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September 14, 1935 in Rehe, Manchuria
August 2, 2008 in Tokyo
Fujio Akatsuka (赤塚 不二夫, born 赤塚 藤雄) (1935-2008) was the creator of Osomatsu-kun, as well as many other works. He is known as "The King of Gag Manga".
He was initially known for being a shojo manga author, until his 1958 series Nama-chan took off and established him better as a gag artist.
He was born in the puppet state of Manchukuo, while his father Toshichi had been stationed there as a soldier during Japan's occupation of China. However, Toshichi became more sympathetic to the Chinese than his own military, and joined up with the anti-Japanese resistance. During their time living in the country, Toshichi and his wife Riyo would have five more children.
Akatsuka's youth was harsh, as his father forbid him to read manga and dictated him on how to properly behave. But he also witnessed his father's great empathy and mediation skills towards the Chinese villagers, which is what spared his family in retaliatory attacks committed on the Japanese by the end of the war in 1945.
But the Akatsuka family would not escape unscathed; Toshichi was taken by the Red Army to Siberia and imprisoned for four years, while Riyo and the children would attempt to return to Japan on their own. One sister (Ayako) died of diptheria on the travel back, while a brother would be adopted out to another family due to their struggles, and the youngest sister would die of malnutrition. The remaining siblings would later be sent away to live with relatives in Niigata, after Riyo found it expensive to have to care for them while awaiting her husband's return. Akatsuka experienced harsh discrimination by his peers due to having lived in China, and he would later see that his own father had drastically changed in personality and become what he considered a "fool" from the harsh detainment in Siberia. Akatsuka was unable to move forward to high school due to the rough living situation and lack of money, and instead took up a job at a local movie theater where he was exposed to many foreign films that would become influential in his career.
After having attempted to submit to the magazine Manga Shonen in 1954, Akatsuka would become associated with the manga creation group "A Drop of Ink" (run by Shotaro Onodera, later known as Shotaro Ishimori). He would also put out his first full-length manga book "Beyond the Storm" in 1956.
After the establishment of Ishimori's group "New Manga Party", the two moved into Tezuka's Tokiwa-so apartment complex with many other young up-and-coming authors. It was here that Akatsuka would collaborate with Ishimori and Hideko Mizuno on manga under the pen-name U.MAIA, and where the development of Nama-chan would take place.
By 1961, Akatsuka would already have amassed some shojo and gag hits and left Tokiwa-so, having married his fiancee Tomoko Ino (who had become an assistant). He would continue to put out more works during this time.
The Continued Rise of Gag Manga and Fujio Pro
In 1962, Akatsuka would receive a request from Shonen Sunday for a month-long feature, which would become Osomatsu-kun and would quickly be extended to an ongoing title. Akko-chan's Got a Secret! would also debut shortly after, with Tomoko assisting him in the stories and characters to help him remember what it was like to write shojo. More series continued to flow out, as Kenichiro Takai joined Akatsuka in collaborating on the works and helped create various characters and draw out stories.
By 1965, he had recruited enough assistants that the company "Fujio Pro" would be established, as a way for him to adequately divide time between works and direct others in drawing for his series. His daughter Rieko was also born in this year.
The 1960s would continue to be prosperous for Akatsuka, with him developing The Genius Bakabon and Extraordinary Ataro as further big hits. Osomatsu-kun would also receive an animated adaptation by Studio Zero and Childrens' Corner. The assistant Kunio Nagatani was instrumental in convincing Akatsuka's editors to let him move Bakabon from Shonen Magazine to Shonen Sunday, in order to make the latter magazine a place where readers could read all of his hits in one place.
But as Shonen Sunday began to lose readership in 1969, -kun was wrapped up to eliminate underperforming titles. Bakabon would also later wrap up in 1970 due to poor performance, and Ataro would be ended as well as both the publishers and Toei wanted Akatsuka to develop a new hit instead.
Akatsuka would also experience tragedy through 1970 when his mother Riyo was caught in a gas explosion at home. Although it seemed like she had recovered fine, she would experience a subarachnoid hemmorhage from shock after she was discharged, and had to be re-admitted to the hospital before ultimately dying. Akatsuka and Tomoko would later separate, and he began to take up heavy drinking.
He would encounter further trouble in 1974 when a person he entrusted with accounting at Fujio Pro made off with 200 million yen in funds. Though Akatsuka was lenient on the man and declined to press charges, this created a rift between him and some of his assistants (Keiji Yoshitani and Mitsutoshi Furuya), who had had their money embezzled. They left the company in favor of creating their own, although Akatsuka would pay their debt.
Later Years and Decline
In the later 1970s, Akatsuka's manga output began to decline some, as he put more interest into acting and theater after having met the entertainer Tamori. He would star in the AV Film "Fujio Akatsuka's Gag Porno Feeling".
Still, he and Fujio Pro would continue to put out works in the 1980s, even as his condition worsened due to his alcoholism and his long-running Gag Guerrilla series had finished. However, by 1987, he would re-marry to his stylist Machiko Suzuki, and Fujio Pro had entered a deal with Kodansha and Yomiko Broadcasting to revive some of his popular works as part of a deal to bring new animated versions of them to TV.
Osomatsu-kun, The Genius Bakabon, and Akko-chan's Got a Secret! were optioned for new anime for Fuji TV, and each would have a new manga to go along with them (although a new Bakabon anime did not come until Pierrot's -kun had ended). Although the new -kun and Akko-chan anime performed well in the ratings, these revival manga were much more simplistic and encountered some criticism for the new rougher art by newer assistants of Akatsuka, as most of the old Fujio Pro guard had left. A new Ataro manga would also be produced under a separate deal with TV Asahi to bring about another anime, but would also be short-lived. Following the wrap-up of these projects, Akatsuka's drinking and health worsened, and Kunio Nagatani would leave the company in 1992 under a bad falling-out.
Although some new Fujio Pro works were still put out through the mid-1990s, these decreased as more staff left the company and Akatsuka spiraled further down. "The Collapse of the Sheeh! Kingdom", written in 1996, would bring back a number of assistants, though Nagatani refused to return and Takayoshi Minematsu (the artist for the late 80s revival manga projects) had moved on to his own work. Akko-chan and Bakabon would receive late 90s anime adaptations, but would have no manga tie-ins to go along with them.
After a health scare with esophageal cancer in the late 1990s, Akatsuka continued to take up alcohol and tobacco and would have to undergo repeated rehabilitation. However, when he had another health scare with a hematoma, he found a new idea for his career in authoring Braille picture books when he realized that blind children would not be able to enjoy his manga the same way as other kids would.
But in April 2002, his health would take a further sudden hit when he became paralyzed during an examination and had to undergo emergency surgery for an intracerebral hemorrhage. His activity ceased from this point, and reports on his condition became scarce. Around 2004, he had been stated to be in a persistent vegetative state with there being question if he could truly recover, though his wife Machiko continued to care for him in hopes he could wake up. Unfortunately, she herself would pass away from a hemorrhage in July 2006.
On July 30, 2008, his first wife Tomoko was announced to have died, with his own death from pneumonia following days later on August 2. His death would become the top headline in all newspapers in the country, and the song played at his funeral would be the theme to the first Bakabon anime.
Other Notable Works
Note: Akatsuka's full listing of works can be found at the Fujio Akatsuka Wikia.
- The Genius Bakabon (天才バカボン Tensai Bakabon)
- Akko-chan's Got a Secret! (ひみつのアッコちゃん Himitsu no Akko-chan, also "The Secrets of Akko-chan")
- Extraordinary Ataro (もーれつア太郎 Mooretsu Ataro, also "Furious Ataro")
- Let's La Gon (レッツラゴン Rettsura Gon)
- Gag Guerrilla (ギャグゲリラ)
- Nyarome's Fun Introductory Series (ニャロメのおもしろ入門シリーズ)- collaboration with Kunio Nagatani, later taken over entirely by Nagatani.
See Fujio Pro for more.
Established in 1965 and still going to this day as Akatsuka's estate and publishing company. It handles copyrights related to his works, as well as its own new projects and re-releases.