Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TCJ Part Two

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
Falcon Taro’s mom and sister were killed by the Ghost. He volunteers to join the Japan International Secret Police to battle the Ghost for revenge. And thus begins the saga of TCJ’s Skyers 5! Speaking of great theme songs, the crashing, machine-gun riddled OP for Skyers 5 promises lots of James Bond style spy action, and this show delivers as the Skyers team - S5 Falcon Taro, S4 Samson, S3 Lily, S2 Polka, and S1 Captain - dressed inexplicably as casino blackjack dealers, foil the evil plots of The Ghost around the world through the careful application of lots of gunfire.  The 1967 series was black and white, but a 1971 revival was in color.

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
The deadly medieval Japanese assassins known as “ninja” would be front and center for TCJ’s next series, Nimpu Kamui Gaiden (Kamui: Stories Other Than The Legend), which would air from April until September of 1969 on Fuji TV with sponsorship by electronics manufacturer Toshiba. Kamui would appear in a short theatrical feature, as well. Shirato’s “Kamui Den”manga ran in Garo from ’65 to ’71 while his “Kamui Gaiden” strips ran in Weekly Shonen Sunday from ’65 until ‘67. Kamui is a ninja from the Edo period who rose up from the oppressed peasant class, but has decided to leave his clan. Of course, nobody leaves the family, Kamui, and his former clan curse him as a traitor and vow to kill him, ninja-style if possible.  Wandering feudal Japan, Kamui must use all his intelligence and super ninja skills to survive as he witnesses the struggle of the common people in an era of grinding poverty and unjust feudal rule.  Eventually the life of a hunted man wears on Kamui’s mind and he becomes paranoiac, convinced everyone’s his enemy. The Kamui manga would be one of the first Japanese comics to beprofessionally published in America, and the anime would have a one-episode VHS dub as “Search Of The Ninja”.

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!

1 comment:

Chris Sobieniak said...

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.

Don't forget Australia! Of course Australia's interest in early anime gems would go a different path from the US with the different shows that showed up down under.

Dr. Zen and it's cliffhanger-style approach mimics the sort of pattern once prevalent in American TV cartoons of a decade earlier like Crusader Rabbit or Ruff & Reddy (not to mention the Rocky & Bullwinkle adventures).

Terebi Doga would also have their fingers in the world-class ridiculousness of Johnny Cypher In Dimension Zero,

And hell, it was enough to interest Seven Arts to go ahead and fork over dough for Marine Boy, so that helped!

In the 70's and 80's, Eiken would also co-produce a few shows for French companies like "Oum, le Dauphin Blanc" (Zoom, the White Dolphin".
Japanese OP: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjmvhs_%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB%E3%82%AB%E3%81%A8%E5%B0%91%E5%B9%B4-op-ed_music
A bit of a movie compilation that use to air on Nickelodeon's Special Delivery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9cBbX5j6EI

The show proved popular enough back in France that Nestle used the dolphin for it's brand of white chocolate bars for many decades (don't think much happened in Japan and these ads weren't even animated there anyway).

In the 1980's another French company called Procidis used the assistance of Eiken to animated several of their popular "Il ├ętait une fois…" series (Once Upon A Time...). One was "Space" in 1981. A movie compilation called "Revenge of the Humanoids" would also pop up on Nickelodeon a few times.

Another co-production (though Eiken only got credited in name only like the last time) is "Life". I'm using this as an excuse to highlight an episode on sexual reproduction as it has to be seen to be believed!
(opening): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imP2MZxoM-s

Glico is ready when you are, Eiken!

Lord knows I'd like to see that happen! Especially if they could try to cross-market this in the states were Glico's Pocky has at least a good firm hold on the market.