The History of Tatsunoko – Conclusion: Tatsunoko diasporas

This article is Part 7 in the History of Tatsunoko series.

Tatsuo Yoshida’s death from liver cancer on September 5, 1977, is generally understood as a turning point in the history of studio Tatsunoko. Although his sickness was known among the studio’s top brass, few, if any, were aware of its seriousness, and nobody expected that their leader would be gone so soon. Because of Yoshida’s stature within the company – that of a kind, paternalistic and appreciated boss, but also the face and name of Tatsunoko – this was no doubt a traumatic event for many. Aside from the mark Yoshida left as a person, however, there remains a question: did his death really change anything for the studio as a whole?

I already provided some elements of an answer in the previous article of this series. I explained that, from the moment Gatchaman ended in Fall 1974, the studio’s early golden age was over. Even though it produced an increasing number of successes, creativity was declining and, slowly but surely, artists began to leave Tatsunoko. Yoshida’s death only accelerated that process and confirmed, for many, that it was time to try their luck elsewhere. This article will follow those artists by retracing the situation inside and outside Tatsunoko just before and after Yoshida’s death: where they went, what they worked on, and whether or not they gave birth to a distinct “ex-Tatsunoko lineage”.

Tatsunoko’s new generations

After Tatsuo Yoshida’s death, Tatsunoko’s operations and management were split between the two remaining Yoshida brothers. Ippei Kuri, the one of the two who hadn’t quit illustration and manga altogether in 1965, became the president of subsidiary company Anime Friend, which would handle most of the on-site animation production. Kenji Yoshida, who had quickly moved on to become the business expert among the three brothers, took the reins of Tatsunoko proper, which now became a headquarters for general management.

This split no doubt had many consequences on the studio’s internal organization, but it remains hard to gauge exactly what was the impact of Tatsuo’s death – especially because no signs of the change were visible in credits. Indeed, the top levels of the studio initially didn’t change: people like Hiroshi Sasagawa, Seitarô Hara and Yoshitaka Amano were still there, and they had always been the ones, with Kuri, to collectively pitch ideas and art for new works. But all that time, they had been coordinated by Tatsuo, who regularly took his closest associates to a resort where they would create together. With him gone, perhaps some of the chemistry went away as well.

This may explain why one of Kenji and Kuri’s first decisions was a symbolic refoundation of the studio: a return to Tatsunoko’s most popular property, Gatchaman, through a compilation movie and a sequel. But if we look outside of Tatsunoko, such a return to a past property is far from a unique move. Indeed, studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha, which was going through internal and financial difficulties around 1976-1978, went through developments extremely similar to Tatsunoko’s. First, they restructured in two studios: one in charge of general management, TMS (although it kept an animation division), and a more specialized animation studio, Telecom. Then, they also started producing a series of remakes: New Star of the Giants in 1977, New Aim for the Ace in 1978, and of course New Lupin III, better known as Lupin III Part II. Moreover, the idea of making a compilation movie out of an old series in order to hype for a sequel was probably inspired by the success of the Yamato franchise, which suddenly became immensely popular thanks to its own 1977 compilation film.

The new TV series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman II, started airing on November 1, 1978. Judging from the staff list, it was also probably an attempt to bring back members of the original series’ staff who had left, or keep in those that were still there. The results were a mixed bag: Hisayuki Toriumi, chief director of the first Gatchaman, refused to take charge of the sequel and left Tatsunoko for good 2 months after it came out. He was therefore replaced by two veterans, Hiroshi Sasagawa and Seitarô Hara – who were among the first to join Tatsunoko, but who had more experience on comedies rather than on superhero stories.

On the animation side, things were similarly mixed. The animation director for the original series, Sadao Miyamoto, was brought back, but on “animation supervision” (作画監修 and not 作画監督, animation direction), which seems to indicate that his actual presence on the show was rather distant. The actual animation director was one Hayao Nobe, who seems to have been an ex-Mushi artist who moved on to Nippon Animation, and then did some work with Tatsunoko.

As for the Three Wings, the three animators who had carried Gatchaman’s animation a few years earlier, their presence was sparse: Masami Suda was only in charge of the opening, probably a simple favor he agreed to make to his old friends; Tomonori Kogawa seemingly worked as an animation director, but was uncredited. As for Tsuneo Ninomiya, his involvement was more serious but just as symbolic: he animated on 3 of the early episodes, 2 of which are solo. The veteran who helped Gatchaman II was therefore rather Motosuke Takahashi, who animated on 3 episodes and co-directed 2 others – it seems that, at the time, he was working everywhere that wanted him, quickly developing as an animator and finally trying his hand at episode direction.

Besides the absence of illustrious veterans, what is apparent from Gatchaman II is the importance of the ties between Tatsunoko and Sunrise. 2 episodes (including the first one) feature animation by Kazuo Nakamura, a regular Sunrise collaborator who would be one of the most important artists in the staff rotation of Mobile Suit Gundam. The most recurring figure, however, is Shigeru Katô – an ex-Tatsunoko artist who had done in-betweens on Gatchaman and moved on to work with Sunrise on Raideen. Katô and his team simply carried Gatchaman II and were present on at least 1 episode in 3.

The series itself was, also, a mixed bag. Poorly served by mediocre animation and unimaginative designs (especially on the mecha front – Kunio Okawara was back as well, but his work there is far from its best), Gatchaman II consistently failed to recapture the appeal of the original series. In the midst of the Yamato boom and just one year before Gundam, Gatchaman and its tokusatsu inspirations felt dated, even in spite of many attempts to modernize the SF setting. The only highlights that remain are Mitsuki Nakamura’s art direction (prefiguring Macross in some aspects, notably the design of the underwater G Town) and the special effects, which include live-action inserts, computer-generated graphics and many optical effects. But even that ended up being detrimental, as the production quickly collapsed: the team had to resort to making multiple flashbacks to the original series (such as episode 9, pretty much a recap) to lighten the load of the team.

With this brief overview, it is visible that the attempt to bring back together the original team of Tatsunoko’s aces was largely a failure. However, Gatchaman II did help bring the studio’s new generation of artists to the fore. But once again, Tatsuo Yoshida’s death or Gatchaman II were not meaningful turning points: we should rather turn towards the Time Bokan series, and especially Yatterman, to see where most of these new artists started. More specifically, those artists were one character designer, Akemi Takada, and 4 episode directors nicknamed “the 4 heavenly kings of Tatsunoko” (タツノコ四天王): Mizuho Nishikubo, Hidehito Ueda, Kôichi Mashimo and Mamoru Oshii.

The “4 heavenly kings” nickname, probably a reference to the earlier “3 wings”, is in fact rather misleading: in truth, it is rather 3+1 than a consistent group of 4. Indeed, Nishikubo, Ueda and Mashimo joined Tatsunoko at the same time, in 1975. They all received Hiroshi Sasagawa’s direct training, with Mashimo and Nishikubo debuting together on Yatterman #33 (Mashimo as episode director and Nishikubo as his assistant). Oshii, on the other hand, joined in 1977, and would quickly become closer to Hisayuki Toriumi. The amount of work they made on Gatchaman II perhaps gives a good idea of each’s importance in the studio: Nishikubo was at the top, directing 13 episodes on 52, closely followed by Mashimo with 11. Ueda was next with 8, and then Oshii with only 3.

The name is even more misleading because of the fact that only one of the four directors really rose to prominence within Tatsunoko – although it is true that they would remain in sporadic contact until at least the late 80s. After Gatchaman II, Nishikubo left Tatsunoko, seemingly for Osamu Dezaki’s An Apple, while Oshii followed Hisayuki Toriumi in Pierrot. Ueda remained, but only to direct a few forgotten children series in the 80s. It would therefore be Kôichi Mashimo who would become the representative of Tatsunoko’s new generation and herald a new way of making SF anime with Golden Warrior Gold Lightan in 1981 and Mirai Keisatsu Urashiman in 1983.

Discussing these two shows is out of the scope of this article or series, but it is truly there that what had begun on Yatterman truly came to fruition: with Mashimo on chief direction and Nishikubo back as a regular episode director, continuity was assured. In terms of design, Akemi Takada firmly established herself as one of Tatsunoko’s most vital artists, even leading Ippei Kuri to stop contributing designs after Gold Lightan. Finally, it was there that the most brilliant alumnus of the studio since Tomonori Kogawa rose to stardom: first on Gold Lightan, and then on Urashiman, Takashi Nakamura revolutionized debris, mecha and character animation, laying the groundwork for the development of realism in 80s Japanese animation. 

Rekindling the flames: Studio Pierrot

It therefore took some years for Tatsunoko to really recover from its late-70s slump. One of the explanations for that is not just that the studio was behind the times – it didn’t really manage to adapt to the post-Yamato era until Macross, on which Tatsunoko’s direct involvement was scarce – but also that most of its talents had left. Many among them would find work in what quickly became one of the leading studios of the new decade: Pierrot.

Pierrot was established mere months before Tatsuo Yoshida’s death, in April 1977, by Tatsunoko episode director Yûji Nunokawa. At the time, it was not an official studio yet: it was just the name of the collective formed by Nunokawa and ex-Mushi director Mitsuo Kaminashi, soon joined by young animator Hiroko Tokita. Their first work together was on Tôei’s Gekisô! Rubenkaiser, Nunokawa’s debut as series director. Although commissioned by Tôei, Rubenkaiser was actually produced by Wako Pro, a studio that had spent most of the 60s subcontracting for Tatsunoko and welcomed many of its staff when it left. It is after Rubenkaiser was completed that Nunokawa left Tatsunoko in earnest. Approached by the publishing company Gakken, Nunokawa and co. were convinced to establish Pierrot as a real company, from where they would produce their first anime, sponsored by Gakken: Pierrot was officially created in May 1979, and its first series, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, started airing on January 8, 1980.

Nunokawa managed to scout some of Tatsunoko’s greatest talents: veterans such as art director Mitsuki Nakamura, director Hisayuki Toriumi and animator Motosuke Takahashi (who remained freelance, but stopped associating himself with other studios), but also young and promising figures such as Mamoru Oshii or animator Teruo Handa. It seems that this was felt like a betrayal on the Tatsunoko side, but the truth was slightly different. Rather than robbing Tatsunoko of its talents, Nunokawa in fact managed to gather in a single place all those that were leaving and would have been scattered otherwise.

The most obvious example of that is Motosuke Takahashi: as I explained in the previous article, Takahashi seems to have gone freelance in 1975 and soon started working all around – in Tatsunoko, in Wako and Ashi Production, but also Sunrise and finally Pierrot. Already an experienced animator at that point, Takahashi probably found himself at ease going freelance: he had more opportunities to direct, something he probably found difficult to do in Tatsunoko with its clear-cut division hierarchy, and his style as an animator quickly developed as well. Mitsuki Nakamura is another example: as we will see, he was, like many other Tatsunoko artists, tempted to work for Sunrise and regularly did background art and art direction for them starting from 1976.

However, Pierrot was not just a gathering of ex-Tatsunoko artists. For Nils, the studio also managed to recruit an unexpected, but highly valuable artist: Toshiyasu Okada. Okada was truly from “the other side” of the industry, working with studios and people that had had basically no contact with Tatsunoko since its creation. Starting his career in Tôei in the mid-60s, Okada found himself collaborating with Mushi in its last years, before joining Zuiyo Eizô in 1974 for Heidi, Girl of the Alps. There, he quickly became one of the ace animators of the World Masterpiece Theater series and established himself as one of the greatest character animators of his generation. However prestigious his role was, it almost broke him and, by mid-1977, he was on his way out: his involvement with Nippon progressively thinned out until he left for good in mid-1979 and joined Pierrot. While it’s hard to know how and why he ended up there specifically, it is possible that he had a connection with Pierrot co-founder Mitsuo Kaminashi, who had worked alongside Okada on some Mushi series in the early 70s. It is then probably Okada who invited another Nippon-affiliated artist, Yukiyoshi Hane, to work on the series and animate its spectacular opening.

Okada’s presence in Pierrot was probably a breath of fresh air for the Tatsunoko artists. His character designs were completely different from Tatsunoko’s style, without being a simple copy of the Yôichi Kotabe-inspired style of Nippon productions: his characters were more slender and somewhat even simpler. Moreover, it is possibly him who introduced a centralized layout system similar to that used in Nippon: according to Hisayuki Toriumi, even though they used layouts in Tatsunoko, he never actually bothered with them until meeting Okada. He said:

I didn’t do the layouts [on Gatchaman]. At the time, the layouts had to be done by the episode director, and then the animators polished them up. That’s why, even though I was in charge of checking the animation, animation director’s corrections and the background art, I didn’t understand why the animation turned out the way it did before being sent to tracing. But in fact, if the layout isn’t done properly, the image ends up completely off. I only started to understand this in Pierrot, when I started working with Toshiyasu Okada on Nils. He was correcting pictures that I would have thought were good, so I asked him why he was so particular about correcting them. He answered: “doesn’t it look better like this?”, and he was right: the pictures had a better sense of depth and space”.

As an animator, Okada therefore had a strong influence on Nils. The first episode, which he solo-animated, is simply amazing: the movement feels constantly lively and natural, and multiple moments feature impressive background animation and perspective work, as in the sequence above. That is not all, as Okada seems to have introduced his unique Tôei-inspired style of effects to the Tatsunoko animators. Their own way of animating water  was angular and simplistic; Okada’s approach was more realistic, favoring curves and color gradients.

But this shouldn’t give the impression that Okada was the kind of animation director who would meticulously correct everything so that it fit his style. On the contrary, he seems to have been a positive influence, enabling artists to move out of their prior style towards something completely different. Once again, Motosuke Takahashi is perhaps the best example. In Tatsunoko, Takahashi was an esteemed artist thanks to his experience, but he seems to have found it difficult to develop his own style under the shadow of the more imposing Three Wings; it is only in exceptional instances that sequences seem to prefigure the liberated nature of his later style.

It is in Nils that this “later style” developed and that Takahashi truly developed his unicity as an animator: he would first experiment with timing, having characters adopt many extreme poses as fast as possible, while maintaining a very fluid motion. On the other hand, he would progressively integrate background animation as one of his iconic techniques. By the end of the show, those two aspects would merge to give birth to one of the most unique animation styles of the day: one relying on uncanny fluidity and free deformation of bodies that creates a dreamlike atmosphere. It would then be on Urusei Yatsura that Takahashi’s animation truly flourished, in some of the series’ best and most creative moments.

A sort of successor for both Nippon’s World Masterpiece Theater series and Tatsunoko’s fairy tale adaptations, Nils seems to have been a relative success, which tied together Pierrot’s young team. Following its first series, Pierrot then temporarily divided in two teams (to which we should add a third one, who had been put to work on Ms Machiko under the lead of ex-Tatsunoko director Masami Annô). The first, led by Hisayuki Toriumi and Toshiyasu Okada, kept doing children’s series for TV station NHK: their first work was The Mysterious Cities of Gold. After it, both men quickly transferred to OVAs, notably Dallos and Area 88.

The other team would be headed by Mamoru Oshii and Motosuke Takahashi, who brought around him ex-Sunrise (?) artists Asami Endô and Naoko Yamamoto in his own studio Dôtaku. This group also managed to integrate one more ex-Tatsunoko artist: young and promising character designer Akemi Takada. Finally, with the promotion of the young Kazunori Itô from production assistant to scriptwriter, the future key members of the Headgear group did their first work together, and proceeded to forever change the face of anime with Urusei Yatsura

Not just a Mushi successor: Studio Sunrise

A final place that welcomed many of Tatsunoko’s staff was studio Sunrise. Unlike Pierrot or Ashi Pro, it was not a Tatsunoko offshoot: rather, it had been created in September 1972 by 7 members of Mushi’s sales and production staff. These were Yoshikatsu Kishimoto, Masanori Itô, Eiji Yamaura, Yasuo Shibue, Masami Iwasaki, Kiyomi Numamoto and Yasuhiko Yoneyama. Somewhat traumatized by Mushi’s mismanagement, the 7 men established Sunrise as a producer-driven company, which concretely meant 3 things. 

One, Sunrise was founded in parallel with managing company Sôeisha, a direct subsidiary of dubbing company Tôhoku Shinsha, who would remain Sunrise’s prime supporter until 1976, when Sunrise took its independance to become Nippon Sunrise. Two, Sunrise would radically move away from Mushi’s mangaka culture to instead profit from tie-in toys, character goods and records: they would not do manga adaptations like most other studios but instead promote original works. Finally, Sunrise’s managers seem to have believed that well-paid in-house staff was one of the causes of Mushi’s collapse; they therefore chose to entirely rely on outsourcing, whether it was for direction, animation, art, tracing, photography… and totally exclude in-house workers. This business choice was radical, but it perfectly embodied the new conditions of the industry in the early 70s.

However, in terms of staff and productions, it took some time for Sunrise to completely move out of the ex-Mushi sphere. Indeed, the studio’s first show, Hazedon, was full of Mushi artists, including some that would go on to be associated with the other Mushi offshoot, Madhouse: it was notably the case of Hazedon’s initial chief director (who left after episode 10), one Makura Saki… that is famous director Osamu Dezaki. Even as late as 1975, it would be Rintarô (freelance at that point), who directed Sunrise’s 5th production, Manga Wanpaku Omukashi Kum Kum

The fact that Sunrise only used outsourcing or one-time contracts theoretically made it easier to maintain the ex-Mushi solidarities (people could come and go as they pleased), but the studio’s creative orientations seem to have discouraged at least some artists to remain associated with Sunrise and to turn their gaze towards its polar opposite, the artist-driven Madhouse. This seems to have been the case for at least one person, animator Manabu Ohashi. Granted, Ohashi was not from Mushi, but rather an ex-Tôei artist seduced by Osamu Dezaki’s work on Ashita no Joe, who then became one of the founding members of Madhouse. Proof that the distinction between it and Sunrise was still porous before 1975, Ohashi worked on multiple episodes of Sunrise’s Zero Tester in 1973 in a duo with Mushi’s most brilliant alumnus, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Even though their episodes are by far the best in the show, Ohashi wasn’t exactly taken in by the SF, villain-of-the-week format and never worked with Sunrise or Yasuhiko until 1989’s Venus Wars. To take another example, it would take years for Yoshiyuki Tomino to definitely associate with Sunrise: between 1972 and 1979, he was as close to Sunrise as he was to Tatsunoko and Zuiyo Eizô/Nippon Animation.

It is in those same years, between 1973 and 1975, that the first contacts between Sunrise and Tatsunoko were established. It is remarkable that they flourished on Sunrise’s first mecha series, Brave Raideen, in 1975 – as if it were thanks to the Tatsunoko contributions that Sunrise could truly develop what would become its brand image.

As I discussed in an earlier article, it is on 1973’s Neo-Human Casshern that the first Tatsunoko/Sunrise connections were established. Indeed, Casshern featured among its outsourcing rotation multiple artists and studios that would go on to be privileged Sunrise collaborators: Norio Shioyama, Shigetaka Kiyoyama and Kazuo Nakamura. At the higher, business level, however, it seems that the other important link was Tatsunoko’s Polymar: not so much in terms of animators than in its producer, Shin’ichi Miyazaki. An employee of the TV station NET close to Tôei Animation, he produced Tatsunoko’s Polymar and Tekkaman, but also Sunrise’s Raideen. It’s hard to tell how much Miyazaki’s presence impacted things, but the fact is that Raideen counted a lot of Tatsunoko people among its staff. The most important one is no doubt Motosuke Takahashi, who directed or storyboarded 16 episodes. We also find Shigeru Katô animating on 12 episodes and Tsunenaka Nozaki on animation direction.

Things only intensified one year later, on Sunrise’s comedy series Robokko Beeton which would be produced by two ex-Tatsunoko producers who joined Sunrise in 1976: Yoshikazu Tochihira, assistant producer on Beeton, and Tôru Hasegawa, on production desk. Quite significantly, both men had worked on Casshern. They were probably the ones to bring in art director Mitsuki Nakamura, one of Tatsunoko’s most important artists, quickly followed by Nakamura’s own student Kunio Okawara, who would do mechanical designs on Voltes V and Zambot 3 in 1977.

As I’ve shown in the previous article of this series, things were going both ways. Beeton started airing in November 1976, but months earlier, Tatsunoko’s own Raideen rip-off Godam had begun. Ironically, Sunrise was credited as an animation subcontractor, as well as the initial director of Raideen, Yoshiyuki Tomino. On his episodes (which aren’t necessarily those animated by Sunrise, showing that Tomino was not that closely associated with it yet) he seems to have begun to use the iconic techniques of his “mature” style, notably a tendency to freeze the action and explore character psychology in melodramatic situations.

Besides these stylistic elements, Godam is an important work in Tomino’s career, since there, he not only strengthened his links with Kunio Okawara (whom he may have met on Casshern), but also met the artist who would become his closest collaborator in the early 80s: Tomonori Kogawa. Kogawa animated on three of the episodes directed by Tomino: 11, 26 and 31. While this may seem like just short meetings, Tomino was probably struck by Kogawa’s talent: perhaps further encouraged by Okawara and other ex-Tatsunoko staff, Tomino would personally call Kogawa in 1978 and asked him to contribute character designs for his series Invincible Steel Man Daitarn 3. Kogawa agreed and worked on the series under the pseudonym of Ichikazu Oguni.

Since he was both one of Tatsunoko’s most talented artists and one of the most important character designers of the early 80s, it’s worth taking a step away from Sunrise to focus on Kogawa exclusively and follow how he went on to associate with the studio and director Tomino. Although he had already started working outside of the studio, it seems that Kogawa left Tatsunoko for good in late 1975 or early 1976. Probably following his mentor Masami Suda, Kogawa started working on Tôei TV series, notably on mechas such as Magnerobo Ga-Keen and Chôjin Sentai Barattack. Unlike Suda, however, Kogawa didn’t join Tôei: he was uncertain whether he wanted to stay in the industry, but also more independant and with more opportunities in multiple studios among which Tatsunoko and Sunrise.

The year 1978 was therefore decisive, as Kogawa worked on two major productions: Daitarn 3, his first close collaboration with Tomino, and Farewell Space Battleship Yamato, on which he worked with, among others, Sunrise rising star Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Farewell Yamato was the most ambitious anime movie ever made at the time, gathering admired veterans such as Kogawa and younger, charismatic figures like Yoshinori Kanada and Kazuhide Tomonaga. However, Kogawa felt too constrained by his work as chief animation director and the movie was a frustrating experience. That frustration led him to create a studio of his own, from where he would train young artists in the way he saw fit: that was studio Beebow. 

Beebow was created in June 1979, just after Kogawa’s contribution to episode 6 of Mobile Suit Gundam. The first members of Beebow were very young animators, probably recruited just after highschool or art school, although it’s important to mention ambitious artists who had worked on Gundam, such as Toshihiro Hirano and Ichirô Itano, and at least one ex-Tatsunoko animator, Hideaki Sakamoto. While it was effectively how small animation studios such as this worked, Kogawa’s explicit intention to structure it like a “school” quickly seems to have inspired other artists around him: in 1982, Tsuneo Ninomiya created his own “Ninomiya Office”, while Yoshikazu Yasuhiko created his own Kugatsu-sha around 1981. Both these studios worked as follows, which is perhaps also how Beebow functioned at first: the lead artist would do most of the layout or first key animation on a given work himself, and then have his students learn by doing the second key animation or in-betweens.

Beebow seems to have been created during the production of the last major Tatsunoko/Sunrise collaboration: 1979’s The Ultraman. Understandably overshadowed by the concurrently-airing Mobile Suit Gundam, this remains an extremely interesting production: commissioned by Tsuburaya Production to Sunrise, it also received heavy Tatsunoko involvement. The chief director for the first 13 episodes was none other than Hisayuki Toriumi, while the character designer was Tsuneo Ninomiya. It was, in fact, a true reunion of the original Gatchaman dream team: Mitsuki Nakamura was on art direction and Kunio Okawara on mechanical design (alongside Studio Nue’s Shôji Kawamori). On animation, the Three Wings were also reunited, as Suda and Kogawa both participated, as well as Motosuke Takahashi and Tatsunoko’s younger generation, represented by Takashi Nakamura.

While it’s not particularly well-remembered, The Ultraman was the final step before Kogawa’s masterwork and his debut as series character designer and animation director: Space Runaway Ideon. The production was difficult and the animation perhaps did not always match Kogawa’s ambitions, but his character designs had yet-unseen qualities to them: great simplicity, and yet an elegance, sense of volume and anatomy that few artists in the industry could match. Ideon was a training ground for many animators, and it is later on the compilation movies that Kogawa gave the full measure of his talent: the character animation of Be Invoked in particular remains unmatched even today. It is also there that Beebow started to reach its maturity as a studio: just as some of the first-generation members (notably Hirano and Itano) were leaving, younger ones like Hiroyuki Kitazume or Hidetoshi Omori, who had started as in-betweeners on Ideon, started forming the core of Kogawa’s group of students.

Kogawa and studio Beebow’s work, because of their immediately recognizable qualities, are often the first candidates for the title of successors of Tatsunoko’s aesthetic and especially its realism. It makes no doubt that Kogawa’s origins played a part, but his time in Tôei and on Yamato, and the development of a specific layout system that he and Yasuhiko used must not be underestimated either. Moreover, as I have shown here, Kogawa was far from the only ex-Tatsunoko artist to have some relevance in the late 70s and early 80s. Two of the most important studios in the early years of the new decade, Ashi Pro and Pierrot, were Tatsunoko offshoots. As I’ve explained in this article, the generation that emerged in the late 70s within Tatsunoko itself was just as decisive.

The question that remains now is whether or not a given Tatsunoko aesthetic or culture remained in the studio itself, or spread through its ex-members. Certain solidarities certainly kept going on – it is surely more than a coincidence, for example, to find Kôichi Mashimo, Mizuho Nishikubo and Mamoru Oshii together again in Production IG in the 1990s. However, it is clear that all of the first generations of Tatsunoko’s artists scattered all around, building their own styles and careers. For that reason, it is hard to speak of a continuing, unified aesthetic, whether inside or outside Tatsunoko. In the end, it is perhaps in that sense that we may come back on Tatsuo Yoshida’s role and the impact of his death: perhaps it didn’t change much in terms of staff, but the studio’s works and pipeline would progressively stop being so centered around him after his death.

Additional sources

Kogawa, Tomonori. Animator Interview. WEB Animestyle.

2 thoughts on “The History of Tatsunoko – Conclusion: Tatsunoko diasporas

  1. This series has been really informative and a fun read. I hope this isn’t too annoying a nitpick but I figured you might want to know: I’ve seen you use the phrase “it makes no doubt” a few times which seems to me like a literal translation of “il ne fait aucun doute”, but it doesn’t really scan—in English one would normally say “there is no doubt”.


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