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Category: Studio: A Pro

Friday, September 25, 2015

05:54:00 pm , 4451 words, 10496 views     Categories: Studio: A Pro, Studio: Tokyo Movie, Studio: Oh Pro, Director: Isao Takahata, 1970s

Akado Suzunosuke

Hello world. I'm back again. Sorry for making a habit of disappearing. I thought I'd pick up where I left off by finishing a post I actually started about a year ago but never finished, about one of the classic Tokyo Movie/A Pro shows.

Akado Suzunosuke (1972-1973) is a bit of an oddity in the Tokyo Movie canon - neither cartoony gag comedy nor a spokon drama, but rather straight-up jidaigeki. Though not perfect, it holds up fairly well to viewing after all these years. It's a fun, if somewhat repetitive, rollicking samurai action adventure.

The production side benefits from work by luminaries like Yoshifumi Kondo, Osamu Dezaki and Hayao Miyazaki, albeit at an early stage in their development. The show is a product of the transitional years of the Mushi Pro/Toei Doga diaspora, when Tokyo Movie/A Pro captured many of these people briefly before they moved on to the gigs for which they're more well known.

Things often come in fads in anime - the sci-fi anime fad of the early 1960s gave way to the gag anime fad of the mid-1960s, which in turn gave way to the spokon fad of the late-1960s/early 1970s. Tokyo Movie is interesting for having originated some of those fads by taking a chance and doing something that went against the dominant style of the day at various junctures. Akado Suzunosuke is such a show, and was in fact quite popular and re-broadcast in Japan over the years, despite not having engendered as many copycats.

Based not on a popular manga of the day but rather an old manga from the 50s, everything about the show is a deliberate throwback, not just the samurai-era setting. The manga on which the anime is based was already old-fashioned when it was released in 1954. The manga was originally drawn by one Eiichi Fukui (and after his death Tsunayoshi Takeuchi) in a style that even in the day harked back to an earlier era of more simple storytelling, with six square panels a page, before Osamu Tezuka revolutionized things with his modernistic experimentation with narrative and paneling. So this anime is triply a throwback

The show's nostalgia factor is apparent right from the start with the show's opening theme, which opens with the big-eyed Suzunosuke striding down a country road. The naive, simple lyrics cheer Suzunosuke on and tell of his dreams to become Japan's best swordsman. The song is actually a children's choir version of the theme song from a 1957 radio drama of the manga released in the wake of the manga's popularity, written in the classic march style that was so popular in early 20th-century Japan right down to the war. (listen to the radio drama's theme song to see its similarity to the famous military gunkan march that makes an appearance in Grave of the Fireflies)

The radio drama adaptation of Akado Suzunosuke was such a huge hit that it was followed in short order by no less than 9 movies between 1957 and 1958, two TV series in 1957 alone, and possibly two other TV drama adaptations. Thus, although Tokyo Movie's version of 1973 was obviously aimed at children, it simultaneously must have played to the nostalgia of adults who would remember its story and theme song.

The 1957 TV adaptations paved the way for the advent of TV anime in a way that might not be immediately apparent - character toys and goods. Akado Suzunosuke was one of the first shows to be accompanied by a massive toy marketing campaign. That may have something to do with its surprising popularity. Shows like Tetsuwan Atom (and most later anime) would tap into that to help boost their popularity by synergy.

Tokyo Movie's Akado Suzunosuke wasn't the only nostalgia vehicle at the time. There appears to have been a kind of mini nostalgia boom in the early 1970s, with various old properties being brought back to life. It's possible that the idea to adapt the Akado Suzunosuke comic into animation was inspired by the 1972 revival anime adaption of the old hero show Gekko Kamen (1957) by the infamous Knack Studio.

In addition to being a jidaigeki, the show also functions as a hero show like Gekko Kamen, with Suzunosuke fighting his way up the ranks of the Kimento or Demon Mask Gang over the course of the show. On top of that, the show also functions as a spokon show, with Suzunosuke undergoing grueling training to master new techniques that will allow him to power up and defeat his increasingly skilled opponents. Thus, despite the different subject matter, Akado Suzunosuke is similar in spirit to the other Kajiwara Ikki spokon shows Tokyo Movie produced immediately before and after.

Cover of original manga (1954) / Poster for movie #4 (1957)

Akado Suzunosuke tells the story of a young man named Suzunosuke in bakumatsu-era Edo. As the theme song says, his goal is to become the greatest swordsman in Japan. His family name is Kinno, but his nickname is Akado after his red suit of protective kendo armor, passed down from his father. In the anime, the armor bears a bell insignia echoing his given name, but this appears to have been added in the anime version.

Suzunosuke was separated from his parents at a young age and raised in the countryside by a family friend. The anime skips this part and jumps right to Suzunosuke arriving in Edo to look for his parents and make his way in the world. He joins a dojo run by his father's friend and begins to learn kendo to follow in his father's footsteps. At the same time, he discovers a gang of bandits calling themselves the Kimento terrorizing Edo, and in his spare time sets about defeating them. This sets the series on its dual path: kendo supokon + jidaigeki hero show.

Just as the spokon shows are hardly purely realistic with the sports, Akado Suzunosuke is liberal with the swordplay. Suzunosuke must learn increasingly improbable waza that have him leaping 20 feet in the air and conjuring up whirlwinds to kill his enemies from across the room. His father was reportedly killed just before mastering the latter, the mythical "shinkugiri" or vacuum cut attack, so Suzunosuke's goal is to find his father's killer and master the shinkugiri attack. He'll need it in order to defeat the bosses of the Kimento.

The enemies fight back with fanciful and entertaining weapons - the first bad guy fires shuriken from his wooden leg. They play up the bakumatsu-era trappings by combining classic swordplay with western-inspired gadgetry. It's basically Japanese tradition valiantly fighting against takeover by the evil ways of the west.

This is a hero adventure in its purest form. The baddies are pure evil with no nuance or motivation, and all wear sneering oni mask to make their dispatch by the good guys impersonal. When the hero is trapped in a dungeon, how does the villain try to kill him? With a slowly descending spiked ceiling. Every fight is preceded by a lengthy introduction, and every line of dialogue by a bad guy is followed by a sinister laugh. There are exactly two women characters in the whole show: Sayuri, Suzunosuke's love interest, and his mother.

The show can't be divorced from its intended audience. When Suzunosuke becomes somewhat well known for his swordsmanship, the neighborhood kids play-fight in the streets pretending to be him and the Kimento. Those kids are the intended audience. Suzunosuke triumphs despite his small stature, and the message to the viewing audience is that they, too, can be heroes. The narrative was kept simple and Manichean no doubt to help kids project themselves onto the hero.

The show can grow a little tiresome and repetitive, as there really isn't much more to it than the baddie-of-the-week formula, but it remains entertaining to watch until the end, as they keep the narrative arc firmly in hand. The show has strong forward momentum from one episode to the next. The show also holds some surprises in store in terms of the animation and directing.

One curious thing about the re-release of this old show is that many of the episodes (at least episodes 9, 10, 12, 14 and 20) are censored. I know the word "kuso" in "kuso bozu" was censored in one episode, but I'm not sure exactly what words were deemed so offensive as to require being sacrificed to the PC gods on a home video release. I don't recall noticing any censorship on the DVD release of the much more potty-mouthed Dokonjo Gaeru from the same year. It's surprising that this should be deemed so offensive considering the far more extreme nature of many anime aired today.

The animation

"Murata-style BS" - self-reference by Oh Pro's Koichi Murata

The production side of things will be familiar from Koya no Shonen Isamu (1973-1974), which actually followed Suzunosuke in the same Monday 7 PM time slot on Fuji TV. The subcontractors that produced Suzunosuke are exactly the same, although the staffing is slightly different:

Oh Pro:Koichi Murata, Toshitsugu Saida, Satoshi Ohjima, Norio Shioyama
Junio:Takao Kosai, Tetsuo Imazawa
Mates:Koizumi Kenzo, Takashi Asakura, Akiko Hoshino, Michiko Takahashi, Shigeru Kogawa, Masafumi Kubota, Kazuyoshi Shimada, Akio Yoshihara
Neo Media:Keiichiro Kimura, Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
A Pro:Hideo Kawauchi, Hisatoshi Motoki, Yoshifumi Kondo, Nobuhide Toyokawa, Toshiyuki Honda, Tsutomu Tanaka, Eiichi Nakamura, Yuzo Aoki
Studio Z:Shingo Araki, Masami Abe, Satoshi Jingu, Yoshinori Kanada, Yukio Suzuki, Tsugefumi Nuno

The main difference is that most of the studios devoted more animators to Suzunosuke than to Isamu, with the exception of Neo Media and Junio. Yoshiyuki Momose was unfortunately not involved here because he went from working on Tensai Bakabon (1971-1972) to working on Dokonjo Gaeru (1972-1974). Junio's Minoru Maeda was still an inbetweener during Suzunosuke and was bumped up to key animation for Isamu. Perhaps most notably, Suzunosuke appears to be Yoshinori Kanada's first credited key animation. Of course, his style was obviously not developed at this point, so his work isn't identifiable.

Someone seems to have made a mistake and misspelled Kanada's (admittedly difficult to read) first name as Isuke 伊助 rather than Yoshinori 伊功. They apparently weren't very careful with the credits in this show, because Toshitsugu Saida 才田俊次 is also misspelled as Shun Saida 才田俊 in a few episodes.

Oh Pro is always playful about inserting references to themselves in the shows they worked on, and Suzunosuke is no exception, although overall I didn't spot as many in-jokes of this kind as in later shows. 80s shows were particularly rife with this sort of thing, but in the early 70s I don't think it was very common yet.

As far as stylistic differences between studios, all of the things I said for Isamu apply here as well. Oh Pro and A Pro deliver the quality work, Neo Media and Z deliver decent work, and Junio and Mates are mediocre. A young Yoshifumi Kondo did some of his earliest work on Suzunosuke. Episode 12 and 19 feature excellent drawings and action sequences presumably of his hand. Oh Pro's work unfortunately isn't nearly as good as it is in Isamu, perhaps because for the first two seasons Murata only does sakkaning without drawing key animation. I'm not sure why that is, but perhaps it's because he was busy working on Panda Kopanda over that period.

As for Neo Media, Keiichiro Kimura had just come from working on Tiger Mask over the last few years, so apparently he still had tigers in his blood, because all of the wolves he drew in episode 22 have what can only be described as tiger faces. As would be expected, the Neo Media episodes have some nice hustle in the movement. The running in particular is distinctive of Kimura.

The Mates episodes feature work by an animator named Shigeru Kogawa. This is the actual name of Tomonori Kogawa, who got his start at Mates before moving on to Tatsunoko and then founding his own studio, Bebow. He also worked on Lupin and Gamba's Adventure from Mates. The credits can be deceptive in anime in general and in particular in Suzunosuke, which is rife with misspellings or pen names or uncredited people.

The opening features a combination of new animation and bits taken from the show. There are two choice bits in the opening. The very first scene with Suzunosuke's rival shouting the show's catchphrase "Chokozaina kozome~ Na wo nanore!" is one of the best in the whole show with its gritty lines and dynamic movement. It feels like maybe the work of Yasuo Otsuka, who otherwise wasn't involved in the show. I wish we could have seen more action like this in the show. The shot later on of Suzunosuke falling into the water feels like Yoshifumi Kondo. He's animated similar sequences on several occasions, most notably one of the panda in Panda Kopanda struggling to hold his balance on the edge of water and finally falling in.

A Pro head Daikichiro Kusube is credited as Animation Supervisor for each episode, as he is on all of his supokon shows. In addition, Yoichi Kotabe is credited as assistant animation supervisor. These are separate from the sakkans for each episode, which always are from the subcontractor for that particular episode. Hence I'm guessing this means Kusube designed the main characters and "oversaw" the drawings (probably didn't do much correcting), while I'm guessing Kotabe designed and supervised the female characters. This would make sense, as these are exactly the same roles the two played on Toei's Kaze no Fujimaru (1964-1965) just before Kusube left to found his own studio. Kotabe had just joined A Pro in 1971 to work with Miyazaki and Takahata on Pippi, but wound up having to do other work instead, like this.

It's not entirely clear what Kotabe did in this capacity, but his style seems to jump out in the delicate drawings of the two female characters, so I'm left to assume he was the sakkan for those characters, superseding the subcontractor sakkan.

Mother in Akado Suzunosuke (1972) / Mother in Jarinko Chie (1981)

On the directing side of things, the series director is Shigetsugu Yoshida, the same as Isamu. Or more accurately, there is no actual series director credit in this show. The opening doesn't have any credits. All of the credits come in the ending. Shigetsugu Yoshida receives an "enshutsu" or episode director credit in each ending. I don't know whether this means his role evolved into a more supervisory one for the next show, or whether the credit merely evolved to more appropriately represent his role. The latter may be the case, as at the very least as late as 1974 on Heidi Isao Takahata was credited as the "enshutsu" of the whole show. Mushi Pro and Tatsunoko began using the "chief director" credit early on in the mid-60s, while Toei carried on with their tradition of having no chief director, only episode directors (who drew their own storyboards) until well into the 1970s. Tokyo Movie actually started out crediting a kantoku, and then reverted to enshutsu for a few years in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and began using the chief director credit in the early 1970s.

One of the most surprising faces in Suzunosuke is storyboarder Kuyo Sai, which is in fact one of the many pen names of Osamu Dezaki. Dezaki has some amusing pen names. This one is a homonym for "SA ikuyo" which means "Let's go". His other big pen name "Saki Makura" is meant to evoke "saki makkura" or "the future looks bleak". Dezaki's episodes aren't particularly identifiable as his style, but they do have a more dynamic feel to the pacing, with some of the more excitingly choreographed action sequences of the show. Many ex-Madhouse people worked at Tokyo Movie in the early 70s before (and even after) Madhouse was founded. Toshio Hirata even storyboarded a few episodes here.

But in terms of storyboarding/directing, it's the third season that is noteworthy and the highlight of the show. Shigetsugu Yoshida had just served as assistant director of Lupin III, on which Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata famously served as the "A Pro directing group". So it's less of a surprise to discover that Miyazaki and Takahata were brought on midway through Suzunosuke to oversee the show, although I'm not sure why. They never receive a credit for this. Hayao Miyazaki receives a storyboarding credit on episodes 26, 27 and 41, but that's all there is to outwardly indicate their involvement. But watching the show, it's clear they were involved much more heavily than this.

The first two seasons plod along on familiar ground, but starting around episode 22 with the introduction of Seidoki, the "Bronze Demon" baddie, the Miyazaki-ness gradually starts ramping up over the course of the next few episodes, finally leading into episode 26 storyboarded by Miyazaki himself. The next ten episodes or so unfold as one continuous arc that feels like pure Miyazaki/Takahata. And then, as abruptly as their presence made itself felt, they seem to disappear and the old show returns to the fore for the last season.

Their presence makes itself felt in many ways. Most notably, all of the baddies from Seidoki on feel of Miyazaki's hand, including bat-man Onigomori in episode 27 and beetle-head Oniarashi in episode 28. I'm not sure, but it feels like Miyazaki himself drew them in each episode. Of course, he never receives any key animation credit in the show, so this is all conjecture.

Miyazaki-isms in the third season

Seidoki is a classic Miyazaki character, and the showdown between Suzunosuke and Seidoki in episode 26 is one of the great unseen Miyazaki episodes in his filmography. It's an explosion of Miyazaki-ness.

Seidoki is a veritable Swiss army knife whose suit of armor is bursting with surprising killer gadgets, including rocket hands, springy shoes, buzzsaw shoulders, flare fingers, and retractable axe arms. The chase sequence in the first half of the episode is easily the highlight of the show. The animation feels like it was done by Miyazaki himself, but I can't be sure about that. Miyazaki was almost certainly involved in some manner in the animation, but Yoshifumi Kondo is credited as an animator in this episode, and he is quite good at zippy action of this kind, so it's equally possible he's responsible.

The funny thing is that, even in episodes where the drawings are otherwise not very good, the bad guys alone seem to bear his imprint, as if he stepped in to correct just the baddies in each ep. It's through the baddies that Miyazaki was best able to express his unbridled creativity. The bad guys have all the coolest toys.

Miyazaki loves to place action in the sky and under water, and this is one of the first places you can see these settings in his oeuvre. He pushes the boundaries of scientific plausibility to the limit for the bakumatsu period, with a bat-shaped rocket ship and a dragon-shaped submarine.

You can spot many things in his "hikidashi" or drawer that he would later pull out on different occasions, including retractable claws of a kind that would be seen in the Cagliostro assassins and the robot winch in Conan; riding a kite like in the first Lupin III show; and the main character performing the amazing acrobatic feat of leaping onto the wing of a plane in mid-flight like in Conan, not to mention falling through that wing like in Sherlock Hound. Episode 31 even features a Lupin lookalike.

But the most obvious Miyazaki-ism is perhaps the strong female lead in the form of Nagisa. Nagisa is a character who goes completely against the macho samurai ethos of this story, in which only male characters are allowed to be intelligent and strong and lead, so she is clearly a product of Miyazaki's intervention. She reminds simultaneously of Cathy in Animal Treasure Island as well as Monsley in Conan, who in addition to being strong female leads are characters who began as enemies and ended up as allies.

Nagisa in Akado Suzunosuke (1972) / Cathy in Animal Treasure Island (1971)

Even apart from the out-of-place character of Nagisa, all of the imaginative gadgetry and complex machinations of this arc set it apart from the rest of the show in a way that suggests it to have been wholly devised by M&T. The arc culminates in a pitched battle on the Kimento's secret island lair that feels like a study for the climactic set pieces of most Miyazaki productions.

Takahata's presence is felt primarily in the complexity and expansiveness of the situation. Where before the stories were all about hissatsuwaza and nostalgic wanking over the samurai code, the third season suddenly breathes a greatly expanded world view, with action grounded in and dictated by a specific culture and geographic locale.

The first half of the arc is about a new formula for more powerful Dutch gunpowder that Suzunosuke fights to keep from falling into the wrong hands. The story shuttles between three different factions - the Shiranui clan, the Kimento and Suzunosuke and gang - as they fight over the formula in an effort to gain control of the country's capital. The analytical Takahata was uniquely adept at this kind of multifaceted storytelling. In the second half, a sea monster destroys ships carrying rice to the capital, leading to a rice shortage, but it's all being staged by the Kimento in order to make a killing on the price of rice. The episode has a strong sociopolitical commentary aspect, illustrating how you can control a populace by controlling their food supply.

Takahata the storyboarder is felt in particular in episode 38, which depicts the moral struggle of a young girl who has sided with the bad guys to survive but whose inner sense of justice bubbles to the surface in spite of her best efforts to suppress it. Sound familiar? It's not just the setup that reminds of a previous Takahata story, even the staging and timing of the dramatic moments seems reminiscent of Takahata. This is by far and away the most sensitively directed episode in the series. None of the other episodes are directed in a style even remotely similar to this, so I'd be very surprised indeed it it wasn't Takahata.

This suggests that Teruo Ishikawa is a pen name of Isao Takahata. Episode 25 features a dream sequence that seems prescient of Heidi, but the early Teruo Ishikawa storyboard episodes don't seem to bear his stamp. Perhaps, as in the case of Lupin III, they had to correct certain storyboards as best they could, but could only do so much, whereas later storyboards like episode 38 they were able to draw from scratch. Combined with the music by Takeo Watanabe, animation by Koichi Murata and designs by Yoichi Kotabe, certain moments in his episodes seem to point ahead to Heidi and indicate the direction in which Takahata was ready to go, given the right opportunity.

I'm not sure why it worked out that Miyazaki and Takahata were involved in Suzunosuke in such a strange location (just the third season), but perhaps they were busy working on Panda Kopanda up until that point and suddenly became free when that was done, and helped out Shigetsugu Yoshida to pay it forward for his work on Lupin III. Yoshida had joined Toei Doga the same year as Takahata, 1959, and left for A Pro two years before Takahata, so they followed a parallel course in these early years. Yoshida would of course go on to direct the non-Miyazaki Telecom episodes of Lupin III series 2 and serve as assistant director on Cagliostro.

So in summary, despite somewhat repetitive storytelling and spotty animation, this is a unique show for the period that remains surprisingly watchable thanks to interesting work here and there, with the big highlight being the Miyazaki-Takahata stretch of episodes 24-38(-ish).

Recommended episodes:

Episode 19 for Yoshifumi Kondo's animation
Episode 26 for Hayao Miyazaki's directing and animation
Episode 38 for "Teruo Ishikawa"'s directing and Oh Pro/A Pro's animation


赤胴鈴之助 Akado Suzunosuke
52 episodes, Tokyo Movie/A Pro, 4/5/1972 - 3/28/1973, Fuji TV, 19:00-19:30

Created by:武内つなよしTsunayoshi Takeuchi
Director:吉田茂承Shigetsugu Yoshida
Animation Supervisor:楠部大吉郎Daikichiro Kusube
Asst. Anim. Supervisor:小田部羊一Yoichi Kotabe
Art Director:影山仁Hitoshi Kageyama
Music:渡辺岳夫Takeo Watanabe

StoryboardSakkanKey Animators
1吉川惣司 Soji Yoshikawa香西隆男 Takao Kosai
塩山紀生 Norio Shioyama
小泉謙三Kenzo Koizumi
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
吉原章雄 Akio Yoshihara
2斉九洋 Kuyo Sai木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
3平田敏夫 Toshio Hirata香西隆男 Takao Kosai
塩山紀生 Norio Shioyama
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
4高市一男 Kazuo Takaichi小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
吉原章雄 Akio Yoshihara
湖川滋 Shigeru Kogawa
5岡崎稔 Minoru Okazaki村田耕一 Koichi Murata
河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi
近藤喜文 Yoshifumi Kondo
豊川信栄 Nobuhide Toyokawa
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
大嶋聡 Satoshi Ohjima
6小林かおる Kaoru Kobayashi木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
アベ正己 Masami Abe
中村清 Kiyoshi Nakamura
7平田敏夫 Toshio Hirata香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
8岡崎稔 Minoru Okazaki小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi
吉原章雄 Akio Yoshihara
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
本多敏行 Toshiyuki Honda
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
9斉九洋 Kuyo Sai村田耕一 Koichi Murata塩山紀生 Norio Shioyama
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
大嶋聡 Satoshi Ohjima
10斉九洋 Kuyo Sai木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
安部正己 Masami Abe
神宮さとし Satoshi Jingu
11佐々木正広 Masahiro Sasaki小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
吉原章雄 Akio Yoshihara
湖川滋 Shigeru Kogawa
12平田敏夫 Toshio Hirata河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi本木久年 Hisatoshi Motoki
近藤喜文 Yoshifumi Kondo
13岡崎稔 Minoru Okazaki香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
14斉九洋 Kuyo Sai村田耕一 Koichi Murata塩山紀生 Norio Shioyama
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
大嶋聡 Satoshi Ohjima
15石川輝夫 Teruo Ishikawa木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
16平田敏夫 Toshio Hirata荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki神宮さとし Satoshi Jingu
安部正己 Masami Abe
17岡崎稔 Minoru Okazaki香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
18斉九洋 Kuyo Sai小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi朝倉隆 Takashi Asakura
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
高橋道子 Michiko Takahashi
19石黒昇 Noboru Ishiguro河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi近藤喜文 Yoshifumi Kondo
豊川信栄 Nobuhide Toyokawa
本多敏行 Toshiyuki Honda
20斉九洋 Kuyo Sai村田耕一 Koichi Murata才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
大嶋聡 Satoshi Ohjima
21斉九洋 Kuyo Sai小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi朝倉隆 Takashi Asakura
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
高橋道子 Michiko Takahashi
22岡崎稔 Minoru Okazaki木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
23石黒昇 Noboru Ishiguro荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki安部正己 Masami Abe
神宮さとし Satoshi Jingu
24斉九洋 Kuyo Sai村田耕一 Koichi Murata才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
大嶋稔 Minoru Ohjima
25斉九洋 Kuyo Sai香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
26宮崎駿 Hayao Miyazaki河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi近藤喜文 Yoshifumi Kondo
豊川信栄 Nobuhide Toyokawa
27宮崎駿 Hayao Miyazaki小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
吉原章雄 Akio Yoshihara
湖川滋 Shigeru Kogawa
28石川輝夫 Teruo Ishikawa木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
安部正己 Masami Abe
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
29斉九洋 Kuyo Sai河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi本木久年 Hisatoshi Motoki
近藤喜文 Yoshifumi Kondo
30岡崎稔 Minoru Okazaki香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
31斉九洋 Kuyo Sai村田耕一 Koichi Murata村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
32斉九洋 Kuyo Sai小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi朝倉隆 Takashi Asakura
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
高橋道子 Michiko Takahashi
33小華和ためお Tameo Kohanawa荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki神宮さとし Satoshi Jingu
安部正己 Masami Abe
34石川輝夫 Teruo Ishikawa木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
35斉九洋 Kuyo Sai河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi本木久年 Hisatoshi Motoki
近藤喜文 Yoshifumi Kondo
36岡崎稔 Minoru Okazaki香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetso Imazawa
37小華和ためお Tameo Kohanawa村田耕一 Koichi Murata村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
38石川輝夫 Teruo Ishikawa河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
田中勉 Tsutomu Tanaka
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
本木久年 Hisatoshi Motoki
39小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
吉原章雄 Akio Yoshihara
湖川滋 Shigeru Kogawa
40斉九洋 Kuyo Sai木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
41宮崎駿 Hayao Miyazaki荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki安部正己 Masami Abe
金田伊助 Isuke Kanada
鈴木幸雄 Yukio Suzuki
42黒田昌郎 Yoshio Kuroda香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
43石黒昇 Noboru Ishiguro村田耕一 Koichi Murata村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
44今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲夫 Tetsuo Imazawa
45小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
46今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
47黒田昌郎 Yoshio Kuroda河内日出夫 Hideo Kawauchi中村英一 Eiichi Nakamura
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
48石川輝夫 Teruo Ishikawa荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki安部正己 Masami Abe
金田伊助 Isuke Kanada
鈴木幸雄 Yukio Suzuki
49斉九洋 Kuyo Sai香西隆男 Takao Kosai香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲夫 Tetsuo Imazawa
50黒田昌郎 Yoshio Kuroda村田耕一 Koichi Murata村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
51小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi久保田正史 Masafumi Kubota
高橋道子 Michiko Takahashi
島田和義 Kazuyoshi Shimada
52吉田茂承 Shigetsugu Yoshida木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
安部正己 Masami Abe

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Animated Tales of Great PeopleAnimated Classics of Children's Literature

In the wake of the success of Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi (1975-1995), Group Tac produced two other omnibus-format TV series that were not as long-lived and essentially disappeared into the pit of anime history, but were equally creative and appealing. These shows are not mere educational throwaways; they're everything you would expect from the creative minds at Group Tac, capturing them at the height of their powers in the studio's stylistically more flexible early days.

The first TV show produced by Tac after MNMB was an adaptation of Huckleberry Finn (1976) directed by Hiroyoshi Mitsunobu. This series was the product of Fuji TV wanting to expand its lineup of animated adaptations of western literature or 'meisaku' anime, but Nippon Animation being at full capacity already. Fuji TV asked film distributor Herald, and Herald in turn appointed Group Tac to the task on the merit of the Jack and the Beanstalk film they had produced for Herald shortly prior. The series did not have good ratings and was canceled early, and Tac was never asked to do another Fuji TV show.

Mainichi Broadcasting, on the other hand, was happy with the ratings of Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi, which led to them getting Tac to produce two shows in a similar vein that carried on the 'manga' nomenclature: Manga Ijin Monogatari (1977-1978) and Manga Kodomo Bunko (1978-1979).

Other studios caught on and promptly copied the educational 'manga' format with shows such as Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi (Dax, 1976-1979), Manga Nihon Emaki (World Television, 1977-1978), Manga Hajimete Monogatari (Dax, 1978-1984), Manga Isoppu Monogatari (Nippon Animation, 1983) and Manga Nihonshi (Tsuchida Production, 1983-1984). But where Tac's two shows carried on the artistic and creator-centric approach of MNMB, many of these copycats were merely opportunistic children's pap piggybacking on Tac's example, and have little artistic merit.

'Manga' in this context was of course used to signify 'animated' and not comic books. At this period they still referred to TV animation as 'terebi manga' and animated movies as 'manga eiga'. This usage must have died out around this time.

Unfortunately neither of these shows are currently available in Japan, nor I assume anywhere else. It's a shame. Although definitely for children, they're still visually appealing after all these years and their more compact scale makes them more suited to a DVD release than the MNMB, and even the MNMB has gotten a partial DVD release. Manga Ijin Monogatari at least got a partial VHS release at one point, but that is long gone and the show's delicate visuals would benefit immensely from a pristine transfer. In the case of Huck Finn this may be impossible. It seems that the original stock of the TV show may have been lost in the process of editing together a movie version in the early 1990s. Normally nothing of this sort happened with Manga Ijin Monogatari or Manga Kodomo Bunko, so it would be great if these could see the light of day sometime.

Manga Ijin Monogatari or Animated Tales of Great People (1977-1978)

Clockwise from top left: Alfred Nobel, Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel and Robert Koch

MIM is self-explanatory: it tells the story of great historical figures, two 10-minute stories per episode, just like MNMB. Despite telling stories all inspired by reality, the style is never anything close to realistic. Whimsical and imaginative animation is the order of the day. The episodes are like picture books come to life, favoring free-wheeling and playful invention over real-world linear narratives. The stories are thus almost never straight-faced and textbook dry, but rather embellish the stories however necessary to make them entertaining. You can clearly see the hand of the artist interpreting the tales. Their interpretation is the whole point. That's why this series is still worth watching almost 40 years later. Otherwise it would just be another one of the scores of unremarkable educational children's animation made in the decades since.

One of the identifying traits of Group Tac is striking use of sound effects and music. The creativity of Group Tac co-founder and audio director Atsumi Tashiro in this role is presumably to thank for this. MIM is a classic example of how Group Tac's musical creativity helped set its shows apart. The show not only looks but also sounds like no other show out there due to the novel idea to use synthesizer music by synth pioneer Shoji Osamu. Although at moments the primitive synth can sound dated, Shoji Osamu has a remarkable range and isn't limited to cheap imitations of conventional arrangements. The score is quite powerful when it uses the unique capabilities of the synth to create eerie and otherworldly sounds.

The director of the series is Masakazu Higuchi, an ex-Mushi Pro figure who worked at Group Tac between 1975 and 1979 on all of Tac's omnibus shows of this period. The producer is MNMB producer Mikio Nakata and the art director is MNMB regular Koji Abe. The episode directors, animators and artists are a mix of MNMB faces and new faces.

Masakazu Higuchi obviously used his connections to bring in people he knew. In my recent MNMB post I noted how Masakazu Higuchi is the one who invited Studio Arrow's Susumu Shiraume onto the show (his first job was animating episode 35 directed by Masakazu Higuchi). For MIM he got Studio Arrow's Isamu Kumada to animate the show's two openings in the shrewd realization that someone with expertise in ad work was a perfect candidate to produce a catchy opening. I haven't seen the second, but the first is quite lovely and unlike any other anime opening out there (watch). His ad man expertise is evident in the op's economy of means, with its Steinberg-esque line figures and striking minimalistic visual schemes. In spirit it feels closer to the experimental films of the Animation Sannin no Kai than to typical anime.

Susumu Shiraume of course is also present as an episode director. I've only seen his Alfred Nobel episode, but it has the same pleasing animation style as can be seen in his early MNMB work. The character drawing style is closer to something like a cross between Yellow Submarine and Peanuts than to anime. Sharply designed shots like the one of the generals pictured above betray his experience in ad work and working on Topcraft foreign co-productions.

The series is also unique for its creative title cards. The title cards for each episode of MNMB were all done by Hideo Takagu, who also handled the main titles for MIM (pictured above). Normally he was to handle the title cards for MIM, but Masakazu Higuchi convinced the studio to let him do the title cards himself because he had creative ideas for each title card that he wanted to use. Higuchi's title cards each adopt a different visual scheme relevant to the story at hand. It's a nice little touch that adds to the overall impression of the show being very much a handmade product, with careful thought put into what visuals would be appropriate for each figure. For example, the Hans Christian Andersen episode has the letters of his name float down like snowflakes to remind of The Little Match Girl, and the Gregor Mendel episode has peas pop out of a pod and spell out his name. You can see an image of each title on Higuchi's own home page here along with their original pencil designs. (The page also has a lot of his design sheets for MNMB and MKB.)

A nice surprise in the recent reboot of Cosmos was the use of animation to tell the stories of several historical scientific figures, which it did by dramatizing the key moments of their lives. MIM also devotes a large proportion of its episode to scientific figures. Also included are writers, composers and painters who are obvious choices. The series' Japanese origin is evident in the large proportion of Japanese figures. Lacking are more contemporary figures, religious leaders, or otherwise divisive figures. Gandhi is a glaring omission. I thought initially they were put off by all the massacres that are unavoidable in describing his life, but then they do an episode about the deadliest mass murderer in history, Genghis Khan. The laudable omission of other commonly glorified military figures such as Napoleon is less impressive in this light.

One odd name in the list is Babe Ruth. If it doesn't seem to fit in, it's because it was the pilot episode produced before chief director Masakazu Higuchi came onboard. The rest of the list is fairly more 'serious' in its choices (only scientific and artistic figures, no athletes or movie stars or the like), although his inclusion does say something about his popularity in the 1970s.

The series' asset is that it isn't primarily concerned with education, but with visual creativity. This is mostly a good thing, but has a downside. Some of the stories focus on entertainment to the point of obscuring the historical figure's importance. The episode about Wilhelm Roentgen, the winner of the first Nobel Prize in physics for discovering X-Rays, for example, uses a cute mouse character to summarize the discovery, but goes overboard and borders on becoming an episode of Tom and Jerry. The episode about Thomas Edison focuses on his childhood and only briefly mentions his later inventions as a closing afterthought.

The more satisfying episodes manage to effectively convey the figure's importance by dint of the good artistry of their directors and animators, of which a few examples are highlighted below.

Episode #42a: Helen Keller directed by Katsui/Higuchi/Abe

Helen Keller's story is well known and a staple of this kind of show. I was prepared to shrug the episode off as emotionally manipulative schmaltz, but instead I found it honestly and truly moving. The episode went beyond the call of duty in visually dramatizing her plight as a child. I found the episode to be great visual storytelling. A succession of poetic and creative visual schemes are used to represent her isolation and loneliness and the gradual discovery of meaning in the world around her.

For example, in one shot, prior to Helen discovering the meaning of words, a small child sits immobile at a desk in the center of the screen. Dwarfed by her surroundings, the seasons come and go. Children run around playing, and couples blithely walk around on Sunday strolls in their finery. Later, when she discovers the meaning of words, Helen is represented as a wind-up doll walking blindly through a dark room full of abstract shapes, eventually bumping into one and falling on her side. It's a striking visual expression of her powerlessness.

The episode was co-directed, unusually, by a trio: animator Chikao Katsui, series director Masakazu Higuchi and art director Koji Abe. The designs and animation were by Toshiyasu Okada, one of the great unknown animators of the 1970s. (I talked about him a bit in my post on Bannertail.) I'm not sure how the collaboration between the three directors worked, but obviously pitting their collective creativity is what produced such a visually dense episode. The other episodes have more of the quality of a personal creation, with commensurately less of the deliberate and honed quality that comes of the collaborative process. Even though the designs are not particularly realistic or appealing, and are somewhat blandly generic, the animation never feels cheap or inadequate. The episode isn't about animation grandstanding or realistic movement. It's a great example of Mushi Pro-school image-based storytelling.

Shoji Osamu's scoring of this episode is also very effective. His music is at its most dissonant and abstract during the early parts of the episode, and gradually shifts in tone towards more harmonic and melodic sounds as Helen's world opens up. The score is a big part of why the episode is so affecting.

The episode also appears to use Helen Keller's actual writing to narrate the events, which helps to make the episode work. Even in translation the quality of her writing comes through. Jun Sogabe often receives credit for "bungei" in this series. I'm not positive what this entails, but I've translated it as dialogue, to contrast with the episodes in which someone is credited with the more conventional term "kyakuhon". A bungei credit would mean that a plot was written and dialogue was adapted from the source material, whereas a kyakuhon credit would mean the scriptwriter came up with everything himself as would be the case in a conventional scenario. For example, MNMB writer Shuji Hirami is credited with script for the Hans Christian Andersen episode I've outlined next.

Episode #27b: Hans Christian Andersen directed by Tsutomu Shibayama

This episode takes a very different tack from the previous. This episode is an original story based in the real world, featuring an elderly Hans Christian Andersen as the protagonist. He has come to a Mediterranean port city somewhere in Italy on vacation. He notices a young boy waiting on the steps below his window each day. He discovers that the boy is waiting for his father, a seaman, to return home, refusing to believe the news that he was killed. Andersen comforts the boy with by relating the story of a boy named Hans who overcame loss as a young boy by holding out hope and using his creativity to translate adversity into stories.

Andersen apparently traveled to Italy often during his lifetime, the last time at age 67, 3 years before death in 1875. Shuji Hirami must have built up the story around this factual nugget. It's easy enough to dramatise Andersen's stories, but to come up with a way of conveying Andersen's achievement that isn't merely didactic is more of a challenge. The 1971 Mushi Pro TV series Andersen Monogatari animated the stories, while the 1968 Toei version of the same name wove the stories together into a single story, turning Andersen into a kind of Mary Poppins character.

Shuji Hirami's approach is a more low-key and tasteful way of depicting Andersen's legacy. Before his death, an elderly Andersen looks back on his life work through the lens of a chance encounter with a younger version of himself. The message is subtle and not overly sentimental: Creating stories can help us overcome and find meaning.

The narrative style of this episode is more conventional than the Helen Keller episode, which was abstract of necessity to depict Helen's world of darkness and silence. Here, instead, characters are grounded in a specific locale. A few deft establishing shots depict the fishing port environs and its inhabitants. The framing of shots and cutting is more cinematic. Short interludes interrupt the narrative illustrating Andersen's stories in a more colorful and stylized way. Ajia-Do's Tsutomu Shibayama does a fantastic job with the material. His drawings are delectable, as they all are at this period in his career, thanks to great layouts and a brilliant sense of stylization.

The style of the characters is basically in line with the other episodes, but Shibayama's visuals are more technically proficient than most of the other episodes. The characters have the usual bulging, rounded forms, with hatch mark accents here and there. For the section relating the story of the little match girl, he switches to a stark black and red color scheme with flattened perspective and stylized forms like silhouette animation. The ugly duckling section features highly stylized bird forms and scribbly but colorful crayon drawings of vegetation for the backgrounds. Shibayama produced probably his best short-form work for Group Tac on their omnibus series of the late 1970s.

Episode #11b: Vincent van Gogh directed by Hisashi Sakaguchi

The turbulent life of Vincent van Gogh is told in one of the show's most dynamic and intense episodes. Gogh's tempestuous character comes through vividly in this adaptation by the late great manga-ka Hisashi Sakaguchi.

This episode makes for another great contrast with the previous two episodes, indicating the breadth of MIM's graphical and storytelling styles. The pace here is fast and the atmosphere intense. The narrative covers Gogh's entire life from childhood to suicide, and of course dramatizing the events that led to him cutting off his own ear. In the short span of a few minutes the episode does a remarkable job of making us understand the state of mind that led him to make that decision.

The episode also clearly shows how his little brother Theo supported him throughout his life. In someone else's hands, the suicide might have been skipped over, but Sakaguchi knows it's the only possible ending to his story. The scene is depicted tastefully, without being lurid. We see Gogh painting amidst fields of gold. Suddenly, a shot rings out, and crows are startled into the sky. Gogh's own painting of crows flying in a golden field pans across the screen, as if he had captured in painting the last beautiful sight of his life. This episode is a case of an already moving and tragic story with inherent dramatic potential, given the kind of dramatization that does it justice.

The drawings are particularly interesting. The lines are extremely loose. I don't think there's a single straight line in the entire episode. This seems to evoke Gogh's style, without mimicking it, as if everything in Gogh's vicinity were expressively deformed by the intensity of his passion. The animation by Izumi Watanabe is not particularly remarkable, and is in fact somewhat crude, but is a perfect match with the loose background drawings, which often are drawn in the style of his paintings. The design of Gogh himself is perfect - recognizable and yet loose and free.

Hisashi Sakaguchi had a poetic and romantic sensibility that is a perfect match with Gogh. He joined Mushi Pro and worked under Tezuka on all of the classic Tezuka shows of the 1960s starting with Atom and began drawing manga on the side in 1969. Around 1980 he began to devote himself exclusively to manga. His work blended the humanistic passion of Tezuka's manga with the more modern graphic sensibility of new wave manga-kas like Katsuhiro Otomo.

Sakaguchi was high school friends with Masakazu Higuchi, and is in fact the one who invited Higuchi to Mushi Pro after Higuchi had quit Tatsunoko in 1966. The two worked together for a few years before Higuchi quit Mushi Pro and the two went their own way. Many years later, for his debut as a series director, Higuchi called on his old friend to help him out directing a few episodes of his show. The episodes he turned in, from what I've sampled, are brilliant without exception. It makes me wish he could have done more instead of focusing exclusively on manga.

Series director Masakazu Higuchi himself had aspirations of becoming a manga-ka since the beginning, and in the late 1980s shifted towards manga. These are but two examples - many of the early Mushi Pro figures in fact drew manga at Mushi Pro, including Hideaki Kitano, Moribi Murano, Masaki Mori and of course Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Even Osamu Dezaki drew a manga version of Goku's Big Adventure in 1967 for Mushi Pro's famous COM magazine.

Thus this episode captures the dual nature of the ex-Mushi Pro figures, whose creative wiring was a seamless blend of manga and animated expression. The result is some of the most graphically pleasing and dynamic animation of the period.

Incidentally, Hisashi Sakaguchi did his episodes of MIM from his artist collective Garakuta (meaning rubbish), which is credited with the animation in his four other MIM episodes. This is the only time an animator (Izumi Watanabe) was credited by name. The two later married.

As for Hisashi Sakaguchi's other episodes, I've only seen the Gregor Mendel episode, but I can confirm that it is equally brilliant. Hisashi Sakaguchi is one of the few people I've found to have an instinctive understanding of animated expression on par with Osamu Dezaki. He was otherwise not very prolific due to his focus on manga. MIM wound up being one of the few places he had the opportunity to create films from the bottom up. His episodes make me wish he'd had more opportunities in animation. It's high time this tragically short-lived genius got his due.

Manga Kodomo Bunko or Animated Classics of Children's Literature (1978-1979)

Clockwise from top left: The Lily of the Valley, The Friend's Dog, The Fox's Window, The 5 Sen Coin

A new omnibus series from Group Tac started without pause after the end of MIM, this time adapting classics of Japanese children's literature. The director this time was Tsuneo Maeda, who had just handed over the reins of MNMB to Mitsuo Kobayashi. The producer was MNMB's other producer, Ippei Onimaru. The audio director remained, as in all Tac productions, Atsumi Tashiro.

Even moreso than MIM, this series is a beautiful series with tremendous stylistic variety and quality work by talented animators. It has broad appeal and deserves more recognition than it has received. However, it is reported that the original prints of the show may have been lost, which does not bode well for its revival.

Due to the different main staff, and of course the different requirements of the material, the tone and style of Manga Kodomo Bunko is quite different, more realistic than the very cartoony and light-hearted MIM. Many of the stories take place in the early part of the 20th century in rural Japan, and the series has something of a nostalgic, elegiac, bucolic quality. The visuals are earthy, refined, painterly in a way that reminds of MNMB - just without the fantastic elements, and with more sophisticated stories.

The series is steeped in the atmosphere of Taisho-era Japan. It feels like a 1920s children's book come to life, with its simple, rounded characters and pre-modern vision of a simpler Japanese life. Specifically, MKB seems to carry on the spirit of the paintings of artists like Shotaro Honda in the seminal children's magazine Kodomo no Kuni. Even the episodes set in the immediate aftermath of the war still seem pre-war in spirit, as the postwar boom that epitomizes the Showa period had yet to set in.

Visually, the series is a feast of beautiful art thanks to the work of MNMB regulars like Tatsuro Kadoya, Koji Abe and Kadono Mariko. Most of the stories are realistic stories about the everyday life of children in Japan in the early part of the 20th century such as The Lily of the Valley and The 50 Sen Coin (pictured at left above), but there are also a few stories about the war such as the magnificent Song of Hiroshima and The Escaped Monkey, and a few more fantastical stories such as The Adventures of Rainbow Cat and The Fox's Window. This makes for a good variety, and keeps the series from becoming too one-note.

The staff each bring a completely different style to each story. Shinichi Tsuji shines with his more formalistic and highly stylized work in the show. Ajia-Do's Tsutomu Shibayama and Osamu Kobayashi create some of their best work of the period in MKB. I've highlighted an episode of each of the latter three below. Even the less technically noteworthy episodes by directors such as Norio Yazawa, who has less of a striking style, remain eminently enjoyable due to the classy style, and the great stories by well-known authors such as Yuzo Yamamoto, Sakae Tsuboi and Takeo Arishima as well as many that I'd never heard of. Reportedly at least some of these stories were culled from the pages of The Red Bird, so it seems probable that Shin-Ei Doga took the idea for their 1979 Heart of the Red Bird series from Group Tac's Manga Kodomo Bunko.

There are even a few surprise faces in the bunch, such as the Shingo Araki-Himeno Michi duo, whose cute drawings of the rambunctious children of The Pee Inari (#18b) work very well against the beautiful bamboo forest paintings of Kazunori Shimomichi. Tatsuro Kadoya similarly produces gorgeous paintings of the countryside in the Brothers episode (#13b). MIM director Masakazu Higuchi directs a few episodes, bringing a notably more retro and cartoonish style to his characters in The Town without a Clock (#11b). His whimsical and colorful Rainbow Cat episode (#42b) is a delight and a real change from the more realistic episodes.

Atsumi Tashiro is presumably the one responsible for the remarkable musical scores that grace both shows. The previous series had benefited from a novel synth music score, and this time they did something equally daring and creative, but going in a different direction. Usually a TV series will have a single person scoring it. To match the omnibus format with different authors being adapted by different staff groupings, this time they called in ten famous modern classical composers to each produce an individual score for each episode.

Composers called in include: Noda Teruyuki, Katsuhiro Tsubono, Shigeaki Saegusa, Tokuhide Niimi, Roh Ogura, Koichi Sugiyama, Komei Hayama, Akihiro Komori, Michio Kitazume and Seiji Yokoyama. Some of these were involved in anime later such as Shigeaki Saegusa (Gundam ZZ), Koichi Sugiyama (Ideon) and Komori Akihiro (Jacky the Bearcub), but many of these are pure classical composers with a harshly dissonant modern style that is at odds with the usual harmonic world of anime. Many of the pieces were played by the Tokyo Quintet, so you can listen to the Tokyo Quintet performing a piece by Noda Teruyuki and a piece by Katsuhiro Tsubono to get a sense of the thoroughly uncompromisingly modernist music these guys produced for MKB.

The scores they produced are some of the most remarkable I've heard in anime. They're so good that it's a shame they haven't been released separately so they can be appreciated on their own. The notable thing is that the scores aren't used as 'accompaniment' in the typical way; they're actual 10-minute pieces of music that play continuously in the background from start to finish, without moments of silence. This gives the episodes a more sophisticated atmosphere than the episodes might otherwise have had.

Among the best of these scores are the solo scores, as this heightens the impact of the music. Episode #1a The Fox is a great story to begin with, about a group of children who go out one night to a festival and fear that one of the kids may have been possessed by a kitsune, and features an incredible marimba score, although I don't know who scored this one. Episode #1b The Festival Kimono features a great solo flute score by Teruyuki Noda to accompany a story about two beggar children who get adopted by a temple. Seiichiro Uno produced a beautiful solo piano score for episode #2a The Lily of the Valley to match the story about a girl who sneaks into a school to play piano at night.

These early episodes with solo scores are perhaps the pinnacle of Group Tac's early work of this period, in the sense that they are the ultimate expression of the 'solo' approach pioneered by MNMB, in which one person handles each creative task. Add to this the fact that the great Kyoko Kishida performed all of the voices in the first season and you have probably one of the most extreme solo anime of all time.

Indicating how important the musical aspect is to this series, the composer and performer/soloist are credited alongside the director, animator and artist at the beginning of each episode. They were part of the creative team, not merely there to provide accompanying tunes.

It seems the station may not have liked the modern music, though, because from season 3 onwards Seiichiro Uno did the music for every episode in a more conventional style. Although he is a great composer (he did fantastic work on Goku's Big Adventure in 1967), it's a huge change and a step down in the musical quality. The show feels more conventional afterwards. The first season therefore seems to capture the show at its height. (which is not to say there weren't great episodes produced later)

The opening is a beautiful and strange creation directed by Gisaburo Sugii, animated by Tsuneo Maeda, with art by Mihoko Magori. (watch) The series is notable for having 12 different endings, one for each month. Again, each is by a different composer. This is yet another indication of the unusual amount of effort that went into the musical side of things for this show.

Episode #43a: Song of Hiroshima directed by Osamu Kobayashi

One of the most moving stories in the series is given a convincingly cinematic treatment by Osamu Kobayashi.

A man is seen riding a train. He reminisces that he is on his way to meet a girl whom he has met twice before in his life: once when he saved her as an infant from the arms of her dying mother after the atomic bombing on August 6, 1945, and the second time seven years ago when he was summoned by a missing person announcement on the radio. It turns out the woman who summoned him is the one to whom he had handed the child that day in desperation. She had raised the child as her own, naming her Hiroko after the daughter she lost that day. Hiroko grew up ignorant of the events of that day, or what happened to her mother.

The story is based on Sukeyuki Imanishi's experiences as a soldier sent to Hiroshima to provide emergency relief on the day after the bombing. This is possibly one of the first treatments of the atomic bombings in anime, pre-dating the anime version of Barefoot Gen by four years.

This story doesn't focus on the bombing itself but uses it as a backdrop to tell a story about the country's recovery following the war. The innocent little girl represents hope that a new generation untouched by the events of the war will bring life back to the decimated country. The Genbaku Dome is an everpresent reminder in the backdrop throughout the episode's three time periods: on the day after the bombing, seven years later when the narrator tells Hiroko's new mother what happened, and ten years afterwards when he meets the 17 year old Hiroko to tell her about her past. After discovering Hiroko on that day, the narrator's first assignment was rebuilding the train station. 17 years later he meets Hiroko at the pristine new train station that shows no sign of the past.

Osamu Kobayashi displays a mastery of film language here that clearly presages his shift towards directing. His formal, tasteful layouts seem like they could have been framed by a lens, and go a long way towards giving the story its requisite gravitas. The film feels very realistic despite his character drawings being loose and far from photorealistic thanks to his brilliantly timed animation. He had a unique genius for stylizing the body and facial expressions with a minimum of lines and yet making the characters feel real. None of the other directors in the show would have been capable of doing this story justice.

The art by Tetsufumi Oyama has a reduced palette that not only conveys the grayness of the aftermath, but also gives the episode a more cinematic feeling.

Episode #20a Stuck on a Cliff is equally brilliant in terms of showcasing Kobayashi's remarkable talent as a director as well as his unique style of cartoonish yet somehow realistic animation. The montage sequence where the children are playing around has an almost documentary detachment and attention to detail. The drawings of the children swimming around at the beginning are brilliant snapshots that capture their lanky bodies thrashing about with a sketchbook realism. The shot around 6 minutes in where the boy walks towards the cliff and starts climbing is drawn with a spare rate that appears to be 3s or 4s, but the timing of the movement is completely realistic, and the poses all natural and believable. You sense a kind of proto-full limited in his work of this period. Kobayashi will mix up the frame rate dynamically depending on the shot. Walking "follow" shots in Song of Hiroshima, in contrast, are in 2s to convey a more cinematic feeling.

Even the strangely shaped, blobby heads feel somehow caricatural, and not randomly shaped out of laziness or lack of drawing skill. Every character in Osamu Kobayashi's episodes feels like an individual. Tsutomu Shibayama was also a brilliant caricaturist, but his style of caricature was more technical and detailed, more about precise comic exaggeration of feature elements. Osamu Kobayashi manages to capture a person's essence in just a few broad and loose strokes.

Episode #3a The Escaped Monkey is one of the other good wartime stories. It starts out looking like a lighthearted story about monkeys in a zoo but turns into a wrenching observation of the misery of homeless children. The monkey escapes from the zoo, but sees the terrible life the kids are living on the outside, and returns to the zoo realizing he has it better in the zoo. Chikao Katsui directs and Toshiyasu Okada animates.

Episode #18a: The Red Shoes directed by Tsutomu Shibayama

A boy named Hiroshi is playing baseball with his friends one evening when the ball goes flying into the bushes and falls into someone's yard. His friend warns him that the place is haunted, but he goes in anyway and meets a little blond-haired girl named Marie. They become friends, and Hiroshi finds out that her parents passed away just a month ago, and she lets a red balloon go every day with a letter attached for her parents in heaven. One day he goes over to play and finds out that she has been taken by her uncle on a ship to go back with him to the US.

Obviously, this is not based on Andersen's famous story. This is one of the episodes that is actually based on an old children's song rather than a story, in this case a song written in 1922 about a girl with red shoes taken away by a foreigner on a boat. Tsutomu Shibayama expands this fragment into a sad, beautiful little story about friendship between a boy and a girl of different cultures.

What makes the episode truly unforgettable is the stunning visuals. This is one of the most highly stylized of the show's episodes, every shot a striking composition fit for framing - from the eerie house in the woods surrounded by the black outlines of tall trees, to the abstract black shapes of the tankers and cranes against the sunset-red water, to the graveyard through which Hiroshi runs on his way to the port to say farewell to Marie. Shibayama's mastery of layout is on full display here, backed up by the beautiful art of Mariko Kadono.

The episode uses its simple visual scheme to create some clever visual tricks, such as when Hiroshi is looking for his ball in the grass, and we see a shot of the red setting sun beside a black outline of a tree. A little later, we see the same shot again, but the sun suddenly rises quickly, and the little girl steps out from behind the tree. What we thought was the setting sun was in fact her red balloon.

Helping to make the episode work is a lovely score by Akihiro Komori that starts out with a children's choir singing the first verse of the song itself. The music then goes on to use the melody as thematic material throughout the episode, making for a through-conceived episode. This score was clearly written closely tied to the visuals, unlike the early scores which come across as being independent compositions that don't directly comment on the twists and turns of the narrative in the conventional sense.

Tsutomu Shibayama directed/animated at least five other episodes for the show, so he was quite busy with Group Tac shows around this time, presumably returning to MNMB after taking time off to focus on Manga Ijin Monogatari and Manga Kodomo Bunko.

Episode #25a The Fancy Dragonfly is a pure fantasy with pared down visuals and cartoonish insect designs that plays out like an Aesop's fable. Episode #45b The Cow Thief is another brilliantly stylized episode about a bumbling cow thief who winds up leading the cow back to its own home. Episode #50a The Rail Car is an enigmatic story about a boy who sets out on a trip by rail car but finds it takes him far from home. Episode #34b The Musical Clock is a more realistic tale that follows a man and a young boy walking along a dark pre-dawn road. Episode #40b The Snowy Wharf is a dark tale about a group of homeless children living in a shanty on the wharf in the immediate aftermath of the war.

All of these episodes are brilliant episodes to be expected of Shibayama, but The Musical Clock and The Snowy Wharf in particular are two of the show's best episodes for their combination of visual prowess and subtle literary sensibility. Whereas many of the show's stories are understandably childish, with a simplistic thematic treatment that can lack depth for an adult viewer, these two episodes are among the more satisfyingly morally complex and gritty. They go in the opposite direction of the more purely visuals-oriented The Red Shoes and The Fancy Dragonfly, showing that Shibayama wasn't limited to picture-book style abstract visual animation. He could handle realistic material just as well. Both stories deal with challenging subjects in a classy and tasteful way.

The Musical Clock is a realistic but somewhat formal morality play of innocence versus guilt. It all takes place in the span of a walk one morning before dawn. A man and a boy meet on the road and converse along the way. The man seems jittery and evasive. As the episode progresses, we begin to suspect that the man is a thief, but the boy remains oblivious to this in his innocence. The beauty of the episode is in how we can follow the man's train of thought at every step of the way as he gradually comes to regret his actions. It comes across as one of the most psychologically probing episodes as a result. It could be my imagination, but Seiichiro Uno's score for this episode seems to quote the Dies Irae, which if it does is a brilliant touch that underscores the themes of doing the right thing or being judged for ones misdeeds.

The Snowy Wharf tells of a woman who visits a group of orphaned children who huddle together in the cold in a shack by the wharf. The episode features devastatingly beautiful visuals of the deprivation of that period. The episode opens with a image that succinctly conveys the setting and situation in the most effortless way imaginable: a faucet juts out from a pile of rubble, the ocean in the background, dripping water into an overturned army helmet. The setting is a port city in postwar Japan, and the overturned helmet placed there by some desperate soul symbolizes how that era was a struggle to survive amid the chaos of devastated infrastructure and lack of material goods.

Ajia-do actually receives an assistance credit in the ending credits, indicating how valuable Osamu Kobayashi and Tsutomu Shibayama were to the show. Their episodes are easily the best in the whole show.

Episode #8a: The Illusionist directed by Shinichi Tsuji

The Illusionist is based on a story by literary master Ryunosuke Akutagawa about a man who falls prey to a hypnotist's powers without realizing it.

This episode is like a woodblock print come to life. It has one of the most original and confidently executed visual schemes of the series. The backgrounds are full of the telltale hatch marks of a wood carving, and the characters are also drawn with hatch marks as shadows. The animation is spare 5s or 6s most of the time, and character movement is slow and limited to small motions.

Director/animator Shinichi Tsuji draws the characters in a very stiff, clean way with thick, solid lines. It makes them seem like porcelain dolls. His characters are the diametric opposite of Osamu Kobayashi's dynamic and loosely drawn characters. The story is set smack in the middle of Taisho-era Japan in 1920, so everything is a curious mixture of traditional and modern - rickshaws and automobiles, kimonos and bowler hats. The architecture and furnishings all have a somewhat Victorian feeling. On top of that, the protagonist is an Indian national dressed like a Maharajah, so overall the episode feels very exotic in a disorienting way that is a good match with the mystical subject matter.

The story at first seems to simply be about magic, but its on closer inspection it appears to be a metaphorical tale cautioning against Japan's greedy haste to adopt western appurtenances. At the time, Japan was flush with wealth after choosing the winning side in W.W. I, but India wasn't so lucky. It participated in the war on the promise of independence, but the promise wasn't kept. The protagonist of this episode is actually an Indian freedom fighter named Hassan who uses Japan as his base of operation. Magic just happens to be his hobby. He promises to teach his Japanese friend some magic on the condition that he swears to not use it for personal gain. Hassan then hypnotizes his guest and makes him see a dream in which he is tempted to go against his vow. He finally succumbs to the temptation, and realizes that his greed is too strong.

Shinichi Tsuji is another ex-Mushi Pro figure who has been a regular in Gisaburo Sugii's films, being listed at the top of the animation credits in movies as far separated in time as Belladonna (1973) and Stormy Night (2005). He is perhaps best known as the director of the delicate fantasy The Star of Cottonland (1984). He has also been involved with Nippon Animation productions on and off over the years.

Shinichi Tsuji made several other episodes for MKB, and they all benefit from his unique storybook drawing sensibility, with its clean, elegant, refined shapes. Episode #38b The Echoing Shoes in particular is a pleasing fantasy episode that looks very different from everything else in the show with its castles, princess and bright primary colors, almost like a western fairy tale.


Unfortunately the credits below are incomplete because only a handful of the episodes have been uploaded online. Hopefully if the shows ever get a proper release I will be able to complete these credit listings.


まんが偉人物語 Animated Tales of Great People
Group Tac, 1977-1978, 46 episodes (2 stories per episode)

Chief Director:樋口雅一Masakazu Higuchi
Art Director:阿部幸次Koji Abe
Music:東海林修Osamu Shoji
Audio Director:田代敦巳Atsumi Tashiro
Producer:中田実紀雄Mikio Nakata
1a: The Wright Brothers
1b: Babe Ruth
2a: Ludwig van Beethoven
2b: Isaac Newton
Concept & StructureDialogueArtAnimation
殿河内勝
Masaru Tonogochi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
阿部幸次
Koji Abe
槌田幸一
Koichi Tsuchida
3a: Amundsen & Scott
3b: Florence Nightingale
4a: Thomas Alva Edison
Concept & StructureDialogueArtAnimation
やすみ哲夫
Tetsuo Yasumi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
サキ・スタジオ
Saki Studio
細谷秋夫
Akio Hosotani
4b: Ryokan
5a: Alfred Nobel
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
殿河内勝
Masaru Tonogochi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
仔羊館
House of Lambs
白梅進
Susumu Shiraume
5b: Benjamin Franklin
6a: Marco Polo
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
近藤英輔
Eisuke Kondo
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
大山哲史
Tetsufumi Oyama
槌田幸一
Koichi Tsuchida
6b: Hokusai Katsushika
7a: Heinrich Schliemann
7b: Paul Gaugin
8a: Tomitaro Makino
8b: Christopher Columbus
9a: Leonardo da Vinci
9b: Louis Pasteur
10a: Samuel Morse
10b: Matsuo Basho
11a: Johannes Gutenberg
11b: Vincent van Gogh
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
坂口尚
Hisashi Sakaguchi
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
西村邦子
Kazuko Nishimura
渡辺いずみ
Izumi Watanabe
12a: Edward Jenner
12b: Alexander the Great
13a: Alexander Graham Bell
13b: David Livingstone
14a: Robert Koch
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
殿河内勝
Masaru Tonogochi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
秋保富恵
Tomie Akiu
細谷秋夫
Akio Hosotani
14b: Auguste Rodin
Concept, Directing & AnimationDialogueArt
白梅進
Susumu Shiraume
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
仔羊館
House of Lambs
15a: James Watt
15b: Unkei
16a: Genghis Khan
16b: Madame Curie
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
殿河内勝
Masaru Tonogochi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
宮川一男
Kazuo Miyakawa
細谷秋夫
Akio Hosotani
17a: Galilei Galieo
StructureConcept & DialogueArtAnimation
勝井千賀雄
Chikao Katsui
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
サキ・スタジオ
Saki Studio
槌田幸一
Koichi Tsuchida
17b: Charles Darwin
Concept & StructureDialogueArtAnimation
光延博愛
Hiroyoshi Mitsunobu
鈴木良武
Yoshitake Suzuki
阿部幸次
Koji Abe
岡田敏靖
Toshiyasu Okada
18a: Jean-Henri Fabre
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
こはなわためお
Tameo Kohanawa
鈴木良武
Yoshitake Suzuki
仔羊館
House of Lambs
福田皖
Kiyomu Fukuda
18b: Koizumi Yakumo
19a: Ikkyu
19b: Ferdinand Magellan
20a: Stephen Foster
20b: Gregor Mendel
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
坂口尚
Hisashi Sakaguchi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
西村邦子
Kazuko Nishimura
我楽苦他
Garakuta
21a: Sanzo Hoshi
21b: Captain Cook
22a: Sakamoto Ryoma
22b: Wilhelm Roentgen
Concept, Directing & AnimationDialogueArt
渋谷哲夫
Tetsuo Shibuya
鈴木良武
Yoshitake Suzuki
石津節子
Setsuko Ishizu
23a: Kinjiro Ninomiya
23b: Kobayashi Issa
24a: Yukichi Fukuzawa
DirectingScriptArtAnimation
四辻たかお
Takao Yotsuji
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
大山哲史
Tetsufumi Oyama
内海勇夫
Isao Naikai
24b: Jean-Francois Millet
25a: Hideyo Noguchi
Concept, Directing & AnimationDialogueArt
山崎和夫
Kazuo Yamazaki
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
宮本清司
Kiyoshi Miyamoto
25b: Nicolaus Copernicus
Concept, Directing & AnimationDialogueArt
殿河内勝
Masaru Tonogochi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
サキ・スタジオ
Saki Studio
26a: The Brothers Grimm
StructureConcept & DialogueArtAnimation
北武
Takeshi Kita
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
石津節子
Setsuko Ishizu
動画工房
Doga Kobo
26b: George Stephenson
27a: Shibasaburo Kitazato
27b: Hans Christian Andersen
Directing & AnimationScriptArt
柴山努
Tsutomu Shibayama
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
シンエイ動画
Shin-Ei Doga
28a: Abraham Lincoln
28b: Ganjin
29a: Sugita Genpaku
29b: Fridtjof Nansen
30a: Robert Fulton
30b: Archimedes
31a: Auguste Picard
31b: Utagawa Hiroshige
32a: Sesshu
32b: Miguel de Cervantes
33a: Ernest Thompson Seton
Concept, Directing & AnimationDialogueArt
白梅進
Susumu Shiraume
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
大山哲史
Tetsufumi Oyama
33b: Li Bai and Du Fu
34a: Natsume Soseki
DirectingConept & DialogueArtAnimation
古沢日出夫
Hideo Furusawa
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
石津節子
Setsuko Ishizu
坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
34b: Yamanoue Okura
35a: George Washington
35b: Higuchi Ichiyo
36a: Mark Twain
36b: Saigyo
37a: John Manjiro
37b: Franz Schubert
38a: Charles Lindberg
DirectingScriptArtAnimation
樋口雅一
Masakazu Higuchi
平見修二
Shuji Hirami
田中資幸
Motoyuki Tanaka
渋谷哲夫
Tetsuo Shibuya
38b: Jigoro Kano
39a: Amadeus Mozart
39b: Katsu Kaishu and Saigo Takamori
40a: Sven Hedin
40b: Johann Pestalozzi
41a: Michelangelo
41b: Konstantin Tsiolkovskiy
42a: Helen Keller
Concept & DirectingDialogueArtAnimation
勝井・樋口・阿部
Katsui, Higuchi, Abe
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
秋保富恵
Tomie Akiu
岡田敏靖
Toshiyasu Okada
42b: Ino Tadataka
43a: Jean Dunant
43b: Inoue Den
44a: Hiraga Gennai
44b: Shotoku Taishi
45a: Socrates
45b: Aoki Kon'yo
46a: Chikamatsu Monzaemon
46b: Murasaki Shikibu
Directing & AnimationConcept & DialogueArt
樋口雅一
Masakazu Higuchi
曽我部絢
Jun Sogabe
阿部幸次
Koji Abe

まんが子供文庫 Animated Classics of Children's Literature
Group Tac, 1978-1979, 51 episodes (2 stories per episode)

Chief Director:前田庸生Tsuneo Maeda
Planning:藤本四郎Shiro Fujimoto
樋口雅一Masakazu Higuchi
Music:宇野誠一郎Seiichiro Uno (credit appears starting season 3)
Audio Director:田代敦巳Atsumi Tashiro
Producer:鬼丸一平Ippei Onimaru
#TITLEDIRECTORANIMATIONART
1a
The fox
1bまつりご
The festival kimono
藤本四郎
Shiro Fujimoto
高橋信也
Shinya Takahashi
下道一範
Kazunori Shimomichi
2a鈴蘭
The lily of the valley
辻伸一
Shinichi Tsuji
亀崎経史
Keiji Kamezaki
2b梅づけの皿
The plate of pickled plums
矢沢則夫
Norio Yazawa
西村邦子
Kazuko Nishimura
3aどうぶつえんからにげたさる
The escaped monkey
勝井千賀雄
Chikao Katsui
岡田敏靖
Toshiyasu Okada
宮川一男
Kazuo Miyakawa
3bおさくの話
Osaku's story
小林三男
Mitsuo Kobayashi
若林常夫
Tsuneo Wakabayashi
小林光代
Mitsuyo Kobayashi
4a月の輪熊
The moon bear
4b子馬は帰りぬ
The pony returns
5aねずみのかくれんぼ
Mouse hide and seek
5b大造爺さんと雁
Old man Daizo and the goose
6aやなぎの糸
The willow thread
矢沢則夫
Norio Yazawa
西村邦子
Kazuko Nishimura
6b牛のよろこび
The cow's joy
藤本四郎
Shiro Fujimoto
高橋信也
Shinya Takahashi
下道一範
Kazunori Shimomichi
7a仁兵衛学校
Nihei school
高橋信也
Shinya Takahashi
若林常夫
Tsuneo Wakabayashi
宮川一男
Kazuo Miyakawa
7b犬と友達
The friend's dog
森田浩光
Hiromitsu Morita
岡田敏靖
Toshiyasu Okada
門屋達郎
Tatsuro Kadoya
8a魔術
The illusionist
辻伸一
Shinichi Tsuji
阿部幸次
Koji Abe
8b決闘
The duel
9aさつまはやと
Hayato Satsuma
9b百姓の夢
The farmer's dream
10a化猫退治
Defeating the monster cat
10b港の少女
The girl by the port
11a空気入れ
Letting air in
11b時計のない村
Town without a clock
樋口雅一
Masakazu Higuchi
大山哲史
Tetsufumi Oyama
12aおもちゃのマーチ
March of the toys
山田みちしろ
Michishiro Yamada
青木稔
Minoru Aoki
12bごんごろ鐘
The bell
森田浩光
Hiromitsu Morita
若林常夫
Tsuneo Wakabayashi
内田好之
Yoshiyuki Uchida
13a少年駅伝夫
The horse-driver boy
辻伸一
Shinichi Tsuji
下道一範
Kazunori Shimomichi
13b兄弟
Brothers
矢沢則夫
Norio Yazawa
門屋達郎
Tatsuro Kadoya
14aどじょっこふなっこ
The loach and the carp
14b梨の実
The pear
15aあめふり
Rain
15b赤いもち白いもち
White and red rice cakes
16aあわて床屋
The hasty barber
16b木馬の夢
Dream of a wooden horse
17a魔法
Magic
17b枝の上のカラス
Crow on a branch
18a赤い靴
The red shoes
柴山努
Tsutomu Shibayama
門野真理子
Mariko Kadono
18bしょんべん稲荷
The "pee" Inari shrine
荒木伸吾
Shingo Araki
姫野美智
Michi Himeno
下道一範
Kazunori Shimomichi
19a三太カッパ退治
Santa defeats a kappa
19b定ちゃんの手紙
Sada's letter
20aぜっぺき
Stuck on a cliff
小林治
Osamu Kobayashi
大山哲史
Tetsufumi Oyama
20b酒屋のワン公
The bar dog
21aけんか
The fight
21bふしぎな山のおじいさん
The old man on the mysterious mountain
22a待ちぼうけ
Tired of waiting
22b梟と幸吉
The owl and Kokichi
23aふしぎなぼうし
The mysterious hat
23bよっぱらい星
The drunk star
24a
The fart
24b片耳の大鹿
The large deer with only one ear
25aおしゃれトンボ
The fancy dragonfly
柴山努
Tsutomu Shibayama
門野真理子
Mariko Kadono
25bなくなった人形
The lost doll
26a一房の葡萄
A bunch of grapes
26b陸軍大将
The army commander
27杜子春
Tsu Te-Chun
28おじいさんのランプ
Grampa's lamp
29a三太子ネコ
Santa and the kitten
29b北風のくれたテーブルかけ
The tablecloth given by the north wind
30a善太漂流記=びんのゆくえ=清坊と三吉
Zenta's travels etc.
31a三日月にぶらさがった男の話
The man who hung on a new moon
31b三匹の小牛
The three calves
32aコーカサスのはげたか
The vulture of the Caucuses
高橋信也
Shinya Takahashi
若林常夫
Tsuneo Wakabayashi
青木稔
Minoru Aoki
32b金色の足あと
The golden footsteps
矢沢則夫
Norio Yazawa
門屋達郎
33a三太物語 三太月世界
Santa's adventures: Santa visits the moon
33b池の鯉
The carp in the lake
34aどこかに生きながら
While living somewhere
高橋信也
Shinya Takahashi
宮川一男
Kazuo Miyakawa
34bうた時計
The musical clock
柴山努
Tsutomu Shibayama
門野真理子
Mariko Kadono
35a多衛門の影
Taemon's shadow
35b大河原三郎右衛門
Genzaburoemon Taiga
36a愛犬カヤ
Kaya the dog
36b清造と沼
Seizo and the swamp
37a火事とポチ
Pochi and the fire
森田浩光
Hiromitsu Morita
門屋達郎
Tatsuro Kadoya
37b小川の葦
The reeds by the creek
藤本四郎
Shiro Fujimoto
若林常夫
Tsuneo Wakabayashi
下道一範
Kazunori Shimomichi
38a三太物語 花萩先生と野球
Santa's adventures: Baseball with Ms. Hanahagi
光延博愛
Hiroyoshi Mitsunobu
上口照人
Teruto Kamiguchi
宮川一男
Kazuo Miyakawa
38b木魂の靴
The echoing shoes
辻伸一
Shinichi Tsuji
阿部幸次
Koji Abe
39a鶴の笛
The crane's flute
河内日出夫
Hideo Kawauchi
石川山子
Yamako Ishikawa
39bくまと車掌
The bear and the brake boy
矢沢則夫
Norio Yazawa
大山哲史
Tetsufumi Oyama
40a村の子
Town children
藤原万秀
Kazuhide Fujiwara
横瀬直土
Naoto Yokose
40b雪のはとば
The snowy wharf
柴山努
Tsutomu Shibayama
門野真理子
Mariko Kadono
41a善太と汽車
Zenta and the train
41b山の小僧
Mountain boy
42a三太物語 三太の動物実験
Santa's adventures: Santa's animal experiments
42b虹猫のぼうけん
The adventures of rainbow cat
樋口雅一
Masakazu Higuchi
若林常夫
Tsuneo Wakabayashi
田中静恵
Shizue Tanaka
43aヒロシマのうた
Song of Hiroshima
小林治
Osamu Kobayashi
大山哲史
Tetsufumi Oyama
43bキンショキショキ
The rice-washing monkey
藤原万秀
Kazuhide Fujiwara
亀崎経史
Keiji Kamezaki
44a五銭の白銅
The 5 sen coin
矢沢則夫
Norio Yazawa
門屋達郎
Tatsuro Kadoya
44bぽけっとの海
Sea in the pocket
高橋信也
Shinya Takahashi
横瀬直土
Naoto Yokose
45aだれも知らない時間
Time nobody knows
なべしまよしつぐ
Yoshitsugu Nabeshima
秋保富恵
Tomie Akiu
45b牛ぬすっと
The cow thief
柴山努
Tsutomu Shibayama
門野真理子
Mariko Kadono
46虎ちゃんの日記
Tora's diary
光延博愛
Hiroyoshi Mitsunobu
前田実・湯川高光
Minoru Maeda & Takamitsu Yukawa
青木稔
Minoru Aoki
47a三太天幕旅行
Santa's camping trip
47b島の太吉
Taikichi on the island
48茂次の登校
Shigeji goes to school
49aにらめっくらの鬼瓦
The staring contest
49bヒゲの生えたモナ・リザ
Mona Lisa's beard
50aトロッコ
The rail car
柴山努
Tsutomu Shibayama
門野真理子
Mariko Kadono
50b港に着いた黒んぼ
The blind flute player
菊田武勝
Takemasa Kikuta
小関俊之
Toshiyuki Ozeki
51a三太物語 三太とチョビ助の病気
Santa's adventures: Santa's dog Chobi gets sick
藤本四郎
Shiro Fujimoto
八幡正
Tadashi Yahata
門屋達郎
Tatsuro Kadoya
51bきつねの窓
The fox's window
殿河内勝
Masaru Tonogochi
馬郡美保子
Mihoko Magori

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

06:46:00 pm , 7553 words, 37230 views     Categories: Studio, TV, Studio: A Pro, Studio: Tokyo Movie, Studio: Oh Pro, 1970s

Tensai Bakabon

The early years of TV anime were occupied mostly by sci-fi and hero-style shows inspired by Tetsuwan Atom such as TCJ's Tetsujin 28-go and Toei Doga's Space Patrol Hopper. By 1965, audiences were getting bored with the formula, so a new type of show was attempted: the comedic home drama. Tokyo Movie had stumbled with their first production Big X in 1964, so in 1965 Yutaka Fujioka set out in a new direction with a new animation team and produced Obake no Q-taro, a Casper-like gag show about the misadventures of a friendly ghost who lives with an ordinary family. This was the first show featuring the recently-formed A Production animation team, who worked alongside Studio Zero, the anime/manga production studio where the Fujiko Fujio creator duo resided at the time.

In the wake of the show's explosive success, copycat gag shows mushroomed in the ensuing years. Notable gag shows of the late 1960s include Mushi Pro's Goku's Big Adventure (1967), Toei Doga's Pyun Pyun Maru (1967), Tatsunoko's Ora Guzura Da (1967) and Hoso Doga Seisaku's Fight da!! Pyuta (1968). Goku and Pyuta in particular featured fast-paced, anarchic storytelling with a healthy streak of black humor that pushed the boundaries of acceptability in the TV format (stations refused to air some episodes) and gives the shows a timeless quality that endures today in spite of the technical limitations of the animation.

Fast-forward a bit to 1971 and we come to a turning point in Tokyo Movie's history. Studio Zero finally disbanded because their staff had by that time scattered to the four winds, so Tokyo Movie had to rely more on their affiliated A Production team. But other small subcontractors had popped up over the previous few years, mostly from ex staff of Toei Doga and Mushi Pro, so Tokyo Movie had many more options now, and were not limited to producing just one show at a time. Hence in 1971, they built on the success of their popular Kyojin no Hoshi and had no less than 3 shows airing concurrently: Lupin III, Tensai Bakabon and Shin Obake no Q-taro. Shin Obake no Q-taro was a safe updating of their first hit while Lupin III was a daring experiment with more mature material. Tensai Bakabon meanwhile was an attempt at a new property with a more hardcore nonsense gag sensibility. (watch an ep)

Tokyo Movie had taken a break from gag shows after their Umeboshi Denka (1969) flopped because, again, audiences has grown tired of the new fad for gag anime that had overtaken the industry. They tried different material like Kyojin no Hoshi and Moomin for a while. Yasuo Otsuka joined A Pro in December 1968 and worked on first the Lupin III pilot and then Moomin. He was then set to work on a pilot for Tensai Bakabon, clearly indicating that Tokyo Movie had not given up on the format, and perhaps trusted Otsuka to create something that would bring it back into favor. That pilot was used as one episode in the show itself, while Otsuka himself worked on the concurrently-airing Lupin III, which was his pet project.

The pilot is an interesting beast. It is quite entertaining, but in animation style and rhythm it has a sensibility closer to Moomin than to Tensai Bakabon, with its strong layouts, languid pace, subtle humor and nuanced character animation. It's almost classy in its restraint and refinement, which is nice, but a little different from what you expect from this material. It doesn't have anything like the anarchy that Ganso would bring to the material.

The pilot begins much like the Lupin pilot, introducing the characters from the manga in black and white and then shifting into a story about how Bakabon and his dad go skiing, but wind up stealing a guy's skis and causing the guy to have a miserable time, entirely unbeknownst to both parties. The humor of the actual show went in a direction a little less subtle and more straight-up silly, but Otsuka's template showed the way to adapt this material: By moving away from the extreme simplicity of the manga drawings, bringing the characters down to earth and animating them three-dimensionally. Gyators several years later would go in the opposite direction and use the simple manga drawings as the template to create animated visuals very close to the sensibility of a gag manga.

The pilot wound up being used in the actual show as episode 16B, with a few cuts for time and with the voice acting track re-recorded (the main difference being they chose a new voice actor for Bakabon). There are no credits for the pilot, but the TV show gives Soji Yoshikawa the storyboarding credit for this episode, which is presumably what led to him directing the show. This is plausible because Otsuka obviously knew of Yoshikawa from Moomin, on which Yoshikawa storyboarded 5 episodes. Yoshikawa afterwards storyboarded the first and last episodes of Lupin III. Yoshikawa's association with Otsuka continued for a bit, as several years later he wrote many episodes of Future Boy Conan and then directed Mamo. Incidentally, Mamo was written single-handedly by Yoshikawa, even though Atsushi Yamatoya is co-credited.

Yasuo Otsuka cameo in episode 5A

After working on the early shows and then Moomin under Otsuka, A Pro's lead animators Tsutomu Shibayama, Osamu Kobayashi and Yoshio Kabashima had by that time matured to the point where they could be put at the head of their own projects, so Kabashima headed the animation of Shin Obake no Q-taro while Shibayama was made character designer and animation director of Tensai Bakabon and Otsuka headed Lupin III. Osamu Kobayashi would work as an animator on those two shows until he became animation head of the studio's next show Dokonjo Gaeru, which started the year after in 1972.

Fujio Akatsuka and Fujio Fujiko were the two creators behind some of the classic gag shows of the early period. The Fujio Fujiko duo was behind the softer, more drama-based comedy shows like Obake no Q-taro and Paa-man while Fujio Akatsuka was behind the more hard-edge straight gag shows Osomatsu-kun (Studio Zero/Children's Corner, 1966) and Moretsu Ataro (Toei Doga, 1969). Tokyo Movie had adapted Fujio Fujiko before with Obake no Q-taro, and would continue to do so extensively, but Tensai Bakabon was Tokyo Movie's first foray into a Fujio Akatsuka show.

The original manga Tensai Bakabon is essentially a home drama about a Japanese family, but told with far less of an emphasis on the everyday life aspect. Rather than telling stories about everyday life injected with humor, entire stories are built around crazy concepts. Dialogue is full of bizarre and unexplainable non-sequiturs, puns and gags that break the third wall. The whole point is to make the audience laugh with a non-stop stream of silly gags of a dark and nonsensical bent, in a tradition that harkens back to the likes of Shigeru Sugiura, albeit without the avant-garde, psychedelic aspect.

The name Tensai Bakabon or Genius Idiot Boy is mysterious nonsensical name that is difficult to rationalize, as it has an ineffable mad Zen balance that just works, but perhaps can be broken down to describe the family members: Tensai is for the boy genius infant Hajime; Baka is for the father, an idiot savant who seems to know what he's doing but in fact operates on a completely different plane of reality; and Bon is for the elder brother, a young specimen of utter mediocrity who despite his chubby frame, snub nose, and slow wits, is endearing for being an otherwise normal, happy-go-lucky, well-adjusted young boy. Year round he can be seen in a kimono with a swirl-pattern that matches the swirl on his cheeks. The other member is the mother, who is the only completely normal character in the set. She grounds the family by scolding the father and de-escalating the craziness when it seems on the verge of spiraling out of control. It's a fascinating family that works as a perfect complement of opposites. It's baffling why a normal woman would marry an idiot savant, and the boy genius Hajime speaks perfect Japanese a few days after being born - the antithesis of the pure idiocy of the father.

The father is something of a parody of a working class father, with his permanent Tora-san haramaki and hachimaki. He caps episode previews with "Watch or you get the death penalty." Recurring characters include Rerere no Ojisan, the ubiquitous guy who is always sweeping the street whenever Bakabon's dad leaves the house. At some point in every episode, he has to ask his trademark line, "Heading out?" only to receive a joke response from the father than makes him go "Rerere?" He has an anachronistic old-fashioned design that seems directly inspired by Shigeru Sugiura - he even makes the same hand gesture as Sarutobi Sasuke. Then there is the local policeman, who has a hair trigger temper and fires his gun madly at the slightest provocation. His design is a great example of Akatsuka's bizarre design sense: his eyes are drawn connected and he has a single square nostril. This was apparently deemed too much because in this first anime adaptation they separate his eyes and give him a regular nose. The second series went back to the manga design. The main characters are each distinguished by their teeth: The son has one top tooth, father as two top teeth like a hippo, and the policeman two bottom teeth.

In the manga this all plays out in a flat, empty world of white space with virtually no physical settings or sense of passing time. To translate this kind of story into animation required considerable adaptation, which Tokyo Movie did in the manner they knew best: They grounded the characters in real Japanese settings and fleshed out their lives in the manner of real Japanese people. Hence, this version feels more like a home drama in the spirit of the Fujiko Fujio anime. Even so, Tensai Bakabon experienced tribulations indicating that nonsense humor, even toned down as it was here, was still not acceptable to audiences at the time. The nature of the show actually changed at about the midway point along with the director.

Originally, the show was essentially grounded in reality, but told silly, action-centric stories packed with gags in the spirit of the manga. It wasn't a completely faithful adaptation of the original in the early episodes, but still retained a lot of its spirit. However, in the second half, that spirit is altogether gone. The gags suddenly get edged out completely in favor of a straight home drama telling harmless, mundane stories, usually about Bakabon the boy and his schoolmates. This sort of change of course happened often in these early days to gag shows, indicating a surprisingly tenacious reluctance on the part of general audiences to embrace straight gag anime - Goku no Daiboken became a dour monster show in the second half, and even as late as 1975 Gamba no Boken was changed from an unpredictable, zig-zagging light-hearted action comedy to a humorless, linear adventure due to station demands.

To give an example of the cynical, nonsensical humor of the early episodes that apparently displeased either the sponsors or the viewers, or both, before Hajime is born, father and son takes a doll out for a walk to practice carrying a baby. They drop the baby onto the street and a cab runs over it. The cab screeches to a halt, and the father screams that the baby has been run over and its brains are all over the street, sending the cab driver into shock. A nurse rushes into the emergency room announcing that a child was in a terrible accident. A huge team of surgeons gather as the doll is rushed into the operating room.

In another instance, after the baby is born, the father is out taking a walk with the newborn Hajime. Housewives gather around to comment on how cute he is, but wonder if the sun might not be too hot for a little baby. Suddenly concerned, the father hits upon a great idea to keep the baby cool: A coffin. After he parades down the street with Hajime in a coffin, weeping neighbors gather at their home in mourning clothes to offer their condolences. He deposits Hajime's coffin in front of the shocked mother, declaring, "Hajime is resting in peace in this coffin." She opens the coffin to reveal Hajime lying on a bed of flowers, resting in peace but perfectly alive. The father doesn't understand why everyone is angry, explaining that it's nice and cool in the coffin.

The second half of the show appears the same on the surface, but is completely absent dark humor of this kind. The father's mad behavior doesn't exist for its own sake, but rather is explained and rationalized away as the well-meaning antics of an eccentric but otherwise good-hearted father. Before he existed in a sort of existential void, like an enlightened ascetic, exempt from fatherly duties and social norms alike, but now all of a sudden he has a 9-to-5 job as a gardener, which grounds him as an ordinary human rather than an expressive symbol who exists merely to upturn social conventions and common sense.

The first half is quite enjoyable in its balance of nonsense humor and everyday drama. It's neither too over-the-top nor too restrained. The stories of the second half, however, neuter the show and render it bland and unremarkable, though not unwatchable by any stretch. A few years later Tokyo Movie would remake the show into Ganso Tensai Bakabon in a way that was much more true to the spirit of the original manga. Ganso is an uninterrupted blast of comedic nonsense and outrageously exaggerated animation to match, in sharp contrast to the tasteful and restrained atmosphere of the first version. But both versions have their virtues.

The animation

Tensai Bakabon is the show where you can see the A Pro style on the cusp of maturity, which was reached in the next show, Dokonjo Gaeru. In comparison, the animation of Tensai Bakabon is generally restrained and somewhat hesitating, if always pleasing to watch thanks to the good layout sensibility of Shibayama. By the time of the second Tensai Bakabon show a few years later, the drawings are much more refined and assured. Despite the two shows being separated only by a few years, the animators developed incredibly over those years and the difference in quality is stark. Tsutomu Shibayama's designs in Tensai Bakabon are nice and stylized but somewhat basic and lacking the refinement they would acquire in Ganso Tensai Bakabon.

That said, there is still much to appreciate in the first show. At a basic level, the show itself is still very entertaining even after all these years. Doraemon is the modern equivalent of a show like this, but unlike a show like Doraemon, Tensai Bakabon actually has a cynical, satirical edge lacking in the completely kiddified Doraemon. It's truly a crossover show that appeals to both kids and adults. The humor is witty and clever without being inane and pandering.

The animation drawings are quite basic compared to today's highly detailed anime, as the show comes at something of a crossroads between the early drawings of the 60s and the more mature style of the mid-70s when the TV-bred animator generation was beginning to mature. The good aspect of this is that the simplicity of the drawings allows the animators to focus on moving the characters around freely, and there is a lot of freedom to play around and deform the characters in novel ways. The characters here have a very caricatural style that makes them fun to look at. That is something Shibayama brought to the table, as his characters are much more tightly stylized than the manga.

For example, comparing the last episode of Toei Doga's Moretsu Ataro reveals what A Pro brought to the table. (watch) This episode was aired Christmas day 1970, 9 months before the start of Tensai Bakabon (and incidentally was directed by Isao Takahata, in his very last job at Toei Doga). The narrative style is more unadorned and close to the manga, seeming to consist of a series of gag panels rather than a story that has narrative buildup and tension. The character drawings are quite different from A Pro's drawings. There is far less creative deformation, and the animation is spare and perfunctory. There is none of the creative timing, artistic license with design, and complicated movements of A Pro's work.

A Pro's animators were great at drawing characters in a loose way that is neither too sloppy and casual like Moretsu Ataro, nor over-stylized. The characters are stylized in a way appropriate to animation, and the layouts are stronger, situating the characters in a more realistic three-dimensional space. Moretsu Ataro feels closer in style to the flat world of the manga, and it is appealing for that reason, but there is something bland about watching that in animation, without something to spice it up. The manga didn't have the sort of narrative tension or pacing you expect of animation. A monotone sequence of gags gets old after a while. Tensai Bakabon seems to successfully translate the world of Fujio Akatsuka into animation in a way that retains your attention by creating engaging stories and fleshing the personalities (and animation) of the characters out. It's something akin to how Isao Takahata brought alive the rudimentary manga drawings of Hisaichi Ichii in My Neighbors the Yamadas.

Aside from stronger layouts and richer and more three-dimensional and vivid animation, Tensai Bakabon also seems to feature more playful and wilful animation that allows animator personality to come through. Thus you can actually identify the different animators at work in the various episodes through their distinguishing features. The pink jacket Lupin III was one of the few shows in the 80s that retained this spirit, with its wild variation in drawing style from one episode to the next due to the different styles of the animators who worked on the show, and the reason is obvious. It's because Yuzo Aoki was a holdover of the 1970s A Pro generation, and he carried on that spirit by laying down a basic template conducive to creativity, and allowing animators to do their thing. The most prominent latter-day animator to carry on this spirit is Hiroyuki Imaishi, and looking back at these old A Pro shows you can see quite clearly where Imaishi got a lot of his inspiration. Kanada is bandied about as his main influence, but to my eyes he is about 50% Kanada and 50% A Pro. Tensai Bakabon is, then, not just a fun show that is still a blast to watch after more than 40 years; it's also one of the earliest incarnations of this school of animation that went on to influence so many later animators.

The subcontractors behind the animation

Self references: Jaggard on the menu (Jaggard) / Newscaster Shioyama (Oh Pro)

On the staff side of things, Tensai Bakabon features many of the subcontractors I talked about in my post on Koya no Shonen Isamu (1973), with a few differences.

A Pro:Osamu KobayashiTanaka TsutomuRyo Yasuoka
Oh Pro:Norio ShioyamaKoshin Yonekawa
Neo Media:Yoshiyuki MomoseMasayuki Uchiyama
Mates:Teruo HandaMasafumi Kubota
Jaggard:Saito HiroshiMasakazu Ikeda(then Masami Abe, Shunichi Sakai, Michiyo Sakurai)
Za In:Seiji OkudaKazuo Iimura

Again, none of the subcontracting studios that worked on the show are credited, but with a little research, I was able to figure out which studios were involved. Each of the show's 40 episodes is broken down into two stories. Each half-episode story is animated by (usually) two animators from a single studio.

Other studios involved in a smaller fashion are Ad 5, Office Uni and Junio. I'm not 100% positive about Ad 5 and Office Uni, as they were transient studios about which it is difficult to find much information.

With the exception of Jaggard (which disbanded in 1972) and the addition of Madhouse (which formed in 1972), this is the same grouping that would go on to work on Dokonjo Gaeru starting the next year, in the same format of two animators from one studio handling half an episode. While Tensai Bakabon was airing, the same subcontractors concurrently had their other animators working on Lupin III and Panda Kopanda: Oh Pro Koichi Murata and Joji Manabe; Neo Media Keiichiro Kimura and Yasuhiro Yamaguchi; Mates Kenzo Koizumi and Takashi Asakura; A Pro Yoshifumi Kondo, Yuzo Aoki and Hideo Kawauchi; and Junio Tetsuo Imazawa. By the time of Ganso Tensai Bakabon a few years later the team was fairly different.

The most interesting thing about Tensai Bakabon is perhaps that there are is a lot of unexpected staff continuity with the earlier classic gag shows I mentioned before: Goku no Daiboken and Fight da!! Pyuta. This is surprising because these shows were produced by different studios that came together under completely different circumstances. It's as if they were naturally drawn together on Tensai Bakabon to work on this material due to their natural proclivities, though for the most part it probably had more to do with the closure of certain studios and the opening of others, and where the work was to be had.

The biggest of these is (first half) series director, Soji Yoshikawa. He was an animator in both Goku and Pyuta. This made him an obvious choice to direct this material. This multi-talented individual is of course best remembered as the director of Lupin III: Mystery of Mamo.(1978), but he was also a prolific script writer who wrote most of Votoms. Yoshikawa had started out at Mushi Pro in the early days, and was part of the group of brash young hotshot animators pulled out by Gisaburo Sugii to run Art Fresh, the studio that animated Goku no Daiboken and then disbanded. Others in this group included Seiji Okuda, who is one of the main animators of Tensai Bakabon. Okuda was also an animator in Pyuta.

Episode 2A director Tameo Kohanawa had meanwhile directed several episodes of Pyuta in addition to being the character designer. Takeuchi Daizo, who worked as an animator in two episodes of Tensai Bakabon, directed several episodes of Pyuta. Both of them started out at Toei Doga in 1963-1964 and left in 1967 to join Pyuta production company Hoso Doga Seisaku. Hoso Doga Seisaku was short-lived studio staffed by a motley assortment of misfits who didn't want to make your typical anime. Sound familiar? There is a spiritual undercurrent connecting Goku and Pyuta despite their surface dissimilarity. Pyuta was the only show they produced entirely on their own, and they disbanded immediately afterwards. One of the studios formed in the aftermath was Office Uni, and I speculate that it's from here that Takeuchi Daizo (and Shingo Matsuo) worked on Tensai Bakabon, but I'm not positive about this.

Takeuchi Daizo in episode 12A

Takeuchi Daizo animated episode 12A of Tensai Bakabon, about a magician picked on by Bakabon's father. It features lots of exaggerated and deformed drawings of the magician and shows off Takeuchi Daizo's unique animation sensibility. His animation is not backed up by solid drawing skills, but rather by the self-assurance that he can come up with lots of fun and clever poses and actions. This is a somewhat different approach to the A Pro school, which is more solid and grounded in fundamentals. You can see more animation in the loose and free style of Takeuchi Daizo in Pyuta.

Both Tameo Kohanawa and Takeuchi Daizo went on to work extensively on Manga Nihon Mukashibanashi and Manga Sekai Mukashibanashi. This episode about an ignorant lion is a particularly nicely animated episode by Takeuchi Daizo, who had a very loose and deformed animation style that is very fun to watch. He seems to draw everything using ink brush lines rather than pencil. Daizo eventually went on to focus on more indie work, whereas Tameo Kohanawa remains active as a director in the industry. These two are exemplary of the unique style of the figures who worked on Pyuta, many of whom had a more indie attitude towards animation that led to them going down different avenues in comparison with the typical Toei Doga/Mushi Pro expat.

Jaggard is a studio that nobody seems to talk about anymore, but they were one of the many studios that mushroomed in the 1960s to meet the growing demand for animators created by the burgeoning TV anime industry. Founded in 1966 by Hiroshi Saito together with Shingo Araki, the studio would only continue until 1972, when both animators went their separate ways. Hiroshi Saito was born in 1936, only one year after Takahata, so he is part of the generation that experienced the appearance of TV anime on the front lines. He started out at Otogi Pro in 1960 and then switched to Mushi Pro in 1963, and left in 1966 to found his own studio. From there, he subcontracted for Tokyo Movie's Kyojin no Hoshi, where Shingo Araki did some of his first work as an animator and Hiroshi Saito debuted as a director. Mushi Pro's Ashita no Joe is one of the lats places that you can see all of the Jaggard animators working together, and Tensai Bakabon was the very last job of Jaggard before Hiroshi Saito moved to Zuiyo. He wound up staying at the studio even after it switched to Nippon Animation, and was one of the studio's main directors for the next two decades.

It's in Hiroshi Saito's hands that Tensai Bakabon switched course to a more family-friendly bent, and he would continue to direct more wholesome, light-hearted, breezy material in that spirit for the rest of his career at Nippon Animation. Perhaps in line with this, the Jaggard episodes of Tensai Bakabon are among the least distinctive. It's difficult to find distinguishing characteristics or quirks in the animation. It's as if they are striving to remain as on-model and ruly as possible. So I will leave them out of this next section.

The different styles of each subcontractor

It can be difficult at times to distinguish the styles of the studios in this show, as for the most part the drawings are not very idiosyncratic. Another factor is Shibayama's corrections. His corrections could be present a lot of the time, which makes identifying animator's styles difficult. Then there is the fact that the drawing style of the characters seems to evolve over the course of the show.

Despite that, there are many moments throughout the show where a more individual style peeks through. Sometimes it's a particular way of drawing a character in certain poses, or a certain touch of line, while other times it isn't the drawings at all but rather the movement itself which is identifiable. For example, Osamu Kobayashi's characters have an easily identified round and bulbous style that moves sparely, while Yoshiyuki Momose's animation has a more restrained look but uses a lot of drawings to create rapid, fluid motions that are easily identifiable in terms of the movement. Also, my impression is that the personality of a given episode's animators seems come through more in the guest characters, because Shibayama's corrections tend to be focused on the main characters.

A Pro

Recommended A Pro episode: 32A (Bakabon goes on a trip by himself)

I might as well start with the work of A Pro, since they were the main subcontractor behind the animation. But surprisingly, apart from Shibayama's corrections, which keep the main characters in line throughout the show, A Pro's style doesn't dominate the show. There are only a scattered few episodes actually animated by A Pro, and the other episodes have a very different style. It is said that although the A Pro shows were sakkan'd by Shibayama and Kobayashi, they actually didn't do much sakkaning, and Yoshifumi Kondo did corrections for the in-house episodes. Kobayashi and Shibayama were mostly occupied with designing the characters, and in their own episodes they laid the template for how the characters should move.

Osamu Kobayashi is the most identifiable animator in the A Pro episodes. All of the images above are his. If you only saw the shots above, you might think you were looking at Dokonjo Gaeru. Even within the A Pro episodes, it's pretty obvious that Osamu Kobayashi's scenes were not even corrected by Shibayama, because the two have a completely different style. You can see the round & bulbous style I mentioned above quite clearly in the images above. Kobayashi doesn't draw wild deformations or funny faces of the kind you'll find in the other studios' episodes. He keeps the characters pretty firm. The mother is super cute, and even Bakabon's dad looks cute in Kobayashi's hands.

Kobayashi keeps the movement very restrained and still most of the time, efficiently bursting into quickly timed full motion only occasionally to keep the drawing count down, which works to very good effect. It never feels like it isn't moving very much, even though he reportedly used a dramatically smaller number of drawings than someone like Momose. In Dokonjo Momose relates that he would be using 3000 drawings per half episode where Kobayashi would only be using a bit over 1000, and yet Kobayashi's animation never felt like it was restrained. It's clear that working with Yasuo Otsuka during the preceding year or so rubbed off on him and he learned how to effectively switch between stillness and motion at the right moment to make it feel natural.

Another key thing that sets the Kobayashi shots above and A Pro's work in general apart is the stronger layouts. The characters are properly anchored to a setting, rather than simply being drawn flat in the middle of the screen without much thought to their relation to the background. If you do a cursory comparison of the basic positioning of the characters by the other animators pictured below you'll notice the difference. Kobayashi's characters seem to actually inhabit a space. They're drawn recessed a little, with proper if rudimentary perspective, whereas the other animators tend to just draw the characters smack in the middle of the screen, full bore, filling up the image. It's not necessarily realism per se, but it gives the characters more of a feeling of reality. Combined with the masterfully balanced drawings, this goes a long way to accounting for what made A Pro such a special studio that stood out from the pack in the 1970s. Kobayashi's work only truly comes alive starting the next year in Dokonjo Gaeru, but this gives a good feeling for how Kobayashi evolved into his mature style between the time he worked on Moomin under Otsuka and the time he worked on Dokonjo Gaeru.

Incidentally, the credits of this show often seem to reverse the A and B parts. For example, the pilot was included as episode 16B in the TV show. But the Oh Pro animators are credited for part A in episode 16, when they should be credited for part B. This happens countless times and makes the credits somewhat unreliable. Sometimes the order is right, sometimes it isn't. You have to have a sense of the animators' styles to be able to tell. Other episodes that seems switched include episodes 12, 16, 19 and 23. The pilot doesn't include any credits, so the TV episode is the only place we have to turn for credits. I know Otsuka worked on the pilot, but he isn't even credited. And the credits that are there are the same as every other A Pro episode, which is suspicious.

Oh Pro

Recommended Oh Pro episode: 39B (Bakabon's father joins a circus)

One of the other great subcontractors of the 1970s is Oh Pro, founded in 1970 by Koshin Yonekawa, Koichi Murata, Kazuo Komatsubara and Norio Shioyama. I've written about Oh Pro numerous times in the past (Oh Pro's Devilman, Little Twins, Koichi Murata, Lupin III series 2, Lupin III series 3, Kazuo Komatsubara) as along with A Pro they are perhaps my favorite animation studio ever. During the first few years of their existence, they split their small force in half to work concurrently on Toei and Tokyo Movie shows.

Thus in the first year Kazuo Komatsubara headed work on Toei's Tiger Mask while Koichi Murata headed work on Tokyo Movie's Attack No. 1. In the next year, 1971, Komatsubara worked on Toei's Genshi Shonen Ryu (watch ep 1) while Koshin Yonekawa and Norio Shioyama worked on Tokyo Movie's Tensai Bakabon and Koichi Murata worked on Tokyo Movie's Lupin III. After a few years Oh Pro's A Pro team switched to working on Zuiyo/Nippon Animation productions.

I already wrote about Koichi Murata's wonderful work on Koya no Shonen Isamu in 1973. Here in Tensai Bakabon in 1971 you can revel in the almost equally wonderful work of Koshin Yonekawa. Norio Shioyama worked alongside Yonekawa, but I believe the characterful drawings in the Oh Pro episodes, of which a sampling is pictured above, are of the hand of Yonekawa. Shioyama wound up leaving Oh Pro immediately after Bakabon to work at Tatsunoko, whereas Yonekawa would go on to be Oh Pro's main rotation animator (alongside Joji Manabe) on Dokonjo Gaeru starting the next year in 1972.

Yonekawa's drawings are very cartoonish in a classical western sense, with wild deformation and fun character drawings. He doesn't use many drawings or create vivid movement per se, but rather uses a small number of drawings effectively to create raucous and lively character animation. His characters twist and turn, stretch and squash, and squeezes out a new playfully exaggerated expression at every moment. His animation is tremendously fun to watch. There's a new kind of looseness and freedom to the drawings, while on the other hand the movement is lacking in the vivid movement of the A Pro school. Even when they're extremely deformed, the character drawings retain a certain tasteful stylization, whereas in the hands of other animators the deformation can sometimes be ugly and lacking in refinement.

Mates

Recommended Mates episode: 1B (Bakabon practices with a doll in preparation for the birth of his little brother)

This is one of the studios I'm not so sure about. I know very little about Studio Mates to begin with other than that it was presumably founded by Kenzo Koizumi, who later worked as one of the rotation animators on Koya no Shonen Isamu. I believe that the episodes featuring Teruo Handa and Masafumi Kubota are Mates episodes, though I am not positive. The previous year these two animators worked extensively on Tiger Mask, so perhaps Mates had also split their forces between Toei and Tokyo Movie shows in the early years.

The Mates episodes stand out in their own way from the other episodes. I actually like the work here, unlike the Mates episodes in Isamu. The drawings are not necessarily good per se, but they are characterful and have energy. Occasionally there will be extreme deformation of characters that is quite fun to watch, if not particularly clean, well stylized or pleasingly drawn. The mouth tends to be drawn in a distinctive way as this wide, craggy, uneven opening. The movement is not particularly well timed, but there are some vivid movements that use a lot of drawings. It's not nearly as static as the A Pro episodes. The Mates episodes have a kind of rough energy to them.

Episode 7A begins with a gangster movie playing in a theater. It's drawn in the hyper-expressive realist style of Tiger Mask, with rough lines and hardcore mean looking manly faces. This was probably a joke inserted by these animators who had just come from working on such material the previous year.

In episode 1B, Bakabon wants to practice on a baby, but has a difficult time finding a good substitute. This is one of the best of the early episodes for its dark sense of humor and extreme drawings. First Bakabon says he wants to practice on a cat, but the cat is too hairy, so Bakabon's father pulls out a razor and offers to fix the problem. Then they go out looking for an idea in the streets when they encounter a mother scolding her child. She says "I'm going to throw you away if you don't stop crying" and Bakabon's father promptly says "I'll take him if you don't want him". The Tiger Mask influence comes through here when the mother busts out some pro wrestling moves and annihilates both Bakabon's father and the policeman who came to arrest her for assault. Afterwards, they make a doll and walk around with it, eventually dropping it on the street in the gag I mentioned earlier.

Neo Media

Recommended Neo Media episode: 18A (Bakabon's teacher comes over and gets drunk)

The Neo Media episodes contain work from a young 18-year-old named Yoshiyuki Momose, who had just joined the studio the same year in 1971. This is essentially his debut as a key animator. Since he was such a green animator, the work doesn't have the strong character of the other animators in the show, most of whom already had years of experience in the industry. And yet it stands out for its fundamental strength of movement. Rather than standing out for the drawings, it stands out for the quality of the animation. The characters actually come alive in his hands.

It's this ability to bring characters alive in movement that set Neo Media founder Keiichiro Kimura apart in the late 1960s. Stylistically, Momose is not influenced by Kimura at all. Momose has none of the strange timing and rough drawing that characterize Kimura. Though working from Neo Media, he developed entirely under the influence of Tsutomu Shibayama and Osamu Kobayashi. It was their work that stimulated his imagination and taught him the basics of animation. One of the most important things he learned from them was the importance of layouts. Most of the industry presumably did not have great layout skills, but the A Pro animators always positioned their characters very carefully on the screen, and that is one of the things that set their work apart. You can see clearly that the characters run around their environment in a more dynamic and calculated way in his work compared with anyone else on the show. A little bit later on, it was A Pro animator Yoshifumi Kondo who inspired a spirit of friendly rivalry prompting him to strive to pack as much interesting movement as he could into his shots.

It's quite remarkable that in his debut he is able to create animation that already has so much life. He is just one of those animators who has it in his blood, who has the instinct for it, and he was good right off the bat. Long shots feature characters engaging in minute actions that play out over the entire screen. In one of the best episodes of the show, 18A, Bakabon's teacher comes over to talk about Bakabon with his father, but winds up being tempted by some sake and gets completely wasted. He runs around the house banging his head against the things and running up the walls in one of the show's most lively and entertaining sequences, brought alive vividly by Momose's animation. Momose would definitely be even better by the time of Dokonjo Gaeru the next year, but his work here is still quite entertaining.

Za In

Recommended Za In episodes: 19A (Bakabon's father destroys an airline company), 26B (Bakabon's father enters a singing competition)

The Za In episodes are among the most interesting in the show. They have some of the most fun and entertaining character drawings of all, along with zippy movement. I believe the main animator responsible for the best parts of these episodes would be Seiji Okuda. He started out in animation prior to the TV era, and when Mushi Pro released Testuwan Atom he joined the industry on Tetsujin 28. He worked as an animator for a few years before added storyboarding to his repertoire around 1971. Since then, he went on to focus on storyboarding, and is now reportedly the single most prolific storyboarder in history in Japan, even surpassing the legendarily prolific Yoshiyuki Tomino (who storyboarded episodes of Tensai Bakabon under the pen name Asa Minami). He has worked on no less than 200 individual productions throughout his career. He also directed a few shows like Dancougar and Dream Hunter Rem, though storyboarding is his main thing.

When I saw Okuda's episodes, I felt a sense of deja vu. It took me a while to figure out why that was. I've been a big fan of Goku no Daiboken for many years, and it turns out Okuda was an animator in Goku, and his drawings in Bakabon unconsciously reminded me of his work in Goku, even though I didn't even know he was involved in the show. I don't have my Goku DVD box with me to check the credits right now, so I'm not positive which episodes he did, but I know he was one of the animators brought by Gisaburo Sugii to animate the show at Art Fresh. He also worked as an animator on Pyuta the year after Goku, so I've included shots of what I suspect are his work from these two shows above to give a sense of his style and how it connects with his later work on Tensai Bakabon.

Okuda also worked on Moomin and went on to work as one of the main rotation animators of Dokonjo Gaeru, so he was an animator in many of the best gag shows of the first decade of TV anime.

Okuda doesn't receive almost any recognition for it anymore since he went on to become mainly a storyboarder, but he was one of the best animators active in the early TV era across a number of the era's best shows. His style is immediately identifiable and stands head and shoulders above most of his peers. Pyuta is especially instructive in the quality of his work as most of the show has fairly crummy animation. The half-episode he animated (episode 5A) is full of his distinctively drawn characters, which look nothing whatsoever like the rest of the show. His earlier work on Goku was a little more static, consisting mostly of single drawings with a few extra drawings for movement, but by the time of Tensai Bakabon there is a lot more movement and zip, and yet there is still that great instinctive sense for how to draw funny expressions and poses.

I'm not positive that Seiji Okuda was at Za In (ザ・イン) during Bakabon, but the animator who helped Okuda on his episodes, Kazuo Iimura, along with the inbetweeners who worked on his episodes, Mitsuo Kusakabe & Masayoshi Okazaki, later became part of the actual studio called Sign (ザイン) founded in 1984. They even have their own web site.

I've done something novel this time and broken down the key animation credits by studio to the best of my knowledge.


Tensai Bakabon 天才バカボン
(Tokyo Movie, Yomiuri TV, 40 eps, 9/1971 - 6/1972)

Director:吉川惣司Soji Yoshikawa (1-22)
斉藤博、岡部英二Hiroshi Saito & Eiji Okabe (23-40)
Anim Director:柴山努Tsutomu Shibayama
Art Director:影山仁Hitoshi Kageyama
Music:渡辺岳夫Takeo Watanabe
Asst Directors:向坪利次、田中実Toshitsugu Mukaitsubo & Minoru Tanaka
Asst Anim Dir:竹内留吉Tomekichi Takeuchi
Storyboards:高倉健一Kenichi Takakura (1a, 1b)
小華和ためおTameo Kohanawa (2a)
奥田誠治Seiji Okuda (2b)
岡崎稔Minoru Okazaki (3a, 6b, 7a, 12a, 23b, 27b)
佐々木正広Masahiro Sasaki (3b, 6a, 8b, 11a, 15b, 23a, 25b, 27a, 29a, 31b)
小泉謙三Kenzo Koizumi (4a)
風間幸雄Yukio Kazama (4b, 5b, 7b, 10a, 13a)
出崎哲Tetsuo Dezaki (5a, 10b, 12b)
羽根章悦Yoshiyuki Hane (8a)
新田義方Yoshikata Arata (9a)
北川一夫Kazuo Kitagawa (9b)
高円寺太郎Taro Koenji (11b, 32b, 37b, 39b)
壺中天Ten Tsubonaka (13b, 15a, 17a, 31a, 34b, 35b, 36a)
平田敏夫Toshio Hirata (14a)
山崎修二Shuji Yamazaki (14b, 19a, 22b, 30a, 33b, 34a, 36b, 37a, 39a, 40)
斉藤博Hiroshi Saito (16a, 21b, 28a, 30b, 32a, 35a, 38a, 38b)
吉川惣持Soji Yoshikawa (16b)
南阿佐/阿佐みなみAsa Minami/Minami Asa (17b, 19b/22a, 24a, 26b)
石黒昇Noboru Ishiguro (18a, 20a, 25a, 29b)
遠藤政治Seiji Endo (18b, 20b)
高橋春男Haruo Takahashi (21a, 24b, 28b, 33a)
ひこねのりおNorio Hikone (26a)

Key Animators:

OH PROMATES
1塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
JAGGARDNEO MEDIA
2斉藤 博
Hiroshi Saito
池田正和
Masakazu Ikeda
百瀬義幸
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
ZA INOH PRO
3奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
MATESAD 5?
4半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
羽根章悦
Yoshiyuki Hane
岡田敏靖
Toshiyasu Okada
OH PROJAGGARD
5塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
斉藤 博
Hiroshi Saito
池田正和
Masakazu Ikeda
NEO MEDIAJUNIO?
6百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
須田 勝
Masaru Suda
渡辺邦夫
Kunio Watanabe
MATESJAGGARD
7半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
安部正己
Masami Abe
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
ZA INNEO MEDIAOH PRO
8奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
A PROMATESJAGGARD
9田中 勉
Tsutomu Tanaka
半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
安部正己
Masami Abe
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
ZA INJAGGARD
10奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
安部正己
Masami Abe
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
NEO MEDIAOH PRO
11百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
ZA INOFFICE UNI?
12奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
竹内大三
Daizo Takeuchi
松尾信吾
Shingo Matsuo
MATESJAGGARD
13半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
安部正己
Masami Abe
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
NEO MEDIAOH PRO
14百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
A PROMATES
15小林おさむ
Osamu Kobayashi
田中 勉
Tsutomu Tanaka
安岡 亨
Ryo Yasuoka
半田輝夫
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
A PROOFFICE UNI?
16小林おさむ
Osamu Kobayashi
田中 勉
Tsutomu Tanaka
安岡 亨
Ryo Yasuoka
竹内大三
Daizo Takeuchi
松尾信吾
Shingo Matsuo
JUNIO?OH PRO
17端名貴男
Takao Hashina
須田 勝
Masaru Suda
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
NEO MEDIAJAGGARD
18百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
MATESZA IN
19半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
ZA INOH PRO
20奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
MATESJAGGARD
21半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
NEO MEDIAOH PRO
22百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
NEO MEDIAZA IN
23百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
A PROMATES
24小林おさむ
Osamu Kobayashi
田中 勉
Tsutomu Tanaka
安岡 亨
Ryo Yasuoka
半田輝夫
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
JAGGARDOH PRO
25坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
NEO MEDIAZA IN
26百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
JAGGARDOH PRO
27坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
A PROMATES
28小林おさむ
Osamu Kobayashi
田中 勉
Tsutomu Tanaka
安岡 亨
Ryo Yasuoka
半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
NEO MEDIAZA IN
29百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
JAGGARDOH PRO
30坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
JAGGARDMATES
31坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
A PROOH PRO
32小林おさむ
Osamu Kobayashi
田中 勉
Tsutomu Tanaka
安岡 亨
Ryo Yasuoka
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
NEO MEDIAZA IN
33百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
JAGGARDMATES
34坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
MATESZA IN
35半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
MATESJAGGARD
36半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
NEO MEDIAOH PRO
37百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
JAGGARDZA IN
38坂井俊一
Shunichi Sakai
桜井美智代
Michiyo Sakurai
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura
MATESOH PRO
39半田輝雄
Teruo Handa
窪田正史
Masafumi Kubota
塩山紀生
Norio Shioyama
米川功真
Koshin Yonekawa
NEO MEDIAZA IN
40百瀬義行
Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸
Masayuki Uchiyama
奥田誠治
Seiji Okuda
飯村一夫
Kazuo Iimura

Monday, September 16, 2013

04:55:00 pm , 5181 words, 14764 views     Categories: Animation, Studio, TV, Studio: A Pro, Studio: Tokyo Movie, Animator: Yuzo Aoki, Studio: Oh Pro, 1970s

Wild West Boy Isamu

While just about every movie genre has its sub-genre in anime, there is a distinct lack of westerns in anime. The reason is obvious enough. The western is a quintessentially American genre and doesn't lend itself well to transplanation to Japan (recent exceptions like Sukiyaki Django Western notwithstanding). One of the few movies or TV shows obviously modeled on the western and adhering to most of the genre's conventions is Toei's Puss 'n Boots II from 1972. However, this film was hardly a hardcore western, but rather a spirited, playful children's film populated by anthropomorphic animals as well as humans.

There is only one real, full-fledged western in anime, and that is Koya no Shonen Isamu 荒野の少年イサム, a 52-episode TV series produced by Tokyo Movie aired April 1973 to March 1974, presumably inspired by Toei's recent foray into the western.

Adapted from a manga by Noboru Kawasaki based on a 1952 novel by prolific pulp fiction writer Soji Yamakawa, Isamu tells the story of a samurai named Katsunoshin who in late 1800s crosses the ocean to study western ways in America. He falls in love with a native American girl who gives birth to his child, Isamu. When Isamu is 4, the mother is killed and Katsunoshin becomes separated from his son. Katsunoshin spends the next ten years of his life searching for his son. Isamu, meanwhile, is raised by a community of gold miners until one day he is kidnapped by a gang of outlaws named the Wingates. They teach him the ways of the west and train him into a skilled gunman in the hope of using him to commit their crimes. However, the naturally just-minded Isamu resists and eventually escapes from them and begins a journey to find his father. Along the way, he puts his unparalleled gunmanship to the task of helping innocent settlers fight against outlaws and bring law and order to the wild west.

The golden age of westerns was in fact not that long past when this show came out. The spaghetti westerns of the 1960s like Serge Leone's Fistfull of Dollars (1964) establish the pattern that comes to rule the series in the second half after Isamu parts ways with the Wingates. Isamu will wander into a new town, only to find it secretly ruled by a gang of ruthless thugs who brutally repress the townspeople. After a bit of investigative work, he discovers the big boss running the town. The boss plays a dastardly and underhanded trick in an attempt to kill Isamu, but Isamu's unparalleled skills with the six shooter and unflagging sense of justice finally win the day.

The series also manages to weave in just about every western convention you can think of. There are stories about migrants making their way to the west in covered wagon trains, Mexican outlaws, high-speed stagecoach robberies, an undercover US Marshall investigating a weapons smuggling ring, cattle rustlers, villainous landowners trying to drive innocent farmers off their land, and life on the ranch. The show briefly touches on the topic of slavery with a story of shotgun-blast delicacy reminiscent of Django Unchained: a child slave became an outlaw named Big Stone after witnessing his mother gunned down by the Wingates, and killing his master in retaliation for doing nothing to help her and then adding insult to injury by insulting her corpse. Big Stone spends the first half of the series hunting the Wingates, leading to a big dramatic showdown with Isamu. The series stays away from the delicate issue of native Americans for the most part, save for one episode in which a native seeks to expose an arms dealer who secretly assaults stagecoaches in the guise of natives in order to incite the local townspeople to rise up in war against the natives.

I had seen the first episode many years ago, but I just had the opportunity to watch this series in its entirety for the first time. As a show from the heart of Tokyo Movie's golden age, I enjoyed watching it, but I must say that objectively speaking it's a mixed bag and it's hard to recommend that people flock to see it. There is some good drama and some good animation, and the characters are interesting enough, if not particularly deeply written. The hardcore nature of the show makes it more enjoyable to watch than a pansy kiddy adaptation neutering the brutality of the wild west. It has its virtues, but overall it was a slog to get through, due primarily to the unevenness of the animation work and the cliche'd and repetitive writing.

Despite being set in the real world, Isamu almost never takes a breath to say something down to earth and believable, and that is the main thing that makes it tiring to watch from a modern perspective. Episode after episode, it's the same thing: Isamu discovers a new gang of brutal bandits terrorizing a town that he drives off before riding off into the sunset. It's a spaghetti western drawn out to Lone Ranger serial length. Isao Takahata had yet to pioneer the idea of neorealism in anime, which he did immediately after at Zuiyo with Heidi. There is no attempt to portray psychological subtlety of character, or to create bad guys who have complex motivations and are anything more than paper thin pure evil, or to enact the kind of detail-oriented realistic directing required to make the events depicted feel believable. It feels this show comes at the historical juncture when the time for more realism was ripe.

As it happens, Isao Takahata storyboarded two episodes of Isamu, and these stand out from the series for their more competent filmmaking language, even if due to the constraints of the material they depict the same world of brute animals in the clothes of cowboys shooting it out as if that's the only way they know how to communicate. This could well be the last thing Takahata did before departing for Zuiyo to direct Heidi.

The show is certainly pleasant for being unflinching on the brutality front, something that was fairly novel and no doubt exciting for the period in which it was aired. Although Isamu attempts as best he can to avoid killing, in the end he does seem to wind up killing a dozen people or so per episode, even though the victims are always depicted as evil, bloodthirsty scoundrels who deserve the fate. The show is not afraid to show people getting shot, including women and children. Even the show's black and white moral vision of the world, which seems to divide the west clean in half into good, peaceful citizens and evil, murderous outlaws, is actually somewhat satisfying, in that it's what you expect of a western. They set about making a pulp serial western in which Isamu encounters and overcomes a new gang of baddies in each episode, and they succeeded eminently in that regard.

Original book with drawings by Soji Yamakawa / Page from manga by Noboru Kawasaki

Noboru Kawasaki was responsible for the manga Kyojin no Hoshi that was adapted into a hit series by Tokyo Movie over the years of 1968-1971. Tokyo Movie was in some financial trouble at the time Kyojin no Hoshi started, and the success of this show along with their concurrently running shoujo version of the 'spokon' genre Attack No. 1 (1969-1971) provided the studio with a windfall. This prompted them to continue to pump out similar shows for the next few years in the hope of continuing to milk this newfound popularity for 'spokon' anime. A Production studio head Daikichiro Kusube is credited as the animation supervisor in all of these shows, up until Karate Baka Ichidai (1973-1974) and then Judo Sanka (1974). Most of Tokyo Movie's spokon shows apart from Kyojin no Hoshi are based on the work of Ikki Kajiwara, who himself was reportedly inspired by an earlier boxing novel by Soji Yamakawa when he wrote the original manga for Ashita no Joe, another one of the big hits of the spokon boom around 1968-1970.

It was presumably due to the success of Kyojin no Hoshi, combined with the recent Toei Doga movie, that Fujioka Yutaka decided to give Noboru Kawasaki's "Japanese Western" Koya no Shonen Isamu a go as a TV show.

The Animation

Playful self-references inserted by Junio's Takao Kosai and Oh Pro's Koichi Murata

The animation was produced essentially by six studios: Oh Pro, Studio Junio, Studio Z, Studio Mates, Studio Neo Media and A Pro. None of these subcontractors are credited, but the breakdown is clear if you know a bit about the animators in the credits.

A Pro founder Daikichiro Kusube acted as the animation supervisor to oversee the very different styles of these studios, although in the end my impression is that he didn't really do much to unify the style, as each studio's style comes through seemingly unmediated by correction. Roughly same group of six subcontractors was also behind the animation of the more 'realistic' shows produced by Tokyo Movie in the surrounding years (as opposed to the more deformed gag shows like Dokonjo Gaeru, which featured a different team), including Lupin III (1971), Akado Suzunosuke (1972) and Judo Sanka (1974).

There are a few mixed episodes in which two different studios worked on part A and part B, but for the most part one studio handled the animation of a single episode, with two of the studio's animators handling respectively part A and part B. One of these animators is credited as sakkan, presumably because he was in charge of maintaining consistency over the episode delivered to Tokyo Movie, but again, it's doubtful how much correcting they actually did. Below is a breakdown of the animators for each studio. Names in bold are the studio's sakkans.

Oh Pro:Koichi Murata, Toshitsugu Saida
Studio Junio:Takao Kosai, Tetsuo Imazawa, Minoru Maeda
Studio Mates:Koizumi Kenzo, Akiko Hoshino, Teruo Handa, Akio Yoshihara, Masayuki Ohseki
Studio Neo Media:Keiichiro Kimura, Yasuhiro Yamaguchi, Yoshiyuki Momose, Masayuki Uchiyama
A Pro:Hideo Kawauchi, Eiichi Nakamura, Yuzo Aoki
Studio Z:Shingo Araki, Tsugefumi Nuno

The interesting thing about this show is that it's a great example of how shows of yore used to vary considerably in drawing style from episode to episode. Below is an overview of the four main studios' drawing styles to give a sense of this. (I won't include A Pro and Neo Media because they play a smaller part)

Oh Pro: 1, 4, 7 12, 16, 22, 26, 27, 30, 34, 38, 42, 46, 51

(click to enlarge)

Oh Pro is the standout studio in this show, and studio head Koichi Murata is the star. Koichi Murata animated 11 episodes half-half with Toshitsugu Saida. I believe Murata animated the first half and Saida animated the second half in each episode. This series thus provides a good place to become acquainted with Koichi Murata's style. He's a name I was familiar with for a long time as the head of Oh Pro and a major contributor to classics like Lupin III, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, Future Boy Conan and Anne of Green Gables, but not until watching Isamu did I know how to identify his work.

Murata's animation is by far the most lively and entertaining in the show. The rest of the animation frankly looks sloppy and amateurish in comparison. Not only are his drawings technically better, he actually makes his characters act out their emotions. None of the other animators in the show are up to the task of character acting. They're struggling just to draw the characters. Murata effortlessly renders the characters in a few simple shapes and modulates their expressions and posing freely in a way reminiscent of Yasuo Otsuka or Osamu Kobayashi. It's possible he was influenced by Yasuo Otsuka working on the original Lupin III show under Otsuka two years before.

If you look at the second row above, you'll see just how pliable his character acting is. In one shot you can follow the flow of the character's thought patterns purely through the drawings. He had passed out trying to save a girl and just came to his senses. At first he's disoriented, then he finally remembers what happened to him and is relieved to know he's fine. Then he remembers something: he was trying to catch a bag of gold dust. He becomes alarmed and asks what happened to it. The other party tells him to look at his own hand, because he's been holding it the whole time, and his expression changes to one of surprise. Disorientation, relief, sudden recollection, anxious questioning, disbelief.

Only in Murata's hands do the characters feel alive like this. And that's actually one of the problems with the series. The rest of the series would be fine if only the character acting was up to the level of Murata's animation. The reason the show feels stale and cheesy is less because of the unimaginative script than because poor character acting renders the filmmaking flat and lifeless. It's patently obvious why Murata became a staple of Takahata and Miyazaki's work in the 1970s - because he was one of the few animators of the day with the skill to create nuanced and believable character animation with only a few quickly executed perfunctory drawings, as was necessary in the TV format. His animation also happens to be tremendously fun in terms of the movement, with lots of lively and unexpected little gestures and expressions.

One of Murata's little tricks he invented is to draw the eyes as two little black blobs when they're closed, for example when a character laughs as in the image above. I'd seen this in various shows from the 1970s but never realized until now that this was the mark of Murata. Episodes 26 and 38 are particularly good Koichi Murata episodes.

He participated in most of the World Masterpiece Theater series as an animator, and never got distracted by directing or character designing like many animators eventually do. He remained a pure animator to the end. In addition to being a prolific animator while running Oh Pro, one of the industry's most trusted subcontracting studios, he was also active behind the scenes working to improve the conditions of animators in the industry, acting as Vice Chairman of the Animation Business Association since 1990, which had other notable animation figures on its board from other major studios in the industry including Noboru Ishiguro (Artland) and Tsutomu Shibayama (Ajia-do).

Studio Junio: 1, 4, 8, 13, 19, 24, 29, 33, 37, 41, 45, 50

(click to enlarge)

The Studio Junio episodes feature studio head Takao Kosai as sakkan and part A animator and Tetsuo Imazawa as storyboarder and part B animator. Kosai's style is a great contrast with that of Koichi Murata. His figures are lean and elongated, roughly drawn and mean looking. The faces look very bony and gaunt and frankly unattractive. The noses are usually big and pointy. His hands are easily identified - long and lean, very different from the plump and round drawings of Studio Z's Shingo Araki or the curled, almost deformed hands of the characters drawn by Studio Mates' Kenzo Koizumi. Takao Kosai's movement can be rather dynamic in the action scenes, but it's never very realistic or believably timed, and his acting is pretty much limited to either sinister sneering or looking worried.

Takao Kosai began his career at Toei Doga in 1960 and spent 4 years there before leaving in 1964 with several other animators including Kenzo Koizumi and Azuma Hiroshi to form a studio called Hatena Pro. Hatena Pro is not a very well known studio, but it's actually one of the more important 'seed' studios of the period, in that what it produced is less important than the studios that sprung up in its wake. When the studio finally closed 5 years later in 1969, Takao Kosai and Tetsuo Imazawa formed Studio Junio while Kenzo Koizumi and Hiroshi Azuma formed Studio Mates. Kazuo Komatsubara, who joined in 1969, the year the studio closed, formed Oh Pro together with Koshin Yonekawa and Koichi Murata in 1970. Hiroshi Azuma defected from Mates to Junio in 1972, while Minoru Maeda, who would become one of the studio's most important animators, joined in 1972. (Way later when Junio closed around 2000, Azuma, Okazaki and Maeda left when things started getting bad in 1998 to form Synergy SP.)

Tetsuo Imazawa would go on to be Studio Junio's lead director, doing much work TMS including directing The White Whale of Mu (1980), Iron Man 28 (1980) and God Mars (1981). He went on to direct some notable films including The Fox of Chironup (1987), Coo from the Distant Ocean (1993) and Hermes, Wings of Love (1997) for Junio before the studio went out of business around 2000.

Other animators turned out by the studio include Toshiyuki Inoue, Hisashi Eguchi, Fumitoshi Oizaki, Tetsuya Kumagai, Mamoru Kanbe and Masaki Kajishima.

Studio Mates: 3, 5, 9, 14, 20, 21, 25, 28, 32, 36, 40, 44, 49, 52

(click to enlarge)

The Studio Mates episodes feature studio head Kenzo Koizumi as sakkan and part animator. These are my least favorite drawings in the show. Koizumi's characters are amateurishly drawn, with extremely static and unchanging posing and expression. The poses are constricted and unnatural. No character ever seems to evince the appropriate emotion in any given scene, rather adopting an awkward template expression no matter the circumstances. He spends most of his energy drawing evil expressions on the baddies. The deformed-looking hands in particular are very characteristic and easily give away Koizumi's presence.

The drawing above of the baddie holding a rifle is exemplary of the problem with his drawings. What on earth is his left hand doing? The fingers are splayed in odd directions and seem to be floating daintily above the barrel rather than gripping it, and the angle at which the gun is inclined seems very unnatural. The action scenes are embarrassing to watch, as the character don't so much move as hurl themselves around unnaturally and float improbably against the background due to the poor layouts.

Kenzo Koizumi also started out at Toei Doga in 1962 before joining Hatena Pro in 1964. I can only assume that he improved with time, because he continued to get work as an animator down to the year of his death in 2008.

Animators who began their careers at Studio Mates include Watanabe Ayumu and Hiroshi Harada. If for nothing else, Mates can be said to have played a positive role in anime history for guiding Watanabe Ayumu to Shin-Ei and prompting Hiroshi Harada leave the industry to make Midori.

Studio Z: 2, 6, 18, 21, 25, 27, 31, 35, 39, 43, 48, 52

(click to enlarge)

The Studio Z episodes feature Shingo Araki as sakkan and part A animator with Tsugefumi Nuno as part B animator. Araki's drawings are perhaps the most skillful in the series in terms of the actual drawings, with well stylized expressions and a very distinctive rounded drawing style. This is presumably due to the fact that he started out as a manga-ka, and was hence used to drawing stylized characters in exaggerated poses. This wound up providing the foundation for his style, because as an animator, he is inferior to Koichi Murata, who is more pliable and dynamic with the drawings. Araki's characters are cartoonish and mannered rather than expressive and nuanced. The hands are again an easy place to identify this animator - rounded and puffy fingers drawn in a very symmetrical way.

Shingo Araki started out as a manga-ka before switching to animation because he wasn't earning a living. He joined Mushi Pro in 1964 and then switched to a little-known studio called Jaggard in 1966. It was here working alongside Hiroshi Saito that Araki really learned about animation. Jaggard was involved in several earlier Tokyo Movie productions including Tensai Bakabon before they disbanded in 1972, immediately before Isamu. Araki meanwhile had quit a little earlier in 1971 to found his own small artist workspace called Studio Z. It was here that Yoshinori Kanada, after being first rejected by Oh Pro (where he went because he liked Koichi Murata's drawings), began to learn animation as an inbetweener under Shingo Araki. You can see Kanada's name in the inbetween credits for each Studio Z episode, alongside Kazuo Tomizawa and Shinya Sadamitsu, who would continue to be associated with Kanada for years.

Araki of course is known for his work on Toei shows of the 1970s and then primarily Saint Saiya. It was the same year as Isamu that Araki got his taste designing characters for the first time for Cutie Honey, and it was right after working on Isamu that he founded his own actual legitimate studio, Araki Pro, to focus on this work. Kanada, meanwhile, started out at Toei between 1970-1972 on Maho no Mako-chan, Sarutobi Ecchan, Gegege no Kitaro and Mahotsukai Chappy before switching to Araki's Studio Z, where he worked between 1972-1973 on Gekko Kamen, Akado Suzunosuke and Isamu. Kanada did not follow Araki to Araki Pro, but rather went to work under Takuo Noda in 1974 at Studio No. 1. It was the next year in 1975 that Yoshinori Kanada himself founded his own artist collective/studio called Studio Z, totally unrelated to the previous Studio Z, where he worked until 1980, when he founded yet another studio called Studio No. 1. Studio Z went through several other incarnations at the hands of other animators before the founding of Studio Z5 around 1980 by Hideyuki Motohashi.

Other studios and notable names

A Pro doesn't play as big a role in this show because their most important animators like Osamu Kobayashi and Tsutomu Shibayama were busy working on the concurrently running Dokonjo Gaeru, which was still in the midst of its long run, and anyway were not typically put to work on the gekiga-styled Tokyo Movie shows like Isamu but rather the cartoony gag shows. Still, Yuzo Aoki and Eiichi Nakamura do show up for a few episodes in the first half drawing half episodes under sakkan Hideo Furusawa. However, their work doesn't shine on this material. Aoki's distinctive style has not yet emerged at this period. That said, the A Pro team does provide the animation for the first of the two episodes storyboarded by Isao Takahata (15 and 19), and their animation almost certainly helps to make Takahata's episode memorable thanks to its precisely timed and exciting action. The reason for the pairing is obvious: Takahata was at A Pro at the time.

Takahata's episode 15 is entirely devoted to the showdown between Isamu and his frenemy Big Stone. Big Stone is actually out to kill the Wingates for murdering his mother, but Isamu is still caught in their web and winds up having to duel Big Stone. The showdown in the ghost town occupies the entire episode as they run around in the dark of the night in a long, drawn out battle that lasts until dawn. It's a fantastic episode that has great tension and does what you want a western anime to do. Takahata's skill as a director comes through loud and clear even though he only storyboarded the episode and didn't direct it, as was the case with Jacky the Bearcub episode 5. Each shot features very precise character actions, and sequences of action play out in a very logical and believable way. Tension builds through long stretches of prowling around the dark streets until it explodes in fast action sequences featuring precisely timed movements by the characters courtesy of Aoki and quick cutting between shots. It goes without saying that if the other episodes were directed in such a masterly fashion, the show would be a classic. We have plenty of realistic slice-of-life shows from Takahata, but it would be nice to have a whole action show like this from Takahata. He shows with this episode that he can do even action better than anyone else.

Ex-Mushi Pro animator Masami Hata at this period was presumably employed at the recently-formed Madhouse, which provided its animators to Tokyo Movie over the course of the 1970s in thanks to Yutaka Fujioka for having provided Dezaki et al. with the seed money needed to found their studio. He was a great storyboarder and produced some of the finest episodes of this period through his storyboards, including the first episode of this show, which no doubt benefits from his instinct for dramatic storytelling. The first episode is definitely the best place to start with this show thanks to its combinatinon of Hata's storyboard and the powerful animation. Part A was done by Studio Junio and part B by Oh Pro, but really their styles don't come through particularly clearly in this episode. The style if well smoothed out over the course of the episode. The characters faces are deeply etched and well drawn, and the gunplay animation is smooth and thrilling. It's a great example of gekiga anime.

The last studio in the rotation is Neo Media, the studio founded in 1969 by Keiichiro Kimura. Kimura had worked under Kusube at Toei, which seems to clearly show the reason Neo Media became a mainstay in Tokyo Movie shows. (That, and there were presumably not that many studios for Tokyo Movie to turn to at that juncture, so they gathered all the forces they could by turning to the ex-Toei buddies known to Kusube.) The drawings and movement in these episodes aren't quite as crazy and rough as you would expect.

Neo Media did two half-episodes and two full episodes in the first half before disappearing and coming back to do an episode near the end and the last episode. Studio head Kimura himself acted as sakkan early on while Yasuhiro Yamaguchi replaced him in the last two Neo Media episodes. Yoshiyuki Momose and his animation partner Masayuki Uchiyama join the team at this point. Momose's style is for the most part not as obvious as it was on Dokonjo Gaeru at the same period, but the very ending of the last episode does have the kind of hustle you would expect to see from Momose. Momose was in the middle of working on Dokonjo Gaeru from Neo Media, so he wasn't used to the style. He relates that he had a hard time re-adjusting to the drawing style of Dokonjo Gaeru after his brief experience on Isamu, which admittedly has the diametric opposite style. Momose did a good job adapting himself to his mentor's drawing style, though, and the Neo Media episodes have that rough and dirty line drawing that you would expect from the man behind Tiger Mask, even moreso than the early episodes by Kimura himself. Incidentally, the name Yoshiyuki Momoyama in the last episode is obviously an amalgam of Yoshiyuki Momose and Masayuki Uchiyama.

One of the main rotation directors is Soji Yoshikawa, who started out as a director at Mushi Pro and then moved to Art Fresh with Gisaburo Sugii & Osamu Dezaki when they founded this studio around 1967. Soji Yoshikawa is perhaps best remembered as the writer/director of the first Lupin III movie about the clones, which to many more hardcore Lupin III fans is the best of the animated statements on Lupin III. Episode 38 is a particularly good example of Soji Yoshikawa's directing in this show, as it features animation by Oh Pro that fills out the nuances in Yoshikawa's storyboard. Yoshikawa soon switched to focusing on writing, and the only other movie he directed was the anime adaptation of White Fang (1982) with designs by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu. One of his more recent big project was Hoshi no Kirby (2001), which was an early integrator of CGI.

Series director Shigetsugu Yoshida began in animation at Toei Doga, where he worked between the years of 1959-1969 before joining A Pro. After working at A Pro in the 1970s presumably most only Tokyo Movie shows, he finally just moved to TMS. He retired from animation sometime after drawing one storyboard for Nippon Animation's Peter Pan in 1989.

Finally, one amusing thing I noticed was that the episode preview at the end of episode 44 includes animation from a completely unrelated episode. In other words, episode 45 is drawn entirely by Studio Junio, but the preview for that episode is mostly animation by Shingo Araki from a completely unrelated episode. I assume this was done by the episode director because the animation for episode 45 wasn't done at the time and he needed to put something together. This certainly gives you a good feeling for how tight the schedule was on these old shows.

Choice episodes

To sum up, here are some choice episodes if you want to sample the show without having to deal with the drudgery of the mediocre-quality episodes.

#1: Great intro to the show with powerful storyboard by Masami Hata and strong gekiga drawings
#15: Exciting showdown action courtesy of Isao Takahata storyboard and Yuzo Aoki animation
#38: Good storyboard by Soji Yoshikawa and animation by Oh Pro


Koya no Shonen Isamu 荒野の少年イサム full episode listing
52 episodes, Tokyo Movie, April 4, 1973 - March 27, 1974

StoryboardDirectorSakkanKey Animators
1波多正美
Masami Hata
御厨恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
香西隆男、村田耕一
Takao Kosai, Koichi Murata
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
2御厨恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
河内日出夫、荒木伸吾
Hideo Kawauchi, Shingo Araki
中村英一 Eiichi Nakamura
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
3岡部英二
Eiji Okabe
井上 一
Hajime Inoue
小泉謙三、木村圭市郎
Kenzo Koizumi, Keiichiro Kimura
半田輝夫 Teruo Handa
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
4黒田昌郎
Masao Kuroda
井上 一
Hajime Inoue
村田耕一、香西隆男
Koichi Murata, Takao Kosai
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
5吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
小泉謙三、河内日出夫
Kenzo Koizumi, Hideo Kawauchi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
吉原章雄 Akio Yoshihara
中村英一 Eiichi Nakamura
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
6波多正美
Masami Hata
井上 一
Hajime Inoue
木村圭市郎、河内日出夫、荒木伸吾
Keiichiro Kimura, Hideo Kawauchi, Shingo Araki
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
中村英一 Eiichi Nakamura
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
7御厨恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
8今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
井上 一
Hajime Inoue
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
9黒田昌郎
Masao Kuroda
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
半田輝夫 Teruo Handa
10吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
井上 一
Hajime Inoue
河内日出夫
Hideo Kawauchi
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
中村英一 Eiichi Nakamura
11みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
木村圭市郎
Keiichiro Kimura
木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
12新田義方
Yoshikata Arata
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
13今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
14みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
15高畠勲
Isao Takahata
井上 一
Hajime Inoue
河内日出夫
Hideo Kawauchi
中村英一 Eiichi Nakamura
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
16新田義方
Yoshikata Arata
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
17吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
木村圭市郎
Keiichiro Kimura
木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
18高畠勲
Isao Takahata
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
河内日出夫、荒木伸吾
Hideo Kawauchi, Shingo Araki
中村英一 Eiichi Nakamura
青木雄三 Yuzo Aoki
19今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
20吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
21新田義方
Yoshikata Arata
小泉謙三、荒木伸吾
Kenzo Koizumi, Shingo Araki
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
22みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
23吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
木村圭市郎
Keiichiro Kimura
木村圭市郎 Keiichiro Kimura
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
24今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
25新田義方
Yoshikata Arata
小泉謙三、荒木伸吾
Kenzo Koizumi, Shingo Araki
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
26吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
27みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
村田耕一、荒木伸吾
Koichi Murata, Shingo Araki
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
28小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
29今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
30みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
31新田義方
Yoshikata Arata
荒木伸吾
Araki Shingo
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
32吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
33今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
今沢哲男 Tetsuo Imazawa
34新田義方
Yoshikata Arata
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
35みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
荒木伸吾
Shingo Araki
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
36小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
37今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
前田 実 Minoru Maeda
38吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
39中村真
Makoto Nakamura
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
荒木伸吾
Shingo Araki
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
40みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
大関政幸 Masayuki Ohseki
41今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
前田 実 Minoru Maeda
42吉川惣司
Soji Yoshikawa
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
43みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
荒木伸吾
Shingo Araki
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
44中村真
Makoto Nakamura
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
星野赫子 Akiko Hoshino
大関政幸 Masayuki Ohseki
45今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
前田 実 Minoru Maeda
46上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
麻岡上夫
Kamio Maoka
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
47石黒昇石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
山口泰弘
Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
山口泰弘 Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
百瀬義行 Yoshiyuki Momose
内山正幸 Masayuki Uchiyama
48中村 真
Makoto Nakamura
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
荒木伸吾
Shingo Araki
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
布 告文 Tsugefumi Nuno
49みくりや恭輔
Kyosuke Mikuriya
小泉謙三
Kenzo Koizumi
小泉謙三 Kenzo Koizumi
大関政幸 Masayuki Ohseki
50今沢哲男
Tetsuo Imazawa
上窪健之
Takeyuki Kamikubo
香西隆男
Takao Kosai
香西隆男 Takao Kosai
前田 実 Minoru Maeda
51石黒昇
Noboru Ishiguro
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
村田耕一
Koichi Murata
村田耕一 Koichi Murata
才田俊次 Toshitsugu Saida
52小泉謙三、御厨恭輔
Kenzo Koizumi, Kyosuke Mikuriya
石川輝夫
Teruo Ishikawa
荒木伸吾、山口泰弘
Shingo Araki, Yasuhiro Yamaguchi
荒木伸吾 Shingo Araki
百山義幸 Yoshiyuki Momoyama
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