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Category: Studio: Tokyo Movie

Friday, September 25, 2015

05:54:00 pm , 4451 words, 9512 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

Monday, December 15, 2014

05:39:00 pm , 1092 words, 32443 views     Categories: Movie, Lupin III, Studio: Telecom, Studio: Tokyo Movie

Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone

The news came out a few months back that Tomonaga Kazuhide heads a new Lupin III TV series starting this spring. The show seems poised to be a return to the sensibility of Cagliostro-era Lupin, with its breathless car chases, lighthearted atmosphere, good-guy Lupin and caper-centric stories. Visually, too, as the Japanese like to word it, it's monkey-headed Lupin (Fuma Clan) rather than horse-head Lupin (Part III).

Acting as a kind of bridge between the Takeshi Koike-designed Fujiko Mine TV show of a few years back and the upcoming reboot is a recent movie entitled Daisuke Jigen's Gravestone. In two 30-minute parts, it feels less like a movie and more like an OVA, or two gussied up TV episodes. The story feels lifted straight out of the second TV series in sensibility. It feels much closer to the Lupin of old than Fujiko Mine, feeling like a lead-in to the upcoming TV series, yet finally does justice to Takeshi Koike's unique interpretation of the characters thanks to some truly excellent animation quality, which the previous TV show was lacking due presumably to bad scheduling.

Telecom handles the animation, so it can be assumed to be a preview of what's to come from the TV series, in terms of the animation if not the designs. It's an odd pairing: Takeshi Koike and Telecom. But it works great. We finally get to see Koike's designs animated properly. I'm not sure what happened between Fujiko Mine and this movie in terms of Takeshi Koike's involvement, but it feels like he wanted to make this movie so that he could vindicate himself and show how his Lupin should have looked. Because here he's involved full-bore, in classic Koike style, handling character design, storyboarding, directing and even sakkaning (with no assistance).

The animation pops thanks to some very talented folks, both in-house and outside animators. Hisao Yokobori and Kazuhide Tomonaga head the animator list as the star in-house animators, while presumably Takeshi Koike brought in folks like Takefumi Hori, Kanako Maru, Satoru Utsunomiya, Hiroshi Shimizu, Kenichi Shimizu and Toshiaki Hontani. I was surprised to see such faces in a Telecom production, but I hope that the upcoming TV show will continue to use talented outsiders, because otherwise I don't see how they can fill the show with good animation just with in-house staff.

The car action in episode 1 was spectacular, if slightly different in feeling from the classic car chases. Takeshi Koike's genius shines through in this spot, whereas otherwise the show felt pretty restrained for him - less him showboating than doing the material justice. The Telecom chases favored long shots regaling you with characters plowing through scenery, whereas here it's all fast cutting and dynamic camera angles. It would be pretty cool if Tomonaga Kazuhide animated a car chase storyboarded by Takeshi Koike. I couldn't identify who did what, except for Satoru Utsunomiya's scene, but the whole episode felt tight animation-wise, with Takeshi Koike's drawings filling in the more quiet scenes nicely. Incidentally, great to see Satoru Utsunomiya. He always seems on the verge of disappearing and then shows up in some random show. Hard to believe that in the 10 years since I started this blog he never had an opportunity to helm a big project. But that goes for a lot of talented people (e.g. Yasuhiro Aoki)...

In sensibility the two episodes felt like they could have been taken straight out of the early Lupin (perhaps why the new jacket is a color that seems midway between blue and green), from the way Fujiko shows up and interacts with the Lupin gang to the combination of assassin bad guy and international intrigue and fanciful spy tech. The bad guy assembling the gun was animated in loving detail as befitting classic Lupin, and Lupin's car this time around was different from any before but also a charming but punchy mid-range classic car - the Alfa Romeo GTV? The only thing that felt a little uncomfortably weird and closer to Fujiko in spirit was the bizarro sexbot scene with Fujiko scampering around completely naked avoiding an enormous drillbit penis. It's like they want to have the sex aspect in the show, but they've divorced it from the character of Lupin and pinned it on the bad guys. The juvenile bit between Lupin and Fujiko on the motorcycle captured Monkey Punch's jokey attitude towards matters sexual, but even then it still feels toned down, albeit still farther than they'd go in the early shows.

The scriptwriter Yuuya Takahashi did a good job recreating the spirit of the old Lupin, although his experience predominantly as a mystery screenplay writer comes through in the somewhat excessively expository denouement, which consists of about 10 minutes straight of 'tane-akashi' explanation. Even the way it was obvious that there's no way Jigen was dead felt true to the transparent ploys of early Lupin. My favorite bit in the movie may have been the part where Lupin walks off screen from his table and then, after a pause, drops some coins on the table. Now that's the classy wit I like to see in Lupin. I liked the Broadway joke - perhaps it's a stretch to imagine this as a reference to the Yoshio Urasawa Broadway series in red jacket Lupin. Also true to old Lupin is the fact that there's no unnecessary killing. Even the assassin gets off with just a shot to the arm. And the Lupin gang comes away empty-handed save for the satisfaction of having done the right thing according to their rules.

The only problem was the complete omission of Goemon and Zenigata. Is it because they didn't know whether to go with the new personalities or the old? Or to save the trouble of writing them into the story? Seems a bit lazy. They even credited Zenigata's voice actor in the credits even though he doesn't have any role, much less dialogue.

SPOILERS: But the ultimate kicker of the movie was the last sequence, which had my jaw dropped. Is this setting things up for Mamo to be a player in the TV series? Or just a treat for fans of the first movie? (considered by many to be the best of the bunch) It seems a bit capricious and random to be the latter, so I'm guessing the former. I can't get enough of Mamo, so I'm all for more. But if you bring Mamo back, come on, you've got to bring back either Yuzo Aoki or Yoshio Kabashima, or preferably both. You want to see a grown man beg?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

06:46:00 pm , 7553 words, 36966 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, 14584 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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Monday, September 9, 2013

10:59:00 pm , 573 words, 5595 views     Categories: OVA, Studio: Telecom, Animator: Yasuo Otsuka, Studio: Tokyo Movie, 1990s

Ziria

I've always wanted to see more from Yasuo Otsuka. I never feel like I can get enough. Having seen most of his major work, I'm left to dig up obscurities from his filmography.

Though flawed, the late-career Fuma from 1987 is one of his best works. His style comes through in it very clearly, as he drew or corrected all of the layouts and checked the animation of every shot in the movie. The long-delayed Nemo occupied Telecom for the next year, and presumably Otsuka was involved in that for its duration, although his personality doesn't come through much in the film.

After that comes an obscurity I'd long wondered about, an OVA with the long and unwieldy title FAR EAST OF EDEN 天外魔境 ZIRIA 自来也 おぼろ変, released in two 45-minute installments in July and August 1990. In it, Otsuka is credited as animation supervisor 作画監修. Otsuka was credited as simply supervisor in Fuma and the earlier Mamo movie, but presumably the two titles signify a similar role.

This was released to follow up a computer RPG of the same name released not long before. In fact, it had originally been planned as an anime, but the computer game wound up coming out first. It's set in medieval Japan re-imagined as if through the eyes of a westerner who had never set eyes on the place but only heard fantastic tales about the faraway land. It's a fairly fun, harmless fantasy adventure that would otherwise have been a good ride if the quality were only a little better.

In filmographies put together with Otsuka's assistance, Otsuka has asked that Ziria not be included, presumably because he is not proud of the work. This suggested there had been some problems with the production that led to him not wanting to be associated with the OVA.

I've finally seen the first episode, and I can understand why he feels that way. This is not a film that is up to his standards. It clearly could have been much better. It's sad because you can see that he was clearly involved throughout, yet factors beyond his control keep it from rising to his level.

Although it's not terrible, it's clear that the film is a washout on the animation front. The movement is flimsy and spare, like a crappy TV episode. You can feel Otsuka's hand throughout, as he seems to have drawn or corrected the layouts for every shot. The layouts feel nice, but you really have to squint to see it through the shoddy drawings. At almost no time does the animation have the speedy, fun, cleverly choreographed action sensibility of Fuma or other classic Telecom productions. It's as if the film was produced in a rush. The foundation is strong enough, but they botched the execution.

There are a few names I recognize in the animation credits, but most of them like Kei Hyodo and Masao Okubo were at the beginning of their careers and hadn't developed their styles yet. For some reason, Telecom clearly didn't put their best animators on this project.

Despite it turning out to be a sub-par production, this was Yasuo Otsuka's last major involvement in a film, so I'm happy to have finally been able to see it. He had retired long before, and even his involvement in Fuma seems to have been more out of necessity to save the production than because he was scheduled to. The same must be the case here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

12:26:00 am , 1878 words, 5780 views     Categories: TV, Lupin III, Studio: Tokyo Movie, 1980s, Director: Osamu Dezaki

The first five Lupin III TV specials

I already wrote about the first Lupin III TV special, Bye Bye Liberty Crisis, which was better than I'd remembered the TV specials being thanks to Osamu Dezaki's sharp directing. Dezaki directed the next few on and off, so I was curious if they were as good. I checked them out, and as expected, it's a mixed bag.

Special #2 1990 Hemingway's Papers

Lupin finds himself up against an army as he tries to find Ernest Hemingway's buried treasure.

The second special retains the Dezaki touch in terms of the presentation of the material, with layouts that feel distinctly Dezaki, but the visuals aren't as highly worked and pleasing. The drawings feel looser and lighter. It's like they didn't have as much time to do this one as the first one. It still holds together well enough thanks to the pleasing directing by Dezaki and the good script by Hiroshi Kashiwabara, but it's not quite as strong as the first TV special.

This time, it feels like a TV special. You can sense that the quality is starting to slip a bit. The drawings of the characters hold up throughout thanks to Noboru Furuse's nice lanky and well-balanced designs. The guest protagonist Maria is designed in a pleasantly cute way that's not obnoxious. This was his second and, alas, last Lupin III TV special.

There are bits of nice animation here and there. The part where Maria runs away from the two soldiers on the hillside has some splendid movement - some of my favorite in any Lupin III, in fact. I like every drawing and every little movement in this sequence. It's very different from the movement in any past Lupin III. It's a style of movement that's distinctly the product of this period in its sense of timing and the style of the drawings. I thought maybe it might be Seiji Muta, since he worked on Akira a few years earlier and the movement seems influenced by that whole Nakamura/Utsunomiya post-Akira style with the doll-like treatment of limbs and sharp sense of form, but it seems more likely to just be the obvious first guess, Masahiro Ando, since he's known for action animation.

Special #3 1991 Napoleon's Dictionary

Lupin is hunted down by the G7, who hope his grandfather's treasure will pay for their recent Gulf War misadventure.

Despite a witty story skewering recent global events, the third special is rendered nigh unwatchable by its unprecedentedly bad production values. It is hands down the worst animated Lupin III I've seen. It's remarkable how consistently badly drawn it is. Many of the shots look like bad fan art. It's the Yashigani of Lupin III. Not even the throwaway episodes of the second series, which had some substantial ups and downs in quality, were ever this badly drawn.

The film is a shambles. I don't know what happened, but it feels like TMS forgot they had to do another TV special and only remembered a month before airing. Shots feel wrong in every way: the drawings, the layout, the coloring. The drawings ruin what might otherwise have been a fairly fun treasure race story that feels like an updated and more sociopolitical version of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Hiroshi Kashiwabara writes again. Kashiwabara is good at creating plots that are international in scale, placing the characters within a grander scheme that gives the proceedings more weight than a mere caper. His competing factions are often based on obvious real-life analogues, giving his work a satirical edge.

Surprisingly, there is a brief movement when it looks like good animation is trying to peek through. It's the bit where Lupin looks up the word impossible in Napoleon's dictionary and splits the car in half. I think the same animator might have done the next scene, but it's a fascinating mess. Occasionally there will be one shot that has a little bit of nicely timed movement, but the next shot will revert back to horrid drawings. The chaos of the animation in this scene seems to hint at chaos on the production floor. The timing of the animation of Jigen's hand in this scene for some reason reminds me of the timing of the movement in the scene in special #3 I mentioned above, so I wonder if it might not be the same animator.

It's sad that this TV special is such a disaster, because it's one of the few that featured Yasuo Otsuka in any capacity. He was the 'Mecha Design Supervisor'. Obviously he was brought in because of his love of cars. There are a huge variety of classic cars in the film, but sadly although they are drawn accurately to the makes, they are not particularly well drawn, and there isn't anything remotely resembling a good action scene. It would have been nice to have one special allowing Yasuo Otsuka to really revel in his love of classic cars.

Interestingly, this special doesn't have a director. Only a supervisor (Dezaki). There are five storyboarders and two enshutsu or technical directors. I'm sure there's an interesting story behind why this special turned out the way it did.

Incidentally, by way of contrast, Dezaki storyboarded the first two specials himself, as he usually does when he directs something. There is no enshutsu credit on these films (only assistant enshutsu), so presumably Dezkai did his own processing.

It's surprising how bad the animation of this special is when you see names like Takashi Hashimoto, Masahiro Kase and Tadashi Hiramatsu at the top of the key animation credits. Studio Curtain receives a credit at the end of the key animation credits. Plus, Ryutaro Nakamura was one of the storyboarders.

Special #4 1992 From Russia With Love

Lupin finds himself pitted against Rasputin's grandson, a mystic with a magic finger he has a habit of putting into strange places, in a contest to uncover the hidden treasure of the Romanovs.

This time Dezaki returns to directing and storyboarding, though there are now two enshutsu. The film is one more step down from special #2 - vaguer directing and weaker drawings. There are still lots of Dezaki touches, but they feel a little more sloppy and less convincing. There are a few too many triple-takes and harmony shots. The film doesn't really come together as a film. The characters aren't particularly compelling or interesting. It doesn't leave much of an impression. Putting aside the disaster of special #3, it feels like the quality declined steadily until by this point we're getting close to the forgettable feeling that seems to characterize most of the specials.

The drawings of this special aren't bad per se, but they're not particularly impressive. There are four sakkans, and the drawings feel very half-hearted, without any conviction. It's as if, lacking someone with a distinct design sensibility like Noboru Furuse to lead them anymore, they fell back to doing a pale imitation of his template.

The name Hidekazu Kamemoto 亀本秀一 at the end of the key animation credits is probably a hybrid of Hajime Kamegaki 亀垣一 and Hideyuki Motohashi 本橋秀之, the Studio Z5 animators who worked on Part 3. Hajime Kamegaki would go on to be the mecha sakkan of the next special. Hisashi Eguchi (NOT the manga artist) did his first Lupin III work here as an animator. Thus the team behind the animation of the next special came together here.

Special #5 1993 Order to Assassinate Lupin

Lupin steals a nuclear sub in an attempt to bring down an arms smuggler.

This special shook up the pattern of the first four specials. This one feels nothing like the specials up until this point. The director is different, the designs are different, and the tone of the film is different. Despite that, it's a pretty successful little film. In fact, this film is responsible for keeping the TV specials going. The specials were going to be canceled due to declining ratings, but the success of this special ensured their survival.

The director is Masaaki Osumi, who directed the seminal first Lupin III TV series in 1971 before regrettably being replaced by Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata due to low ratings. Here TMS pays him the long overdue respect of bringing him back to direct Lupin III again, and allowing him to do it the way he wanted.

The previous TV specials kept the atmosphere and characterizations pretty well close to the feeling of the TV series that had came before - serious but silly, never getting too heavy. Osumi here takes things back to the feeling of the early episodes he directed, when the characters were more ambiguous, not just lovable rogues, and the atmosphere was more serious and less goofy. Osumi's Lupin III stories were erratic like the original and not smoothed over and adapted to conventional anime storytelling rhythms. For this special, Osumi ordered Yasuo Yamada not to ham it up, to play Lupin more straight. Yamada's playful improvisations were a big part of what made the show so much fun, but they were out of place in Osumi's more hard-edged vision of Lupin III. No lecherous googly-eyed Lupin here.

The film has the feeling of a classic James Bond film. The protagonists must play a game of wits to defeat a formidable and cunning opponent with dastardly geopolitical aims. We slowly learn the truth behind this history between Jigen and the beautiful nuclear scientist kidnapped to drive Lupin's sub. And all the while, a ruthless hired killer tracks down the Lupin gang. All of the characters have well-defined and believably played personalities.

The directing is detail-oriented. When Karen tries Jigen's magnum, Jigen advises Karen not to shoot single action, but to cock it first, because otherwise the aim may stray. When Karen takes the magnum, it's so heavy she has a hard time holding it.

Studio Z5 animator Hajime Kamegaki is the mecha designer, and under his guidance, the weapons and vehicles are meticulously drawn and animated, giving the film a realistic feeling. He was involved in four episodes of Part 3. Episode 15 in particular was storyboarded, directed and sakkan'd by Kamegaki.

After floundering for a few years, they decided to be decisive and try a completely new designer. Hisashi Eguchi's character designs abandon the elongated Lupin face of the previous specials and return to the more rounded Lupin of Cagliostro and Fuma. The guest character designs are a bit strange, with the mouth placed close to the nose, and not particularly appealing or well animated, but the character acting feels stronger, probably because of Masaaki Osumi's unique style of directing. Like Takahata, he doesn't draw, but provides instructions to a storyboarder/director. The characters are more grounded and their emotional palette is more subtle. Osumi's roots outside of the anime industry help him create characters who behave in a more self-consistent way free from anime conventions.

The screenplay is again by Hiroshi Kashiwabara. It's obviously a re-working of the story he wrote for episode 50 of Part III, which also involved Lupin stealing a nuclear sub. He has added characters and otherwise reworked the story for feature length. The story was originally conceived for a feature film, so perhaps this is closer to his original idea. The sub is not as central a component this time. Rather than spy agencies competing over the Russian sub Ivanov, Lupin competes against smuggling ring Shot Shell.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

09:07:00 pm , 6753 words, 19390 views     Categories: Lupin III, Studio: Tokyo Movie, Studio: Oh Pro, 1980s

Lupin III Part 3

After finishing the second Lupin III series a while back, I dived right into the third TV series aired March 3, 1984 to November 6, 1985. Whereas the second series felt like a bit of a slog, the 50-episode third series ended way too soon and left me wanting to see much more.

I think it's probably the most unjustly overlooked and underappreciated outing in the Lupin III franchise. It was underappreciated both at the time of its airing - constantly delayed by baseball broadcasts, because of which people probably forgot it was even airing and it wound up not being nearly as long-lived as the second series - as well as in the aftermath, when fans shied away from the most visually uninhibited and playfully designed and animated outing in the franchise, and the clean and ruly look and more conventional atmosphere and storytelling of the first series became unofficial canon.

But the third and last Lupin III TV series is in fact an entertaining show with some of the most interesting animation in the entire franchise. Yuzo Aoki, the great animator who had been a central figure behind every Lupin III outing prior to then, acted as the animation supervisor, designing the characters in a way that brought them closer than they'd ever been to Monkey Punch's manga, through the lens of his own unique sensibility.

The drawings of the second series were different from the first, simpler and more cartoonish. But the drawings in the third series are so different from the second that they're a shock to the system at first. It's like the characters are made of rubber bands. Everything is wobbly. Their limbs bend in all sorts of weird configurations. The clothing is full of curves and ruffles. The face is elongated in that patent Monkey Punch style much more prominently, and the expressions on the faces are more exaggerated and playful than ever.

The best place to get a quick feeling for just how different the character animation is from every other Lupin III outing is the second opening.

The series had two openings, both set to the same song. (Apparently they couldn't get the rights to the classic Lupin III theme song, so they had to use a new song.) The first opening was decent, but it's the second opening that captures the essence of Aoki's drawings in the show. It starts with "Lupin" spelled out using actual Lupins (pictured above), and ends with Goemon slicing up a rocket. From the rubbery-limbed Zenigata running through the door at the beginning to the lanky, banana-headed Lupin in the last shot as the chassis of his car roars off without him... this is an opening that immediately tells the viewer: this a different beast.

The second series had its share of crazy drawings and stories, but nothing this extreme. This series is the high point in experimentation with the drawings in the Lupin III franchise. Once you get used to the style, though, it's hard to go back. The cleaner drawings of the rest of the franchise look boring to me now. In every episode, you can sense how much fun the animators are having drawing the characters, and that's a large part of why the show is fun to watch, as the stories can often be pretty repetitive and predictable.

Apart from the character animation, the tone of the show is rather unique, too. It strikes a kind of middle ground between the first series and the second series - still playful and silly, but not as over-the-top as the second series, grounded by a more adult sensibility and heist/intrigue stories that aren't merely excuses for 25 minutes of cartoonish antics. The quality is far more even than the second series, which had many episodes that could easily be skipped. The directing is consistent and the animation is... albeit not consistent, consistently interesting.

Which leads to another interesting facet of this series: The characters look drastically different from one episode to the next. Characters look different from episode to episode in all anime, of course, but on the continuum of the scale of drawing variation, Lupin III Part 3 lies at one extreme.

Apart from having laid down a basic framework in the form of a set of character designs, Yuzo Aoki appears to have given the various subcontracting studios who handled many of the show's episodes almost complete freedom when it comes to drawing the characters. Even within a single episode, the characters will often look different from shot to shot due to the different styles of the animators.

Of course, what this show is best known for is the pink jacket. This is the Pink Jacket series. The pink jacket seems to capture the ambivalence people feel towards this show, without even having given it a chance - it evokes vague terrors of cheesy 80s coloring and J-pop hijinx that are really quite unwarranted. The pink was supposedly a compromise suggested by Yuzo Aoki. He originally wanted white, but they thought that was too radical, so he suggested pink as a compromise between the white jacket and the red jacket. Lupin sometimes has an afro that feels a little embarrassing, but at other times is drawn in a totally different style. For the most part, the series doesn't feel dated. Its playful animation feels as fresh as when it was made. For good or ill, there were no precedents and no followers, so there's nothing else quite like this series out there, and it's still quite interesting to re-visit today.

Besides the unusual jacket color, most of the main characters look quite different, in a way that took me some getting used to. Jigen's eyes aren't covered by his hat most of the time, and his beard is long and scruffy. They play it fast and loose with the conventions of the show. It's telling that none of the later TV specials or movies ever used the pink jacket - always the red jacket or green jacket. The third series is the crazy uncle who you've heard rumors used to be in the Hell's Angels and snort cocaine and has illegitimate children he's never met in Algeria. He's the bad boy of the family.

If I had any disappointment with this series, it would be with the stories, which fall into a predictable pattern. It's always about stealing some kind of treasure that, when stolen, turns out to be a fake. Zenigata always turns up, only to turn out to have been Lupin in disguise. Fujiko always winds up betraying Lupin. If a guest character is introduced as a good guy, he always turns out to be the bad guy.

I don't mind some patterns in Lupin. It wouldn't be Lupin if Goemon didn't split things clean in half with Zantetsuken, if Fujiko wasn't a backstabbing cocktease, and if Zenigata didn't show up every episode shouting, "I'll get you this time!" Those aren't what bother me. What was disappointing is the writing of the stories. There was never a moment where the drama felt sophisticated or surprising, or where there was any complexity to a character or to an emotion. This series was clearly aiming for a more adult feeling, while still retaining the playfulness of the second series, but it feels like they missed both marks as a result. It's a terrible shame; it feels like they never really explored the potential inherent in Lupin III for more sophisticated and adult storytelling. If this remains a gripe, not a fatal flaw, it's thanks to the quality of the animation.

Finally, it's fascinating to note that this series did not have a director. At least, none is credited. This occurred before: Tokyo Movie's own Gyators did not have a director; only episode directors. And yet it maintains a uniform tone admirably. It holds together as a series just fine. Ironically, it has an animation supervisor, yet he did not use role to make the animation of the series more uniform, as is expected of a chief animation director - just the opposite.

The subcontracting studios that produced Lupin III Part 3

Studio Iruka's private sub

As I noted in my post on the second series, several subcontractors were actually involved in the production of the show, even though they are not credited. In Part 3, subcontractors played an even bigger role. I'd say that the majority of the episodes were produced by subcontractors. And the number of subcontractors is greater. It's easier to figure out who did what this time because the studios are actually credited.

Here is a breakdown of the studios that worked on Part 3. (See the bottom of this post for full episode credits.)

► Araki Production: 1, 7
Shingo Araki, Michi Himeno, Kenichi Araki, Satoshi Sasaki, Makoto Takahoko, Yuji Yamada
► Animation 501: 2, 9, 23 (14)
Hiroshi Ogawa, Isamu Utsugi, Joji Suzuki, Ikuko Ito, Taku Nakaya, Yoshiko Arai, Hiroshi Suzuki
► Ari Production: 3 (13, 17)
Heihachiro Tanaka, Yukiko Michishita, Sayuri Matsumoto, Mariko Saito
► Studio Iruka: 6, 10, 16, 19
Sachiko Kamimura, Jun Kawagoe, Junko Abe, Hinako Komatsu, Takahiko Ayame
► AIC: 8 (5, 13, 17)
Hiromitsu Ohta, Eiji Yamanaka, Nobuyuki Kanejima
► Kusama Art: 40 (5, 11, 18, 22, 26, 27, 30, 32, 33, 36, 47, 48, 50)
Tatsuo Ryuno, Shoji Furuta, Yukihiro Makino, Michitaka Kikuchi
► Studio Unicorn: 29 (35, 48)
Masaharu Morinaka, Yuji Hamano
► Oh Production: 31, 34, 39, 43 (11, 14, 18, 21, 41, 49, 50)
Hidetoshi Owashi, Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Hirotsugu Kawasaki, Kitaro Kosaka, Hiroshi Shimizu
► Studio Gallop: 42, 46
Hatsuki Tsuji, Toshio Yamauchi, Taku Nakaya, Hideaki Matsuoka, Jiro Tanaka, Takaya Ono, Yoshitaka Nishijima, Yoko Konishi, Miyuki Umetsu

Numbers in parenthesis indicate uncredited episodes. In a lot of cases, the episodes are actually a mix of studios - you have one or two animators from one studio working alongside one or two animators from another studio. In these episodes, they didn't bother to credit the animators by their respective studio.

Uncredited studios

There was one studio or family of studios that played a big role in the series, but that didn't get any credit for some reason: Studio Z5 and Studio Number 1. They are part of a long, complicated continuity of studios founded by people who at one time worked under or were otherwise affiliated with Yoshinori Kanada in the late 70s/early 80s at his Studio Z. Other studios affiliated with this group include Studio Oz, One Pattern, Studio Tome, and Studio Nonmaruto. It's hard to determine exactly who was at which studio when in the case of this group, as membership was very fluid, but here is a rough breakdown of their involvement in Lupin III Part 3. For some reason or other, they are not credited as a studio.

► Studio No. 1: (4, 12, 15, 20, 24, 28, 32, 33, 38, 44, 45, 48)
Osamu Nabeshima (storyboard/director), Kyoko Matsubara (sakkan), Shigenobu Nagasaki, Yasuchika Nagaoka, Masakatsu Iijima, Kazuhiro Ochi
► Studio Z5: (15, 20, 24, 44)
Hajime Kamegaki (storyboard/director), Hideyuki Motohashi (sakkan), Fujiko Ito, Seiji Muta

The Studio Number 1/Z5 episodes are one of the few places in Part 3 where you can find Kanada school animation. I'm really not fond of this style in the Lupin III context, so although the episodes aren't badly done, they're not the ones I like. But it's true that they did a lot to support the quality of the show.

The remainder of the animators not listed above were presumably working from TMS's home studio, Tokyo Movie, which is never credited explicitly since doing so would be redundant. This presumably includes Yuzo Aoki, Toshiyuki Omori, Yumi Machida, Hitoshi Hasegawa, etc.

Oh Pro is obviously the one studio from the 2nd series that came back in the 3rd series, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they do some of the best work on the show. The Oh Pro animators are totally different, however.

People who returned from the second show

Considering the six year gap between part 2 and 3, it would be interesting to have seen more people who worked on the second show working on part 3, to see how they evolved over the intervening years. But there aren't many. It's mostly new faces. Yuzo Aoki is the biggest element of staff continuity. Aoki himself sadly didn't wind up drawing much on the show, except for a few stints as animation director, but the few spots he did are very reminiscent of his work on the second show in terms of the timing of the animation. Even amidst the crazy work done by a handful of the other animators, his work feels distinct. Of course, his template can be seen in the second opening, which he presumably animated by himself. The interesting thing is that not many animators drew the characters quite the way he did. It's like he allowed them to come up with their own interpretation of his designs, rather than forcing them to draw the characters the way he did. Which is smart, because that is probably largely why so much of the animation feels so good.

Sachiko Kamimura worked on the second series as a key animator under the name Sachiko Kodama because she had just married director Kenji Kodama. By the time of the third series, the two had started their own subcontracting studio, Studio Iruka, and Sachiko had reverted to using her maiden name when working under her husband. Studio Iruka's work is quite lively and pleasant to watch, although the drawings are somewhat sleeker and more conventional.

Seijun Suzuki, who supervised the latter half of the second series, wrote a single episode in Part 3: episode 13. There aren't many episodes that stand out in terms of the story in Part 3, but episode 13 is a true oddity, perhaps even the strangest Lupin III episode ever made thanks to Seijun Suzuki's script, with its erratic shifts in tone, non-sequitur of a plot, surreal scenes, and baffling ending. It seems like the closest he ever came to making an anime version of his cult classic Branded to Kill.

It's actually difficult to grasp what the title of this episode means, or how it relates to the episode in any way. 悪のり変装曲 Warunori Hensokyoku loosely translates as 'Variations on Getting Carried Away'. Warunori means getting caught up in whatever you're saying or doing and going too far with it without realizing it. The episode strikes me as a bizarre, dreamlike remembrance of all things Lupin III, a hallucinogenic vision in the vein of Branded to Kill. My theory/interpretation is that Seijun Suzuki was slyly poking fun at the Lupin III anime and its conventions, by creating a story that did not make any sense or adhere to any of those conventions.

Episode 13 was directed by Shigetsugu Yoshida, who directed several of the best episodes of the second series. Yoshida only directed one other episode in Part 3: episode 7. Right after doing episode 13, Shigetsugu Yoshida and Seijun Suzuki together set to the task of directing the Gold of Babylon movie that served as the cinematic companion piece to Part 3.

Hatsuki Tsuji, one of the most prolific animators in the second series, returned as the animation director of one episode, this time from the studio where he new found himself, Studio Gallop. It was nice to see Hatsuki again, as he was one of the best animators in the second show, but his animation wasn't particularly exciting this time around.

Yoshio Urasawa, who wrote several of the most entertaining episodes in the second series, here returned to write two episodes - 26 and 49 - but these unfortunately had almost none of the wit and loony unpredictability that made his earlier work so fun.

Tateo Kitahara, the character designer and main animation director of the second series, paid an honorary visit in episode 36 under the name Takumi Kitahara. I rarely enjoy the work of a sakkan, because I find the job to be fundamentally problematic (I want to see a good animator's work as close to the raw as possible), but there is no denying that a good sakkan is indispensable, especially if you are not blessed with good animators or schedule, and I know that a lot of the nice drawings in the second series (except the Telecom episodes) were of the hand of the hard-working Kitahara.

The animator I most would have liked to see come back in Part 3 is Junzaburo Takahata, but it was not to be. Kazuhide Tomonaga, too, was obviously quite busy by this time working for Telecom. Most of the animators had moved on to very different places in the intervening 6 years.

Which studios/animators are worth seeking out?

The second series is long enough and uneven enough in quality that it's not worth watching the whole thing unless you REALLY like Lupin III. The third series, however, is worth watching from beginning to end. It's short enough and consistent enough that doing so isn't a chore, and there's good work here and there in every episode.

There aren't really any episodes in the third series that stand out as much as the Telecom episodes do in the second series, but there are a few animators and studios whose work is more worth checking out if your time is at a premium and you just want to sample the Pink Jacket series at its best.

Yuzo Aoki of course is the guiding spirit of Part 3, but ironically Part 3 doesn't seem to contain as much pure Aoki animation as the second series. It's other animators who wind up bathing in the spotlight.

Tatsuo Ryuno and Oh Production in my mind encapsulate the opposite ends of the stylistic spectrum of Lupin III Part 3: the one with more playful animation and heavily stylized drawings in the spirit of the Yuzo Aoki animation in the 2nd series, the other with more of a focus on exciting action animation in the spirit of the Telecom episodes of the 2nd series.

Tatsuo Ryuno

My favorite animator in the series is Tatsuo Ryuno, a person I'd never even heard of before watching the show. Ryuno is credited once alongside Shoji Furuta under a studio called Kusama Art, a mysterious studio about which I haven't been able to find any other information. He occupies the spot Yuzo Aoki occupied in the second series: He's the animator with the most deliciously idiosyncratic style in the show.

He has a very peculiar drawing style that can't be mistaken for anybody else. His style doesn't even resemble Yuzo Aoki's drawing style that much, but it's a perfect fit within the template Aoki laid down. I think he's the animator who best grasped and brought to life the direction Aoki was trying to go with this series.

He draws Lupin's face as a long curved arc in a way that reminds me of Monkey Punch's original. None of the other animators go nearly as far in drawing Lupin or the characters in this way, but that's exactly what I want to see in an anime adaptation of a Monkey Punch manga. Even Yuzo Aoki, who brought the drawings closer to Monkey Punch's original style, didn't go quite as far as Ryuno does.

Ryuno's drawings are full of creative poses. His animation is playful, sometimes excessively so. His characters become extremely deformed and exaggerated. He uses a lot of drawings. The animation is very active, and all of the poses in a movement are fun and interesting. Here are some examples of Tatsuo Ryuno sequences packed with lots of funny poses.

He often animates characters in distant shots like this, where the whole character's body is in the shot, so that there's less of a focus on the details of the features, allowing him to focus his energy on coming up with fun poses. There are lots of sequences like these where the characters react to things in a way that is so much more fun and full of playful drawings. He's a genius at packing a reaction shot with lots of comical poses - where most animators would probably have stopped at a single drawing, he puts in 10.

Ryuno's drawings feel effortless. I don't like animation that feels laborious. Despite moving so much, it feels like Ryuno is just pumping out the drawings without much pre-planning or agonizing. Sometimes they can be a little too rough around the edges and spontaneous, to the point that it feels out of control, but that's the kind of animator Ryuno is. His animation is controlled chaos.

Despite feeling very off-hand, the drawings are usually well stylized and laid out on the screen. He angles the limbs and bends the features just so in a way that feels great as a drawing. It's in that sense that he's the same kind of animator as Yuzo Aoki, and I can see why Ryuno was such an important figure under Aoki during this period.

I don't know of many other animators in the spirit of Yuzo Aoki, but Ryuno is one for sure. I wish there were more. There are lots of Kanada school animators who can draw characters in crazy poses, but what I like about Aoki and Ryuno is that they've got their own style totally uninfluenced by Yoshinori Kanada and his school. There are even animators who draw interesting drawings, but there aren't many like these two who seem to have an effortless command of body drawings. They draw the body in all these crazy poses so effortlessly. It's quintessentially Japanese in its focus on speed over cleanness and its disregard for model.

Oh Production

Oh Pro was one of the major studios behind the second series, and they return in the third to play an equally big part. Only this time, they occupy the space left empty by Telecom.

Oh Pro's episodes are the perfect contrast with Ryuno's episodes, just as Yuzo Aoki's episodes were with the Telecom episodes in the second series. Where Ryuno is all about wild drawings, the Oh Pro episodes are all about sleek, exciting action in the vein of Cagliostro. The weird thing is, Oh Pro is clearly emulating Telecom. The Telecom episodes in the second series are their model in terms of the drawings, the action, everything. They even have Lupin riding in a Fiat. The Oh Pro episodes are the only episodes in the third series that consistently depict Lupin riding in a Fiat. It sticks out that Oh Pro goes out of their way to draw Lupin in a Fiat when most of the other episodes don't care about the cars and draw him in whatever.

It's very peculiar, but the results are great. Oh Pro doesn't quite measure up to their model, but the amount of animation they pack into their episodes, and the glee with which they move their characters, is a delight to behold. And it's impressive that a completely different studio was able to create such a good simulacrum when even Telecom's recent Lupin III specials pale in comparison to the Oh Pro episodes.

The Oh Pro episodes are always storyboarded (using the pen name Kogaden) and sakkan'd by Hidetoshi Owashi and directed by Tsutomu Iida, with animation by four people: Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida and Hirotsugu Kawasaki. People today may not realize who Tsutomu Iida is: It's the late Umanosuke Iida. Umanosuke Iida started out at Oh Pro concurrently animating and directing.

Hop onto the Oh! Pro express

I don't know who was responsible for the good action in the Oh Pro episodes, or even if it was just a single individual, but I suspect Hirotsugu Kawasaki to have been the main action animator in the Oh Pro episodes, because very soon after Part 3 he was involved in Laputa as the animator of the action scene on the raised railway, one of the best action scenes in the film, followed by the baby room scene in Akira. And of course, he went on to become the director of the action film Spriggan and the just-released Onigamiden. It's amazing how much talent the Oh Pro Express has sent out into the world.

My only disappointment with the Oh Pro episodes is that the story and storyboarding aren't up to the level of the animation. You sense that these animators have the potential to explode if they just had a talented storyboarder and director on the level of Miyazaki to guide them. As it stands, due to the somewhat lackluster directing and stories, the animation is fun to watch, but never quite gels into the cathartic action of the Telecom episodes.

The last two episodes

If you only watch two episodes, you could do worse than just watching the last two episodes, episodes 49 and 50. There is no continuing storyline, and the last two episodes don't tie anything up or ruin anything. They're standalone episode just like any of the others, with the added bonus of being the culmination of all of the experience of their respective animators on part 3.

Episode 49 is by Oh Pro and episode 50 features work by Tatsuo Ryuno and Yuzo Aoki. Episode 49 is definitely Oh Pro's best episode. You sense that they pulled out all the stops on this one. The directing and story are still underwhelming, but it's downright moving how much effort the animators are putting into the animation. The regular team of four this time is supplemented by no less than Kitaro Kosaka and Hiroshi Shimizu, which no doubt helps push this episode to the next level. You have in this episode animation where a story is depicted as unfolding by means of actions performed by the characters, not by a script, as was the case in the Miyazaki Lupin III episodes.

Episode 50 is actually a fairly interesting story as far as Part 3 goes. The Lupin gang steals a nuclear submarine from the Soviets, and a scramble ensues with various spy agencies from around the world trying to out-compete and out-bid one another in purchasing the sub from Lupin et al on the sly. It's got the sort of geopolitical sting and topicality and serious edge to the story that I wish more of the stories in this series had. The stories are too often ludicrous and silly. On top of this, the animation is tremendously fun, the ultimate (literally) example of what Yuzo Aoki set out to achieve with his radical but ultimately doomed re-visioning of the visuals of Lupin III. Ryuno animated the entire first half of the episode, so it's obvious in what regard Aoki held Ryuno. This episode is a good place to start to get a sense of his style. Aoki himself did some animation in the second half.

Odds and ends

In addition to all the regulars, a few unexpected names pop up once in a while. Masahito Yamashita, best known as one of the earliest Yoshinori Kanada followers to make a name for himself in the early 80s for his strange and exciting animation full of odd, improbable posing and lushly animated angular effects, makes an appearance in two episodes: 20 and 27. In both episodes, there's no missing his work, which is in exactly the style for which he is known, with no concessions made to the show whatsoever. It's saying a lot when your work sticks out on a show as permissive of animator freedom as Lupin III Part 3.

Masahito Yamashita's unmistakable drawings

Satoru Utsunomiya made an early appearance in episode 48, many years before he became known for his own unique brand of animation. The work here isn't as identifiable as his later work, but it's still distinguishable from its very different sense of timing, and even some of the drawings that have a more rounded and solid feeling to them than the others in the show.

Studio Iruka stopped working on the show rather quickly, appearing only in the first half, but one Iruka animator remained on through the rest of the show: Shobu Takahiko. I'm not positive, but I suspect that many of the parts I most enjoyed in the show were drawn by this animator. After considerable effort to figure out who did the parts I enjoyed, I've been unable to conclusively narrow it down to him, but he's my best guess going by the circumstantial evidence of his having been such a recurring face. He was even brought on in the last episode, with its small but strong cast of animators. The scene I'm most wondering about is the chase that starts in the park near the end of episode 44. The drawings and timing of the movement there are so good and unlike that of any other animator in the show. The part where Zenigata drives his car vertically through a two-foot-wide alleyway is totally insane and awesome.

Looking at the inbetween credits, you will find latter-day director Akitoshi Yokoyama in episode 46. Yokoyama started out as an animator, and this must have been one of his earliest gigs. Norimoto Tokura is an inbetweener in episode 4.

One of my favorite writers in the series is Hiroshi Kashiwabara, who wrote episodes 32, 34, 44 and 50. His scripts were more witty and believable than many of the others. I can't think of many other writers on the show who stood out to me as being particularly good. His script for episode 50 was supposedly based on a story idea that had originally been submitted as a replacement idea for the Lupin III movie that Mamoru Oshii had dropped out on. Perhaps that's what makes that episode feel a cut above the rest with its clever satirical tone.

Gold of Babylon

A movie version was in planning around the time the third series began airing. It would have been the third movie. Hayao Miyazaki had recommended Mamoru Oshii for the role of director, but Oshii submitted a story idea that was so outlandish and bizarre that it scared off the producers and got him fired. The shards of ideas I've heard include a strange figure reminiscent of the girl in Angel's Egg holed up in a tower, and Lupin having lost his purpose in life because there is nothing left in the world to steal, which brings to mind the strange vision of a depopulated world in Beautiful Dreamer.

Shigetsugu Yoshida was quickly hired as a replacement, assisted by Seijun Suzuki, and Yoshio Urasawa was hired to write the script. This happened while Part 3 was airing, and many of the staff who were working on Part 3 had to leave to work on the film. This is why there seems to be something of a dip in quality around the middle of Part 3, where it feels like they are scrabbling to find the people to make the episodes. Yuzo Aoki is conspicuously absent around the middle of the show.

Released on July 13, 1985, near the end of the unusually extended broadcast run of Part 3, the Gold of Babylon movie is the craziest and most unpredictable and unhinged of the Lupin III movies, both in terms of its animation and its story. Yuzo Aoki is the head of animation, and the animation is close in spirit to Part 3, with Lupin wearing a pink jacket, although all of the main characters other than Lupin are designed in a way that is more of a throwback to the second series. The film had to be produced in a short schedule due to the debacle with Oshii dropping out, and consequently it's rough around the edges in terms of the animation, and the story is half baked, but it's still a memorable film and a great companion piece to Part 3. It's one of the few places where you can find more animation in the spirit of Part 3.

Alice

Despite having technically nothing to do with Lupin III, this obscure OVA released in 1991 adapting an old one-shot manga by Monkey Punch is very close in spirit to Part 3 due to the fact that it was directed by Yuzo Aoki and features Tatsuo Ryuno as the animator/animation director. Although much ill has been said about this bizarre, disjointed and in some ways deliberately ugly piece of animation, it has an abrasive power like no other anime. It's the only anime I've ever seen that felt like a faithful adaptation of Monkey Punch in all of his psychosexual, violent, anarchic glory.

The story is so crazy that it's worth describing. A mad scientist was in love with a girl named Alice, but Alice runs off with another guy, so the mad scientist shoots the both of them up with a machine gun as they're trying to drive off together. To take revenge on Alice for not being faithful to him (since killing her was not enough), the mad scientist proceeds to create a cyborg version of Alice who will be his faithful sexual slave. But as fate has it, the lovemaking kills him. When his son, a mafioso boss, hears news that his pop has been killed by a girl named Alice who was great in the sack, he sends out a call to all the Alices he can find and holds an audition to find the one who's best in the sack so he can kill her and exact his revenge. After nearly wearing off his implement auditioning every conceivable species of Alice including a Martian Alice, a lesbian Alice, and a giant Alice, he finally finds his sex goddess, but right when he attempts to blow her brains out with his dad's gun, the cyborg Alice steps in and saves the girl. After his various attempts to off Alice fail because of her superhuman strength, he clones himself and modifies his clone into an ultra-powerful cyborg capable of taking on Alice. Just as the cyborg is about to defeat Alice and rape her, the Don steps in and saves Alice, realizing he has fallen in love with her. Unable to accept his conflicting emotions, he departs, vowing one day to exact his revenge on his love, Alice.

Don't try to understand it. It's not meant to be understood. It's meant to be experienced.

The combo of Aoki and Ryuno proved that they were the team who understood Monkey Punch best of all the people who have worked on the franchise over the years first in Part 3 and then in Alice. Alice is as a far-removed encore to Part 3 and an upping of the ante. This time it is no holds barred: the OVA format allows them to draw imagery that does justice to the story's nonstop parade of crazy but hilarious sex and violence. The animation is rough around the edges but very lively and fun, the drawings full of wild poses and expressions. The real Monkey Punch in his full glory was too much for the air waves, much less the silver screen. Only in the OVA format was it possible to go as far as was necessary in depicting sex to be faithful to Monkey Punch.

The sexual aspect that played such a large part in the Lupin III manga in defining Lupin's character, with Lupin screwing and/or shooting broads in his patented insanely over-the-top drawings, was completely played down in the anime - to say nothing of the Miyazaki version. Alice, for all the ill you can say about it, is one of the few anime adaptations that did not dumb down the crazed sexuality that was the essence of Monkey Punch. I for one found the story quite entertaining in its wildness. It's a little too episodic, and the story a little too crazy to be able to take seriously, but it wouldn't be Monkey Punch if that weren't the case. It's a rare glimpse into the darkness of what could have been if Lupin III had been made for a more adult audience.

Lupin III Part 3 full episode credits

StoryboardDirectorSakkanKey Animators
1金塊はルパンを呼ぶ
The gold bullion calls to Lupin
荒木プロダクション
姫野美智 荒木賢一 高鉾誠 山田雄二
Araki Production
Michi Himeno, Kenichi Araki, Makoto Takahoko, Yuji Yamada
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
荒木伸吾
Shingo Araki
2大いなる罠を暴け
Break through the big trap
アニメーション501
宇都木勇 鈴木丈司 伊藤郁子
Animation 501
Isamu Utsugi, Joji Suzuki, Ikuko Ito
こだま兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
小川博司
Hiroshi Ogawa
3こんにちは地獄の天使
Hello, angel from hell
アリプロダクション
道下有希子 松本小百合 斉藤真理子
Ari Production
Yukiko Michishita, Sayuri Matsumoto, Mariko Saito
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
橋本三郎
Saburo Hashimoto
田中平八郎
Heihachiro Tanaka
4テレパシーは愛のシグナル
Telepathy is love's signal
鍋島修 松原京子 飯島正勝 長岡康史 伊藤富士子
Osamu Nabeshima, Kyoko Matsubara, Masakatsu Iijima, Yasuchika Nagaoka, Fujiko Ito
鍋島修
Osamu Nabeshima
松原京子
Kyoko Matsubara
5五右ェ門無双
Goemon the invincible
古田詔治 太田博光 鈴木秀司 山中英治 牧野行洋
Shoji Furuta, Hiromitsu Outa, Hideshi Suzuki, Hideji Nakayama, Yukihiro Makino
中村亮之介
Ryonosuke Nakamura
板倉則子
Noriko Itakura
高田三郎、柳野龍男
Saburo Takada, Tatsuo Ryuno
6ルパンが戦車でやってきた
Lupan arrived in a tank
スタジオイルカ
川越ジュン あべじゅん子 小松ひな子 菖蒲隆彦
Studio Iruka
Jun Kawagoe, Junko Abe, Hinako Komatsu, Takahiko Ayame
こだま兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
神村幸子
Sachiko Kamimura
7死神ガーブと呼ばれた男
The man called Garb the God of Death
荒木プロダクション
姫野美智 荒木賢一 佐々木聡 高鉾誠
Araki Production
Michi Himeno, Kenichi Araki, Satoshi Sasaki, Makoto Takahoko
吉田しげつぐ
Shigetsugu Yoshida
荒木伸吾
Shingo Araki
8聖母マリヤの脱出作戦
Plan to free Holy Mary
AIC
太田博光 山中英治 兼島信幸
AIC
Hiromitsu Outa, Eiji Yamanaka, Nobuyuki Kanejima
奥脇雅晴
Masaharu Okuwaki
高田三郎
Saburo Takada
9コピー人間は高くつく
Copied people are expensive
アニメーション501
小川博司 宇都木勇 鈴木大司
Animation 501
Hiroshi Ogawa, Isamu Utsugi, Hiroshi Suzuki
橋本三郎
Saburo Hashimoto
小川博司
Hiroshi Ogawa
10秘宝は陰謀の匂い
Hidden treasure smells of conspiracy
スタジオイルカ
川越ジュン あべじゅん子 小松ひな子 菖蒲隆彦
Studio Iruka
Jun Kawagoe, Junko Abe, Hinako Komatsu, Takahiko Ayame
こだま兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
神村幸子
Sachiko Kamimura
11ルビーは血の汗を流す
The ruby sweats blood
牧野行洋 ふくだ忠 古田詔治 あべどん 青村悦子 飯田つとむ
Yukihiro Makino, Tadashi Fukuda, Shoji Furuta, Don Abe, Etsuko Aomura, Tsutomu Iida
板倉則子
Noriko Itakura
柳野龍男、尾鷲英俊
Tatsuo Ryuno, Hidetoshi Owashi
12バルタン館のとりこ
Prisoner of Baltan House
飯島正勝 長岡康史 伊藤富士子 長崎重信 松原京子
Masakatsu Iijima, Yasuchika Nagaoka, Fujiko Ito, Shigenobu Nagasaki, Kyoko Matsubara
鍋島修
Osamu Nabeshima
松原京子
Kyoko Matsubara
13悪のり変装曲
Variations on a bad joke
道下有希子 高田三郎 松本小百合 太田博光 斉藤真理子
Yukiko Michishita, Saburo Takada, Sayuri Matsumoto, Hiromitsu Outa, Mariko Saito
吉田しげつぐ
Shigetsugu Yoshida
田中平八郎、高田三郎
Heihachiro Tanaka, Saburo Takada
14誘拐ゲームはお好き
Let's play the kidnapping game
小川博司 川崎博嗣 宇都木勇 阿部どん 鈴木大司 飯田つとむ
Hiroshi Ogawa, Hirotsugu Kawasaki, Isamu Utsuki, Don Abe, Hiroshi Suzuki, Tsutomu Iida
橋本三郎
Saburo Hashimoto
小川博司、尾鷲英俊
Hiroshi Ogawa, Hidetoshi Owashi
15殺しが静かにやってくる
Death comes quietly
飯島正勝 長岡康史 伊藤富士子 長崎重信 道下有希子 高田三郎
Masakatsu Iijima, Yasuchika Nagaoka, Fujiko Ito, Shigenobu Nagasaki, Yukiko Michishita, Saburo Takada
亀垣一
Hajime Kamegaki
16黄金のリンゴには毒がある
Golden apples are poisonous
スタジオイルカ
神村幸子 川越ジュン あべじゅん子 菖蒲隆彦
Studio Iruka
Sachiko Kamimura, Jun Kawagoe, Junko Abe, Takahiko Ayame
こだま兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
神村幸子
Sachiko Kamimura
17結婚するって本当ですか
Are you really getting married?
田中平八郎 高田三郎 松本小百合 太田博光 斎藤真理子
Heihachiro Tanaka, Saburo Takada, Sayuri Matsumoto, Hiromitsu Outa, Mariko Saito
曽我部孝
Takashi Sogabe
田中平八郎、高田三郎
Heihachiro Tanaka, Saburo Takada
18ショータイムは死の香り
Showtime smells like death
古田詔治 川崎博嗣 青海房子 あべどん 菊池通隆 ふくだ忠
Shoji Furuta, Hirotsugu Kawasaki, Fusako Oume, Don Abe, Michitaka Kikuchi, Tadashi Fukuda
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
柳野龍男、尾鷲英俊
Tatsuo Ryuno, Hidetoshi Owashi
19裏切りの荒野を走れ
Run across the wasteland of betrayal
スタジオイルカ
神村幸子 川越ジュン あべじゅん子 菖蒲隆彦
Studio Iruka
Sachiko Kamimura, Jun Kawagoe, Junko Abe, Takahiko Ayame
こだま兼嗣
Kenji Kodama
神村幸子
Sachiko Kamimura
20過去を消した男
The man with no past
長岡康史 長崎重信 伊藤富士子 越智一裕 道下有希子 山下将仁
Yasuchika Nagaoka, Shigenobu Nagasaki, Fujiko Ito, Kazuhiro Ochi, Yukiko Michishita, Masahito Yamashita
鍋島修
Osamu Nabeshima
飯島正勝
Masakatsu Iijima
松原京子、本橋秀之
Kyoko Matsubara, Hideyuki Motohashi
21さらば黄金伝説
Farewell, legendary gold
ふくだ忠 阿部どん 飯田つとむ 川崎博嗣 北川美樹 佐藤真人
Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Hirotsugu Kawasaki, Miki Kitagawa, Masato Sato
甲賀電
Kogaden
荻原亨
Ryo Ogiwara
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
22ダイヤに炎は似合わない
Flames don't suit diamonds
飯島正勝 牧野行洋 道下有希子 古田詔治 北川美樹 佐藤真人
Masakatsu Iijima, Yukihiro Makino, Yukiko Michishita, Shoji Furuta, Miki Kitagawa, Masato Sato
曽我部孝
Takashi Sogabe
柳野龍男
Tatsuo Ryuno
23ベイルート移動銀行強奪作戦
Beirut moving bank heist plan
アニメーション501
鈴木大司 宇都木勇 中矢卓 新井淑子
Hiroshi Suzuki, Isamu Utsuki, Taku Nakaya, Yoshiko Arai
小川博司
Hiroshi Ogawa
24友よ深く眠れ
Sleep deeply, my friend
長岡康史 伊藤富士子 飯島正勝 道下有希子 北川美樹 佐藤真人
Yasuchika Nagaoka, Fujiko Ito, Masakatsu Iijima, Yukiko Michishita, Miki Kitagawa, Masato Sato
亀垣一
Hajime Kamegaki
本橋秀之
Hideyuki Motohashi
25俺たちは天使じゃない
We ain't no angels
OHプロダクション
ふくだ忠 阿部どん 飯田つとむ 川崎博嗣
Oh Production
Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Hirotsugu Kawasaki
甲賀電
Kogaden
荻原亨
Ryo Ogiwara
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
26ニューヨークの幽霊
Ghost of New York
柳野龍男 佐藤真人 青海房子 北川美樹
Tatsuo Ryuno, Masato Sato, Fusako Oume, Miki Kitagawa
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
青木悠三、柳野龍男
Yuzo Aoki, Tatsuo Ryuno
27暗号名はアラスカの星
Codeword: Alaskan star
山下将仁 柳野龍男 道下有希子 北川美樹 青梅房子 佐藤真
Masahito Yamashita, Tatsuo Ryuno, Yukiko Michishita, Miki Kitagawa, Fusako Oume, Makoto Sato
ケン・タロウ
Taro Ken
荻原露光
Roko Ogiwara
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
28アラスカの星は地獄への報酬
Alaska's stars are payment from hell
道下有希子 飯島正勝 佐藤真人 細谷満 北川美樹 三浦嘉友
Yukiko Michishita, Masakatsu Iijima, Masato Sato, Mitsuru Hosotani, Miki Kitagawa, Yoshitomo Miura
荻原露光
Roko Ogiwara
浪花京子
Kyoko Naniwa
29月へハネムーンに行こう
Let's go on a honeymoon to the moon
スタジオユニコーン
森中正春 浜野裕治
Studio Unicorn
Masaharu Morinaka, Yuji Hamano
荻原露光
Roko Ogiwara
森中正春
Masaharu Morinaka
30カクテルの名は復讐
The name of the cocktail is revenge
山崎理 柳野龍男 曽我部孝 青梅房子 蒲木伸男 佐久間清明
Osamu Yamasaki, Tatsuo Ryuno, Takashi Sogabe, Fusako Oume, Nobuo Kamaki, Kiyoaki Sakuma
曽我部孝
Takashi Sogabe
青木悠三、柳野龍男
Yuzo Aoki, Tatsuo Ryuno
31逆転 逆転 また逆転
One turn of events after another
OHプロダクション
ふくだ忠 阿部どん 飯田つとむ 川崎博嗣
OH Production
Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Hirotsugu Kawasaki
甲賀電
Kogaden
飯田つとむ
Tsutomu Iida
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
321000万ドルの鍵
The $10-million key
柳野龍男 曽我部孝 青梅房子 佐藤真人 道下有希子 北川美樹
Tatsuo Ryuno, Takashi Sogabe, Fusako Oume, Masato Sato, Yukiko Michishita, Miki Kitagawa
鍋島修
Osamu Nabeshima
飯田つとむ
Tsutomu Iida
松原京子
Kyoko Matsubara
33天才少年の危険な遊び
Dangerous games of a boy genius
柳野龍男 佐藤真人 青梅房子 道下有希子 北川美樹 飯島正勝
Tatsuo Ryuno, Masato Sato, Fusako Oume, Yukiko Michishita, Miki Kitagawa, Masakatsu Iijima
荻原露光
Roko Ogiwara
柳野龍男、曽我部孝
Tatsuo Ryuno, Takashi Sogabe
34マンハッタン・クライシス
Manhattan Crisis
OHプロダクション
ふくだ忠 阿部どん 飯田つとむ 川崎博嗣
OH Production
Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Hirotsugu Kawasaki
甲賀電
Kogaden
飯田つとむ
Tsutomu Iida
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
35ターゲットは白銀の果てに
The target at the far edge of the snow
森中正春 曽我部孝 浜野裕治 佐藤真人 道下有希子 北川美樹
Masaharu Morinaka, Takashi Sogabe, Yuji Hamano, Masato Sato, Yukiko Michishita, Miki Kitagawa
曽我部孝
Takashi Sogabe
森中正春、青木悠三
Masaharu Morinaka, Yuzo Aoki
36鷲の舞い降りる時
When the eagle descends
柳野龍男 大森利之 古田詔治 長谷川仁 町田由美 斉藤弘行
Tatsuo Ryuno, Toshiyuki Omori, Shoji Furukawa, Hitoshi Hasegawa, Yumi Machida, Hiroyuki Saito
中野一
Hajime Nakano
荻原露光
Roko Ogawara
北原匠、柳野龍男
Takumi Kitahara, Tatsuo Ryuno
37父っつあん大いに怒る
Pops gets really mad
丸山政次 佐藤真人 山岸宏 道下有希子 北川美樹 菖蒲隆彦
Masatsugu Maruyama, Masato Sato, Hiroshi Yamagishi, Yukiko Michishita, Miki Kitagawa, Takahiko Ayame
荻原露光
Roko Ogawara
小林勝利、曽我部孝
Masatoshi Kobayashi, Takashi Sogabe
38俺を愛したレティシア
Leticia who loved me
大森利之 佐藤真人 長谷川仁 道下有希子 町田由美 菖蒲隆彦
Toshiyuki Omori, Masato Sato, Hitoshi Hasegawa, Yukiko Michishita, Yumi Machida, Takahiko Ayame
鍋島修
Osamu Nabeshima
飯島正勝
Masakatsu Iijima
北原匠、青木悠三
Takumi Kitagawa, Yuzo Aoki
39ライバルに黄金を
Gold to the rival
OHプロダクション
ふくだ忠 阿部どん 飯田つとむ 川崎博嗣
OH Production
Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Hirotsugu Kawasaki
甲賀電
Kogaden
飯田つとむ
Tsutomu Iida
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
40一枚のお宝で大混戦
Free-for-all over a single piece of treasure
草間アート
柳野龍男 古田詔治
Kusama Art
Tatsuo Ryuno, Shoji Yoshida
曽我部孝
Takashi Sogabe
柳野龍男
Tatsuo Ryuno
41戒厳令の夜
Night of martial order
長谷川仁 町田由美 牟田清司 道下有希子 菖蒲隆彦 佐藤真人
Hitoshi Hasegawa, Yumi Machida, Seiji Muta, Yukiko Michishita, Takahiko Ayame, Masato Sato
荻原露光
Roko Ogiwara
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
42ピラミッドの保険金を奪え
Grab the pyramid insurance money
スタジオぎゃろっぷ
山内昇寿郎 中矢卓 松岡秀明 田中二郎
Studio Gallop
Toshio Yamauchi, Taku Nakaya, Hideaki Matsuoka, Jiro Tanaka
飯島正勝
Masakatsu Iijima
戯家六夫
Mutuso Giga
関町北三
Kitami Sekimachi
43さらばシンデレラ
Farewell to Cinderella
OHプロダクション
ふくだ忠 阿部どん 飯田つとむ 川崎博嗣
OH Production
Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Hirotsugu Kawasaki
甲賀電
Kogaden
飯田つとむ
Tsutomu Iida
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
44ボクたちのパパは泥棒
Our dad's a thief
大森利之 道下有希子 長谷川仁 佐藤真人 町田由美 菖蒲隆彦
Toshiyuki Omori, Yukiko Michishita, Hitoshi Hasegawa, Masato Sato, Yumi Machida, Takahiko Ayame
亀垣一
Hajime Kamegaki
飯島正勝
Masakatsu Iijima
井上昭子
Shoko Inoue
45コンゲームに乾杯
Salud to the con game
佐藤真人 佐藤雪絵 道下有希子 井上昭子 菖蒲隆彦 長岡康史
Masato Sato, Yukie Sato, Yukiko Michishita, Shoko Inoue, Takahiko Ayame, Yasuchika Nagaoka
飯島正勝
Masakatsu Iijima
井上昭子
Shoko Inoue
46俺の翼はスクラップ
My wings are scrap
スタジオぎゃろっぷ
小野隆哉 西島義隆 小西洋子 梅津美幸
Studio Gallop
Takaya Ono, Yoshitaka Nishijima, Yoko Konishi, Miyuki Umetsu
高本宣弘
Nobuhiro Takagi
辻初樹
Hatsuki Tsuji
47一枚の迷画
A famous painting
兵頭敬 柳野龍男 高橋明信 古田詔治 須貝美佳
Takashi Hyodo, Tatsuo Ryuno, Akinobu Takahashi, Shoji Furuta, Mika Sugai
河島三郎
Saburo Kawashima
柳野龍男
Tatsuo Ryuno
48ハディスの涙
Hadis's tears
菖蒲隆彦 柳野龍男 宇都宮智 長岡康史 道下有希子 飯島正勝
Takahiko Ayame, Tatsuo Ryuno, Satoru Utsunomiya, Yasuchika Nagaoka, Yukiko Michishita, Masakatsu Iijima
奥脇雅晴
Masaharu Okuwaki
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
49父っつあんが養子になった日
The day pops was adopted
川崎博嗣 福田忠 あべどん 飯田つとむ 高坂希太郎 清水洋
Hirotsugu Kawasaki, Tadashi Fukuda, Don Abe, Tsutomu Iida, Kitaro Kosaka, Hiroshi Shimizu
甲賀電
Kogaden
飯田つとむ
Tsutomu Iida
尾鷲英俊
Hidetoshi Owashi
50原潜イワノフの抹殺指令
Order to destroy nuclear submarine Ivanov
柳野龍男 青木悠三 菖蒲隆彦 柳田勤 高坂希太郎 尾鷲英俊
Tatsuo Ryuno, Yuzo Aoki, Takahiko Ayame, Tsutomu Yagita, Kitaro Kosaka, Hidetoshi Owashi
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki
荻原露光
Roko Ogiwara
青木悠三
Yuzo Aoki

A selection of random images from the series:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

06:48:00 am , 812 words, 8702 views     Categories: Lupin III, Studio: Tokyo Movie, Animator: Yuzo Aoki, 1970s

Wrapping up Lupin III part 2

Whew, it took a lot of work, but I finally finished watching the entire Lupin III part 2 series. It was enjoyable, even when the episodes weren't particularly brilliant. I kept a brief diary of the episodes in the comments of the original post. I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed anything really notable in my original post, to make sure it was comprehensive. For the most part, my original post covered all the bases, but I thought I'd add a few little things I discovered along the way.

Must-watch episodes
There weren't that many notable episodes I forgot to mention, but I found one episode that wasn't on my radar at all and is a must-see: Episode 73 is a great racing episode full of insane antics and great directing. If you only watch a few episodes in the show, watch this episode alongside the good Telecom episodes and a few Yuzo Aoki episodes and Kazuhide Tomonaga episodes. Usually you can narrow down who was responsible for making an episode good in this show - usually it's either an animator or a director. But in this case it's hard to pin down exactly who is responsible for making this episode so good. The writer, the storyboarder and the director all did OK work throughout the show, but nothing quite like this episode. (While I'm at it, I talked about the Aoki-Urasawa Broadway episodes before, but episode 117 is the best one after the Kabashima episode (78) and the Telecom episode (143).)

Seijun Suzuki
The great Nikkatsu yakuza film director became the 'supervisor' of this show around the episode 50 mark, and his imprint can clearly be felt in the increasing nonsensical/crazy tone. I suspect that it's the influence of Seijun Suzuki, if anything, that is to thank for the craziness of episode 73. Seijun Suzuki also co-directed the Babylon movie together with Shigetsugu Yoshida, which gives clear indication of his style.

Seiji Suzuki
Although Yuji Ohno is well known for making the music of Lupin III all these years, Seiji Suzuki is the music director of the show. (For some reason I thought Seiji and Seijun were brothers, but it seems that may not be the case.) The two of them have remained in these posts throughout the years. Seiji Suzuki was one of the major figures responsible for giving the show its unique flavor due to his very unusual way of arranging music. Rather than laying down tracks in the traditional way, he inserts little shards of different tracks with split-second timing, using the music almost like a sound effect. He is very playful, and he has a good sense of humor about the music, and a broad selection. Beyond arranging Yuji Ohno's amazing music, he sometimes unexpectedly inserts incongruously serious familiar classical pieces to heighten the absurdity of a situation.

Hatsuki Tsuji
There were a lot of 'solo' episodes in the show. Kazuhide Tomonaga, Hiromi Yokoyama, Junzaburo Takahata, Fumio Sakai, Tsukasa Tannai, Yuzo Aoki, Takeshi Yamazaki and Tanaka Atsushi each drew solo episodes at one time or another. Tsuji Hatsuki drew the most, and I found watching the show that I enjoyed his work a lot, even though it didn't move in a flamboyant way like Kazuhide Tomonaga and wasn't drawn interestingly like Yuzo Aoki. Episodes 83, 107 and 117 are good spots to get a taste for Hatsuki Tsuji at his best. He just seems like a real pro with real power.

Junzaburo Takahata
This guy was an animator at Tokyo Movie in the late 1970s. He was a regular throughout Gyators at the very least, but I haven't seen his name very much elsewhere. He has perhaps the most pleasing and unique drawing style of anyone in the second Lupin III series after Yuzo Aoki. The two even worked together several times on the show. His characters are very well stylized, but differently from Yuzo Aoki, more lanky and more fluidly animated, closer to Monkey Punch's original. The beginning of episodes 79 and 89 and the car crash in 85 showcase Takahata's animation style well. He uses more drawings and has a strong sense of momentum.

Uncredited Yuzo Aoki animation
It turns out there was uncredited Aoki animation in most of Aoki's storyboard episodes, and it's all very identifiable and as delectable as any of his credited work. He did uncredited animation in episodes 89, 117, 129, 138, 146 (not an Aoki storyboard) and 149.

Yasumi Mikamoto
I didn't bother translating the writing/storyboarding/directing credits for every episode for one because it would have cluttered up the credits and for two because, for the most part, there isn't that noticeable a difference from episode to episode in terms of the directing. Yasumi Mikamoto is one of the few directors on the show who did seem to elevate the directing to a slightly higher level. His episodes are often tighter and better balanced. Episodes 116, 137 and 148 are good examples of Mikamoto's directing.