The history of TMS – Part 4 : The golden age

If you’ve been watching a lot of so-called “retro” anime, you’ve probably encountered one of these names : Tokyo Movie, Tokyo Movie Shinsha, or TMS. All these refer to the same company, established in 1964. From this date to the middle of the 80’s, this was one of Japanese animation’s most important studios, which produced works by some of the most famous artists in the industry like Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Dezaki and Katsuhiro Otomo. The aim of this series is to retrace the studio’s “golden age”, from 1964 to 1980, and with it, offer a history of the anime industry during this period.

The goal will be to study the industry in “anime industry” : while I will offer some commentary on some of the works cited, I will focus on the history of production and careers. This way, I aim to see how anime became anime, that is, how the style and production process we know today have evolved and taken a somewhat definitive form.

This is Part 4 in a series. You can read Part 3.

Last time, I covered the changes in anime from the perspective of the industry : how studios evolved, how staff moved from one place to the other, and how anime’s production processes became closer to what we know today. Now, it’s time to look at it from the perspective of the shows themselves : how their style, staff and animation are unique to that specific time period – one so exceptional that it could rightfully be called Tokyo Movie’s golden age.

Indeed, it’s easy to be tempted by both the Ghibli and the Gainax narratives, that would make us believe that anime really came into its own in 1974, away from Tokyo Movie, when Heidi Girl of the Alps and Space Battleship Yamato competed on the airwaves. The Gainax/otaku narrative, especially, tends to make us forget Tokyo Movie in the 70’s, and instead focus on Sunrise’s mecha shows, that would culminate in 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam

Tokyo Movie did keep itself away from these trends for a long time. But that was an opportunity for the studio to do its thing and to elaborate its very distinct style. As I’ve said last time, the late 60’s and early 70’s were a time of change for the industry ; and Tokyo Movie gained the most from it, as it assembled anime’s best in its two most important subcontracting studios : Kusube’s A Pro and Dezaki’s Madhouse.

The A Pro shows

A Pro had always been Tokyo Movie’s backbone : it was the one that had helped them animate shows from 1965. In 1971, the studio was 6 years old and in a particularly comfortable spot. First, with Studio Zero disbanding, and Madhouse not yet created, A Pro definitely became Tokyo Movie’s main subcontractor [Ettinger, 2013b] ; then, by the end of the year, they had recruited Toei’s new generation that had left with Takahata ; and finally, the staff that had been there from the start had gained enough experience and was ready to implement its vision. As Benjamin Ettinger [2007] says, “the early developmental years were now behind them, and the head animators began to come unto their own with an easy mastery of the form and a new playfulness thanks to a return to old territory.”

Moreover, by then, the Tokyo Movie-A Pro couple had given birth to its first big successes : Star of the Giants, which ended in September 1971, and Attack No 1, until November of the same year. Once these two had ended, A Pro had nothing to work on, especially if you add the leftover staff from Moomin which had lost their work mid-production. In Autumn 1971, Tokyo Movie therefore started no less than 3 new series : Shin Obake no Q-Taro, a sequel to one of their earlier works, the absurd comedy Tensai Bakabon, and an attempt at a more mature series, Lupin III. For these three, A Pro divided into three big teams : two of the studio’s lead animators, Yoshio Kabashima and Tsutomu Shibayama, became animation directors for Q-Taro and Bakabon respectively, while Otsuka and part of Moomin’s team went on to Lupin III [Ettinger, 2013b]. Two other groups would be put to work in 1972 : Kusube himself, once his work on Star of the Giants was done, took the role of animation director on Akado Suzunosuke, and the third member of A Pro’s first trio of great animators, Osamu Kobayashi, took the same role on Dokonjo Gaeru.

This ability to launch so many new series at once is evocative of A Pro’s size and the experience of its staff. But it must not make you think that, to be able to deliver that much work, A Pro was a powerhouse with hundreds of animators : as we’ll see, they worked with a lot of other studios. And most importantly, productions were much smaller than what they are now : generally, only 2 to 6 key animators would work on a single episode, and solo episodes were actually pretty common (1). While dividing a studio in multiple teams wasn’t uncommon at the time, A Pro doing it takes on a special meaning when you remember that most of its original staff came from Toei : the most experienced animators would work as animation directors or have a team of 2-3 animators under them when they just worked on individual episodes. This is reminiscent of Toei’s seconding system, which was after all the best way to train new artists while making them work on actual shows.

Most of these shows have become pretty hard to find, so to start with A Pro between 1971 and 1974, I’m mostly going to summarize what Benjamin Ettinger has written on three of the studio’s “classic” shows : Tensai Bakabon in 1971, Akado Suzunosuke in 1972, and Wild West Boy Isamu in 1973. I’ll do an entire separate piece on Lupin III.

What’s interesting about those three is two things : you can see the development of anime’s first distinct approach of movement (2), and what I’d call A Pro’s “rotation system”. I’ll look at the A Pro style in more detail in one of its later incarnations, but it was particularly well adapted to A Pro’s comedies and sport shows, with a focus on exaggeration and deformed character expressions. Even though it has its roots in Toei’s full animation style, it takes full advantage of limited animation with its wide, expressive and inventive motions. Along with the names I already cited, two of its most famous proponents are Yoshiyuki Momose and Yoshifumi Kondo, that would go on and become some of Ghibli’s regular animators.

The rotation system was centered around all the ex-Toei studios I’ve already mentioned : Junio, Mates, Oh Pro, Neo Media, and Studio Z. There are also minor studios like Za In or Jaggard, but they were smaller structures that would disappear more quickly : Jaggard, for example, closed down in 1972. Each studio would handle an episode (or half an episode) until all had done their part, and then it would start over. The system was not regular, as if there were some planning done beforehand that would share equally work among the studios ; but if one were to compare the staff of all TMS shows between 1971 and 1974, it is probable that studios’ teams were divided among these shows to ensure that they kept delivering animation, without receiving too heavy a workload. 

Ettinger [2013b] hints to this when he says that “While Tensai Bakabon was airing, the same subcontractors concurrently had their other animators working on Lupin III and Panda Kopanda : Oh Pro Koichi Murata and Joji Manabe; Neo Media Keiichiro Kimura and Yasuhiro Yamaguchi; Mates Kenzo Koizumi and Takashi Asakura; A Pro Yoshifumi Kondo, Yuzo Aoki and Hideo Kawachi; and Junio Tetsuo Imazawa.” Basically, this shows that Tokyo Movie’s production and planning staff must have been pretty busy handling all the concurrent series. This also serves to question the image of the “classical A Pro” shows : for example, A Pro only animated 5 half-episodes of Tensai Bakabon – probably because they were at work on other series.

It seems that some of the factors that helped Tokyo Movie decide on the order of the rotation were the theme and the airing slot of the shows. For example, the samurai fighting series Akado Suzunosuke was followed by the western Wild West Boy Isamu on the Monday 7PM slot on Fuji TV [Ettinger, 2015a] ; despite their differences, both shows focused on action and had a similar audience, so it’s only natural that the same people worked on them. Moreover, they both had Daikichiro Kusube as an animation director, who was definitely focusing on more dramatic works. On the other hand, comedy shows (Tensai Bakabon, Dokonjo Gaeru and Hajime Ningen Gyators) ran on another station, and were mostly handled by the two Otsuka-school animators I’ve mentioned : Momose and Kondo, Momose doing his first KA on Tensai Bakabon and Kondo on Suzunosuke. Another famous name did his debut on Suzunosuke : that was Yoshinori Kanada, on episode 41, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. That was their first work together, but Kanada would then go on to make some of his best works on Miyazaki’s movies, from Nausicäa to Mononoke.

The Takahata/Miyazaki/Kotabe team did some contributions to all these shows, mostly the more dramatic ones, Suzunosuke and Isamu. Kotabe was assistant animation director on Suzunosuke, working directly under Kusube ; Miyazaki is credited as storyboarder on some episodes, but he very probably directed some of them [Ettinger, 2015a], as well as Takahata, under the pen-name Teruo Ishikawa. On Isamu, Takahata was alone and storyboarded some episodes. He did so under A Pro, but it’s interesting to note that Oh Production was a notable contributor on both shows ; the studio would become a subcontractor for Takahata’s new studio, Nippon Animation, in 1973, and consistently worked along with him until they produced and animated his last pre-Ghibli film, Gauche the Cellist, in 1981. Then, they became a regular Ghibli subcontractor. Considering this history, it’s possible that Takahata first met Oh Pro’s director and star animator, Koichi Murata, on these early shows and that it’s there that they set the foundations for this successful relationship.

Another notable name that worked alongside all those famous figures was Osamu Dezaki. Which now leads us to another key moment in Tokyo Movie’s golden age : late 1972, when Madhouse started subcontracting for them.

The Madhouse shows

Madhouse was created on October 17th 1972, and quickly set to work for Tokyo Movie. But the immediate time after the studio’s creation is quite interesting, because it’s full of forgotten or lost shows, unrealized projects, and involves fateful but short meetings between Dezaki and Miyazaki, who were already two of the industry’s most important names at the time.

At first, Madhouse was supposed to make another adaptation from Tetsuya Chiba, the mangaka behind Ashita no Joe, titled Yuki’s Sun ; the project never got further than a pilot episode, but said pilot happened to be Miyazaki’s directorial debut. Because of that failure, Madhouse was left with no work to do, and divided in two teams. Dezaki himself, unexpectedly, took on a work for Sunrise : he directed the first half of the studio’s very first show, Hazedon, under the pseudonym Makura Saki. With him were Masao Maruyama at series composition and some animators, most notably Yoshiaki Kawajiri who apparently did some uncredited work. At the same time, most of Madhouse’s animation staff were brought on an A Pro comedy, The Gutsy Frog.

After that, Dezaki had the opportunity to direct his first show under Tokyo Movie : that was the comedy Jungle Kurobe. Once again, it all started as a Miyazaki project : he had pitched the idea of a comedy inspired by Ainu folklore to the studio’s producers [Clements and Mac Carthy, 2015, p.406 ; Sugino, 1998], no doubt wanting to recycle ideas from Hols, which had initially been set in an Ainu village. But, just like for Hols, producers turned down the idea and instead gave the project to the mangaka Fujiko Fujio, who instead transformed it in the story of an African pygmy. It’s unclear whether this change was what made Miyazaki leave A Pro for Zuiyo Eizo (with Takahata), or if it was the other way around. What’s clear is that Miyazaki was, according to Akio Sugino [1998], “a divine figure at Tokyo Movie”, and that he was trying hard to direct something on his own, and not just alongside Takahata.

Whatever really happened, the change in setting would prove a bad idea : in 1989, the manga and TV show were accused (apparently rightfully so) of racism, which prevented the latter of getting a video release. Despite that, it seems to be an interesting and important transitional work for Dezaki. It was as well for Tokyo Movie, because it’s one of the first shows where their own animators did some work. According to Sugino’s [1998] account, the production team was divided in 3, and followed a rotation system : one team was led by A Pro’s Yoshio Kabashima, Sugino was in charge of the Madhouse one, while Tokyo Movie’s animators were directed by Takeo Kitahara. Since A Pro and its own following studios were already busy with The Gutsy Frog, they contributed little to none to Kurobe, which essentially served as training ground for A Pro and Tokyo Movie’s younger, inexperienced staff.

Starting with this, between 1973 and 1975, A Pro and Madhouse pretty much worked in parallel, even though there was some overlap, most notably on 1974’s Hajime Ningen Gyators, which had some episodes directed by Dezaki. But the most interesting among them is probably the first episode of 1973’s Samurai Giants, with storyboards by Dezaki, animation direction by Otsuka, and key animation by Miyazaki and Kotabe. 1973 is the year Tokyo Movie tried to replicate Star of the Giants’ success with three sports anime : Karate Baka Ichidai, Samurai Giants and Aim for the Ace. Samurai Giants, which features the same sport and the same team, and has the most obvious references, as well as common techniques like integrating live-action footage of real baseball matches. It was also directed by Tadao Nagahama, A Pro’s star director who had already handled Star of the Giants.

A Star of the Giants reference (left) and a very obvious Dezakism from Samurai Giants #01 (right)

It’s also got a lighter tone – maybe because of Otsuka’s and Miyazaki’s influence, but also of A Pro’s general direction towards comedies and kids shows. Compare that with Madhouse’s Aim for the Ace and its serious drama, and you’ll have a glimpse of the difference between the two studios’ philosophies. The approach they each take towards sports is very telling : Samurai Giants puts most of its focus and energy towards character animation, whereas Aim for the Ace’s animation is far less intricate, and the show rests a lot on Dezaki’s dynamic direction. The very look of the shows is completely different : Otsuka’s designs are very round, energetic and reminiscent of Kotabe’s designs for Takahata’s work at that time. On the other hand, Sugino’s characters exhibit, for the first time in his collaborations with Dezaki, the monumental, almost statue-like aspect that makes them so characteristic. To put it bluntly, Otsuka’s designs are much more animation friendly – which is natural considering Otsuka and A Pro. 

Aim for the Ace is perhaps the most well-known show from that period : outside of animation and sakuga fans, many of A Pro’s classics have been somewhat forgotten – mostly their so-called masterpiece, The Gutsy Frog, which is available online but hasn’t been fully subbed yet. Even in Dezaki’s career, his work as episode director or as a talented contributor to comedy shows seems to have been put aside in favor of his more dramatic works. And since Aim for the Ace is a shojo sports anime, it seems easy to see it as both the follow-up and counterpart to Ashita no Joe. But what I’d like to note here is in fact the discontinuity between the two : while Joe is no doubt TV anime’s first masterpiece, I also strongly believe that Aim for the Ace is Dezaki’s first work as a full-blown auteur. Most of his techniques and ideas are already in the works in Joe, but Ace is when Dezaki fully tries them out and reveals his complete mastery of the medium. If you don’t know what Dezaki did between 1971 and 1973, such confidence and change might seem surprising ; but in fact, he clearly honed his skills directing and storyboarding episodes on other series. In other words, Ace’s director was already a very seasoned artist and not just a young visionary anymore. Since most of those shows are hard to find, I haven’t done the research, but I’m sure any dedicated Dezaki fan could easily chronicle the birth and development of “Dezakisms” as they appear in his individual episodes from Astro Boy to Aim for the Ace.

A Pro under Dezaki : Gamba’s Adventure

Dezaki’s next major work would be 1975’s Gamba – another one of his works that’s less remembered, probably mostly because of its lighter tone and narrative aimed at children. I’ll easily admit that it’s not one of his best in terms of story and direction, but it was highly influential, and is without any doubt one of Tokyo Movie’s greatest shows in the visual department.

Before going over this and the staff, Gamba’s pre-production history needs to be recalled, as it’s another one of those strange moments when Miyazaki and Dezaki crossed paths. During the production of Hajime Ningen Gyators, Tokyo Movie’s previous series, A Pro’s boss Daikichiro Kusube had been hospitalized (for overwork and reasons I’ll detail later on). As he was in the hospital, he was visited by Miyazaki, who was then working on Heidi back at Zuiyo Eizo ; in some way or another, Miyazaki met Kusube’s young son and offered him a book : that was Gamba’s Adventure, a novel by Atsuo Saito. While that peculiar meeting was probably pure chance, Miyazaki and Gamba do seem like a good match : the original novel and its adventurous mice and its references to Japanese social movements (that the Dezaki version mostly erased) do seem like what Miyazaki would have loved.

It so happened that Kusube’s brother, Sankichiro, was a producer at Tokyo Movie at the same time ; probably through his father, his nephew showed him the book and Sankichiro tried to get it adapted. But things wouldn’t be so easy, because at the same time, Toei was also trying to adapt the original novel. Hard negotiations ensued, as Toei had contacted the author directly while Tokyo Movie was in touch with the editor ; and the law of the market prevailed as the editor sold the rights to Tokyo Movie without consulting the author… not the best move indeed, but it did end up making anime history, something that a Toei version would probably not have done. But that doesn’t mean that the production was perfect, since the show’s run was shortened from the initial 52 episodes to only 26 [Clements and Mac Carthy, 2015, p.280].

While, as I said, A Pro and Madhouse had already worked together, this was the first time that A Pro would work under Madhouse, that is Dezaki’s direction, for an entire show and not just for some episodes. In a fascinating interview about the show, Dezaki talked about its production in detail, especially the “clash” of the two studios’ “philosophies”. Recently, the concept of kantoku-nashi (director-less) has appeared in sakuga circles, and I think it’s especially suited to describe A Pro, and why working under Dezaki would’ve been so hard for them. According to Dezaki [1997], “In the Mushi Pro school of thought, the director sits at the top. This was why the production process at Tokyo Movie felt off […]. Even their drawing style was quite different.” He also recounts how he corrected an animator that just made the sea blue and asked his team to “drop the idea that the water must be blue”, since it changes colors according to the time and atmosphere. 

The impression it gives off is that A Pro’s staff, as the animators’ house it was, focused on individual movement more than anything else. What mattered was the characters and their motion. On the other hand, the Madhouse staff would’ve been used to working with janky animation (see Aim for the Ace) and, under Dezaki, would try to make the overall scene as expressive and important for the plot as possible. Dezaki’s account makes the distinction between ex-Toei full animation philosophy and ex-Mushi limited animation, but I don’t really think that distinction is a good one to make : as I’ve discussed a bit, A Pro’s artists were probably the first in Japan to discover the expressive potential of limited animation qua animation, years before Kanada would push it even further. I think the difference lies in the overall approach towards the meaning of animation : in A Pro’s philosophy, the individual animator is king and the cut is the most important moment – this is why, it is “director-less”, because the director has nothing to do here, except maybe storyboard the action. But someone like Dezaki considered animation not just as the art of drawing movement, but as an audiovisual medium meant to tell complex stories – and while good character animation could serve that purpose, the story could go on as well without it.

That is also why, I think, people like Takahata and Miyazaki are so important, and why Otsuka almost never directed. Otsuka is one of Japan’s most talented animators, but he’s just that – and maybe the same could be said of Miyazaki, but his innate sense for directing movement not just in a sequence but in a whole film is what made him such a talented director. What Ghibli did isn’t just revive the Toei tradition of full animation, it was more importantly to give an artistic direction and vision to its talented animators. Someone like Takahata, who didn’t come from animation and who could never draw, was the perfect person to create that impulsion, one as radical and exterior as Dezaki’s very different strokes of genius.

For many of these reasons, Gamba is basically a Dezaki like no other, that doesn’t resemble the general image people have of his style. Obviously, it’s everywhere, with some of his best harmonies. But it’s also a kids show, a comedy for most of its run, and features some exemplar character animation from A Pro’s artists, most notably the two teams led by Osamu Kobayashi and Yoshifumi Kondo. The tension might have been real, but it was a perfect match for the mice’s constant movement and running around. In a way, because the rotation system was mostly not used, this is one of the most A Pro shows made by Tokyo Movie : they animated 10 out of the 26 episodes.

But on Gamba, I’d like to acknowledge another artist, one that did not come from A Pro or Tokyo Movie but who contributed to many of their shows and worked on many legendary anime – that is Shichiro Kobayashi, the show’s art director. He had created his own company, Kobayashi Pro, in 1968, where some of anime’s greatest background artists would work in the 70’s and 80’s : Hiromasa Ogura, Kazuo Oga, and Toshiharu Mizutani. Kobayashi and his studio would go on to collaborate with Dezaki on many of his following works : the Aim for the Ace movie, Ashita no Joe 2, Space Adventure Cobra and others. 

Kobayashi’s rough and realistic style felt like a return to the roots of gekiga anime and Ashita no Joe’s own art direction, in stark opposition with Ace’s very abstract and minimalistic backgrounds. They impart a sense of realism, while allowing Dezaki’s style to fully express itself : harmonies are largely handled by the art team rather than the animators, after all, while the focus on very limited animation tends to put more importance on the backgrounds.

Kobayashi’s backgrounds in Gamba (left) and Ganso (right)

The last A Pro masterpiece : Ganso Tensai Bakabon

Just after Gamba, in the very same time slot, Tokyo Movie put out a new show, Ganso Tensai Bakabon, a return to one of the studio’s earlier comedy series. In a move that was probably very common at the time, the teams that worked on Gamba were progressively transferred to prepare the new show : Yoshifumi Kondo’s team disappeared from Gamba on episode 19 to work on Ganso #1A, while Kobayashi’s team left Gamba on episode 21 to return on Ganso #2B. A Pro had one last team, comprised of four animators that did Gamba #25 : Tomekichi Takeuchi, Toshiyuki Honda, Yuzo Aoki, and Hideo Kawachi. After they were done, they were sent to work on the other Tokyo Movie show airing at the time, Hajime Ningen Gyators, that had been animated by Tokyo Movie and Junio. After that they were broken up, some like Honda returning on Ganso and others like Kawachi leaving for Nippon Animation.

I noted that what made Gamba stand out so much was the presence and vision of its director, which enabled the A Pro and Madhouse schools to somewhat work side-by-side. The same couldn’t be said of Ganso, as it had no series director and that its animation director, Tsutomu Shibayama, probably did little to no corrections. In that sense, Ganso is yet another example of a quintessential “director-less” A Pro show in which the quality of both direction and animation can vary wildly from one episode to the other.

For the early part of the show (roughly until episode 27), the drop in quality could be blamed on smaller, newer subcontracting studios like Tsuchida Pro, who would be dropped for multiple months after their disastrous #4A, and Dogakobo, that had started subcontracting for Tokyo Movie on Samurai Giants and was also working for Toei. 

The end of Ganso’s second season (#26) coincided with the end of Gyators, which made Ganso the only airing Tokyo Movie show. That enabled them to put all their energy on the show and make their rotation system work at full power : A Pro’s third team, as well as Tokyo Movie, Mates and Junio’s animators started working on Ganso. But since so much energy was put into it, A Pro started little by little to get less involved. That’s one other thing that makes Ganso so interesting : you can see the effects of A Pro’s breakup with Tokyo Movie in September 1976 as they appear on the show itself. They probably started mass-producing episodes before that, as their last work aired as late as April 1977 ! But the quality of those episodes keeps declining as time goes on, even when animated by people like Yoshifumi Kondo. But the most painful are probably Yasuo Otsuka’s subpar solo episodes (#61B, #70B and #76B) – it seems that at the time, no one at A Pro cared about the show anymore and just animated it to get rid of the whole thing.

However, the early Ganso episodes are among the best TV anime produced in the 70’s. According to Benjamin Ettinger [2007], it “was easily one of the most outrageous and unhinged gag shows to ever grace the airwaves in Japan”, and the best place to discover the A Pro style in full bloom, as well as Dezaki’s talent for comedy. 

Basically, the A Pro style, under both Kondo and Kobayashi, rests entirely on exaggeration : characters constantly run around, their expressions are as ridiculous as possible and the key poses are always very strong. This style is very dependant on round, animation-friendly character designs that can be deformed very easily. It makes full use of them, such as in this cut by Shinichi Otake (in Kondo’s team) on #10B where the long arms and legs of the two salarymen are extended and bent to their fullest extent to achieve maximum expressivity. Facial expressions are also always in the animator’s focus, such as in these two screenshots from Kobayashi’s episodes.

Stills from Osamu Kobayashi’s episodes 5A (left) and 27A (right)

These are the fundamental elements of A Pro’s classical style, but younger animators would also contribute to renew it. The most impressive instance of this is Yuzo Aoki’s #51A, which features a sequence in which a character goes around town on rollerblades he can’t control. This long cut (more than two minutes) is extremely bold, and its heavy use of background animation as well as mechanical animation when cars crash on each other is ahead of its time and announces the impressive chase sequences of 80’s animation. Aoki would go on honing his talent on the second Lupin III series where he was one of the most talented animators.

On the other hand, if Dezaki’s episodes also rely a lot on exaggeration, the way they do so is very different. One of the major differences is the heavy use of techniques directly imported from American cartoons, such as colorful impact frames or very obvious squash-and-stretch, something that’s always been rare in Japanese animation. What also sets Dezaki’s episodes apart is that they’re immediately recognizable, for many reasons. First, the direction is always a step higher than in all other episodes, whether in terms of shot composition, staging, or creativity. Then, they’re often the craziest episodes, where gags go completely over the top – such as #12A, where a Christian cultist convinces Bakabon and Papa to build a new Noah’s Ark or #27B about a crazy mouse invasion with a lot of Gamba easter eggs. These also appear in #15A, probably the best for any Dezaki fan, since it features a lot of parody and easter eggs, like exaggerated harmonies with manga-like onomatopoeia or Papa watching Gamba on TV.

But the most exceptional are without any doubt those that, like Gamba, combine the best of both worlds : that is, the very few episodes directed by Dezaki but animated at A Pro. In the early part of the show, the one most worth remembering is #17B, on which Dezaki offers us lavish direction while Yoshifumi Kondo delivers some of his best work on the show.

As A Pro’s last major work with Tokyo Movie, Ganso is probably their best ; but the thing is, as I’ve shown, it’s not just an A Pro show. It’s as much a Madhouse work, and a splendid one at that, even though this comical aspect of Dezaki’s career tends to be overlooked. And that’s normal, since after that, Dezaki would go on making some of his more dramatic works for Tokyo Movie until the early 80’s, in an apparently unchallenged post-A Pro Dezaki golden age.

Many thanks to @Toadette for this article, especially on Ganso


(1) But the credits can sometimes lead to errors : on 1972’s Gutsy the Frog, it seems that only 4 key animators could be credited by episode ; this led to the use of pseudonyms like “Sugi Take” (Akio Sugino + Takekatsu Kikuta) or “Ohashi Toshi” (Manabu Ohashi + Toshio Nitta)

(2) By using the terms “approach of movement”, I mean animation itself, opposed to cinematography, which had already developed its own vocabulary under the very different influences of Takahata and Dezaki. This approach is commonly known as the “A Pro style” or the “Otsuka school” [Ettinger, 2004]. It would disappear in the 80’s in favor of the Kanada style, but Benjamin Ettinger [2004, 2013b] has rightly noted that a so-called Kanada-style animator like Hiroyuki Imaishi has been heavily influenced by A Pro’s works.


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2 thoughts on “The history of TMS – Part 4 : The golden age

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