Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Monday, April 2, 2012

03:46:00 pm , 921 words, 7711 views     Categories: Animation, Lupin III, Book

Lupin III 40th anniversary books

A new Lupin III series is starting soon, which I'm looking forward to seeing. This is presumably part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of TMS's anime version of Lupin III. They're releasing a number of items looking back at the show's long history, including a special DVD and two books, which I just received: Yasuo Otsuka's Illustration Works "Lupin III" and All the Animation Histories "LUPIN The Third" (sic).

The Yasuo Otsuka book I was very excited about, but I was pretty stunned upon receiving it to find that it doesn't contain a single key animation drawing. No layouts, no character sheets - none of his actual production drawings. All the book contains is illustrations he has drawn for CD covers and the like, plus a parody manga he drew featuring the Lupin gang. I now feel stupid for assuming that it would, since the book is, after all, called Yasuo Otsuka's Illustrated Works. But it seemed to me like a no-brainer.

Yasuo Otsuka is one of the central figures responsible for making Lupin III such a classic. He has been kind of the guiding spirit of the show, its patron saint. He is incredibly insightful and informed about the behind-the-scenes history of the period. It could have been amazingly interesting to have him be our guide through the history of the show, since he was, after all, the one who originally shopped the anime version around, and his home studio Telecom has been involved in the show on and off ever since.

The 40th anniversary of the show was the perfect opportunity to release a book looking back in depth on his involvement in the show at various junctures. They could have had a long interview with him delving into the many juicy stories I'm sure he could tell about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the production of the first series, Cagliostro, Fuma Clan, etc. Not to mention it would have been nice to hear what he thinks of the other outings. They could have included any number of different kinds of production drawings. He's one of the great animators of all time in Japan. His animation deserves to be better known and researched. With all of the genga collections there are out there nowadays, it's sad that we don't have a single collections of the genga of this master.

Nothing. None of this. This book is a huge wasted opportunity. Nice as it is to get a book full of Yasuo Otsuka drawings.

Looking through Otsuka's drawings makes me realize we didn't get nearly enough Lupin III drawn by Otsuka. He should have done way more. His Lupin III is too delicious. The characters' expressions and posing are fun and lively in a way they aren't in anybody else's hands, even if not in a way that's necessarily true to Monkey Punch's original drawing style. Simply put, he's so friggin good. Yasuo Otsuka was just the best. He retired too soon.

I'm almost as dissatisfied with the other book, which is just a collection of the basic info on each of the Lupin III anime productions - staff listing, episode listings, synopses, descriptions of characters. There isn't a single interview with any of the many people who have been involved in the show over the years. No key animation drawings. The only production material included is one or two character design drawings for each episode, which is nice as far as it goes. It's stupid, because they devote hundreds of pages to the various TV episodes, but they don't even provide the key animation credits anywhere. And the only text is a lengthy synopsis, which is an utter and complete waste of paper, not to mention being even more of a wasted opportunity than the Otsuka book, considering how much material they're covering here. Instead they have a bunch of stupid sections like one listing the things Lupin has stolen at various times in the show, and one listing the various disguises Lupin has assumed. The people who put these books together have their head up their ass. They should have hired someone who actually cares about the show and then maybe we would have gotten something more substantial and insightful. It's kind of fitting that the book's official publication date was yesterday. I wish it were all an April fools joke and they are actually going to release some good books to mark the 40th anniversary of one of anime's most iconic series.

It's such a waste, because there was so much good animation produced in the various Lupin III outings over the years, but nobody has ever released any production materials for any of these, and these books do nothing to remedy this. It would have been interesting to explore how each TV series, TV special and movie took a different approach in terms of the characters, situations and drawings. It's almost as if there was so much interesting material to mine that they just threw up their hands in despair and said, "Screw it."

One of the few nice things about the book is the section where they do a side-by-side comparison between certain episodes that were based on the manga. It's also nice having line drawings of each character from each of the outings to see how different the characters' faces looked in each one. It was great seeing Tsutomu Shibayama's character drawings for the pilot. It's ironic that the guy who became known for Doraemon drew the most Monkey Punch-esque drawings for the show in its history.



wah [Visitor]

I think the Lupin guys really drop the ball in general when it comes to books like these. As far as I know, there’s only one Monkey Punch art book, and it’s out of print. It’s not even Lupin related!

Whenever I scour Mandarake for Lupin books, all I get are the sorts of lame episode guides you’re talking about here. I think Lupin is so mainstream that the guys upstairs don’t care about putting out any thing in-depth.

04/02/12 @ 18:44
Ben [Member]  

Heh, it’s pretty insane. Even the most random show nowadays gets its entire groundwork released, whereas this ultra-high-profile 40-year-old long-running show doesn’t have any material released? You’d think they’re making an effort to prevent any production material from being released.

04/02/12 @ 19:53
h_park [Member]

I’m sorry to read that Lupin 3rd books that you’ve put your money into are total duds.

I think it was the fault of the artists who didn’t have high regard for their drawings in the first place. They gave away their drawings and cels to kids who came to visit. Nowadays, they have security system to prevent some hardcore fans digging into their trash.

Maybe his drawings disappeared among hands of then-children fans of his work when they were giving away cels and drawings freely. It happened to Komatsubara’s works until adult fans came together to compile artworks after his death.

04/03/12 @ 03:34
Carl [Visitor]

I do think the mooks Futabasha put out in the early 80s were pretty solid, especially the Tomo Machiyama-edited ones on the 1971-72 series.

I don’t know if it’s so much that they didn’t have any regard for their drawings–sometimes there may have been simple practical considerations, such as studio space and the amount of paper and acetate (all pre-digital, of course) to be stored in the course of making 155 episodes and two movies during 1977-80. TMS was roomy compared to some anime studios, but even so…

And Yasuo Otsuka is a wonderful guy, there’s no doubt about it. I know he certainly was a mentor to some manga-ka born in the 1960s, such as Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Kenichi Sonoda, and Suezen, and I hope the younger generation is learning from his work, too. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some doujinshi by him (about him?) in Mandarake. Is it possible that’s where to find a discussion of his genga?

04/05/12 @ 12:45
Ben [Member]  

That’s a good point. If the case is that they didn’t have storage space to keep the material, and hence had to destroy it (I know this actually happened at some studios, though I’m not sure if TMS did this) then it would be understandable that they don’t have enough such material to put a book together. In that case, ironically, the fans who did happen to snatch a piece of material before it was sent to the furnace would have played a positive role - IF they could be scrounged up now and convinced to share their collections. I’m sure it would only take a little effort to uncover fans with such collections who would be willing to share. I know, for example, that in more recent times it’s the animators themselves who often snatched up a good sequence of key animation drawings by a talented co-worker in order to save it from destruction. In any case, there must be SOME key animation drawings from the classic Lupin floating around there somewhere… I can’t bring myself to believe they’re all gone. If they were able to find all of the character sheets for each episode of each TV series, then they must have more material than that.

Carl -

Thanks for the note about the Futabasha editions. I wasn’t aware of those. I will have to see if I can find them.

You’re right, a lot of doujinshi genga collections are put out each year, so it’s entirely possible that at some point someone somewhere has put out a book of his genga. So you’ve actually seen one? The only thing that makes me feel is that, if it’s possible for some fan to have put together a doujinshi of his genga, then the people who put out this book of Otsuka drawings have no excuse for not having put out a better book including his actual genga… Emiko Okada also tweeted recently that she bought the book and it didn’t contain what she was expecting it to contain. Calling the book a 作画集 is deceptive, as the first thing that makes you think of is his animation drawings.

04/06/12 @ 10:58
h_park [Member]

It’s unfortunate that Japan’s lack of space caused destruction of their future assets.

From business point of view, they could’ve made great extra income if they saved their important works. I remember Laineverlasting’s comment about Bones studio had to send their drawings to shredders and it still made me cringe. Drawings may seem like junk to them, but they’re still assets that can be, pardon the word, exploited.

I guess studios and their employees are under contract not to make income from their drawing because the orignal title belongs to the someone else? If so, it’s very marginalizing system. Most animators are not making income that matches their talent or skill level. American studios pay better wages to entry level animators than newly minted Japanese key animators.

If the industry can’t offer wage based on their skills or talents, then they should allow animators to make decent living selling their finished works.

I blame the Japanese educational elitism that only rewards people who went to elite-level universities. One reason why Japanese studios are experiencing talent drain because new talents can’t get rewarded matter how talented, skilled, or experienced they are.

04/07/12 @ 03:31
Carl [Visitor]

Dear Ben,

My apologies, I completely forgot to follow up on this thread! I can’t say for sure whether this book I saw in Mandarake was actually an Otsuka genga collection or not, as I didn’t examine it closely. This would have been in November of 2001, I believe. I remember it being expensive for a doujinshi (something like 3000 yen), and being exhibited face-out with a few other doujin at the end of one of the narrow aisles. It seems likely these were rare items and/or something the Mandarake staff wished to highlight. Have you seen the Otsuka/Sadamoto CD-ROM that GAINAX put out in the 1990s? I wonder if some genga might have been included.

And yes, the Futabasha mooks are really a must for old-school Lupin fans. I don’t think you would regret tracking them down. The 1971-72 series was covered in two volumes, 1977-80 in three; for 1984-85 only one volume was done, covering the first part of the series, as far as I know. I say “as far as I know” as I had no idea there was a mook for Mamo until my last visit to Japan, even though I’ve seen the film many times.

By the way, thank you very much for this wonderful web site. The other day I was asked to prepare some interview questions for Studio 4C on the Berserk movie, and, thinking of the kind of information you regularly see on Anipages, I told myself, “For God’s sake, ask them something intelligent” ^_^–by which I mean, ask something about their staff, their methods, their techniques…the things they do and the decisions they make as animation professionals, rather than ask generalities.

(The ironic flip side of this is that at first I wished Yamaga and Akai’s directors’ commentary for Royal Space Force spoke more about the content of the film and less about the making of it. But then I realized, for those who have had to labor to make the anime, it is much more natural to discuss what went into the work, rather than to take a detached critical perspective. You just mentioned Kitakubo recently–whom I’ve got a high personal opinion of–and Yamaga noted that the pudgy TV producer who tells Shiro what he should say was based on Kitakubo, as he was the only one among them who managed to be overweight at the time–I assume he is excepting Okada ^_^).

06/14/12 @ 14:32
Ben [Member]  

Hi Carl,

Thanks for following up again. It’s an honor to know that my site has been helpful to someone like you.

You’re very right. It simply comes more naturally to staff to talk about the technical details of what went into making a film than interpreting it. That is usually left up to the audience. Even I find that frustrating sometimes and wish directors and other staff would address more than merely the technical matters about which they were in charge when interviewed, such as the implications of a particular scene or the theme of the film. Very interesting to hear that about Kitakubo. He has since lost all the weight apparently.

No, I did not see the Otsuka/Sadamoto CD-ROM. It sounds very interesting. It’s unfortunate that many great items like this and the Otsuka genga book you mentioned are so difficult to find due to the fact of being fan publications or simply the typically abbreviated print run of Japanese publications. I suppose it’s inescapable given the small audience for such material.

06/16/12 @ 20:07