The series which replaced Atom. The second color TV anime. With super-fast action, clever art direction,
and a mix of sophistication and silliness, this is surely one of the most unique and artistically interesting
series to emerge from the first decade of TV anime history. Interestingly, Shigeru Yamamoto would work under Hata
as animation director again 14 years later on The Legend of Sirius.
The group of Hata's episodes and
Dezaki's episodes are easily the best in the series, with Hata's best episode being #9, "What the heck?"
(in Japanese: Hatena? Hatena?), the only episode in the series with literally no storyline, only non-stop,
all-out gags, gags and more gags. The series as a whole shows a general proclivity for nonsense and chaos of this
sort, and several other episodes do a wonderful job of pushing story aside in favor of gags, but this episode in
particular seems to be the one in which director Sugii Gisaburô's conception of the series was most
#3 was supposedly the last episode still following the original manga (#4, by Dezaki, is by far the best
episode in the series), but with all the good gags typical of Hata's episodes, I really wonder...
#7 features a salamander character reminiscent of Mabuse in The Legend of Sirius, but
emphasizes story rather than gags.
#9, mentioned above, makes the leap to no storyline whatsoever,
and is filled to the brim with a cornucopia of imaginative visual gags.
#10 runs a close second to this episode,
but strikes a more conventional balance between storytelling, action and gags, and is one of Hata's best creations.
#13 again features a number of good gags, but by this point in the series, storyline begins to take over again, and the gags
begin to be edged out. The reason for this is presumably that the ratings which Gokû had inherited from Atom
had dropped to the teens by this point, and the station was pressuring Mushi Pro to adhere to more conventional
defeat-the-villain-type storylines. This is the tendency which ultimately leads to the "Monster Confederacy" episodes,
where, as per formula, a group of evil monsters who are out to take over the world send a different monster every episode
to defeat the good guys.
Hata directed the first, #22. The mood of levity which Hata brings to this episode rescues it to a degree,
but there are disturbing tendencies in these later episodes, like the repitition of animation from previous episodes or
the same episode - eg, using the same sequence of Goku lunging towards a monster sometimes three, four times in the same episode -
which are a major disappointment because they are an obvious compromise of the goals with which the series set out.
In #33, Goku & gang intercede on the part of an inept prince by defeating an evil magician who was
plotting to dispose of the prince to take over his kingdom. Hata created another ludicrous 'child man'-type character of this
sort in 1001 Nights.
#34, Hata's last episode, is one of the most successful non-gag episodes in the series. Though
the humor is gone, Hata never allows the episode to make the blunder of taking itself seriously like many of the other episodes, and the void of humor is filled by fast-paced action, taut directing and colorful and interesting bad guys.
Overall, the series would have a little bit more to go for it
if the rest of the humorless late episodes had been done as well; but as it stands, the overwhelming majority of what makes this series of interest comes approximately within the first 13 episodes,
before the animators had been affected by the demands of the station. Interestingly, the inverse happened to Sugii's next TV series,
Dororo: the series was too serious, so they were ordered to turn it into a comedy after the first season. And it was still cancelled.