“And manga and anime would probably never have become representatives of Japanese culture,” he added.
Takao Saito was born on November 3, 1936 in Wakayama Prefecture, south of Osaka. Her father did odd jobs and dabbled in various artistic pursuits. His mother raised Mr. Saito and his four siblings, earning extra money by rolling cigarettes at night.
Mr. Saito showed a talent for art from an early age, but it was a pursuit his mother strongly advised against; as he recalled in an autobiography, she feared he would become like her father. After finishing college, he trained as a barber in Osaka and eventually opened a salon with his older sister in the city’s red light district. The job did not suit him, however; he was afraid of razors.
He continued to draw sideways, paint movie signs, and sell pornographic designs to members of the occupying forces stationed in Japan after World War II. These same GIs introduced him to American comics, like Batman and Superman. Another major influence was the movies, especially King Kong.
A first attempt to break into the comic book industry went awry: his submission to a boys’ magazine was rejected by none other than Osamu Tezuka, Japan’s most famous manga artist. Mr. Tezuka, he said, told him that his themes and artwork were inappropriate for children.
Criticism only fueled his ambition. In 1955, after two years of work, he published his first comic strip, the mystery adventure “Baron Air”.
Mr. Saito moved to Tokyo in 1957 and helped establish the ephemeral Gekiga Studio, an artist collective dedicated to promoting a new style of comics. In a manifesto, the group rejected the term “manga,” often translated as “whimsical imagery,” as too soft for their vision of an art form that would tell compelling adult stories with the visual panache of a filmmaker. .