The cover of Animation 1980 featuring Osamu Tezuka’s should-have-been-massive Phoenix 2772.
This is it. The final revelation of the sweeping saga known as “2010 is 1980”… The last glance back at what the heck the anime and manga scene looked like an incredible thirty years ago.
So what fabulous object awaits us at the end of the time tunnel before father time slams the door shut on our collective fingers? Well, I have here a mook (magazine-book for those of you who don’t speak unwieldy slangy Japanese) called “Animation 1980”. It was published as a special edition of Roadshow—a magazine that was usually reserved for glossy pictures and pin-ups of Hollywood movie stars, although they did publish several anime tie-ins like this one here. Printed in April 1980, this substantial 200 page tome aimed to give anime fans a head’s up on the upcoming major releases of the year ahead. And while there is a perfunctory “TV guide” section in Animation 1980, the emphasis is squarely on theatrical anime. It originally sold on newsstands for 530 yen. I bought it used at a Mandarake collector’s shop for 630 yen. But that low, low price is no indication of the value of the treasures inside…
Osamu Tezuka’s SF epic Phoenix 2772 dominates the first section of Animation 1980. It graces the cover, along with a full sized fold-out movie poster, before giving way to a large section full of color pics and black and white character art. While 2772 is one of my all-time favorite anime of that era, sad to say that Tezuka’s space age version of his classic manga was not well received upon release. I asked my otaku pal and manga artist Denki Watanabe how Phoenix could have failed to ignite a fire back in the day. He explained. “It was the era of Gundam and Yamato. Phoenix 2772 looked old by comparison.” Fair enough, but the film has aged like a true classic should, and this is your official order to track down a copy ASAP.
Meanwhile, following the runaway success of Galaxy Express 999 at the Japanese box-office, Toei Doga had primed Toward the Terra to be their next big science fiction manga adaptation. Animation 1980 whetted the appetites of folks with lots of color images, story information, and profiles of the voice actors who would lend their pipes to the film’s cast of depressive telepaths. I put on the DVD of Terra, available from The Right Stuf, last night just to get my memory up to speed about it (it *was* thirty years ago, after all!), and I found it to be much more engrossing than I remember: epic, melancholy, with an excellent score and beautiful animation. The class of 1980 must have done something right. The 2007 TV anime remake of Terra seems not to have strayed too far from the film’s design sense.
Kneel before Doraemon: highest grossing anime star of 1980!
The next big color section in the book is devoted to none other than… Walt Disney! It seems that a theatrical re-release of Snow White was in the cards for 1980, along with the Japanese debut of Pete’s Dragon and The Rescuers, and all three films steal the spotlight from domestic anime for a few key pages. But the land of the rising sun soon reasserts itself as Doraemon: Nobita’s Dinosaur proudly takes center stage. This was actually the first of what would become an anime institution unto itself: annual films showcasing the famed atomic-powered time-traveling cat. This seminal title was a huge hit and was actually the 4th highest grosser at the Japanese box-office that year. And in keeping with the theme of recycling that surrounds Animation 1980, Nobita’s Dinosaur was remade in 2006 for a new generation of rug rats to gawk over.
What else is in this darned magazine, book, mook, whatever? There’s some stuff on the compilation film for Osamu Dezaki’s tearjerker Nobody’s Boy: Remi, which TMS tried to sell as being in 3D on account of the whirling multi-plane animation it contained. Gundam hadn’t yet made it to the cinema yet (the first compilation movie wouldn’t come out until 1981) but that didn’t stop the Roadshow folks from including a freebee poster featuring the Mobile Suit crew. And then…
Even Tomorrow’s Joe, with all his fighting ability, can’t beat that 630 yen price tag at Mandarake.
Animation 1980 concludes with another giant sized full color section, this time on the Ashita no Joe movie, aka Tomorrow’s Joe. Also helmed by Osamu Dezaki, this was the first of two movies that compressed the classic TV sports anime into feature length. The first arc revolves around sassy born-to-be-a-boxer Joe Yabuki and his escalating rivalry in the ring with former juvenile hall terror Rikishi. Roadshow fittingly throws down with lots of action shots, character bios, song lyrics, and a gallery of Joe manga art by Tetsuya Chiba. Funny thing about Ashita no Joe is that 2011 will see the release of a new live-action movie based on the series.
Can 1980 be 2011 as well?!?!?