Kanada and Tomonaga, 1978-1979

This article is an annex to this piece

1979 was no doubt a busy year in the anime industry, and especially so in the careers of Yoshinori Kanada and Kazuhide Tomonaga. From 1978 to 1979, the two men delivered some of their greatest work: for Kanada, it was on Daitarn 3, Cyborg 009 and Galaxy Express 999; for Tomonaga, it was on Future Boy Conan, Anne of Green Gables, Lupin III, The Castle of Cagliostro and Galaxy Express 999 as well. These were also important years because both men changed their studio affiliations: Tomonaga went from Oh Production to Telecom Animation, whereas Kanada left studio Z3 for studio N°1. Trying to establish a somewhat definitive chronology of this period is therefore important to understand both men’s careers.

Higer resolution image here

To get a grasp of everything that happened in that time, it’s necessary to go back a little to late 1977, with the start of two TV shows Kazuhide Tomonaga was closely associated with: Lupin III Part II and Future Boy Conan. Lupin started airing in October 1977 and Tomonaga quickly started working on it from studio Oh Production. At the exact same time, Hayao Miyazaki and his team were starting production for Future Boy Conan, which would start airing in April 1978. In an interview published in Starting Point, Miyazaki stated that Conan’s production started as early as October 1977, and that in the meantime, they managed to make the first 8 episodes in advance.

There’s no reason to completely doubt Miyazaki’s testimony, however I do think that something happened between episodes 7 and 8, and that 8 is where the production schedule of Conan started getting rushed. There are three arguments to this. First, the 7 first episodes were animated on a rotation: one episode would be done by Nippon Animation staff, and the other by people from Oh Pro. But from episode 8 onwards, the rotation system disappears, with both studios animating on the same episodes (Nippon Animation doing the A part and Oh Pro the B part until episode 12, and then it’s the opposite until the end of the show). This would mean that, when the production of episode 8 started, just 4 to 6 animators weren’t able to deliver the episode in time and that they needed to double these numbers. The second element is that Miyazaki himself gave up on doing all storyboards and layouts himself after episode 8, sharing the responsibilities of the storyboards with Isao Takahata, Yoshiyuki Tomino and Keiji Hayakawa, and the layouts with the animators. This, too, would indicate that schedules got tighter and work more intense between episodes 7 and 9. Finally, after episode 7 of Conan, Yoshifumi Kondô disappears from the show – he would come back on episodes 14 and 15, but this time uncredited.

Although this doesn’t seem to be very indicative about Conan’s production schedule, it’s telling about other contemporary or parallel productions. Around the time when Conan #07 might have been completed, that is February-March 1978, Isao Takahata left the production of Perrine Monogatari, a World Masterpiece Theater series for which he had directed some episodes. Although, as I just mentioned, Takahata would quickly go on storyboarding and directing some episodes of Conan, Takahata and Kondô leaving their respective productions at around the same time is important, because they were just about to collaborate on Takahata’s next series, Anne of Green Gables, on which Kondô was character designer and animation director. Although it only started airing in January 1979, it’s possible that it started pre-production as early as March-April 1978.

Spring 1978 brings us back to Tomonaga. It is indeed around that time that the last episode of his first Lupin batch came out – #31, aired in May 1978. Just a month after that, in June, he did his first (uncredited) work in Conan #10. The fact that he was uncredited at first might mean that he was still supposed to be on Lupin then – the animation work was therefore probably done around May, when that episode of Lupin came out. From then on, Tomonaga would be animating on every episode of Conan until the end of the show in November.

This is when the chronology starts getting blurry around Nippon Animation. All of the Conan staff also worked on Anne of Green Gables, with most notably Hayao Miyazaki doing the layouts of episodes 1 to 15 and Tomonaga animation on episodes 1 to 12. We don’t know when precisely they got on Anne, but if it had been in production almost a year before it actually started airing, it’s most probable that the early Anne episodes were produced at the same time as the late Conan ones. It’s probable that Anne kept Tomonaga busy until early 1979.

Compared to Tomonaga, Kanada is much harder to track down for the year 1978. That’s because Kanada was working on many more productions at the same time, and that most of them aren’t as well documented as Conan or Anne. The geist of it is basically that most of the things Kanada would have worked on in 1978 actually came out in March 1979: that’s the case of his last Daitarn 3 episode (#37), the Cyborg 009 opening, Josephina the Whale #03 and Mobile Suit Gundam #01.

The easiest production to track down among all of those is Gundam. We know that the pre-production stage had started around a year before the show actually started coming out. But for the actual animation, information is harder to come by. What I did was following a member of Kanada’s studio Z3 who also worked on Gundam #01: Shigenobu Nagasaki. Nagasaki is an interesting case, because he was a member of studio Oh Productions, and working under Kazuo Komatsubara on Space Pirate Captain Harlock, of which I’ll talk in more detail shortly. Nagasaki, who was already trying to replicate Kanada’s style from Oh Pro, finally left for Z3 after the production of Harlock #13, which aired in June 1978. His first works in Z3 were in-betweens on Daitarn 3, but he rose up to be a key animator on Gundam. Although it’s anything but an accurate estimate, I think it’d be fair to estimate that the animation of Gundam started somewhere after Nagasaki’s first in-betweening work on Daitarn #13 – that is around August-September 1978.

As is well known, Kanada only contributed very little to Gundam. The two reasons he himself cited were conflicts with the animation director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and the fact that he had received the offer to work on the much more prestigious Galaxy Express 999 movie just as he was working on the show, that would be in the summer or fall of 1978. Which then brings us to the main topic of this piece: the production calendar of Galaxy Express 999.

Galaxy Express’ director and animation director, Rintarô and Kazuo Komatsubara, had first met on the production of Space Pirate Captain Harlock, which aired from March 1978 to February 1979. In an interview, Rintarô stated that it took him between 6 months and a year to fully complete the storyboards of Galaxy Express – which basically means that said storyboard was made just as Harlock was airing, since the movie came out in August 1979 and would have finished production by mid-July at the latest. Komatsubara himself doesn’t seem to have left Harlock for any notable span of time, as his episodes as animation director on the show are evenly spaced. However, that’s not the case for Rintarô, who didn’t direct any episode between #13 and #31, that is during 5 months. It is most probably during these 5 months that he started working on Galaxy Express – based on the airing date of Harlock #13, it would have been in May or June of 1978 at the earliest.

As I mentioned, Kanada would have received the offer to work on the movie a few months after that. But he most probably didn’t join until early 1979 (February-March), when he had finished working on all he had piled up. Kazuhide Tomonaga probably joined at around the same time. The last episode of Anne he worked on aired in March 1979, so if Tomonaga had completed his work on it a month before and if we assume that he joined the movie’s production early on, the beginning of Galaxy Express’ animation would be in the very first months of 1979 – which coincides with the end of Harlock and Komatsubara being free to switch from one work to the other.

Komatsubara was central for the movie, in that it was probably him who brought in its two most important animators. Tomonaga was his direct student, and although Yasuo Otsuka had started to take him under his wing on Conan, it was normal for him and Komatsubara to work together on what promised to be one of the most ambitious anime movies of the decade. But Galaxy Express 999 would end up being Tomonaga’s last work from studio Oh Production and, in my mind, the last really great work of his career. As for Kanada, there are many ways he might have been brought on the production. One is that Komatsubara contacted him directly – they had never worked together before, but most probably knew each other from Anidô screenings and many animators meet-up around the Tôei shows they both worked on. The other possibility is that this happened through one of Komatsubara’s students – either Shigenobu Nagasaki, who had just left Komatsubara’s studio, or Tomonaga himself. It would make complete sense for Tomonaga to join Galaxy Express, noticing that his friend Kanada was free, and inviting him over. If this is what happened, he would regret that decision, as he was reportedly bitter about being completely overshadowed by Kanada on the finale of the movie.

In any case, considering the fact that Kanada and Tomonaga’s name almost doesn’t appear in any credits between March and July 1979, it’s most probably during that time that the movie was made. For a movie that’s more than 2 hours long to be entirely completed in the span of 7 months is a tight schedule; it’s even more the case for Kanada and Tomonaga when you consider that the two of them put together animated around 40 minutes of runtime.

Both men may have been tired from so much work, but that didn’t mean they would stop being busy, on the contrary. Kanada did his last work from Z3 on episode 20 of Josephina the Whale, again storyboarding and animating it. He probably started working on it at the same time as Galaxy Express’s production. The same applies to Tomonaga, who probably did his last Oh Pro Lupin episodes (#92 and #98) during lapses in the movie’s production.

Even after all that, neither of them got the chance to catch a rest. Let’s start with Tomonaga, and the turning point of his career: The Castle of Cagliostro. At the time, the Lupin franchise was bursting with dynamism and gained more and more success. Which is why, once the first movie The Mystery of Mamo had come out, the producers from TMS immediately began planning for a second one. After many negotiations behind the scenes, Yasuo Otsuka managed to secure Hayao Miyazaki to direct the movie: taking any opportunity to leave Anne of Green Gables, Miyazaki joined what was to become Cagliostro in May 1979, and presented his script on June 10. Then, the animation proper happened between July and November 1979, another very tight schedule.

It was to work on Cagliostro, and at Otsuka’s demand, that Tomonaga left Oh Production and joined Telecom Animation, the ones who were doing Cagliostro’s animation. The exact way Tomonaga entered the movie’s production is open to speculation. Indeed, the very famous chase scene that Tomonaga contributed to was initially supposed to be animated by Yûzô Aoki, one of Otsuka’s most talented students, a veteran contributor to the Lupin franchise and one of the most important artists behind Mamo. But, for whatever reason, it is Tomonaga who ended up animating this scene, and Aoki wasn’t involved at all in Cagliostro.

It’s very hard to think that Aoki would have left any entry of the Lupin franchise on his own volition, especially considering that he was only working on the concurrently airing TV series at that time. Put bluntly, it’s possible that Miyazaki wanted Tomonaga to do that scene, and pushed to get Aoki away from the movie in a way or another. 

Kanada, too, left his studio shortly after he was done with Galaxy Express. The movie was, along with Josephina the Whale #20, his last work from Z3. Once he was done with it (by July-August 1979, just when Galaxy Express came out), he probably found himself with nothing to do, as most of the members of Z3 were still busy on Gundam. But then two things happened: Kanada probably received an offer from his teacher Takuo Noda to join the production of Entaku no Kishi Monogatari: Moero Arthur, which the latter was character designer and animation director for; and, with Gundam’s length suddenly shortened by a dozen episodes, Z3 found itself at the end of its scheduled rotation on the show by #32, that would be around October 1979. Kanada seized the opportunity, and took with him most of Z3’s staff members to join Noda’s Studio N°1.

All this chronology might be a bit hard to follow, but the one thing to remember is that, for animators such as Tomonaga and Kanada, things never stopped. They did to the point that, not long after the events I retraced, in 1980, Kanada suddenly left the production of Be Forever Yamato after he had collapsed from exhaustion. Kanada’s early death in 2009 might very well be the result of decades of such labour, in often less than optimal conditions. I don’t know of Tomonaga ever collapsing in a similar fashion, but he must have found himself as exhausted once the production of Lupin III Part II finally wrapped up in late 1980.

3 thoughts on “Kanada and Tomonaga, 1978-1979

  1. Hey just a heads up I think the chart in this article is in a low resolution; when I try to view the image it’s blurry and illegible


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