Last time, we looked at TCJ’s start and their early series, including Sennin Buraku, Tetsujin-28, 8 Man, Yusei Shonen Papii, and Fumio Hisamatsu’s Super Jetter.
Hisamatsu’s manga work would inspire another TCJ series that premiered in April of ’67- Boken Gaboten Jima aka Adventure On The Gaboten Island. This “Swiss Family Robinson/Robinson Crusoe” style story involves a lost island full of strange animals and the story of five teenagers who wash up on its shores. Tomato and Ryuga sneak onboard a submarine at an amusement park late at night, joining Gabo, Cucumber and Igao who were already there. Launched accidentally, the sub drifts on the ocean until beaching on Gaboten Island, where the five must survive as castaways. They build treehouses, make friends with the animals, explore the hidden tunnels and caves of the island, discover ancient relics, build irrigation canals, a waterwheel, indoor plumbing, a little island train, meet local islanders, and hold a boxing match between a gorilla and a baby dinosaur. As fun as all this is, they know eventually the volcano is going to erupt, so they must find a way off Gaboten Island! A great mambo-style theme song and interesting use of live-action footage make the opening credits fun.I’d love to see more of this series.
|Hit me, dealer|
It’s around this time that the international future of Japanese animation swam onward with Japan Tele-Cartoons’ Kaitei Shonen Marine(Undersea Boy Marine, or “Marine, The Sea-Bottom Boy” if you prefer), an expanded version of an abortive 13-episode series from ’66 titled Ganbare! Marine Kid (Hang on! Marine Kid), in turn a color update of a 3-episode black and white 1965 experiment titled Dolphin Prince. Warner Brothers/Seven Arts in America expressed interest in the show, and the infusion of American capital led to the concept being fully realized in a 78 episode series known here as Marine Boy. America got to see this Japanese show first, which is still kind of rare. Marine Boy, whose father calls him ‘Marine Boy’, is a spunky kid with a super diving suit, an electric boomerang, jet boots, and Oxy-Gum which allows him to breathe underwater. His adventures with the Ocean Patrol and his mermaid girlfriend would thrill children around the world and provide, among other things, one of England’s earliest tastes of Japanese anime.
Marine Boy’s opening credits clearly list “Japan Tele-Cartoons”, and reasonable investigators such as myself would spend decades assuming that “Japan Tele-Cartoons” and TCJ were one and the same. This assumption would be totally wrong. Japan Tele-Cartoons was a separate company, known alternatively as “Nihon Doga” or “TV Video” or “TV Films” or “Terebi Doga.” Take your pick.
Nihon Doga/TV Video/whatever would also produce Kaito Pride AKA Dr. Zen, a primitive series of brain-damagedly simple shorts starring the mysterious thief Pride (or Dr. Zen) and his attempts to steal all the children’s toys. Opposing this criminality is the boy detective Doublecheck and his pals Gabby and Honeybee, who is a little talking bee with a woman’s face. Time to quit drinking.
Terebi Doga would also have their fingers in the world-class ridiculousness of Johnny Cypher In Dimension Zero, hands down one of the worst cartoons ever made, but not without its own Ed Woodsian so-bad-its-good charms.
|in the future we'll wear helmets with little wings|
For my own part, I apologize for decades’ worth of disseminating false information about TCJ and Japan Tele-Cartoons or Nihon Doga or TV Films or whatever they’re calling themselves this week, and can only ask for the forgiveness of anime fans everywhere. Remember kids, when you assume it makes an ASS out of, well, just me.
Meanwhile, back in the non “Tele-Cartoons” world of TCJ, in the Sengoku Era/Warring States period of Japan (16th century) – or 1968, if you like - the remnants of Sanada Daisuke’s men were hunted by Tokugawa’s ninja led by Hattori Hanzo, and among these survivors was the ninja Sasuke Sarutobi. Sasuke has made pop-culture appearances for years, but in Sanpei “Ninja Bugeicho” Shirato’s 1961 Sasuke manga (based in turn on a novel by Kazuo Den), Sasuke is a young boy struggling to survive in a ninja-infested Japan crazy for his young ninja blood. TCJ’s 1968 Sasuke series did a decent job replicating Shirato’s amazing brushwork and idiosyncratic character design, and delivered the first of a very few “gekiga” anime series. Sasuke ran for 29 episodes and would eventually find its way to American markets as a one-episode dub titled “Kiko – Boy Ninja.”
|date night, Kamui style|
It’s around this time that TCJ underwent a transformation into Eiken, a move that would see it through the end of the 20th century and beyond. Spearheading this bold new direction is none other than the cheerful housewife Sazae-San, whose TV adventures started in October of 1969 and ended… let’s see. Sazae-San is STILL ON THE AIR. That makes Sazae-San the longest-running TV cartoon of all time, anywhere. Based on the Machiko Hasegawa comic strip which started in 1946 and took Sazae and her family through Japan’s occupation up into the 1970s, the success of Sazae-San made Hasegawa one of Japan’s pre-eminent female manga-ka and allowed her to, among other things, start her own art museum. Although the strip was controversial at first for its portrayal of Sazae as a modern, independent woman capable of making her own decisions, the series is now seen as a light family comedy (see also The Simpsons, which were once controversial enough to be condemned from the White House. I know, right?) enjoyed by generations of Japanese young and old, and ignored completely by so-called “anime fans” in the West. Get with it, people.
Today Eiken, or Kabushiki Kaisha Eiken, is a subsidiary of Asatsu-DK, which is involved in many different interests including the production studio NAS, publishing company Nihon Bungeisha, TV commercial house Prime Pictures, and the Tokyo Ad Party. Eiken’s later successes would include Cooking Papa, shojo classic Glass Mask, super robot hero UFO Daiapolon, the comedy Kobo-Chan, and new versions of both Tetsujin-28 and 8 Man. Does the future hold revivals for Yusei Kamen, Super Jetter, or dare I ask, Yusei Shonen Papi? Will another anime series burrow its way into the brains of children yet unborn, to complete the cycle of obsession and confusion? Glico is ready when you are, Eiken!