Sunday, November 20, 2016

Prince Planet At Fifty


Fifty years ago a Japanese candy company, a Tokyo cartoon studio, an American production outfit, a future biker-movie star, and TV stations across America would join forces to bring us adventures that crossed the boundaries of time and space and bent both logic and common sense. Soon these stories would vanish from television, living on only as fuzzy memories and fuzzier bootleg VHS tapes, returning only with the advent of streaming video and digital broadcast television.

Join us, won't you, as we take a look at fifty years in the life of Prince Planet.




1939: future Yusei Shonen Papi manga artist Hideoki Inoue is born in Hokkaido. He will enter the manga field as an assistant to Osamu Tezuka, and his professional manga debut will be at age 20 with the feature "TV Boy" in the magazine "Omoshiroi Book."

September 4, 1963 – Tokyo-based animation studio TCJ’s first anime series Sennin Buraku premieres late on a Wednesday night. Sennin Buraku is based on the Edo-period gag manga by Ko Kojima which has been continuously published since 1956.

Space Patrol Hopper
October 20, 1963 – TCJ’s animated Tetsujin-28 series airs on Fuji-TV. Based on the Shonen Magazine manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Tetsujin-28 is the first giant robot anime and will later be localized as Gigantor and syndicated across America by Trans-Lux.

November 1964- Hideoki Inoue illustrates Space Patrol Hopper manga for Bokura Magazine. Space Patrol Hopper will be a Toei Animation TV series from February to November, 1965.

1965- "Yoshikura Shouichirou" – a pseudonym for Higake Takeichi, Okura Sato, Yamamura Masao, Kano Ichiro, and Futaba Juzaburo – create Yusei Shonen Papi for TCJ, with financing by Japan's top ad agency Dentsu and data gathered from a survey of 10,000 Japanese boys and girls. Using a combination pen name as creator of an anime series will also be a hallmark of Toei ("Saburo Yatsude") and Nippon Sunrise ("Hajime Yatate") productions. Yusei Shonen Papi manga will first appear in Kobunsha's Shonen in November 1964, drawn by Hideoki Inoue, and the TCJ-produced animation will premiere in June of 1965. Sponsor Glico will market a full line of Yusei Shonen Papi tie-in candy and merchandise.

Papi and Riko-chan
June 3, 1965- after a galactic council chooses to help the people of Earth, the advanced civilization of the hidden tenth planet Clifton sends a young member of the Galactic Peace Force named Papi to Earth to defend peace and justice. A genius with an IQ of over 300, Papi is able to utilize the mysterious Metalyzer, a pendant powered by a generator on Clifton that allows Papi to change the molecular structure of any object, as well as fly, perform feats of strength, survive underwater and in outer space, emit destructive rays, and do anything else the script requires. Every 168 hours (one Earth week) new energy is sent from Clifton to power the Metalyzer. En route to Earth, Papi's ship is struck by asteroids, and aware of the danger, Papi requests that HQ on Clifton erase part of his memory so he won't be tempted to return and abandon his mission. The damage to his ship results in a crash on Earth and Papi's memory is almost totally erased. Landing on Riko-chan's family farm, he remembers enough of the Metalizer to chase oil-speculating gangsters away. Soon Papi is joined by new friends Strong the wrestler and Ajababa the Arabian wizard. He'll spend the next 52 episodes battling crime and robots, armies and monsters, flying saucers and space demons. After a year on Earth Papi is recalled to Clifton, and must say farewell to all his friends on Earth. Yusei Shonen Papi will be broadcast on Japanese television and released on VHS and DVD in Japan.

Ajababa and Strong
June 3, 1965– Yusei Shonen Papi premieres on Fuji TV at 7pm, and will air 52 episodes until May 27, 1966. It will be replaced in its Thursday time slot by the live-action Kokusaihoei adventure series Phantom Agents, created by Tatsuo Yoshida, while Papi moved to 7pm Fridays. When Papi ends, its replacement will be TCJ animated series Yusei Kamen ("Asteroid Mask"). Both Yusei Shonen Papi and Phantom Agents will be packaged for overseas license by Kazuhiko Fujita and his K. Fujita Associates. K. Fujita will be instrumental in the early days of Japanese TV animation for his work securing financing from advertising agencies for Japanese animation (as he did with Dentsu and Yusei Shonen Papi), as well as licensing Japanese cartoons for export. K. Fujita’s other series include Gigantor, Eighth Man, Marine Boy, Speed Racer, and films like Terror Beneath The Sea.

the mark of K. Fujita
1966- Copri International Films, a Miami-based dubbing house partially owned by a former Havana casino manager with ties to mob boss Meyer Lansky, hires Florida actress Catherine "Bobbie" Byers to voice the character of Prince Planet. Other cast members include Kurt Nagel as Aja Baba and future "Santa Claus" actor Jeff Gillen as Pop Worthy. English-language scripts for Prince Planet will be written by Reuben "Ruby" Guberman, erstwhile screenwriter for Florida trash-film king K. Gordon Murray. Copri also dubbed TCJ series Eighth Man, and did Spanish-language work for many clients including the CIA.

AIP trade periodical advertisement for Prince Planet and other series

1964-1966- Yusei Shonen Papi manga by Hideoki Inoue is published in Kobunsha's weekly Shonen magazine, along with Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s Tetsujin-28, Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atomu, Hisashi Sekiya's Stop! Nii-chan, and Fujio Akatsuka’s Leave It To Chiyota.

Yusei Shonen Papi manga in Kobunsha's Shonen

1965-66 – children across Japan enjoy both Yusei Shonen Papi on TV and the many Glico candies and candy premiums produced in conjunction with the series. Papi is featured on Papi gum, Papi chocolate, Papi stamps, Papi yo-yos, Papi whistles, Papi biscuits, Papi lenticular moving pictures, Papi finger puppets, Papi boomerangs, Papi bubble gum, Papi parachutes, Papi balancing toys, and what may be the most complex cartoon-character candy premium ever, the Papi Panoramascope. Riko gets her own line of candy and toys marketed at girls, with Riko hair charms and Riko pendants and a replica of Riko's ladybug ring. Glico even produced replicas of Papi's Metalyzer and a Papi costume sized for children. American kids got none of this, and we still feel kind of cheated. Glico's chocolate pretzel snack Pocky will, however, make great inroads into the North American snack food market.

a few Glico Yusei Shonen Papi products
Riko-chan toys are for girls only


June 10 1965- Television wrestler Strong is unable to control his immense strength, and loses his TV wrestling job. Forced into a life of crime, he is given a second chance by Yusei Shonen Papi, and aids Papi in his fight for justice (episode 2, "The Strength of Strong")

Strong is strong
June 17 1965– Prince Planet's enemy, the Martian magician Warlock, first appears (as Kiritobi) in episode #3 of Yusei Shonen Papi ("Ultra Ninja Kiritobi")

Kiritobi the Ultra Ninja & Master Of Martian Mischief 

July 1 1965– the Octopus Gang, led by Madame Whiplash, uses flying robot jellyfish to execute mid-air hijackings of jet airplanes carrying gold bullion (episode 5, “The Flying Jellyfish”)

more Papi toys

December 23 1965– the Master Of Misery, Krag of Kragmire (aka Golem) makes his entrance in episode 30 of Yusei Shonen Papi, and will menace Prince Planet throughout the remainder of the series with his bat wings, his funeral director's demeanor, and his saw-blade pocket watch.

the evil Krag, or Golem if you prefer
February 18 1966– Riko finds a pair of gloves that she believes renders her immune to harm, forcing Papi to spend the rest of the episode protecting her from the harm she knowingly exposes herself to (episode 38, "The Magic Gloves").

Riko-chan in Paris

1966- the Planet Radion sends young Universal Peace Corps member Prince Planet to Earth to defend decency and justice. Using his Pendant of Power, Prince Planet can change the molecular structure of objects, fire powerful rays, and is given flight and super strength. Crash landing on the ranch of "Pop" Worthy, he is befriended by Worthy's daughter Diana. Soon he meets out-of-work studio wrestler Dan Dynamo, Ajababa the wizard from Abadon, and occasional supporting character Kevin Kirby, who is both a hydro-electric power station engineer and Diana’s uncle. Together they face crime and robots, gangsters and space aliens, invading armies and destructive plants. After a year on Earth, Prince Planet leaves his new friends and returns to Radion. From 1966 until the mid 1970s, Prince Planet will be seen on American syndicated UHF television and will also become a popular series in Australia. The series is never released on licensed home video in North America. MGM will make the Prince Planet series available on streaming video and digital TV in the 2000s.

the "Papy Stamp"

1965-66– the Galactic Peace Force chooses perhaps the laziest, most forgetful officer on Clifton to be responsible for ensuring Papi’s Metalyzer is fully charged. Rest assured whenever Papi’s in trouble and needs a fresh burst of Metalyzer recharging, this doofus will be asleep at the literal switch.

those idiots on Radion
1966– the Carol Lombard Singers perform the theme song to Prince Planet. Carol Lombard worked with legends like Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Presley, and her singing group also did the theme to Flipper and many AIP musicals produced by Prince Planet musical director Al Simms.

May 20 1966- Kiritobi (Warlock) is destroyed in a fierce battle with Ajababa (episode 51, "Ajababa's Grandchildren")

May 27 1966- Golem (Krag) is finally defeated in battle with Yusei Shonen Papi, and Papi returns to his home planet, leaving behind all his Earth friends, in the final episode of Prince Planet, "Distant Home Planet."

1967- Prince Planet voice actor Bobbie Byers stars as Linda, "too much woman for any one man", in the 1967 Crown International biker film Wild Rebels, directed by Florida auteur filmmaker William "Death Curse Of Tartu" Grefe, who would later direct William Shatner in Impulse.

Wild Rebels star Bobbie Byers

1968– Manga artist Hideoki Inoue spends his Yusei Shonen Papi profits on high living and entertainment, and is soon broke and in trouble for nonpayment of taxes. His post-Papi work includes licensed character manga based on Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Ultra Q, and Thunderbirds, as well as non-licensed manga series Thunder Seven, Crazy Planet, and Dogma 3.

Inoue's Thunderbirds and Thunder Seven

1968– Prince Planet voice actor Bobbie Byers stars in the motorcycle gang movie Savages From Hell (aka "Big Enough 'n Old Enough"), also starring Sidney Poitier's brother Cyril. The film is directed by Joseph P. Mawra, who also directed "Chained Girls" and "Shanty Tramp", the latter screenwritten by Prince Planet writer Ruben Guberman.

Savages From Hell

1973- Future Let’s Anime blogger Dave Merrill watches Prince Planet for the first time on Chicago's WSNS Channel 44. The program is hosted by ventriloquist Steve Hart and sponsored by KAYO Chocolate Drink. The memories of Prince Planet will spark a lifelong interest in Japanese animation for Merrill and many others.




1977– the first national Japanese fan group, the Cartoon Fantasy Organization or C/FO, begins in Los Angeles California. Eventually it will have chapters in most major American cities, including Atlanta.

1985– future Let’s Anime writer Dave Merrill helps found a C/FO chapter in Atlanta GA and assists in hosting regular screenings of old and new Japanese animation in libraries, community centers, comic book and SF conventions, and anywhere else with a TV and a VCR.

August 1986- Yusei Shonen Papi manga artist Hideoki Inoue passes away in his apartment in Japan. He had avoided payment of income tax on his Yusei Shonen Papi profits, which by now had all been squandered. Estranged from his wife and family, Inoue died alone.


1986- Membership in the C/FO facilitates contact with anime fans across the country, some of whom have Prince Planet episodes and are willing to trade. Tape trading with C/FO members allows many, including this author, to see Prince Planet again for the first time in 13 years.

Prince Planet Foundation promotional mailing

1988-  The national C/FO self-destructs, the local anime club becomes a chore, and future Let’s Anime blogger Dave Merrill decides to concentrate on his core interests, the Japanese cartoons of the 1960s. He will start an organization called the Prince Planet Foundation, in an attempt to gather together 60s anime fans. The Prince Planet Foundation will publish a newsletter, “Ten Thousand Gigantors”, featuring articles and fan artwork and fiction, and will connect fans of classic anime across America.

cartoon by Prince Planet Foundation member Meg Evans
1993- the print version of Let’s Anime publishes an extensive article about Prince Planet.

Let's Anime #4, artwork by Paul Young

1995- The new digital technology of “the internet” results in Prince Planet Foundation founder David Merrill receiving plaintive emails from total strangers, asking if there was any way they could ever see this cartoon they grew up with. Merrill spends the next few years copying Prince Planet episodes for total strangers.



October 1995 - The Japanese animation festival Anime Weekend Atlanta holds its first annual convention, and the badges for staff and attendees feature YSP/Prince Planet artwork designed by convention graphics specialist CB Smith.

AWA director's badge

1999- Enough is enough, says Prince Planet Foundation organizer Dave Merrill. He stops responding to queries about Prince Planet episodes.

July 2007 - Classic anime blog Let’s Anime begins online publication.

November 2009 – MGM announces more than 45 episodes of Prince Planet will be made available on streaming video sites Hulu and YouTube. The 47 episodes available on YouTube will eventually vanish, but the Hulu access will remain for years.

November 2009 - Let's Anime readers participate in a Prince Planet art contest to celebrate the release of Prince Planet on Hulu and YouTube. The blog receives a lot of great artwork and everybody gets a T-shirt, courtesy MGM.

winners of the Prince Planet Fan Art contest

January 16 2012 – Let’s Anime posts the first of a 3-part English translation of Yusei Shonen Papi manga, partially scanned directly from a crumbling 1965 issue of Shonen Magazine.

February 18, 2012 – Manga Shop Series 445 is released, the first volume of collected Yusei Shonen Papi manga. This 288 page black and white digest-sized book collects the first half of the YSP manga as it appeared in Shonen Magazine, as well as reproductions of illustrations from the Asasi Sonorama Papi storybook single. Manga Shop Series 446 completes their YSP reprint.

Manga Shop 445 and 446
April 2014 - digital broadcast TV network The Works, a channel owned by MGM Television, begins airing Prince Planet as part of its schedule.

May 2014 - TGG Direct, Inc announces the release of Prince Planet on DVD in North America, and the DVD set is listed on Amazon. May comes and goes with no release, and the listing is removed from Amazon. Queries to TGG go unanswered.

November 2016 - Classic anime blog Let's Anime celebrates fifty years of Prince Planet with a celebratory blog post filled with information on both Yusei Shonen Papi and Prince Planet, which you are now reading. Will there be more excitement ahead for YSP/Prince Planet fans? Will Prince Planet return from Radion, or MGM’s vaults, to battle for truth and justice again? Only time will tell!


thanks to Meg Evans, James Sternberg, the people of Radion, MGM, Rick Zerrano, AIP-TV, and "Yoshikura Shouichirou" for their YSP/Prince Planet assistance. 



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