Naoki Urasawa

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Naoki Urasawa
Naoki Urasawa - Japan Expo 13- 2012-0706- P1410040.jpg
Naoki Urasawa at the 2012 Japan Expo, Paris
Born Naoki Urasawa
浦沢 直樹
(1960-01-02) January 2, 1960 (age 57)
Fuchū, Tokyo, Japan
Occupation Manga artist, musician
Nationality Japanese
Education Meisei University
Period 1981–present
Subject Seinen manga
Notable works 20th Century Boys
Notable awards Shogakukan Manga Award (1989, 2000, 2002)
Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize (1999, 2005)

Naoki Urasawa (浦沢 直樹, Urasawa Naoki, born January 2, 1960 in Fuchū, Tokyo[1]) is a Japanese manga artist and occasional 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.

Early life[edit]

Urasawa cited Osamu Tezuka as one of his heroes, being particularly fond of his work Phoenix.[2] The "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.[3] Urasawa graduated from Meisei University[1] with a degree in economics. He made his professional manga debut with Return in 1981.[1]


Three of his series have been adapted into anime: Yawara! (1986–1993), Master Keaton (1988–1994), and Monster (1994–2001). One of his more notable works, 20th Century Boys (2000–2006), was made into a three-part live-action movie series, which were released in 2008 and 2009.

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.[4] Initially planned for only five students, Urasawa agreed to expand it to fifteen in an effort to create more "real artists."[4] Also in 2008, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Junot Diaz praised Monster, adding that "Urasawa is a national treasure in Japan."[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki, whom he's previously worked with on Monster, Pluto and Billy Bat, began writing a sequel to Master Keaton in 2012 titled Master Keaton Remaster.[8] 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.[9] In August 2013, Urasawa created his first "monster manga" titled "Kaijū Ōkoku" ("Monster Kingdom"), a 41-page one-shot published in Big Comic.[10] Urasawa created a short 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.[11]

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,[12] a third in September 2016, and a fourth in March 2017.[13]


Fusanosuke Natsume said that prior to entering university, Urasawa's style showed influence from Shinji Nagashima and Osamu Tezuka's 1970s work. But claimed 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 says is 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.[14]

Urasawa has frequently collaborated 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.[15]


Urasawa performing live at the 2012 Japan Expo.

As a hobby Urasawa is also the vocalist and guitarist of a rock band.[16] He started playing guitar in junior high school inspired by folk rock singer-songwriters Takuro Yoshida and Bob Dylan.[17]

Under the stage name "Bob Lennon", he wrote and performed the song "Kenji no Uta" ("Kenji's Song)" that was on a CD included in the 2002 first pressing of volume 11 of 20th Century Boys.[18] He released his debut single "Tsuki ga Tottemo..." (月がとっても…) on June 4, 2008,[18] 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.[7]

Urasawa 's second album, Mannon (漫音) which he wrote and produced himself, was released in 2016.[17]


Urasawa made his professional debut in 1983 with Beta!!, a gag one-shot.
Dancing Policeman (踊る警官)
Started in 1984, published into one volume by Shogakukan in 1987.
Pineapple Army
Published by Shogakukan from 1985 to 1988, this is a side-work produced alongside Yawara!. Pineapple Army is composed of 10 volumes in total. The story was written by Kazuya Kudou and the artwork is Urasawa's. The plot is about an ex-military man who trains others to defend themselves on the condition that he never gets involved... but eventually he always does.
Urasawa's first official work and real breakthrough. Published from 1986 to 1993 (serialized in Big Comic Spirits), this manga has 29 volumes in total. This judo romantic comedy is about a female judo champion who wants to have fun just like other girls, but her strict grandfather wants her to win in tournaments. Yawara! won the 35th Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga in 1990.
Master Keaton
Just after Pineapple Army, and while writing Yawara!, Urasawa began one of his most famous works, Master Keaton. Master Keaton was published from 1988 to 1994 in Big Comic Original and consists of 18 volumes in total. Hokusei Katsushika worked with Urasawa on it. The story revolves around a boy born to an English woman of noble birth and a Japanese zoologist. After his parents' divorce at the age of 5, Keaton moves to England with his mother. As an adult, he studies archeology at Oxford University, where he meets his future wife with whom he has a daughter. However, they too divorce after five years. Meanwhile, Keaton works as an operative/detective for Lloyd's of London where he is known for his abilities he acquired as a master sergeant in the SAS, as a veteran of the Falklands War, and the Iranian Embassy siege. These experiences help him carry out his dangerous work as an insurance investigator. Although he works at Lloyds, his dream is to excavate an ancient civilization in a Danube basin.
A short story collection published in one volume by Shogakukan in 1988. A fantasy about a middle-aged office worker who trains every day in order to become Japan's first astronaut. This work also includes earlier short stories.
Just after Yawara!, Urasawa began writing Happy!, which began in 1993 and ended in 1999. Happy! consists of 23 volumes in total. The copy from the back of the first tankōbon reads: "Miyuki Umino was a senior in high-school. Although Miyuki, her two younger brothers and her younger sister were poor, they were happy living together. But, one day all of a sudden her older brother's debt of 250 million yen fell upon them. To pay back the debt Miyuki quit school. What was the incredible choice she took to do this?".
In 1994, after finishing Master Keaton, Urasawa began writing what would become another one of his most famous works, Monster. He wrote Monster alongside Happy!, with Monster ending in 2001. It consists of 18 volumes in total and was serialized in Big Comic (1995–2001). The series was licensed in English by Viz Media. The final volume was released in December 2008. The story revolves around Kenzo Tenma, a Japanese surgeon living in Germany whose life enters a turmoil after getting himself involved with Johan Liebert, one of his former patients who is revealed to be a dangerous psychopath.
A short story collection published in one volume by Shogakukan in 1994. It features four stories about Jigoro, Yawara's grandfather from Yawara! during his younger years. It also includes a samurai and a baseball story not related to Yawara!.
20th Century Boys
In 1999, after finishing Happy!, Urasawa began 20th Century Boys, which would become another one of his most popular works. He wrote 20th Century Boys alongside Monster for two years, until the latter ended. The series spans 22 volumes, with the concluding chapters released under the title 21st Century Boys. It was licensed in English by Viz in 2005, however, it was delayed until after Monster finished its English serialization. It was published in North America between February 2009 and September 2012.
Beginning in late 2003, Pluto is a more realistic retelling of Osamu Tezuka's Mighty Atom, better known as Astro Boy. Pluto received an Excellence Prize at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival and the 2005 Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize Grand Prize. The series ended in early 2009, at 8 volumes. Pluto was licensed by Viz for an English language release from 2009 to 2010.
Billy Bat
A thriller manga started in October 2008 that follows Japanese-American comic book artist Kevin Yamagata as he draws the popular detective series "Billy Bat". When he learns he may have unconsciously copied the character from an image he saw while serving in occupied Japan, he returns to Japan to get permission to use Billy Bat from its original creator. Upon arriving there, however, he becomes embroiled in a web of murder, cover-ups, and prophecy that all leads back to Billy Bat.
Mangari Michi
A gag manga featuring the two manga artists that appeared in 20th Century Boys. Started in July 2009.
Master Keaton Remaster
Started in March 2012, with the story written by Takashi Nagasaki, it is a sequel to Master Keaton. It is set 20 years after the original series ended.[8]



  1. ^ a b c "Creator." Naoki Urasawa's Monster.
  2. ^ "Naoki Urasawa Talks about Manga and Professionalism". 2007-01-27. Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  3. ^ Urasawa, Naoki (2009). Pluto, Volume 1. Viz Media. pp. 192–195. ISBN 978-1-4215-1918-0. 
  4. ^ a b "Yawara, Monster's Naoki Urasawa to Teach Manga Classes". Anime News Network. March 16, 2008. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  5. ^ Pulitzer Winner Diaz Praises Monster Manga in Time Mag (Updated)
  6. ^ 『日本の漫画史を変えた作家』、“漫画の神様”手塚治虫が貫禄の1位. Oricon (in Japanese). July 16, 2010. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  7. ^ a b "Naoki Urasawa in conference: very stylish". Japan Expo. August 7, 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  8. ^ a b "Master Keaton Manga to Get Sequel After 18 Years". Anime News Network. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Interview: Naoki Urasawa". Anime News Network. August 20, 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-24. 
  10. ^ "20th Century Boys' Urasawa Draws 'Kaijū Ōkoku' Manga 1-Shot". Anime News Network. July 27, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  11. ^ "The Beatles Travel Through Time in Naoki Urasawa's Newest Manga Short". Anime News Network. June 21, 2016. Retrieved 2016-06-21. 
  12. ^ "NHK Documentary Series Peeks at Process of Drawing Manga". Anime News Network. August 27, 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-21. 
  13. ^ "Naoki Urasawa Manga Documentary TV Series Returns for 4th Season". Anime News Network. 2017-02-27. Retrieved 2017-05-28. 
  14. ^ Urasawa, Naoki (2009). Pluto, Volume 3. Viz Media. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-1-4215-1920-3. 
  15. ^ "Naoki Urasawa Talks about Relationship between Mangaka and Editors". 2006-11-29. Retrieved 2016-09-18. 
  16. ^ Naoki Urasawa Music Web
  17. ^ a b "Veteran manga artist Urasawa releases 2nd music album". Asahi Shimbun. March 19, 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-20. 
  18. ^ a b "Manga Creator Naoki Urasawa Debuts Music CD Single". Anime News Network. June 24, 2008. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  19. ^ a b c 小学館漫画賞: 歴代受賞者 (in Japanese). Shogakukan. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 
  20. ^ Joel Hahn. "Kodansha Manga Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on August 16, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  21. ^ "Guin Saga, Summer Wars, Pluto Win at Japan Sci-Fi Con". Anime News Network. August 7, 2010. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  22. ^ "Viz Media's Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Wins 2011 Eisner Award". Anime News Network. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Urasawa, Tezuka's Pluto Wins at France's Angoulême". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2013-07-28. 
  24. ^ "Urasawa's 20th Century Boys Wins 2nd Eisner Award". Anime News Network. September 20, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-21. 

Further reading[edit]

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.

External links[edit]