Monday, January 14, 2013

1965: A Year of Anime Firsts

Mia Lewis is getting her MA/PhD in Japanese Literature at Stanford University, where her area of specialty is manga. Her undergraduate research at Columbia focused on the use of visual manipulation of language to embed meaning into manga’s text. Her undergraduate thesis, which focused on these techniques in CLAMP’s manga, was published in the Columbia East Asia Review. She also runs a blog on anime/manga: http://kagayakusekai.wordpress.com/.

I would like to start as Charles Dunbar did by stating that this era of anime is completely new to me. I must also state that because the vast majority of this year’s anime (beyond their opening themes) is not available outside of Japan or at all, this piece is based almost entirely on secondary research. There were also times when Wikipedia was the only source for specific information. In instances where information from Wikipedia exceeds basic plot information, I only use it when it is consistent with other sources, and note it at the end of the statement. As my goal here is to provide a sense of the industry, rather than individual works, I do not go into plot for most works. I would also like to apologize for putting this project out of order by being late with getting this finished, and to thank all of those who submitted their work early to keep the blog going on time. -- Mia



1965 was a year of firsts for anime on a multitude of different fronts. Some of these experiments and efforts were so successful as to effectively change the standards to which every subsequent anime was held. On the other hand, some were such huge failures that they ended after only one episode. The number of new anime series produced this year nearly quadrupled over the previous year, going from 4 to 15. Of these series, few crossed over into the Western world. However, this year as a period of trial and error was key to the formation of anime as we now know it.


1965’s Anime in a Nutshell

Fifteen new works meant a significant increase in time slots for anime programing on Japanese TV, with at least one channel, Nippon Television, showing serialized anime for the first time. Despite the sudden boom in anime being aired, there was an astounding lack of variety in terms of basic plot. Over half of these series are in the science fiction genre, and every show has a male protagonist. Even just in terms of titles, four begin with uchû (宇宙, space]. Even if we limit the “science fiction” designation to shows involving beings from outer space or the future, eight of the anime fall under this category: Super Jetter (スーパージェッター), Dolphin Prince (ドルフィン王子), Space Patrol Hoppa (宇宙パトロールホッパ), Space Boy Soran (宇宙少年ソラン), The Alien Pipi (宇宙人ピピ), Space Ace (宇宙エース), Prince Planet (遊星少年パピイ), and The Amazing 3 (W3). With its tale of an incredibly powerful bomb developed by a superhuman race living below the sea, Fight! Osupā (戦え!オスパー) could also fall under this umbrella.

Of the remaining anime, three had main characters who were anthropomorphic animals: New Treasure Island (新宝島), Kimba the White Lion (ジャングル大帝), and Hustle Punch (ハッスルパンチ). The Amazing 3, with its aliens disguised as talking animals, also crossed into this category. All of Tezuka’s Mushi Productions works this year contained anthropomorphic animals. The remaining two anime were gag comedies aimed at young children: Phantom Thief Pride (怪盗プライド aka Dr. Zen), and Q-taro the Ghost (オバケのQ太郎), with Hustle Punch falling under this category, as well.

For all these works’ apparent similarities in terms of themes, and even specific plots, their production points to huge shifts in the industry during this year.

Kimba the White Lion and the Color Anime Revolution

1965’s most famous anime is undeniably Tezuka Osamu’s Kimba the White Lion. Although the first Japanese TV color broadcast was in 1960, and there had been color animated films since 1958, Kimba was the first time an entire, full-length anime series was broadcast in color. Wildly popular in both Japan and abroad, Kimba changed viewers' expectations about anime with its wildly colorful and beautifully illustrated scenes. From a night sky covered in multi-colored shining lights to endless streams of colorful butterflies, color is used to an extent rarely seen in contemporary works. This stunning and vibrant use of color shows that Mushi Productions knew they had to impress upon the industry and audience how integral color was to anime, and impress they did.

I would like to take a moment to discuss the history of color in anime, as summarized in the below table, copied and translated from Anime Monochronical:

 

(A visual representation of the progress of color in anime over time can be found here.)

As the above table shows, since the very inception of anime producers had experimented with using color, although these efforts were rarely seen by the viewers. Kimba was the first color anime to have a huge impact on the viewership, in part because it was the first full-length series the public saw in color, and in part because of how fantastically it used color. While sources disagree as to whether or not Dolphin Prince, a three-episode pilot, was broadcasted in color, it was Kimba that changed people’s expectation for future anime.

In order to consider the place of Kimba in anime history, a brief plot summary is in order. As is true of nearly all Tezuka’s works, the story itself is very progressive even by modern day standards. Kimba tells the tale of the young emperor of the animals of the African jungle, Kimba ("Leo" in the Japanese version). His father, Panja, is killed by hunters brought in by the local villagers who were tired of Panja releasing their livestock back into the wild. Kimba’s mother is captured and gives birth to him while on a boat headed for a foreign zoo. At his mother’s urging, Kimba escapes the boat before it crashes, and returns to the jungle where he works to bring harmony to the human and animal worlds. To do this, Kimba tries to humanize the jungle animals by urging carnivores to eat insects rather than other animals, and by building things such as an amusement park, a farm, and a restaurant. He is also able to talk with humans, and befriends some of them.


At the above table illustrates, getting to the point where a full-length color anime series could be produced was the product of years of developments and progress. Even so, achieving his dream of producing Kimba in color was neither an easy nor a straightforward task for Tezuka. There were numerous factors holding back the production of anime series in color. These included: 1) the exorbitant amount of funding needed for a children’s program, 2) the fact that many people at the time did not own a TV, nullifying the benefits of such costs, and 3) the reality that many broadcasting companies did not have the equipment necessary to broadcast in color.

Tezuka had to make a number of sacrifices to get Kimba produced. Tezuka secured funding from Sanyô appliances, who wanted to sell more color televisions. However, in order to secure additional funding from US network NBC, who in turn hoped to get the same sort of profits gleaned from Astro Boy, he had to conform to US standards for children’s cartoons. In order to conform to these standards he had to rework the series to include less violence and death, characters that did not age (so that the audience could always identify with them), and a non-linear storyline (so that the episodes could be aired out of order). This meant that his original plot that included Kimba growing into the emperor of the jungle and having his own cub could not be followed, although he later follows his initial plans in the series’ sequel, which ended in a loss as NBC declined to pick it up.

Kimba’s success hardly needs explanation. The story has been in some form of anime production on and off since 1965, with the latest being a 2009 release. In the US the original was aired until the late 1970s—Frederick Schodt goes so far as to say that, in Tokyo, “Tezuka’s legacy and his lion characters are impossible to ignore.” (Dreamland Japan, 272) Schodt, along with just about everyone aside from Disney, also points out that Kimba had a very heavy influence on, and in places was copied by, Disney’s The Lion King.

Although the vast majority of the anime produced in 1965 was monochrome, as the following section illustrates, color immediately became a new standard for anime, particularly if success is considered to involve being sold in overseas markets.

The US Dictates

As is clear from the case of Kimba, in 1965 the US market had a heavy influence on Japanese anime production. For instance, confusion regarding licensing 8 Man in the US lead to rights being sold without the manga publisher or creator’s knowledge (Wikipedia). This in turn lead to broadcaster TBS producing 1965 anime Super Jetter as an original series, then having a manga serialized off of it to ensure that they owned all the rights.

Using color, while expensive, was also viewed as key to being purchased abroad. In 1965 NBC had instituted a policy of airing almost all its prime time programing in color, a trend that quickly spread, with ABC, NBC, and TBS having an entirely color primetime lineup by the 1966-67 broadcast season (Wikipedia). In hopes of being licensed abroad, Super Jetter was reproduced in color in its entirety, as was the first episode of Space Ace.

Like with Kimba, foreign funding also influenced the production of Dolphin Prince’s new iteration, Marine Boy. A scheduling disaster had Marine Boy’s first episodes in Japan running in 1966 at the same time as an already highly-popular anime on a different channel, jeopardizing Japanese network TBS’s interest in the series during a period when funding for color anime was still hard to come by. In desperate need of additional funding to complete the series, the producers of Marine Boy managed to reach an agreement with US distributor Seven Arts Television, but with the stipulations that the original series of 13 episodes be expanded to 78, and that the US version would aired first. The result was that a color full-length Marine Boy series was produced, but it would not be seen in its entirety in Japan until years after it showed in the US and Australia.

Experiments in Form and Production: Specialization, Photos, and Length

1965 saw a considerable amount of experimentation in the production of anime beyond just color. The Amazing 3 was a first on a couple of fronts. Amazing 3 tells the story of three aliens sent to Earth disguised as animals to determine if Earth’s warring tendencies pose a threat to the universe warranting its annihilation. Amazing 3’s primary innovation was that it featured a different organization of animators, with each animator being responsible for one character, as was already practiced by US animation studios such as Disney. This differed from standard industry practice as the time, which was for each animator to animate one segment. Amazing 3 was also Tezuka’s Mushi Productions’ first original anime, the anime’s concept being developed first with the manga being produced off of it. Both the manga and the anime were then released almost simultaneously, although their stories varied considerably.

The Alien Pipi also experimented with production, using a combination of film of real objects and animation. In a style that brings to mind Nana’s manga and Gravitaiton’s anime, Pipi uses film and pictures for backgrounds and Pipi’s flying saucer, while using animation for characters.


Length was another area in which we saw major developments. Mushi Production Studio was tasked with a one hour time block once a week, which they planned to fill with an anthropomorphic version of Treasure Island, yet after only one episode was produced the idea was sacked, and the solitary episode was played as a one-time special. On the other end of the spectrum was Phantom Thief Pride, a gag comedy about a phantom thief and a young boy detective who, along with his companions, tries to stop him. Playing in five minute intervals at the same time every weekday for one full episode per week, Telebi Doga’s Pride was the prototype of a type of program called obibangumi anime (帯番組アニメ) that later became common practice. By playing only part of the story everyday, such a program encouraged loyalty to the TV station and introduced children initially interested in only one show to the station’s other programming.

The Friendly Monster with a Pouch


Although almost completely unknown outside of Japan, no discussion of 1965 would be complete without mention of Q-taro the Ghost. Amongst the science-fiction dominated anime line up, Q-taro is one of the few comedic series oriented towards young children. Q-taro, based on the manga by the Fujiko Fujio group, is the story of a friendly ghost who has special powers, including a pocket in his mouth where he can keep things. He and his human companion are silly and flawed characters, but they work hard to fight evil and do good. This series grew to such popularity that it spawned a number of different iterations, including one from the 1980’s over 500 episodes long that is currently still aired every weekday on Asahi Television. Its own popularity aside, though, it demonstrated a gap that Fujiko Group member Hiroshi Fujimoto exploited in the very similar story of the explosively popular Doraemon.

*****


1965 was a year of experimentation, from color and format to production. The year’s greatest success was undeniably the first full-length series broadcast in color, Kimba the White Lion. Other successful attempts include Telebi Doga’s Phantom Thief Pride, which set the foundation for what would become the common practice of playing part of an episode every weekday for a week to boost viewership. In contrast, the idea of an hour-long serial anime was almost instantly trashed. 1965 also saw the advent of new story types, with Q-taro the Ghost both being wildly popular in its own right, and the basis of the now ubiquitous Doraemon.

Yet, we cannot overlook the incredible influence foreign markets (particularly the US) had on anime this year. From content, to production style, to series length, to color, to licensing, Japanese animation studios and broadcasters were heavily influence by foreign techniques and markets. In a number of cases they even put the requirements of foreign markets above their own plans and the demands of the Japanese market, all in order to secure desperately needed funding to bring their anime dreams to life.

The anime of 1965, both the successes and the failures, played a major role in shaping anime as we know it. Anime, like manga, was in large considered by those who funded it to be a commercial venture. However, for artists and groups like Tezuka, it was a passion, with losses and sacrifices to sponsors taken in stride for the sake of producing works that they cared about. In this year we can see animation techniques, plot formulas, market sensibilities, and a passion that are central to anime to this day.

Further Reading:
allcinema: Movie and DVD Database. 2013. http://www.allcinema.net/prog/index2.php.
Anime TV Series. http://home.alphalink.com.au/~roglen/anime_tv_series.htm.
Camp, Brian, and Julie Davis. 2007. “Kimba the White Lion.” Anime Classics Zettai: 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press. 184-190.
Clements, Jonathan, and Helen McCarthy. 2001. The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press.
Schodt, Frederick L. 1996. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press.
Wikipedia. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/.
“アニメ・映像wiki” [Anime and Movie wiki].
Tezuka Osamu Official. 2013. http://tezukaosamu.net/jp/anime/32.html.
アニメ・モノクロニクル [Anime Monochronical]. 2011. http://animemonochrome.blog69.fc2.com/blog-entry-174.html.
オバケのQ太郎 [Q-taro the Ghost]. 2013. tv asahi ch. http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/channel/contents/anime/0032/.
“ハッスルパンチ” Hustle Punch. Toei Animation. http://www.toei-anim.co.jp/lineup/tv/hustlepunch/.

(Next time: We catch up with the timestream and find Astro Boy's biggest rival of the 1960s.)

3 comments:

  1. "There were numerous factors holding back the production of anime series in color. These included: 1) the exorbitant amount of funding needed for a children’s program, 2) the fact that many people at the time did not own a TV, nullifying the benefits of such costs, and 3) the reality that many broadcasting companies did not have the equipment necessary to broadcast in color."

    Of course it was a far different story in the US where a good majority had a TV set (though mostly in B&W) and some cartoons were made in color despite debuting first in B&W like The Flintstones. This was done as a foresight to future syndication of those episodes certainly, at least they knew how to spend their money here. Roughly around the mid period in the 60's I recall Australia made a show called 'Arthur! & The Square Knights of the Round Table" in color, yet it could not be seen in it's homeland outside the monochrome world until color TV transmissions began nationwide a decade later in 1975. There, I took this post off-topic!

    It was a shame for Tezuka to have to turn to an American television giant that he did, but I suppose it was all for the sake of color anyway (and what with NBC already being known for that through it's parent company General Electric at the time pimping those Color Are-See-Eh Tee-Vee's at fine store everywhere) Of some bright note, some of the crew members got a nice trip to Hollywood where animator Preston "Golden Age" Blair showed them how to effectively do limited TV animation in color (his book would inspire plenty of others in the years that followed, including a swipe of a bull dog who shows up in a Speed Racer episode).

    And by the way, when we're talking about NBC picking up this and Astro Boy, it does not mean they were aired on the network itself. They ran a barter syndication unit that would offer these shows to local stations, either network affiliates or independants, that would air these programs, either in the weekday afternoon schedule or on the weekends. Prior to 1971, the big three networks all had syndication firms including ABC Films (later Taft-owned "Worldvision Enterprises") and CBS Films (later spun off as Viacom International). A ruling from the FCC in the early 70's put a plug up that dyke and the networks had to lose these entities for decades that follwed (NBC's was sold off to National Television Associates who I think syndicated Kimba into the late 70's). Of course these days they pretty much have 'em back (as well as the other forms of media that developed over time).

    "the producers of Marine Boy managed to reach an agreement with US distributor Seven Arts Television, but with the stipulations that the original series of 13 episodes be expanded to 78, and that the US version would aired first. The result was that a color full-length Marine Boy series was produced, but it would not be seen in its entirety in Japan until years after it showed in the US and Australia."

    It's quite facinating how that happened at all, we'll never know who's right in that deal. Still, it gave Marine Boy a nice boost worldwide despite having to play catch-up on it's home ground later on. Seven Arts buy out Warner Bros. in '67 and went defunct in '70 (to this day, Warner Bros. still legally owns the rights to the English/international version of Marine Boy outside Japan).

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  2. Some time after it's original broadcast, "Phantom Theif Pride" was re-animated in color and an English version was produced under the name "Dr. Zen", apparently it was quite a popular cartoon in Latin America I've read.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzCOX8liwwc

    "By playing only part of the story everyday, such a program encouraged loyalty to the TV station and introduced children initially interested in only one show to the station’s other programming."

    Playing in five minute intervals at the same time every weekday for one full episode per week, Telebi Doga’s Pride was the prototype of a type of program called obibangumi anime (帯番組アニメ) that later became common practice. Essentially following a trend that was trailblazed by the likes of Crusader Rabbit, Ruff & Reddy, Colonel Bleep and Spunky & Tadpole (of course Rocky & Bullwinkle would elevate that to new heights, though perhaps I said enough).

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  3. Oh, sorry. 1965 is not positioned after 1964, so I didn't find it at first. :-)

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