We will soon see if AI can recreate the magic of the God of Manga.

AI is all the rage these days and performing various functions from catching shoplifters to rating our Pikachu drawings. Also, late last year it was announced that an AI would be tasked with creating a new Osamu Tezuka manga.

For those unaware, Osamu Tezuka is often called called the “God of Manga,” having created many prolific series such as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and more.

And now, computer memory company Kioxia has announced that this virtual manga is set to be published in the 27 February edition of Morning. Titled Paidon, its AI writer-artist has drawn from all of the deceased manga artist’s works and approximated what he may have written were he alive today.

▼ I’m not sure if this is just a stylistic interpretation, but if it’s really drawn by a robot pencil at his desk, that’s pretty cool.

Paidon follows a man who turns his back on the futuristic society of Tokyo in 2030. However, as a result he ends up homeless and suffering from amnesia and seeks the assistance of a robot bird named Apollo.

The project called Tezuka2020 is meant to be a fun experiment in “what if,” and also showcase the AI power of Kioxia. However, for the latter, Tezuka might not have been the best choice. I mean, I can probably hack together a pretty solid algorithm for his manga Black Jack in a few minutes:

Black Jack Algorithm 1.0

1) Insert Black Jack into a situation mirroring a current event
2) Select three characters from stock (e.g. Prof. Ochanomizu, guy with candle on head, short guy with huge mustache)
3) Initiate 40% chance Black Jack encounters a doctor with conflicting beliefs
4) Initiate 30% chance someone runs into the street and gets hit by a truck
5) Initiate 1% chance Black Jack will have a sudden and slightly disturbing outburst of violence which will be later removed in the anime version
6) End story abruptly, as if the page limit set by the publisher was forgotten.

In other words, the guy was kind of predictable, but I say this with the utmost respect. In entertainment these days, repetition seems to be a lost art, a forgotten science, a gone craft even.

And I can only make that algorithm after having happily read through all the great episodes of Black Jack that he had made. As have many others who cherish the legacy of the God of Manga, which is why news of an AI-crafted Tezuka-manga release left many feeling curious but uneasy.

“I don’t know about this, but I am interested to see what it comes up with.”
“It’s an intriguing experiment, but maybe too soon?”
“I wonder how it will compare to his old works.”
“So who gets paid for this?”
“Why stop there? Get the thing to paint a Picasso too.”
“I think this will just upset fans like the AI Hibari Misora song or CG Nagaharu Yodogawa.”

In 2014, beloved film critic Nagaharu Yodogawa was digitally recreated for a series of commercials for video streaming service Hulu. He died in 1998.

▼ The commercial closely mimics Yodogawa’s mannerisms. The “Hulu, Hulu, Hulu” at the end is copying his signature sign-off of saying “sayonara” three times.

▼ The real Yodogawa for comparison. It’s also interesting how roughly 20 people get shot during this review of The Neverending Story.

Also, last year NHK debuted a new song by the legendary Hibari Misora who passed away in 1989.

While Yodogawa saying he loves movies and Misora singing a tender ballad on NHK are probably safe bets, it’s very dicey to start putting words in the mouths of people who aren’t here to approve of it.

Paidon, however, seems different in that it is quite clearly not Osamu Tezuka’s but very heavily derived from it. That being said, this brings up a whole other issue that one of the comments brought up: in cases like this, where should the copyright lie?

In this case, the owner of of Tezuka Productions and Osamu’s son, Makoto Tezuka, is heavily involved, so rights and royalties shouldn’t be a problem. However, what’s to stop me from feeding all of Akira Toriyama’s works into a big AI blender and publishing whatever comes out as my own? That is, aside from my complete lack of technical know-how, of course.

It’s an interesting question, and one that will probably come more to the forefront as AI continues to enter our daily lives. Perhaps Tezuka2020 can explore it in its new manga?

Source: Kyodo, Hachima Kiko, Kioxia
Top image: YouTube/Kioxia-Jp
Insert image: Kioxia
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