The History of Anime: 1963

by Miguel Douglas


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Anime History: 1963 – The year of Astro Boy, Tetsujin 28 and 8 Man

With the newfound creation of an animation industry firmly established within Japan, the further exploring of what Anime could offer was being steadily more realized. Many genres were being integrated into the realm of animation during this period—especially that of the science fiction. As a nation, Japan has always been an advocate for technology, pushing the boundaries to extraordinary lengths. This attitude certainly translated over into the animation sphere, where even today, many Japanese animation series rely heavily on the implementation of science fiction elements to garner a significant fandom. The inclusion of robots, cyborgs, and androids all play a part in enriching the atmosphere of many series, proving a uniqueness that can only be found within Japanese animation. 1963 was a year that laid the foundation for exploring science fiction within Japanese animation, and its resounding effects can still be felt to this very day.

In year 1963, Japan saw the release of the first series made by Mushi, that of Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy). Set in a world where humans and robots co-exist, the series followed the life of a robot boy named “Astro”, created by a scientist named Doctor Tenma in order to replicate his son who died in a tragic accident. Previously released in 1951 as Atom Taishi (Atom the Ambassador) by manga-ka Osamu Tezuka, the character and his adventures were published in comic form within Shonen Magazine until 1968. The animated cartoon was created in black and white, and the animation techniques utilized to produce the show were quite limited in scope, mainly due to the craft of animation being as new as it was. The main character of the show—perhaps the most famous of all of Tezuka’s characters—was met with great success within Japan. Both viewers and critics agreed that Tetsuwan Atom was a fantastic animated production for the time, certainly eliciting a sense of nostalgia by most Japanese people. Atom was essentially the first little robot of any kind within Japanese animation, and created an entirely new genre in which many creators would subscribe too in the following years. Tezuka’s Disney-inspired drawings and plotlines also greatly influence animation within Japan for years to come, with many attempting to incorporate his style into their own works. The series was eventually released within America in 1963 as well, consisting of its name being changed to Astro Boy and consisting of only 104 of its initial 193 episodes as well as acquiring editing changes on part of the American companies.

Tetsuwan Atom 1963

"Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy)" - 1963

If one can view Tetsuwan Atom as being the creative force behind producing an iconic genre, Tetsujin 28 can most certainly be recognized as furthering the position of robots within animation by being essentially the first giant robot series. Created by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, the series initially stemmed from a manga released in 1956—which, similar to Tezuka, was published in Shonen Magazine—and was subsequently adapted into a 13-episode television drama. The plot follows the creation of a giant robot created to help save the Japanese empire during World War II. After 27 failures on part of the scientist Dr. Kaneda to create a functioning model, the 28th model was considered a success. With the war already at a closing, Dr. Kaneda suddenly becomes ill and passes away, but not before deciding to give Tetsujin 28 to his young son Shotaro, who uses it to battle villains for the good of humanity. Tetsujin 28 presented all the elements that would form into a new type of animation, the Robot Animation. Thus, in 1963, Tetsujin 28 came to fruition by TCJ (Television Corporation of Japan), which was the company’s first animated production and consisted of 97 episodes and aired until 1966. Similar to Tetsuwan Atom, the series was produced entirely in black and white. The look of the robot, with its bulky frame, tiny head and oddly-shaped limbs, as well as being controlled by a remote control, made for quite some mixed reactions. Met with considerate success at the time, the series would eventually reach quite an influential level within the animation world, with many of the medium’s future directors owing quite a lot to the world envisioned by Yokoyama and his company. Furthermore, in 1980, TMS produced a new color series of Tetsujin 28, which played homage to the original with the obvious improvement in technical qualities. It was also released within America in 1964, with the inclusion of heavy editing and its name being changed to that of Gigantor.

Tetsujin 28 1963

"Tetsujin 28" - 1963

With the significant success of the Japanese animation industry becoming quite a reality, Toei Doga, a company already known at the time for their efforts in creating animated feature films, decided to further enter the market with their own animated series entitled Okami shonen Ken. Met with moderate success, the series provided the foundation for Toei Doga to continue their ascent into creating animated series, and they would eventually create some of the most memorable robot series in years to come. This year also saw the release of 8 Man, another series created by TCJ. Stemming from the manga by Kazumasa Hirai, who collaborated with Jiro Kuwata, the series ran until 1964 and consisted of 56 episodes. The plot followed a murdered detective who is reincarnated as a shape-shifting crime fighting robot. In order to rejuvenate the necessary energy to operate, he smokes energy cigarettes—with, alongside the addition of shape shifting, was new concept at the time. In 1965, the series would be brought to America under the title Tobor the 8th Man, with 52 of its 56 episodes being translated for American television—as well as the obvious cigarette removal. It’s said that 8 Man provided the inspiration for the 1987 film Robocop, which featured similar plot elements.

8 Man 1963

"8 Man" - 1963

Within one year, the seeds had been planted for what was to become a common style within Japanese animation, a style that would subsequently provide the basis for many future well-known series. Given the considerable talent explored during this time, it was only the beginning of what was to come, but many of the highlighted series during this period remain quite popular to this very day—especially amongst older viewers. Most of these series were also brought over to American shores, which makes this an important year for importation as well, as these series opened the door for many more series and films to be brought over. Beside the obvious editing and cutbacks that occurred during this process, Americans—and Westerners in general—were starting to get a taste at what Japanese animation had to offer, which was something quite unique in its own right. As more series were being created for Japanese audiences, more were starting to be imported by American companies, with many early pioneers eager to acquire titles to be shared throughout the Western world.

Important works during these years:

Wanpaku Ouji no Orochi Taiji (The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon) – 1963

Wan Wan Chushingura (The Faithful Servant Dogs) – 1963

Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy) – 1963

Ginga Shonen Tai (Galactic Boy Team) – 1963

Sennin Buraku (Hermit Village) – 1963

Tetsujin 28 (Iron Man #28) – 1963

8 Man – 1963

Okami shonen Ken (Ken, The Wolf Boy) – 1963

Shisuekon Ouji (Prince Shisukon) – 1963

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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