Kazuo Umezu

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Kazuo Umezu
Kazuo Umezu, 2010
Born (1936-09-03) September 3, 1936 (age 87)
OccupationManga artist

Kazuo Umezu or Kazuo Umezz (楳図 かずお, Umezu Kazuo, birth name 楳図一雄; born September 3, 1936) is a Japanese manga artist, musician and actor. Starting his career in the 1950s, he is among the most famous artists of horror manga and has been vital for its development, considered the "god of horror manga". In 1960s shōjo manga like Reptilia, he broke the industry's conventions by combining the aesthetics of the commercial manga industry with gruesome visual imagery inspired by Japanese folktales, which created a boom of horror manga and influenced manga artists of following generations. He created successful manga series such as The Drifting Classroom, Makoto-chan and My Name Is Shingo, until he retired from drawing manga in the mid 1990s. He is also a public figure in Japan, known for wearing red-and-white-striped shirts and doing his signature "Gwash" hand gesture.


Umezz was born in Kōya, Wakayama Prefecture, but raised in the mountainous Gojō, Nara Prefecture. His mother motivated him to start drawing when he was seven years old.[1][2][3] His father would tell him local legends about ghost and snake women before going to bed.[2] He was inspired to start drawing manga by reading Osamu Tezuka's Shin Takarajima in fifth grade.[4] He was part of a drawing circle with others called "Kaiman Club".[5]

In 1955, he published his first manga at the age of 18 with Mori no Kyōdai based on the fairytale Hansel and Gretel with the kashihon publisher Tomo Book.[2][5] He would soon shift towards the gekiga movement and publish manga in the kashi-hon industry in Osaka of the time, which would allow him more freedom than serializing his manga in magazines. His specialty was to include paranormal elements in his stories.[2] At the same time, he also started working on shōjo manga; he published in the magazine Shōjo Book and the kashi-hon anthology Niji.[3]

fter moving to Tokyo in 1963 due to the decline of the kashihon industry,[3] he developed his specific style, which blended the aesthetics of shōjo manga with grotesque horror visuals and broke with conventions of shōjo manga at the time.[2][6] Horror manga like Nekome no Shōjo and Reptilia became a hit in the commercial shojo manga magazine Shōjo Friend in the mid 1960s.[4]

In the late 1960s, he also started publishing in shōnen manga magazines and he switched publishing houses, from Kodansha to Shogakukan, when a new editor asked him to draw something other than horror manga.[3] He became a well established author and was at times working at up to five serials at the same time.[7] In 1974 he won the 20th Shogakukan Manga Award for his series The Drifting Classroom about a school including its schoolchildren and teachers being teleported into an alternate post-apocalyptic universe.[8]

In 1975, Umezu started becoming a public figure also apart from creating manga. He recorded songs based on his horror manga and released them as the solo album Yami no Album.[9]

His comedy manga Makoto-chan, which he published from 1976 to 1981 in Weekly Shōnen Sunday, became a hit. The hand gesture "Gwash" from the manga became Umezu's own trademark hand gesture as well in public.[2] In the 1980s and 1990s, he focused on science fiction manga depicting a near future like My Name Is Shingo and Fourteen.[4]

In 1995, he had to retire from regular publishing due to tendinitis after finishing Fourteen. He then became even more of a public figure, appearing regularly on TV in a red and white striped shirt. He was also famous for the architecture of his candy-striped home in Kichijōji, inspired by his Makoto-chan series.[2][10] In 2011, he released a second music album with his songs.[9]

In 2018 he was awarded the Prize for Inheritance at the Angoulême International Comics Festival for the French translation of My Name Is Shingo. This was the second prize awarded him throughout his career and Umezu had previously been unhappy about the amount of recognition he had gotten for his work. The award motivated him to start working again and he produced a series of 101 paintings based on My Name Is Shingo, which were exhibited for the first time in 2022 and were his first new work in 27 years.[11][10]


His work is influenced by Japanese folklore. Manga artist and critic Sakumi Yoshino explains that his horror manga is related to religion in Japan, as monsters and demons are not considered completely evil, and Umezu wants readers to sometimes also feel compassion for the monsters in his works.[12]

Many of his manga feature intergenerational conflict between children and adults. Umezu initially focused on this topic as he found that relationships between mothers and children in shōjo manga in the early 1960s were portrayed only as caring, never as scary. His manga Reptilia depicts an intense conflict between a schoolgirl and her sick mother, who turns out to be a snake woman when she visits her in hospital. Manga scholar Tsuchiya Dollase compares this character with the Jungian "Terrible Mother".[6] The children of the deserted school in The Drifting Classroom are immediately betrayed by their teachers and need to fight for their survival. In My Name Is Shingo, children are the only ones able to communicate with and have an emotional connection with an AI computer. Umezu explained that he himself finds the world of children more relatable, as children are much more open to illogical and adaptable in their thinking: "I’m writing about myself in a way. I don’t want to become an adult and 'grow up.'"[3]

Reception and legacy[edit]

His works inspired a new generation of horror manga artists. Junji Ito, Toru Yamazaki and Minetarō Mochizuki cite him as one of their biggest influences[13][10][14] and Kanako Inuki got her career start in a magazine compiled by him.[15] Rumiko Takahashi briefly worked as an assistant for him, while he was working on Makoto-chan.[16][17] His reputation gave him the nickname "god of horror manga" (ホラーまんがの神様) in Japanese media.[10]

Umezu's manga broke with the norms of the commercial manga industry at the time that he started publishing in major magazines in the mid 1960s and created a boom around horror manga in the late 1960s. Tsuchiya Dollase writes: "The monstrous mothers must certainly have scared the audience; at the same time, however, the torture of the pretty but superficial heroines by these horrifying mothers must have given the same audience a certain pleasure."[6]

Umezu regularly received complaint letters from parents in the beginning of his career due to his horror visuals and also editors of magazines would ask him to scale down the violence in his imagery. He remarks in an interview: "I was protested but never boycotted. I considered such criticism to be a form of praise."[3] He was critical of watering down horror elements: "Old Japanese folk stories and fairy tales could be unflinchingly brutal. They come from a time when tragedy and carnage was an everyday part of life. Now we have people calling to water them down, which essentially whitewashes history. It’s insulting to the memory of those who suffered to bring us these stories."[3]

Besides his impact on the development of horror manga, scholar Tomoko Yamada counts Umezu as one of the shōjo manga artists in the 1950s who contributed to the development of ballet manga with his series Haha Yobu Koe (1958) and Maboroshi Shōjo (1959).[18]



Original title English title Year Notes
Mori no Kyōdai (森の兄妹) Siblings of the Forest 1955 published by Tomo Book[5]
Haha Yobu Koe (母呼ぶこえ) 1958[19] one-shot in Shōjo Book
Ningyō Shōjo (人形少女) 1959 published by Tōhō Mangasha
Maboroshi Shōjo (まぼろし少女) 1959[19] serialized in Niji
Yamabiko Shimai (山びこ姉妹) 1964[20] serialized in Niji
Nemuri Shōjo (ねむり少女) 1964 published by Tōkyō Mangasha
Hebi Obasan (へびおばさん) 1964[21]
Romansu no Kusuri (ロマンスの薬) Romance Medicine 1962 serialized in Nakayoshi
Madara no Shōjo (まだらの少女) 1965 serialized in Shōjo Friend
Mama ga Kowai I'm Scared of Mama 1965[6] published in Shōjo Friend
Benigumo (紅グモ) Red Spider 1965-1966[22] serialized in Shōjo Friend
Hangyojin (半魚人) Half-Fish Man 1965 serialized in Shōnen Magazine
Hibiware Ningen (ひびわれ人間) Cracked Human 1966 serialized in Shōnen Magazine
Hebi Onna (へび女) Reptilia 1966 serialized in Shōjo Friend
Urutoraman (ウルトラマン) Ultraman 1966-1967 serialized in Shōnen Magazine
Nekome no Shōjo (赤んぼ少女) Nekome no Shōjo 1967 serialized in Shōjo Friend
Nekome Kozō (猫目小僧) Cat Eyed Boy 1967-1968
serialized in Shōnen Gaho
serialized in Shōnen King
serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday
Akanbo Shōjo (赤んぼ少女) Baby Girl 1967 serialized in Shōjo Friend
Shisha no Kōshin (死者の行進) March of the Dead 1967 serialized in Shōnen Magazine
SF Ishoku Tampenshū (SF異色短編集) 1968-1969 serialized in Big Comic
Kage (映像) 1968 serialized in Teen Look
Chō no Haka (蝶の墓) Butterfly Grave 1968 serialized in Teen Look
Osore (おそれ) Fear 1969
Orochi (おろち) Orochi 1969-1970 serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday
Iara (イアラ) 1970 serialized in Big Comic
Kaijū Gyō (怪獣ギョー) 1971 serialized in Teen Look
Agein (アゲイン) Again 1971-1972 serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday
Hyōryū Kyōshitsu (漂流教室) The Drifting Classroom 1972-1974 serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday
Senrei (洗礼) Baptism 1974-1976 serialized in Shōjo Comic
Makoto-chan (まことちゃん) Makoto-chan 1976-1981 serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday
Watashi wa Shingo (わたしは真悟) My Name Is Shingo 1982-1986 serialized in Big Comic Spirits
Kami no Hidarite Akuma no Migite (神の左手悪魔の右手) God's Left Hand, Devil's Right Hand 1986-1988 serialized in Big Comic Spirits
Chō! Makoto-chan (超!まことちゃん) 1988-1989 serialized in Weekly Shōnen Sunday
Fōtīn (14歳) Fourteen 1990-1995 serialized in Big Comic Spirits


  • Zoku-Shingo Chiisa na Robotto Shingo Bijutsukan (ZOKU-SHINGO 小さなロボット シンゴ美術館; 2022)[10]



  • Yami no Album (闇のアルバム; 1975)
  • Yami no Album 2 (闇のアルバム・2; 2011)


In 2016, his manga My Name Is Shingo was adapted into a musical. It stars Mitsuki Takahata and Mugi Kadowaki as the lead characters and is directed and choreographed by Philippe Decouflé.[24]



  1. ^ Toku, Masami; Dollase, Hiromi Tsuchiya, eds. (August 2020). MANGA!: Visual Pop-Culture in ARTS Education. doi:10.24981/2020-3. ISBN 9789895468379. S2CID 242662617.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Profile". umezz.com. Retrieved 2022-10-15.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Drifting Classroom Creator Kazuo Umezu Interviewed". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2022-10-15.
  4. ^ a b c 荒金良介 (2022-10-11). "Manga Artist Kazuo Umezu's Undying Urge to Create - TOKION". TOKION - Cutting edge culture and fashion information. Retrieved 2022-10-15.
  5. ^ a b c Nicolas. "Un florilège de kashihon #1 – Limited Animation" (in French). Retrieved 2022-10-15.
  6. ^ a b c d Dollase, Hiromi Tsuchiya (2010). ""Shōjo" Spirits in Horror Manga". U.S.-Japan Women's Journal (38): 62–63. ISSN 2330-5037.
  7. ^ "楳図かずおのおすすめ漫画ランキングベスト5!ホラー漫画の神様!". ホンシェルジュ (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-10-16.
  8. ^ 小学館漫画賞: 歴代受賞者 (in Japanese). Shogakukan. Archived from the original on 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  9. ^ a b "インタビュー:楳図かずお - Time Out Tokyo(タイムアウト東京)". Time Out Tokyo (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-10-20.
  10. ^ a b c d e 日本放送協会. "楳図かずおさん 27年ぶりの新作で描いた"人類の未来とは"|NHK". NHK NEWS WEB (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-10-20.
  11. ^ "Kazuo Umezu, lauréat du Fauve Patrimoine pour Je suis Shingo - 46e Festival de la Bande Dessinée d'Angoulême". Festival International de la bande dessinée (in French). Retrieved 2022-10-20.
  12. ^ King, Emerald; Fraser, Lucy; Yoshino, Sakumi (2010). "An Interview with Sakumi Yoshino". U.S.-Japan Women's Journal (38): 129. ISSN 2330-5037.
  13. ^ "The Horror of an Uncertain Future: An Interview with Revered Manga-ka Junji Ito". B&N Reads. 2019-06-17. Retrieved 2022-10-15.
  14. ^ "Interview manga de Minetaro Mochizuki sur planetebd.com !". planetebd.com (in French). Retrieved 2023-07-26.
  15. ^ Inc, DIGITALIO. "犬木 加奈子(漫画家)". マンガペディア (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-10-15. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  16. ^ Chazan, Helen; December 15, 2020. "Mermaid Saga: Collector's Edition Vol. 1". The Comics Journal. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  17. ^ Flowers. February 2013 issue (December 28, 2012), p. 330–334 (English translation).
  18. ^ "「バレエ・マンガ展 外伝!」第二部座談会 ~バレエ・マンガの魅力~". www.toshonoie.net. Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  19. ^ a b "バレエ漫画リスト[1950年代]図書の家". www.toshonoie.net. Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  20. ^ "完全復刻版 山びこ姉妹 | 楳図かずお – 小学館コミック". shogakukan-comic.jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-10-16.
  21. ^ 管理人. "【完全復刻版】へびおばさん 発売 | UMEZZ.com: 楳図かずお情報サイト" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2022-10-16.
  22. ^ "【図書の家】漫画作品データ". www.toshonoie.net. Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  23. ^ "Horror Manga Creator Kazuo Umezu Helms 1st Feature Film". Anime News Network. 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2013-12-17.
  24. ^ Vannieuwenhuysen, Lora-Elly. "BCM reads: Kazuo Umezu "Watashi wa Shingo" ("Je suis Shingo")". A Belgian J-Culture Magazine. Vol. 35. Hilde Heyvaert. p. 19. ISSN 2593-0435. Archived from the original on 2019-06-05. Retrieved 2018-06-04.

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