Over the course of his career, the mangaka Osamu Tezuka
reused the same characters in different roles in different stories. The way that Tezuka used the characters in his "star system" can be see as somewhat analoguous to a film director frequently casting members of a regular "stable" of actors in different roles. For instance, the "actor" Shunsaku Ban
or Shunsuke Ban
, who played the detective in Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis
, also played Astro Boy's teacher in Astro Boy
. Tezuka jokingly made a list of how much they were paid and based them on famous western actors in his time.
Due to the fact that numerous kanji all have the same pronunciations in Japanese, characters' names are usually phonetically identical but written with different kanji from story to story.
A partial list of Osamu Tezuka's most commonly used Star System
characters follows (If a character has their own series named after them, such as Atom, a.k.a. Astro Boy
, then the link will point to the series' wiki page):
- Acetylene, Lamp: Also known as Drake (or Torch in the second series). A tall middle-aged man with a thin nose, large forehead, wide frowny eyes and often a small moustache with big glasses. He has a "notch" on the back of his head, and there is a running gag throughout Tezuka's work about how a lit candle will stand upright if placed in the notch (Tezuka even describes this in one of the manga, saying that he based the character on a classmate), and shows Lamp indeed holding a lit candle in some panels. Made regular appearances in Astro Boy. Also appeared in Tezuka's Adolf and in Phoenix. He also was the president's secretary in Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis. The candle is a plot point in the game Astro Boy: Omega Factor. He also appeared in Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature, and makes a cameo appearance in Jungle Emperor Leo.
- Amazing Three, The
- Ambassador Magma: A giant humanoid who can transform into a rocketship. With this series, Tezuka pioneered the transformers archetype.
- Atom (Astro Boy): A 'robot actor' who portrayed himself in the famous manga. In the manga, his good nature and incorruptible heart, combined with an array of powers, put him on a quest to protect robots from robot-hating humans and humans from alien invaders. He made other appearances in other manga including Black Jack and the anime Marine Express. Astro resembles wooden boy Pinocchio.
- Ban, Shunsaku or Shunsuke Ban: A bald, portly, middle-aged man with a big moustache. Often comical and grumpy yet good-natured. His facial hair earns him the nickname Higeoyaji ("moustache old man"). Usually plays a detective with sometimes a nephew/assistant named Ken'ichi (Ken or Kennedy in English versions of the Astro Boy TV series). He first appeared as Astro Boy's teacher, then as a detective. In some versions, he is called Wally Kisagiri, and in the English-language manga, his "Higeoyaji" nickname is translated as "Mustachio".
- Big X
- '''Black Garon
- Black Jack
- Bukk, Buku
- Butamo, Makeru
- Chikara, Aritake
- Chiyoko, Wato
- Deadcross, Lord
- Don Dracula
- Duke Red: A tall man with a large, hooked nose and spikey hair on the back of his head. First appeared as "Duke Red" in Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis (a name he took back in the game Astro Boy: Omega Factor). Also played the title role in Osamu Tezuka's rendition of Cyrano de Bergerac. He also "played" Prince Siddartha's doctor in Buddha. He made a few appearances in the Astro Boy manga (such as a mad scientist or a murdered priest) and other Tezuka productions, sometimes under the name Akai ("Red" in Japanese). He also appeared in the Astroboy 2003 series, where he started a war against robots when he thought his robot servant hurt his daughter.
- Fooler, Doctor
- Ham Egg: Also known as Cachatore, Hammond Eggs or Hamegg, he is a villain with a round head, a thin moustache, a wide grin, curly hair and sometimes wearing a top hat. Primarily known for being a cruel circus manager in Astro Boy. He also was a hotel manager and an organ smuggler in Phoenix. Made several other appearances in Astro Boy (such as a gangster or a murderous surgeon).
- Hanamaru, Doctor
- Heck, Ben
- Holmes, Rock: A young "bad boy" with shiny dark hair, sometimes wearing sunglasses. He mostly plays villains, after having played juvenile heroes. He was first in Rock Home, as a child detective. He appeared with Astro Boy several times. He was in Phoenix. He also starred in animated Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis as Duke Red's brutal son. In the Astro Boy: Omega Factor video game he is initially the real identity of the villain Deadcross, but eventually falls in love with - and is reformed by - Princess Sapphire, and remains with her in the distant past to help her try to avert the demise of the continent of Mu.
- Hyoutan-Tsugi: Also known as Gourdski, it is a gag character, a small pig-faced patchworked gourd creature that puffs out smoke. Osamu Tezuka draws him a bit everywhere as a joke, sometimes even making a character's face looking like it. Appears in almost all of his works. Some fans affectionally call it the real star of Tezuka's series.
- Kao, Sekken
- Kin, Sankaku: Translated as Golden triangle is the leader of the fictitious Chinese criminal organization based on the Triads. He has an ovoid head, extremely fat lips, sunglasses, and one long hair. In an Astroboy compilation, Tezuka explains that Kin was based on the local watchmaker's son from his childhood.
- Leo: A courageous, vegetarian white lion with black tips on his ears. In both his manga and anime series, known as Jungle Emperor Leo in Japan, he acts as an ambassador toward the human world for animals. In Astro Boy: Omega Factor an android boy known as Pook disguises himself as Leo to steal jewels.
- Marukubi, Boon
- Melmo: Most frequently seen as various characters in the Black Jack manga of the 1970s. Melmo has two human appearances, one of which is nine years old, while the other is 19 years old. Although in her own series both versions of Melmo are the same person, she has also sometimes appeared as a mother and a daughter.
- Mitchy: A young, beautiful woman who portrayed the tragic android of the same name in Metropolis, she was later reincarnated as 'Tima' in the 2001 film adaptation of the manga. She was also recognized among fans as Astro's android mother in the original 1950's-60's run of the Astro Boy manga.
- Monsieur Ampere
- Norse, Necktall
- Notaarin: Also known as Notarlin. An older, portly character with a round head, sometimes depicted with a moustache and a single hair on the back of his head. Appears as the Superintendent of Police in Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, also as the Atomic Energy Chairman in the manga version of Nextworld.
- Ochanomizu, Professor
- Omotanium: Not a character per se, but a fictional "substance" à la kryptonite. It has different properties and performs different functions from story to story (such as destroying the brain system of a robot).
- Phoenix, The
- Police Inspector Geta
- Police Inspector Tawashi
- Prime Rose: A girl with bushy red hair. She originally appeared as a warrior in black in Prime Rose, comic series in Weekly Shonen Champion, which was later adapted into an animated movie in 1983. In Astro Boy: Omega Factor, she is Lamp's daughter.
- Rainbow Parakeet: A tall young man with bobbed dark hair, red-tinted sunglasses, a white coat and ascot, and dark pants and gloves. He stars as the title character in his own manga as a thief (à la Lupin III), and even star as the English cyborg private detective Sherlock Homespun (sometimes written Sherlock Holmespan) in the 1980 Astro Boy Anime and in the GBA game Astro Boy: Omega Factor. In the 2003 Astro Boy series he appears as a terrorist named Kato, who has no real goal, but regards his terrorism as art.
- Saboten, Sam: A young man who replaced Rock in a series known as Saboten-Kun. A tradition that happens in Hollywood cinema where some actors are replaced by others during a trilogy or film series.
- Sapphire: A young woman with slightly curly dark hair, who first starred in Princess Knight. She was the queen of the Mu civilization in the animated movie Marine Express (and in the Omega Factor game).
- Saruta: A stocky man with a huge roundish nose. He appeared as all the Saruta descendants (including Gao) in the Phoenix saga and made some appareances in Buddha. In aime Black Jack TV, he appears like Jontaro Honma,the man who reconstructed the body of black Jack after his accident when he was a kid. He looks somewhat similar to Professor Ochanomizu because he typically has a large, bulbous nose, but he is not the same character.
- Sasaki, Kojiro
- Saturn: A massive brutal man with a big chin and a pointy moustache, he appeared as the King of Evil in Magic House and he fought Astro Boy as "Satan."
- Sharaku, Hosuke: A baby-faced young boy with a slightly large head, often sporting a bandage. His main role was in The Three-Eyed One where he is a three-eyed child with evil powers. Osamu Tezuka took back this character as the main villain in the game Astro Boy: Omega Factor. He was Assaji the apprentice monk in Buddha, still with his bandage. He appeared in the Black Jack anime, also with his bandage. Sharaku's third eye is hidden by the bandage, and it suppresses both his power and evil nature.
- Shikishima, Kenichi
- Skunk, Kusai: A pale, blonde smirking man with a short brown nose, sleepy eyes, and sometimes a gray complexion (which is made clear in the 1980 Astro Boy anime.) He almost always plays a villain. His full name is often displayed as Skunk Kusai (Kusai means "stinky", "fishy" in Japanese). Primarily known for being a gangster enemy to Astro Boy, though he also appears in Metropolis as an overly ambitious military officer.
- Spider: A gag character who only appears for comic relief, he is a very cartoonish and very short man in a black robe, long nose, one hair, stretching an arm and often bouncing. His catchphrase is "Here to meet ya!" and he ends almost every sentence by "Ayup!"
- Doctor Tenma: A man whose face and hair resemble that of a rooster. He played the role of Astro's father and creator. He later appeared in a number of other manga including Black Jack.
- Tezuka, Osamu: Osamu Tezuka himself makes frequent appearances - usually just as an in-joke - in almost all of his manga, anime and other works. He can be recognized by his round spotted nose, round glasses and sometimes wearing a beret. In the collected Astro Boy volumes, he often introduces stories, and gives trivia. In the Vampire manga he is a major character throughout the series, and went so far as to play himself in the 1968 TV adaptation of the series. He makes frequent appearances in anime Black Jack TV, where he's a doctor who was a classmate of Black Jack (It might be mentioned that, apart from the frequent use of "self-insertion" by visual artists into their works, this may have been specifically inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's signature cameos in his own films, which Tezuka certainly knew and admired. His introductory narratives to many of his manga stories mimics Walt Disney's hosting appearances in his own TV series of the '50s and '60s.)
- Tick & Tuck
- Part of the Osamu Tezuka Star System with other Tezuka characters is listed and described in the Astro Boy: Omega Factor game, as the "Omega Factor": it is a memory data which raises Astro Boy's power as it levels up. To increase it, Astro has to make full acquaintance of characters throughout the game. This also unlocks biographies of the characters.