Naoki Urasawa (Japanese: 浦沢 直樹 Hepburn: Urasawa Naoki, born January 2, 1960, in Fuchū, Tokyo) is a Japanese manga artist and musician. He has been called one of the artists that changed the history of manga, and has received the Shogakukan Manga Award three times, the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize twice, and the Kodansha Manga Award once. Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner, praised Urasawa's Monster and proclaimed "Urasawa is a national treasure in Japan."
Naoki Urasawa at the 2012 Japan Expo, Paris
January 2, 1960
Fuchū, Tokyo, Japan
|Occupation||Manga artist, musician, TV and radio presenter|
|Notable works||20th Century Boys|
|Notable awards||Shogakukan Manga Award (1989, 2000, 2002)|
Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize (1999, 2005)
Urasawa cited Osamu Tezuka as one of his heroes, being particularly fond of his manga Phoenix. "The Greatest Robot on Earth" and "The Artificial Sun" arcs of Tezuka's Astro Boy were his first experiences with manga at four or five years old. Urasawa graduated from Meisei University with a degree in economics.
Urasawa made his professional debut with Return in 1981, for which he won a New Manga Artist Award by Shogakukan the following year. He began his first serialized work, Pineapple Army, in 1985 in the semimonthly Big Comic Original. He was the illustrator of the series, while Kazuya Kudo was its writer. It ended in 1988 and was collected into eight tankōbon volumes. While working on Pineapple Army, Urasawa began Yawara! in the weekly Big Comic Spirits in 1986 which he wrote and illustrated himself. It earned him the 1989 Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category. That same year it was adapted into a live-action film and an anime television series. It ended in 1993 and was collected into 29 volumes.
When Pineapple Army ended, Urasawa began Master Keaton for Big Comic Original in November 1988. He illustrated it, while Hokusei Katsushika wrote it. It ended in August 1994 and was collected into 18 volumes. An anime television adaptation began in 1998, before finishing as an original video animation in 2000. Likewise when Yawara! ended, Urasawa began another solo series in Big Comic Spirits. Happy! ran from 1993 until 1999 and was collected into 23 volumes. It was adapted into two live-action television films in 2006.
Following Master Keaton's end, Urasawa began Monster in Big Comic Original in December 1994. It earned him the 1999 Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, and his second Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category in 2001. It ended in December 2001, was collected into 18 volumes, and adapted into an anime television series in 2004. With Happy!'s ending, Urasawa began 20th Century Boys in Big Comic Spirits in 1999. It earned him the 2001 Kodansha Manga Award in the General category, and his third Shogakukan Manga Award in the General category in 2002. It ended in 2006 and was collected into 22 volumes. The story briefly continued as 21st Century Boys in 2007, which was collected into two volumes. 20th Century Boys was adapted into three live-action films, which were released in 2008 and 2009.
While working on 20th Century Boys, Urasawa began adapting "The Greatest Robot on Earth" story arc of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy into the series Pluto. It was serialized in Big Comic Original from September 9, 2003 to April 5, 2009 and collected into 8 volumes. It earned him his second Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. In 2008, Urasawa began working for Kodansha, serializing Billy Bat in Weekly Morning. It ran from October 16, 2008 to August 18, 2016 and was collected into 20 volumes. Also in 2008, Urasawa took a guest teaching post at Nagoya Zokei University, where he taught "Modern Expression Course: Manga Classes" two to three times a year, although the class met every month. Initially planned for only five students, he agreed to expand it to fifteen in an effort to create more "real artists."
Oricon held a poll on the Mangaka that Changed the History of Manga in 2010, mangaka being the Japanese word for a manga artist, and Urasawa came in tenth. Urasawa created a picture book in 2011, illustrating Kosuke Hamada's story Red Oni Cries.
Urasawa began writing a sequel to Master Keaton in 2012 titled Master Keaton Remaster. When asked why he went back to a series after so many years, Urasawa stated it was because with the original series he had a hard time making the story he wanted due to contractual obligation, and because people affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami said they had enjoyed the series, so he wanted to do something for them. Beginning in the March 2012 issue of Big Comic Original it finished in 2014 and was collected into a single volume. As a guest at the 2012 Japan Expo in France, Urasawa talked about how he entered the manga industry, gave a live drawing demonstration, and performed two songs as a musician, and joined rock band Hemenway on stage the following day.
In August 2013, Urasawa created his first "monster manga" titled "Monster Kingdom", a 41-page one-shot published in Big Comic. Urasawa is the host of the NHK Educational TV documentary series Urasawa Naoki no Manben (浦沢直樹の漫勉, "Naoki Urasawa's Manga Exertions"), which focuses on a different manga artist each episode and explores their individual styles. It began as a one-off special in 2014, a first season was launched in September 2015, a second in March 2016, a third in September 2016, and a fourth in March 2017.
Urasawa created a short three-page manga about 1960s British rock band the Beatles time-traveling to 2016. Released in June 2016 on the website of Tokyo radio station InterFM897, it coincides with the TV program KKBOX Here comes The Beatles and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the band's visit to Japan. On April 9, 2017, Urasawa began co-hosting a radio program with actor and comedian Junji Takada. Junji and Naoki (純次と直樹) airs Sundays at 5pm on Nippon Cultural Broadcasting and features both men talking about their lives, professions, and favorite hobbies. That year Urasawa also began the limited series Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams in a collaboration with France's Louvre Museum. It began in Big Comic Original in October 2017 and ended on February 20, 2018.
Urasawa began Renzoku Manga Shōsetsu Asadora! ("Serial Manga Novel Asadora!") in Big Comic Spirits on October 6, 2018. He also designed the official character of the 2019 Osaka Women's Marathon. On January 23, 2019, Japan House Los Angeles presented the first North American exhibit of Urasawa's work, titled "This is MANGA – the Art of NAOKI URASAWA". The exhibit ran until March 28, 2019, and featured more than 400 original drawings and storyboards. Urasawa participated in an artist discussion and book signing on opening day. The exhibit moved to Japan House London from June 5 to July 28, also attended by the artist.
Fusanosuke Natsume said that prior to entering university, Urasawa's style showed influence from Shinji Nagashima and Osamu Tezuka's 1970s work, but went on to claim that in 1979 it became aligned with that of Katsuhiro Otomo. Although Urasawa's works like Yawara! had light entertainment with cute young girls, Natsume says Urasawa developed his own personal style with Monster, which he described as realistic, or directorially based, with cinematic panel layouts similar to Otomo and gekiga artists. Natsume also noted that many of his characters resemble famous movie stars.
When asked where he gets ideas from, Urasawa said "I have been illustrating all my life. Inspiration is everywhere, when I get in the bath, when I get out. It's whether you are perceiving these ideas and whether you are able to catch them." He also said that while manga is often looked at as simple, he makes sure to use subtleties to show dramatic expressions and convey emotion, claiming "You won't find two expressions that are the same."
On his storytelling process, Urasawa states, "When I start a new project, I start with the larger arc of the story. I visualize a movie trailer for that story, and after I compose this movie trailer in my mind, there comes a point where I’m so excited about it that I have to write the story. And then I imagine, 'Where do I start to begin to tell this narrative?' and that’s usually the first chapter."
For most of his career, Urasawa has written two different series simultaneously. Urasawa frequently collaborates with manga editor and author Takashi Nagasaki, to the point where Nagasaki is called his "producer". The two met when Nagasaki was made Urasawa's editor upon his debut. Although the two continue to collaborate even after Nagasaki became freelance, they rarely socialize outside of work. With the exception of 2018's ongoing Renzoku Manga Shōsetsu Asadora!, none of Urasawa's manga have ever been legally available in digital formats. The author stated that he prefers physical books.
Under the stage name "Bob Lennon", he wrote and performed the song "Kenji no Uta" ("Kenji's Song)", which was released on a CD included in the 2002 first pressing of volume 11 of 20th Century Boys. He released his debut single "Tsuki ga Tottemo..." (月がとっても…) on June 4, 2008, and his debut album Hanseiki no Otoko (半世紀の男, "Half Century Man") in 2009. In 2012 he performed a Japanese cover of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country" and "Guta lala suda lala" from his series 20th Century Boys at the Japan Expo, and the following day he joined rock band Hemenway on stage.
Urasawa's second album, Mannon (漫音) which he wrote and produced himself, was released in 2016.
- Pineapple Army (パイナップルARMY, 1985–1988) - written by Kazuya Kudo
- Yawara! (1986–1993)
- Master Keaton (MASTERキートン, 1988–1994) - written with Hokusei Katsushika and Takashi Nagasaki
- Happy! (1993–1999)
- Monster (1994–2001)
- 20th Century Boys (20世紀少年) / 21st Century Boys (21世紀少年) (1999–2006, 2007)
- Pluto (2003–2009) - written with Takashi Nagasaki, based on a work by Osamu Tezuka
- Billy Bat (2008–2016) - written with Takashi Nagasaki
- Master Keaton Remaster (MASTERキートン Reマスター, 2012–2014) - written with Takashi Nagasaki
- Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams (夢印-MUJIRUSHI-, 2017–2018)
- Renzoku Manga Shōsetsu Asadora! (連続漫画小説 あさドラ!, 2018–present)
- Beta!! (1983)
- Dancing Policeman (踊る警官, 1984)
- N・A・S・A (1988)
- Jigoro! (1994)
- Early Urasawa (初期のURASAWA Shoki no Urasawa, 2000)
- Talkin' About Bob Dylan (ディランを語ろう Diran o Katarō, 2007) - with Koji Wakui
- Monster Kingdom (怪獣王国 Kaijū Ōkoku, 2013)
- Damiyan! (2016)
- 1982 New Manga Artist Award of Shogakukan (for Return)
- 1989 (35th) Shogakukan Manga Award, General (for Yawara!)
- 1997 (1st) Japan Media Arts Festival, Excellence Prize (for Monster)
- 1999 (3rd) Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, Grand Prize (for Monster)
- 2000 (46th) Shogakukan Manga Award, General (for Monster)
- 2001 (25th) Kodansha Manga Award, General (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2002 (6th) Japan Media Arts Festival, Excellence Prize (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2002 (48th) Shogakukan Manga Award, General (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2004 Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for a Series (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2005 (9th) Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, Grand Prize (for Pluto)
- 2005 (9th) Japan Media Arts Festival, Excellence Prize (for Pluto)
- 2008 (37th) Japan Cartoonists Association Award, Grand Prize (for 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys)
- 2008 (39th) Seiun Award, Best Comic (for 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys)
- 2010 (41st) Seiun Award, Best Comic (for Pluto)
- 2011 Eisner Award, Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia category (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2011 Angoulême International Comics Festival, Intergenerational Award (for Pluto)
- 2012 Association des Critiques et des journalistes de Bande Dessinée, Prix Asie-ACBD (for Pluto)
- 2013 Eisner Award, Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia category (for 20th Century Boys)
- 2014 Max & Moritz Prize, Best International Comic (for Billy Bat)
- 2018 Angoulême International Comics Festival, Fauve Special Award and Fauve Polar SNCF Special Award for mystery
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- James Dorsey. "Urasawa Naoki's Twentieth Century Boys: Autobiographical Manga for Japan’s Children of the 60s,” in Michael A. Chaney, ed., Graphic Subjects: Critical Essays on Autobiography and Graphic Novels (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), pp.117~120.
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