Influential, artistically innovative and prodigiously productive, Osamu Tezuka is widely regarded as the "God of Manga." In his 40-year career, he created over 700 manga series and drew over 150,000 pages. A mere fraction of his works have been published in English so far, but what is available shows a wide range of Tezuka-sensei's storytelling style.

This list provides a brief chronological overview of the best manga works by Tezuka-sensei that has been published in English. From Buddha to Adolf, Metropolis to MW, these stories give comics fans a chance to discover the astonishing worlds created by this manga master.

Lost World

Lost World cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Zenseiki

Publisher: Dark Horse

Japan Publication Dates: 1948

U.S. Publication Dates: July 2003

Released by Dark Horse as part of a Tezuka sci-fi trilogy, Lost World refers to a rogue planet that enters Earth's orbit. When a band of adventurers takes a space ship to explore this world, they discover it's populated with dinosaurs, and that their ship had a band of bandits as stowaways.

Bottom Line: Fun and fascinating, but mostly for die-hard Tezuka fans


Metropolis cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Metoroporisu

Publisher: Dark Horse

Japan Publication Dates: 1949

U.S. Publication Dates: April 2003

In a world where humans and their robot slaves co-exist, a young girl searches for her parents, all the while unaware that she herself is an artificially-created being. Naturally, there are evil forces who are looking to capture and use her powers for destructive purposes. Metropolis was recently adapted into a feature-length animated movie, with a slightly different ending.

Bottom Line: An interesting precursor to Astro Boy and interesting to compare with its animated adaptation, but Metropolis will likely seem a little dated for most contemporary readers.


Nextworld cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Kurubeki Sekai

Publisher: Dark Horse

Japan Publication Dates: 1951

U.S. Publication Dates: October 2003

NextWorld features some of the earliest appearances of two of his 'stars': Mr. Mustachio and boy reporter Rock as the discovery of a mutant creature sets off a worldwide race to find and control these strange beings.

Bottom Line: A kid-friendly mix of sci-fi and humor that can be a little hard to follow.

Astro Boy

Astro Boy omnibus cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Tetsuwan Atomu

Publisher: Dark Horse

Japan Publication Dates: 1952-1968

U.S. Publication Dates: 2002-2008

In Japan, Astro Boy almost needs no introduction. Astro Boy, or Atom, as he is called in Japan, is an atomic-powered robot boy created to replace Dr. Tenma's deceased son. When his father/creator casts him out, Astro finds allies and a new family who help him find his way, as he becomes a hero to humans and robots alike.

Bottom Line: Has lots of fun and adventure—but if you only buy one, pick up the 2-volume introductory omnibus or Volume 3, which inspired Pluto.

Princess Knight

Princess Knight Volume 1 cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Ribon no Kishi

Publisher: Vertical

Japan Publication Dates: 1953-1968

U.S. Publication Dates: 2011

In this rare title for girls from this manga master, Princess Knight features a princess who is raised as a boy, but as she grows older, she finds that her inner girl yearns to come out.

Bottom Line: Royal intrigue, romance, magic, and adventure make this well worth reading, especially for shojo manga fans who will delight in reading the adventures of this daring young princess.

Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Tsumi To Batsu

Publisher: Japan Times

Japan Publication Dates: 1953

U.S. Publication Dates: 1990

Instead of creating his own story, Tezuka adapted Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic, ​Crime and Punishment. Rascalnikov is a boy from a poor Russian family who murders an old woman who was a loan shark. Raskolnikov tries to avoid facing the consequences for his crime, but will his conscience prevail, or will a determined judge find him first?

Bottom Line: An early work by Tezuka where he delves into more mature themes, but this bilingual edition is very out of print and difficult to find. Strictly for the devoted Tezuka fan.


Dororo cover

Tezuka Productions / Vertical Inc.

Japanese Title: Dororo

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1967-1968

U.S. Publication Dates: 2008

Part samurai drama, part shonen manga fantasy, Dororo follows the adventures of Hyakkimaru, a wandering warrior who was born without numerous vital organs and body parts due to his warlord father's deal with demons. Now Hyakkimaru must find and defeat these demons to regain his true body.

Bottom Line: An entertaining supernatural shonen manga adventure filled with monsters and action, Dororo has numerous examples of Tezuka's mastery of visual storytelling. Its downside is that it ends a bit abruptly at the end of Volume 3.


Phoenix cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Hi no Tori

Publisher: VIZ Media

Japan Publication Dates: 1967-1988

U.S. Publication Dates: 2003-2008

A time-traveling tale of birth, death, good, evil and redemption, Phoenix is a multi-volume epic that Tezuka considered to be his masterwork. The immortal firebird acts as​ a witness to the lives of several beings who are born, live, die and are reborn again to redeem themselves or repeat their past mistakes once more.

Bottom Line: An astonishing series filled with jaw-dropping beauty, artistic innovation, and thought-provoking storytelling. If you only get one, the must-buy is Volume 4: Karma.

Swallowing the Earth

Swallowing the Earth cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Chikyu o Nomu
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Japan Publication Dates: 1968-1969

U.S. Publication Dates: June 2009

Zephyrus is a mysterious seductress whose unparalleled beauty makes her the obsession and the demise of many a man. That's just how this icy siren likes it, as she uses her charms to wreak revenge on men. Then she meets a young sailor who seems immune to her powers, and much to her horror, she falls in love with him.

Bottom Line: As one of the first of Tezuka's stories for grown-ups, Swallowing the Earth provides an interesting stylistic and thematic bridge between the kid's stuff of Astro Boy and sexual politics of Apollo's Song.

Apollo's Song

Apollo's Song cover

Tezuka Productions/Vertical Inc.

Japanese Title: Aporo no Uta

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1970

U.S. Publication Dates: June 2007

Sociopath Shogo is the product of a childhood without love, and his cruelty to animals and fellow humans earns him an eternity of damnation, as he's doomed to love and lose his love over and over again until the end of time.

Bottom Line: Definitely not a 'feel good' love story, Apollo's Song shows Tezuka's willingness to look at the dark side of the human psyche.

The Book of Human Insects

The Book of Human Insects cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Ningen Konchuuki

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1970-1971

U.S. Publication Dates: September 20, 2011

Self-centered and seductive Toshiko Tomura is the mistress of reinvention. As she becomes an actress, a designer, and a novelist, she leaves a path of destruction in her wake. That is​ until she meets an industrialist who is almost as ruthless as she is.

Bottom Line: The Book of Human Insects paints a dim view of feminine ambitions, with a heroine who is a siren, a victim, and ultimately, an enigma.

Ode to Kirihito

Ode to Kirihito cover

Tezuka Productions/Vertical Inc.

Japanese Title: Kirihito no Sanka

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1970-1971

U.S. Publication Dates: July 21, 2009

Seeking a cure for Monmow disease, Dr. Kirihito Osanai becomes infected and his face morphs into canine features. His journey to find a cure for this strange disease takes Dr. Kirihito all over the world, as he experiences human cruelty and compassion firsthand.

Bottom Line: Bound as a single 800-page volume, Ode to Kirihito draws upon Tezuka's lifelong interest in medicine, and contains some Tezuka's most dynamic, experimental page designs.


Ayako cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Ayako

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1972-1973

U.S. Publication Dates: November 30, 2010

Set against the backdrop of vast social changes in Japan in the wake of World War II, Ayako is a tale about a young girl from a powerful clan who has been locked away for most of her life to keep the family's secrets secret. But as she grows up, her family's dysfunctional hierarchy begins to disintegrate, and she plays an unexpected role in their destruction.

Bottom Line: Ayako is a dark and sprawling narrative that weaves together real historical events with unspeakable horrors committed by a fictitious family. It's a dense read that will enthrall Tezuka fans but might be too much for a casual reader to enjoy.


Buddha Volume 1 cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Buddha

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1972-1983

U.S. Publication Dates: 2006-2007

Drawing upon historical fact and narrative fiction, Tezuka retells the life story of Gautama Buddha, a prince who turned away from a life of luxury to teach compassion to all. True to Tezuka's style, Buddha also weaves in several fictional characters from his 'star' system to illustrate Buddha's teachings.

Bottom Line: By mixing history and allegory, Buddha has much to offer to readers who are fascinated by philosophy, religon, and great graphic novels.

Black Jack

Black Jack Volume 1 cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Burakku Jakku

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1973-1983

U.S. Publication Dates: 2008-2010

Black Jack is a rogue surgeon who can perform miracles on patients who are gravely injured or ill. The innocent and the wicked alike receive his care, as long as they can meet his price, but Black Jack always prescribes his own diagnosis of justice in the end.

Bottom Line: A winning medical series filled with heartwarming drama, humor, and suspense that stands up well to the test of time.


MW cover

Tezuka Productions/Vertical Inc.

Japanese Title: Muu

Publisher: Vertical Inc.

Japan Publication Dates: 1976-1978

U.S. Publication Dates: October 2007

MW is a suspenseful story for adults about an amoral, gender-bending killer, his Catholic priest lover/accomplice/enemy, and the government cover-up of a deadly poison gas leak.

Bottom Line: A heady mix of sex, politics, action, corruption and suspense, MW is a journey down the darker alleys of Tezuka's storytelling.

A Message to Adolf

Adolf: A Tale of the Twentieth Century cover

Tezuka Productions

Japanese Title: Adorufu ni Tsugu

Publisher: VIZ Media

Japan Publication Dates: 1983-1985

U.S. Publication Dates: 1996-2001

A Japanese reporter stumbles upon a document that proves that Adolf Hitler came from a Jewish bloodline. The reporter's life becomes intertwined with three men named Adolf: Hitler and two other young men: one Jewish and the other half-German, half-Japanese in this tale of WW II suspense and espionage.

Bottom Line: As one of the first of Tezuka's "mature" works to appear in English, and as a later work in his career, Adolf is well worth seeking out, although you'll have to comb used bookstores to find all five volumes.

Note: Vertical published a new 2-volume edition of Adolf in mid-2012.