The History of Mushi Pro – 3 – The beginning of the end (1967-1969)

In Mushi Production, 1966 ended with two deaths. That of Atom, who sacrificed himself for Earth in the last episode of Tetsuwan Atom, broadcast on December 31st. A few months later, Osamu Tezuka wrote an essay titled “Atom’s Death”, in which he reflected on the failure of his initial bet – Atom had given rise to TV anime, many other popular characters and series were now rivals of Tezuka’s creation, and Mushi had lost its brief monopoly over animation in Japan. Then, there was that of managing director Kaoru Anami, for whom a company funeral was organized by Tezuka and attended by all of Mushi’s employees [1]. 

Anami had seemingly been a controversial figure within the studio. When he established his “Anami system” in September 1966, some of Mushi’s first-generation members, those who had worked on Aru Machikado no Monogatari at Tezuka Animation, left: this was the case of Shûji Konno, who retired from animation altogether, and of the one who had suggested making Atom in the first place, Yûsaku Sakamoto, who created studio Jack alongside Hayao Nobe [2]. With Anami’s death, it was now time for his supporters to quit: such was the case of Yoshiyuki Tomino, who left in early 1967 after receiving an invitation to work at a friend’s CM company [3]. The number of Mushi’s employees slowly started shrinking, and it would never go back up to what it had been in late 1966.

Although Tezuka had seemingly opposed the changes brought by Anami, he guaranteed that the former acting director’s ambitions would be carried on. To ensure that they were, Eiichi Kawabata and Eiichi Yamamoto were both appointed to the board of directors, with Kawabata on the management side and Yamamoto on the creative one – Tezuka would increasingly depend on the latter in the following years [4]. Mushi did follow the direction which had been set by Anami to some degree, but there was one new factor: money. With the huge debt left by its former acting director and the end of Mushi’s partnership with NBC Enterprises, the studio found itself in an increasingly difficult financial situation from the second half of 1967 onwards. Things would only get worse from there, and every attempt to resolve them ended in failure as Mushi failed to produce any success. By 1969, the signs were clear: the studio’s downward spiral could not be stopped.

Polar opposites

Mushi’s two new works for the year 1967 were Goku no Daibôken and Ribbon no Kishi. They represent two completely different understandings of Tezuka’s work and animation as a whole, but also the limitations that made it impossible for the studio’s ambitions to flourish. Although opposed in nearly every way, they are both, even more than the mediocre W3, Mushi’s first failures on an aesthetic and commercial level.

Sugii’s failure

Goku no Daibôken was Gisaburô Sugii’s project, and it was entirely based on a complete and unconditional rejection of everything Mushi – or rather, Tezuka – had done so far. While he had become a devout believer in Mushi’s approach to “limited” animation, Sugii felt uncomfortable with Tezuka’s story-centered approach to TV anime: apparently already from the time of Atom, he wanted to move towards gags, something less dramatic and more absurd, closer to the American Looney Tunes [5]. In Spring 1966, when the time came to plan the show that would take up Atom’s timeslot on Fuji TV, Sugii first suggested an original. He was advised against it by Kaoru Anami, who told him it was “too early” for originals and instead told him to choose a Tezuka manga to adapt. Sugii then settled on Boku no Songoku – Tezuka himself was skeptical, as he considered that Tôei’s Saiyûki was already a good enough adaptation, but he trusted one of his favorite disciples [6].

In May 1966, Goku no Daibôken’s pilot was completed. Entirely produced by Sugii’s studio Art Fresh, it was 23-minutes long and made on wide-format paper, something Seiji Okuda attributes to the team’s “complex” towards feature film production. It was then cut and edited to a short, square format short titled “Son Goku begins!” [7]. The difference with the final show is striking: the designs are much closer to the manga and frankly unappealing. The animation is much closer to Tezuka’s sensibility, being largely on 1s and 2s with some stills in-between, vast amounts of squash-and-stretch, little work on timing and spacing, and disregard for lifelike character acting: it more-or-less feels like 1920s rubber-hose animation. Narratively, it’s hard to deduce very much from this short, but the gag element seems to have been kept in the background in favor of the action scenes and Goku’s devotion towards his master. This was the complete opposite of what Sugii wanted to do: extremely dissatisfied, he threatened to leave the project. Tezuka had to beg him to stay, and gave him absolute freedom, guaranteeing him that he would be able to do whatever he wanted on Goku. [8]. Sadly for Sugii, things would not go that easily.

From Summer 1966 onwards, production for Goku no Daibôken began in earnest in studio 5. Although Mushi produced the show and rented the location, most of its staff was not in-house: studio 5 served as a shared workplace for all of Mushi’s subcontractors, notably Art Fresh (credited on production assistance on the show), Fantasia, Anaguma Pro… Studio 5 was completely self-sufficient (it notably had its own animation cameras) and operated independently from the main company, to the point that producer Atsushi Tomioka called Goku a “test case” in complete outsourcing [9].

As a result, Goku’s team was a ragtag reunion of in-house Mushi staff borrowed from other teams, former Mushi employees, and freelancers more-or-less related to the studio. Thanks to that, it was a meeting place where people from completely different origins could meet and initiate long-standing relationships – it was notably on Goku that production assistants Yasuo Oda, Masao Maruyama and episode director Osamu Dezaki first met [10]. According to Seiji Okuda, the animation was roughly divided in two teams, respectively led by Shigeru Yamamoto and Sadao Miyamoto. Yamamoto was a Mushi veteran, who had done in-betweens on Machikado and supported Atom’s animation throughout the entire production. On the other hand, Miyamoto had previously served as an animator in an Osaka CM company and, alongside Renzô Kinoshita, had been personally recruited by Yûsaku Sakamoto in 1965. Both men were meant to serve as the main staff of Sakamoto’s Atom movie project but, when it was dropped, they were transferred to Goku’s production [12].

Part of the team division on Goku according to Seiji Okuda [Okuda 2020, p.41]

The discussions of Goku’s animation style are contradictory. According to Seiji Okuda, the character designs were made by Sugii himself, and they – alongside Miyamoto’s direction – were quite challenging because they moved away from Tezuka’s style and its simple round shapes to favor a sense of volume. On the other hand, according to Sugii, Miyamoto in particular didn’t fit well in Mushi and on Goku because he had little experience drawing in Tezuka’s style – implying that the show’s aesthetic kept following it [13]. I tend to agree with Okuda there: Goku’s designs keep a sense of simplicity, but that is the common element of most 60s anime and doesn’t just belong to Mushi; except for Ryûko, they had none of the roundness and cuteness characteristic of Tezuka’s characters. In particular, the guest designs, which is where true variety emerged, have nothing to do with Tezuka’s sense and do feel closer to American animation.

Goku‘s main staff; note the attention on shading in the two screens on the right

In any case, it wasn’t in design or animation that Sugii and his team’s rejection of Tezuka expressed itself. It was rather in the writing and direction. Sugii was extremely ambitious: not only did he want to do a complete break with what Mushi had done before, he wanted to broaden the general “animation culture” in Japan [14]. He therefore focused entirely on the gags, trying to make them all as absurd as possible and breaking all sense of narrative continuity. This was the reason he had chosen Boku no Songoku in the first place: the road trip structure made it possible to completely change the setting each episode and make things different each time [15]. He refused to compromise on anything and was an extremely harsh director: he himself admitted how many conflicts he had with scriptwriters and storyboarders, whose work he kept rejecting until it had lost any semblance of sense or continuity [16].

In my opinion, Sugii’s testimony here is partly exaggerated: the first 3 episodes follow a relatively linear narrative, and it’s only from episode 4 onwards that the absurd tone really comes out. Moreover, it does so to an irregular degree according to each episode director and their sensibilities, showing that Sugii’s control was perhaps not as complete as he said. But, among the episode directors, there was at least one who seems to have completely adopted the chief director’s approach: that was his direct student from Art Fresh, Osamu Dezaki [17].

A good example would be Dezaki’s second episode on Goku, #04, and the first episode of the show where rationality is entirely thrown out the window. In this episode, we meet two of the main characters, the pig monster Hakkai and the treasure-hunting freak Sagojo. The story is largely centered on the latter and the chase around a treasure map led by three gangs made up of cowboys, 18th century French aristocrats and a sultan and his henchmen. It’s hard to convey the absurdity of this episode beyond this already weird summary – the map and the characters chasing for it or being chased for having it constantly move from one gang to another in a continuous display of cartoon violence and gag chases.

One of the gags from #04, showcasing the complete lack of continuity and the show’s extremely minimal animation

Visually, Goku seems to build on some of the most expressive techniques that had been initiated in previous series. Shirô Fujimoto’s art direction is very close to Jungle Taitei’s in its modernism and use of flat, bright colors. On the other hand, the animation seems to mostly derive from Atom and to radicalize the use of deformations that had been pioneered on it. Ditching all that remained of Disney inspirations in Mushi – especially squash-and-stretch – it relied on three core ideas: silly faces and expressions, extreme modulation – going from complete immobility to animation on 1s or 2s on a regular and unpredictable basis – and systematic use of smears. In this, Goku’s team fulfilled its ambitions and was indeed ahead of its time, laying the foundation for a large part of anime’s visual comedy language.

Whether this really works, however, is best left to personal appreciation. Despite Sugii, Dezaki and the others’ lofty ambitions, I personally can’t be convinced of Goku’s qualities. Rather than an avant-garde, almost surrealist comedy, it feels more like a series of chases without purpose, made annoying, not to say insufferable, by the constant shouting of Kazuko Ute, Goku’s actress. If Sugii really took inspiration from Looney Tunes, he missed one of its essential aspects – to be entirely centered around characters. With narrative continuity set aside and an ultimately repetitive animation style, it was impossible for Goku to express anything like emotion or personality. Goku himself, as a character, isn’t just not sympathetic, he’s actually unlikeable – which seems to have been purposeful on Sugii’s part, as a way to turn the educational dimension of Journey to the East on its head. But this is what led Goku in trouble.

Indeed, the show quickly made an enemy of PTAs for its absurd, irreverencious tone. As criticisms multiplied in PTA publications and TV magazines, Tezuka, who had explicitly remained completely out of Goku’s production, had to take responsibility as Mushi’s president. In the columns of the magazine Weekly TV Guide, he wrote:

“I wanted to make a gag cartoon at least once. When I personally write something for magazines, each person takes their own responsibilities and only the people who want to read it do so. However, this doesn’t apply to television: it has to cater to the average taste, to be something that anyone can enjoy. Cartoons are always changing: they always have to meet new trends. In that sense, something like Goku, made by a young staff, may seem adventurous, but does need to pursue new expressions” [18].

Things could have remained there, but Goku’s misfortunes continued. From April 1967 onwards, Dai-Ichi Dôga’s Ougon Bat started airing on the same time slot as Goku. Until that point, Goku had been relatively successful, its ratings around 30%. However, as soon as Ougon Bat began, they plummeted to 20% [19]. Perhaps pressured by Fuji TV, Tezuka first called on Sugii individually, asking him to change Goku and transform it into a monster-of-the-week story, then gathered the entire staff and asked them the same thing [20]. The ratings drop, and what can only be described as Tezuka’s betrayal, must have felt like a complete defeat for the staff, especially since some of them, including Sugii, had to admit that Ougon Bat earned its success. This would remain an extremely bitter memory, as all the people involved in it – Sugii, Dezaki, Okuda – could only explain that they were too ahead of their time and had been misunderstood [21].

From its second cour onwards, Goku did change: individual episodes progressively acquired real narrative throughlines and, from episode 14, recurring villains began to appear. While the fundamental visual philosophy remained the same, Goku became a different show, more normal but also more boring. However, all this happened without Sugii. Although he kept being credited, the chief director was absolutely uncompromising: as soon as Tezuka started asking for changes, he told the staff to do what they wanted, quit the production and stopped visiting studio 5 [22]. He would start working for other studios for some time and quit Art Fresh in early 1968. He wasn’t the only one frustrated by the situation: while the exact date is unclear, Osamu Dezaki also went freelance some time between the start of Goku’s second cour and the end of the show [23].

Tezuka’s failure

If Goku was made without and against Tezuka, Ribbon no Kishi was the exact contrary, as the mangaka served as chief director (sou kantoku) and was closely involved in the show: as he had on Atom and W3, he would review every script and storyboard and wrote some himself. The project started at the end of Jungle Taitei and its 30-minutes pilot was completed in November 1966 [24]. Directed by Tezuka, it was animated by Kazuko Nakamura and Sadao Tsukioka. The latter was apparently meant to become chief director of the complete series, but he left the project and only ended up credited as episode director of episode 1 [25]. The pilot is a rather straightforward adaptation of the manga in both its plot and designs. It is typical Tezuka in its fast pacing, gag inserts and loud sound direction. While designs and animation are slightly different from what they would be on the actual show, they still prefigure the latter’s essential characteristics: a focus on volume through shading, and the use of camera techniques to create movement rather than actual animation.

A sequence from Ribbon‘s pilot. Although the animation is just as economic, note how different it is from Goku

Once Fuji TV accepted the project, production for the series began in earnest. With Tsukioka bailing out, most of the main staff was taken from Jungle Taitei: it was notably the case of its two chief directors, Mikiharu Akabori and Chikao Katsui, part of its episode directors team, and its composer, Isao Tomita – who seems to have composed his music following the same process as in Jungle, that is working from the rush films and in close collaboration with the directors [26]. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tezuka viewed Ribbon as a sort of answer to Jungle, which had been made outside of his control and quickly lost his approval. Ribbon’s opening, with its ambitious photography and long shots, does look like an attempt to reproduce the monumental effect achieved by Jungle’s opening. As we will see, it would therefore be ironical that Ribbon would run into the same problems as Jungle.

Perhaps a sign of Mushi’s lack of staff and of Goku’s disorganization following Sugii’s departure, many members from that latter show were also transferred to Ribbon. The most notable were Masao Maruyama, in charge of settei management, and Sadao Miyamoto, who was quickly becoming one of Mushi’s most essential animators. The exact nature of Miyamoto’s role as animation director is not clear, as he shared the credit with Kazuko Nakamura (still credited as Kazuko Anami). Nakamura herself says that she only corrected the female characters and left the rest to Miyamoto, but Miyamoto claimed that Nakamura did “proper”, complete corrections and that he only did his on top of hers [27]. 

The shared animation direction isn’t the only interesting credit on Ribbon. Even more notable is the appearance of a separate “layout” position, clearly identified as such, in the show’s opening. In charge of it was Goku’s art director, Shirô Fujimoto – another overlap with Goku, but also the proof of a major internal change in Mushi’s pipeline. A layout system was adopted, but actual layout work was taken out of the hands of animators and given to background artists. This would not last, as the separate credit never reappeared and layouts seems to have quickly gone back to animators; but the experiment had clearly been tried once and set a precedent.

The existence of a layout system may be related to Ribbon’s approach to movement: the show is barely animated, and when it is (notably for fights and cycles), the motion is always minimal and extremely stiff. Rather than movement, the show seems to have attempted to achieve an illustrative quality, as is visible in the shading (Ribbon notably introduced tri-tone shading, if not in anime altogether, at least in Mushi) and the fact that characters’ shadows are often themselves animated. Then, most of the movement is achieved through camera movement, constant pans and zooms working in unison with intricate shot compositions and layouts/backgrounds which often emphasize depth. This makes Ribbon rather boring in the long run, but it worked to the advantage of at least one episode director, Yoshiyuki Tomino. Tomino’s work on Ribbon was his last in Mushi, as he left the studio after a few episodes.

A sequence from Tomino’s #09, notably for its perspectives and camera effects

Ribbon is visually rather weak, but the real problem was in the writing. Although Tezuka himself supervised the show, it did not follow his manga and, just as in Jungle Taitei, there is rarely any sense of continuity between episodes. As there is very little information available on Ribbon’s production, it’s hard to tell the cause for this. It can’t have been, as on Jungle, a demand from NBC, since Tezuka failed to sell the show to the US network (as he had failed to sell Goku). Perhaps it was instead imposed by Mushi producer Tadami Watanabe, said to have exerted considerable control over the production [28].

Not only did Ribbon go through the same problem as Jungle, it also ran into Goku’s misfortunes. Its subject matter – gender ambiguity and cross-dressing – soon attracted the attention of PTAs, who seem to have been uncomfortable with Duralumin and Nylon’s efforts to uncover Sapphire’s gender and all the implications this had [29]. The ratings never went past 20%, and things were so bad that the sponsor Sunstar bailed out after three months. As a result, Fuji TV threatened to drop the show after 13 episodes, “examine the contents” and restart the broadcast in October. However, Mushi had already signed a contract with another company to sell merchandise on the condition that the show would air for one year; to avoid a breach of contract, Mushi begged Fuji TV to continue the broadcast, which was ultimately moved to a different time slot (the same day but 30 minutes earlier) [30].

It doesn’t seem like this helped Ribbon’s ratings and, just like Goku, the show started going in different directions as it advanced. But, rather than cater to an audience of children, it became darker, sometimes more violent, also managing to truly connect with its shôjo manga roots in some other instances. The most notable bit would be Tezuka’s #22, a straightforward adaptation of the manga’s turning point, when Sapphire’s identity is revealed. It is among the most dramatic episodes in the show and visibly tries to integrate new elements like musical numbers or narrative continuity. The show then follows the manga for a few episodes, but then the tone completely changes once again to adopt a villain-of-the-week structure in which Sapphire has to protect her kingdom from various enemies.

Completely straying off from the manga, the show then concludes on an extremely dark arc, as Silverland is invaded by the “X Alliance” and Duralumin takes power. It’s as if, by this point, the staff had totally given up on the show and decided to pour all their creativity and frustration into the ending. Episode 51 in particular, directed by Hisashi Sakaguchi, is a masterpiece and by far Ribbon’s best episode: in a sort of retelling of Macbeth, it follows Duralumin’s coup, his assassination by Nylon and the latter’s descent into madness. Not only is it surprisingly dark and adult, it also makes use of extremely intricate photography techniques while its sound design perfectly matches the growing intensity of the plot. By far the two highlights take place in the second part of the episode: the first is when Sapphire reveals her identity as the Ribbon Knight to Franz. While Ribbon no Kishi had not quite taken the title of the first anime for girls, this scene is probably the first moment when anime explicitly tried to reproduce the expressionist visual language of shôjo manga through elaborate camera effects, a visual and symbolic representation of feelings and vibrant music. In a completely different register is Nylon’s descent into madness, in which he mistakes Franz for Duralumin’s ghost, his terror being expressed through silhouettes, depth-of-field and sound effects.

Sadly, it was too late by this point to save Ribbon or truly improve its quality. The show ended in failure, which would have major consequences for the studio and its president. Goku’s utter defeat against Ougon Bat and Ribbon’s low ratings showed that Mushi was behind the times: villain-of-the-week and fantastic monster stories were now trending, and “Tezuka humanism” was out of date. Moreover, Ribbon’s messy writing and, presumably, messy production, showed that Tezuka’s initial ambition to make narrative-centered anime was impossible to realize: if even he had failed to do justice to his own work, nobody could.

Failing streak

Mushi could not allow these setbacks to impact it too much: it had to keep producing to remain financially viable. Thanks to the “producer system” introduced by Eiichi Yamamoto on Jungle Taitei and carried on to Goku and Ribbon, series managed to remain on-budget. But, in the absence of contracts with NBC and the money they brought in, things became increasingly pressing as these budgets were not enough to sustain the studio as a whole. From the beginning of Ribbon onwards, both Mushi Pro and Mushi Trading started producing pilot films in droves in the hopes of making money with new shows and successes. To coordinate these efforts, in September 1967, producer Atsushi Tomioka created a planning office within Mushi [31]. Up until then, staff usually gathered in studio 4 to discuss projects and ideas, but there was no formal place for directors and producers to meet. The creation of the planning office meant that collective discussions could happen more simply and regularly, but also that Tezuka lost his privilege to oversee or initiate all of the studio’s new projects. Tomioka was one of Anami’s closest followers and carried his legacy in streamlining production and reducing Tezuka’s influence as much as possible. This was further encouraged by Yoshiaki Imai, the president of Mushi Pro Trading, who created his own animation studio in Ekoda in May 1967. The reasons for its creation are unclear, but there seems to have been two: with Mushi Pro’s finances starting to dry up, the supposedly better-managed Trading would take up animation production; and, with the studio being removed from the main company’s location, Tezuka’s influence would be reduced [32].

However, all of Mushi’s projects remained Tezuka adaptations: these included Flying Ben (directed and animated by Sadao Tsukioka in Trading, in September 1967), Dororo (by Gisaburo Sugii in Artfresh in January 1968), Gum Gum Punch (by Trading, in April 1968), Zero Man (by Eiichi Yamamoto and Tezuka) and Norman (by Tezuka, in July 1968). Thanks to Jun Masami and Yûsuke Nakagawa, we have precise dates for all of these pilots, but I must question at least one, Zero Man. Both Masami and Nakagawa claim it was made in July 1968. However, Yamamoto himself says that he worked on it before 1001 Nights’ production started, around September 1967. This is further supported by Atsushi Tomioka, who mentions that Yamamoto left the Zero Man project for 1001 Nights, while Mushi animator Junji Kobayashi explained that it was meant to immediately follow Ribbon – it could therefore not have been made later than early 1968. Finally, the fact that Hideaki Kitano animated it means that it can’t have been done at the same time as the Dororo pilot, which he also animated [33].

 In any case, only one of these projects saw the light of day: that was Dororo, and even it would have difficulty getting approved. None of the others went any further, probably mostly because they failed to find sponsors and TV stations to finance and broadcast them. In particular, Zero Man seems to have been particularly difficult: Kitano’s style was too gekiga-inspired for Tezuka, who complained that the protagonist looked like Hyûma from Kyôjin no Hoshi rather than one of his characters. Moreover, it seems that the animator was unable to follow up on Tezuka’s ambitious storyboards, and that the final pilot barely moved – it was impossible to sell in such a state [34].

Tezuka’s “ambitious” storyboards from 0 Man (top) and Norman (middle and bottom) [From Tezuka 1999b]

All these buried projects were personal failures for Tezuka, but also for the studio as a whole: since the initiative for them came from Mushi and not from TV stations or sponsors, they were made with the studio’s money. Not selling them effectively made them a waste of time and funds. It is probably around this time that Tezuka started to realize that, as he repeatedly wrote it later, he was not needed in Mushi anymore. Perhaps already aware that the tide was changing, he split off Mushi’s manga department and created a new company, Tezuka Production, on January 23, 1968 [35].

It is at this point that a turning point in the studio’s history happened: it started adapting works other than Tezuka’s. The reasons were clear: not only did Tezuka adaptations not work, Tezuka himself was a hindrance. I’ve already mentioned how hostility against the president progressively grew in the studio from 1965 onwards. Sugii’s rebellious streak in Goku was just the most visible symptom of something that affected the entire studio. For instance, it seems that Atsumi Tashiro’s departure from Mushi and the creation of Group TAC in 1968 was fueled by his desire to work on something else than Tezuka shows [36]. Jun Masami perfectly expressed what some must have felt by describing how the mangaka’s inability to meet deadlines had perverse effects for entire productions and made him lose the sympathy of the staff:

“Waiting for Tezuka to review the storyboards was one of the production staff’s most difficult tasks. In particular, when this coincided with Tezuka’s magazine deadlines, the well-planned schedules were delayed and the production costs increased. This was a distant cause of Tezuka’s exclusion” [37]

It seems that the idea of adapting non-Tezuka works had initially been suggested by Kaoru Anami, which would date it to 1966 at least. His reasons were probably all those I highlighted above, but this posed a problem, to which I don’t know whether Anami had planned a solution: Tezuka did not earn royalties as original author (which he usually poured back in Mushi), and the studio did not have the complete rights over the properties, meaning that the amount of profit it could make from them was significantly reduced [38].

Regardless of the business circumstances, doing non-Tezuka works was also a wish of the studio’s creatives: Wanpaku Tanteidan, adapted from Edogawa Ranpo’s novel series, which began airing in February 1968, was the personal project of director Rintarô, who teamed up with Masami Mori, whom he had met and befriended on Jungle Taitei [39]. The project started in late Summer or early Fall 1967, and gathered again some of Jungle’s staff which had been divided between Goku and Ribbon: among the episode directors were Toshio Hirata or Katsui Chikao, for instance. However, according to Rintarô himself, there was a severe lack of people – by the time Tanteidan started airing, all the other pilots were in the works and 1001 Nights slowly entered production. Most of the animation was therefore outsourced or left in the hands of young staff. This may not have played to the show’s advantage, but it enabled some of the future staff members of Ashita no Joe to meet: in-house, a young Akio Sugino had his first opportunity to do animation direction; from studio Jaggard, Shingo Araki contributed animation to many episodes; and, as freelancer, Osamu Dezaki was a regular episode director and animator (although he seems to have been freelance, a certain “Dezaki Pro” is regularly credited – maybe he had his own place with some friends?).

Wanpaku Tanteidan was a landmark show for Mushi in more ways than one. Not just the studio’s first non-Tezuka work, it was also the first to be located in a contemporary setting. As the action takes place in modern Tokyo, one can often recognize real-life locations thanks to the realistic art direction, a stark departure from the modern, stylized backgrounds of Mushi’s previous shows. It was also the occasion to completely discard Tezuka’s design sense. It could be argued that Moribi Murano’s designs were one of the earliest expressions of the so-called gekiga style which would define so much of late-60s and early-70s anime. The amount of curves is extremely limited, and body structure tends to be more realistic: this is particularly the case of main character Kobayashi, whose muscles are particularly highlighted.

Tanteidan is also a quintessentially Rintarô show. This is particularly visible – or rather, audible – in the jazz soundtrack, which contributes to the series’ modernism and creates a constant sense of tension. Moreover, as Rintarô himself stated, it was there that he became truly aware of what camera movement entailed and on how to use it – he was reportedly extremely close to the photography staff, constantly relaying to them the technical details for the most ambitious shots [40]. The extremely stylish direction is clearly borrowed from studio Nikkatsu’s action and gangster films, which had always been an inspiration for Rintarô and Dezaki. 

The problem was that Tanteidan could rarely meet its ambitions. The direction is sometimes superb and the photography work breath-taking, but this doesn’t really compensate for the non-existent animation and the long spans of boring, uninteresting episodes. To blame was probably Tanteidan’s almost non-existent budget, which had been drained to finance 1001 Nights, and the general lack of staff. With Atom and Jungle Taitei, the studio had set itself as an animation powerhouse, but by 1967-1968, it was not sustainable anymore and quality increasingly dropped. The extremely stiff, minimal motion associated with Mushi’s brand of “limited animation” truly emerged in that period: it characterized Ribbon, Tanteidan, and also Mushi Trading’s first production, Animal 1.

Animal 1 was another early contender in the emerging gekiga anime category. A Noboru Kawasaki adaptation, it started airing one month after the defining gekiga work, Kyôjin no Hoshi, by the same mangaka – but did not share any of its qualities. Produced by Trading, it was actually animated by Mushi Pro staff and various other subcontracting studios, with direction by Taku Sugiyama and designs and animation direction by Sadao Miyamoto. Perhaps because of Trading’s involvement, this is the first time a Mushi show featured some of the unusual credits that would become recurrent in following years: Sugiyama is credited as “direction supervisor” (enshutsu kanshû) and Miyamoto as douga kantoku instead of sakuga kantoku. The gekiga aesthetic must have felt liberating for Miyamoto, who had never quite fit in Mushi when it still followed Tezuka’s style. But this did not ensure quality: the designs seem stuck between the adult, realistic representation of bodies characteristic of the gekiga style and the fact that the characters are still children, creating strange, uncanny proportions. Moreover, the movement is always minimal and awkward, partly because of the tone shifts between dramatic sports story and slice-of-life comedy.

Initially meant to compensate for the main studio’s lack of funds, Trading’s productions were extremely cheap, but utterly failed at their job. It seems that both Animal 1 and Vampire (a live-action/animation hybrid) were over-budget, with sales department executive Shôzô Sudô calling this “one of the reasons for Trading’s bankruptcy” a few years later [41]. In fact, from the point Mushi stopped adapting Tezuka’s manga, Trading’s original reason to exist – copyright management – vanished and it began centering around its publishing department. When Trading started producing series on its own, the situation was turned on its head. What had been one of the core principles behind the Anami system, the separation between production and business, had vanished without a trace.

Mushi’s breakdown

It is in the midst of these troubles that Mushi began one of its most ambitious undertakings: feature film production, in the shape of the Animerama trilogy. These three movies, and especially the first, 1001 Nights, were both a cause and a consequence of Mushi’s problems. While most of Mushi’s executives probably hoped that 1001 Nights would bring the studio back to financial stability, it had the opposite effect: it drained all of its human and financial resources and caused complete chaos.

Before going into the details of 1001 Nights’ production, it is necessary to stop to discuss sources. As can be expected, the most detailed source about the film comes from its director, Eiichi Yamamoto, who discusses it in detail in his novel. But, as always with this book, caution is necessary. In The Rise and Fall of Mushi Pro, Yamamoto presents the film as the product of the dialogue between him and Tezuka. However, this is somewhat contradicted by Yamamoto himself, in the audio commentary from the film’s DVD: the discussion between him, producer Atsushi Tomioka, character designer Takashi Yanase and animation director Sadao Miyamoto reveals that the creation process was far more collective. Then, there is Jun Masami’s testimony, which is very helpful for the collapse of the production, but seems largely based on Yamamoto’s novel for the movie’s origin and early stages. Here, I’ll take the DVD commentary as my main source, and then complement it with Yamamoto’s novel, his Animestyle interview and Masami’s additions.

It seems that Tezuka had considered moving to feature production for some time – the 1964 Atom and 1966 Jungle Taitei recap films attest to it, as well as Yûsaku Sakamoto’s unrealized Atom original film project. Although a risky venture, it made sense on both the artistic and business levels: on films, Tezuka would have more freedom to adapt his own work as he liked, and Mushi could profit directly from the box-office revenue. It is at this point, in Fall 1967, that Tezuka received a call from Saburô Hatano, managing director of Nippon Herald, with the following proposal: to produce an animated feature film aimed at adults [42].

Herald was a distributor of Western films, and had no previous involvement in animation. It’s hard to tell why they initiated the project in the first place, but the celebration of the company’s 10th anniversary was surely a factor in making it move towards actual production. Moreover, according to Jun Masami, Hatano had seen Tezuka’s “experimental” films – notably Pictures At An Exhibition – and realized that animation’s potential for arthouse productions and for exportation. Indeed, Herald apparently intended to use the Animerama films as a platform towards the international market. It is for that reason that, once they got Tezuka on board, they asked him to choose a foreign story to adapt, in the hopes that it would sell better overseas [43]. Tezuka initially set his sights on an adaptation of Faust in which the main character would be a woman instead of a man [44]. However, he instantly dropped the idea when he became aware of Richard Burton’s Doctor Faustus, released in Japan that year. Tezuka discussed the project with Eiichi Yamamoto and Gisaburô Sugii, and the three men decided to adapt either the Decameron or 1001 Nights. In the end, Tezuka settled on the latter, which had just received a new translation in Japan and was quite popular at the time [45].

Besides the original work, the main issue was money. Feature films cost a lot, especially since Tezuka, Yamamoto and Sugii wanted to take the opportunity to do “full” animation that could rival Tôei’s – plus all the distribution and advertising costs. Tezuka and Hatano had agreed on the idea of making a movie, but when it came down to actual talks, things got complicated. According to initial planning and calculations, Mushi would have to put out 30 million yen to cover production costs. However, by late 1967, Mushi only had Ribbon no Kishi on air and no regular source of income: they therefore asked for an advance payment on Wanpaku Tanteidan from Fuji TV and used that money to fund 1001 Nights. However, even that proved insufficient, especially when further estimations revealed that the film would not cost 30 million, but 45 million. Between January and March 1968, Mushi and Herald entered a new round of negotiations. Herald agreed to lend Mushi money, but on one condition: the profits wouldn’t be split 50/50 as initially planned, but 70/30 in Herald’s favor [45].

This decision basically doomed Mushi, as it meant that it would never recoup its cost on the film. This has been demonstrated by Eiichi Yamamoto, in turn cited by Jun Masami and Yûsuke Nakagawa: 1001 was the third biggest movie in 1969’s box-office, reportedly earning 306 million yen. With distribution and printing fees deducted, this meant a profit of 218 million, out of which Mushi received 65 million. The movie’s cost, which had already been reevaluated to 45 million, actually turned out to be 75 million, meaning a deficit of 10 million yen [46]. However, even that deficit was something to be happy about: according to Atsushi Tomioka, had 1001 Nights not worked as well and Mushi’s debt been bigger, the studio would have gone bankrupt on the spot [47].

 It would of course be easy to blame Tezuka for this, just as he is regularly blamed for Atom’s low budget. In this case, he indeed seems to have been solely responsible for the negotiations and decisions, and Animerama was his project, which he probably wanted to carry out at all costs. Just as on Atom, then, he probably made a bet – which, this time, was a failure which did not only increase Mushi’s debt, but also the hostility against the mangaka.

In any case, with the financing settled, production for 1001 Nights began in April 1968, with a release date set in June 1969. However, Herald wanted the movie done by March, setting a tight deadline that Mushi would be unable to keep. As had been the case for Aru Machikado no Monogatari, Tezuka didn’t feel fit to do character designs on the film, as he thought his style wasn’t adult enough. Under producer Atsushi Tomioka’s supervision, talks began in Mushi’s planning office, and Gisaburô Sugii suggested mangaka Takashi Yanase, who was contacted directly by Tezuka and got on the project. Then came the choice of a director: Yanase was considered, as well as Sugii; but they both refused (Yanase probably out of inexperience and Sugii probably because he was still holding on the Dororo project) and Eiichi Yamamoto was chosen [48]. In his novel, Yamamoto portrays it as Tezuka dumping the role on him when he initially only planned to “help out” [49]. It is probably at this point that the Zero Man project was canceled. Production was to take place in studio 2 [50].

Tezuka initiated the project and supervised it all throughout, but the creation process was truly collective, as had been the case in Mushi’s early days and Tezuka’s dream. The mangaka first did a synopsis, which he then handed to Yamamoto to turn into a script. However, Yamamoto felt unfit for the task, and asked the help of  theater director and former Kaoru Anami close friend Kôji Komai to refine Tezuka’s synopsis, which was then transformed into a proper script by director and writer Kazuo Fukuzawa, whose only previous experience in animation was 1968’s Hols, Prince of the Sun [51]. In his Animestyle interview, Yamamoto claims that this script was made independently from Tezuka, meaning that there were two different plots that were only unified at the storyboarding stage [52].

In any case, when this happened, it was already spring 1968 and the team was starting to take form. The initial staff would be gathered for good in September 1968, as Wanpaku Tanteidan’s staff was transferred. It was at this time that story board work began: Tezuka was attached to using story boards, a collective process which helped him visualize ideas but had to be abandoned on TV productions for lack of time. The entire staff worked on them: Tezuka and Yamamoto, of course, but also Yanase and animators such as Masami Hata and Osamu Dezaki, who boarded the scenes they would end up animating. Tezuka also called on the help of some young writers he was familiar with, such as Sakyô Komatsu or Morio Kita, who would provide commentary and assistance [53]. As creatively encouraging such a process was, it took time: the story board was only completed in November 1968 [54], but it still had to be turned into a proper storyboard. Tezuka took on this role, but his storyboard was far too long, making for a 4h-long movie – Yamamoto had to trim it down, which took yet more time [55]. The final storyboard was only completed in February 1969, a mere month before Herald’s deadline.

Needless to say, Tezuka had been incredibly late and unreasonable. By that point, the cast had been assembled and started recording sessions: dialogue had been written in the story board and the movie’s sound would be pre-recorded, as was the use in Disney and Tôei features [56]. To follow up on Herald’s ambition, the cast was an all-star lineup: main character Aladdin was played by Yukio Aoshima, a popular songwriter and actor, who had just been elected as member of the National Diet at the time. Miriam was played by film and theater actress Kyôko Kishida, and Baldi by actor and director Hiroshi Akutagawa. To match these popular figures, Yanase based his designs on famous Western actors: Aladdin was inspired by French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, Aslan from another French star, Alain Delon, and Baldi based on British actor David Niven [57].The animation process was also centered around the characters. Sadao Miyamoto and Kazuko Nakamura were appointed animation directors/main animators and, as they had done on Ribbon no Kishi, split the job based on characters’ genders: Nakamura would do the women and Aslan (she was reportedly a Delon fan) while Miyamoto would do the remaining male cast [58]. Then, an internal audition was held and characters assigned to each animator: Miyamoto mostly animated Aladdin, Masami Hata Suliman, Sadao Tsukioka Djin and Genie… On top of this, Yamamoto appointed “guest animators” to specific scenes: Nakamura to the first sex scene between Aladdin and Miriam, Sugii to the dance of the bandits and the sex scene between Aladdin and the queen of the island, Moribi Murano for most other scenes on that island… Tezuka also animated a lot on the film, handling almost all the transformation or animal sequences [59].

As production advanced and things got increasingly out of schedule, more and more people were put to work on the film: according to Yamamoto, in March 1969, 180 of Mushi’s 250 employees were on 1001 Nights; one month later, almost all of Mushi’s employees had contributed to the film a way or another. Production was spread over studios 1, 2 and 5, in addition to “at least 12 outsourcing companies” [60]. Yûsuke Nakagawa claims that among them were Tôei and Tokyo Movie [61]. As neither is credited, they were surely not officially contracted, but the presence of Tôei animators is confirmed: Hideo Furusawa handled the giant scene and Yasuo Otsuka the horse race [62]. Sadao Miyamoto had to go all the way to Osaka to recruit some of his former colleagues from CM companies, while by the end of the production, according to Jun Masami, even Tezuka’s family and assistants had to contribute so that the movie would be completed in time [63]. Given the less systematic animator assignments in the film’s last scenes, the character division had probably broken down late in the production.

Editing began on May 30th, even though all the animation hadn’t been delivered yet; photography was completed on June 9th and, during the day of the premiere on June 14th, Yamamoto and the staff had to buy as much time as possible because the last roll of film wasn’t done printing [64].

With such a schedule, I don’t think I need to say that 1001 Nights was a difficult production. I don’t even know if it’s worth recounting all the horror stories relayed by Yamamoto and Masami about repeated all-nighters, people leaving the production only to be forcibly brought back, or a member of the cel painting staff being assaulted in the street at 1AM as she went back home [65]. In any case, the film was the breaking point for many members of the staff. Veteran production assistant Kazuyuki Hirokawa, who was in charge of managing the schedule, burned out, left the production and then Mushi altogether; the news spread all around the studio, bringing morale to its lowest [66]. All of his job was transferred to production manager Atsushi Tomioka, who was unable to carry it all and left on May 22, 1968; Yamamoto managed to bring him back, but that was at the cost of Tezuka dumping half of Tomioka’s workload on him [67]. Recouping Yamamoto and Masami’s testimonies, it seems that the studio was in complete chaos: most of the production staff were young and inexperienced, made repeated mistakes, and weren’t even aware of the production’s organization or chain of command. During the last month, Yamamoto had to reorganize the production on the fly and create a “production assistants support group” in which young production staff were coached by more experienced animators [68]. Once the production was over, Tomioka refused to ever work with Tezuka again, while Yamamoto quit Mushi and took a dozen animators with him to his new studio, Risô-sha Production (“Ideals Production”) which would subcontract for Mushi and Tokyo Movie [69].

The question that naturally follows is: did these superhuman efforts pay off? Was 1001 Nights a movie Mushi’s artists could be proud of? This is a difficult question to answer: like many others, I find the movie too long, meandering and verbose and, ultimately, rather boring. Even visually, I think it is something of a mixed bag. As Sadao Miyamoto stated, Mushi’s staff was not ready for such a production: almost none of them had worked on features with mostly “full” animation drawn on extremely wide paper. Moreover, Yanase’s designs were a challenge to animate, and it seems that the tri-tone shading, adopted to give a sense of volume and realism to the characters which would otherwise have been too flat, considerably increased Miyamoto’s workload and the staff’s hardships [70]. These difficulties are visible in the film, as most of the movement fails to be truly interesting: characters move, sometimes in a very fluid and elegant manner, but that movement often lacks any character or personality, whether that be that of the case or of the animators behind them.

By far the most interesting parts, then, are those when the film discards traditional cel animation techniques and experiments in both animation and direction. This notably applies to Sugii’s famous, almost-abstract sex scene, but also to Tezuka’s sequences, which adopt far more irregular framerates and turn dramatic scenes into surrealistic gags. Another highlight would be Yamamoto’s visual and technical curiosity, which led him to try out other techniques such as cels composited over live-action footage or the use of miniature sets for Bagdad or some of the islands Aladdin visits. In my opinion, 1001 Nights must therefore be taken essentially as visual spectacle, another statement by Mushi’s staff of their belief in the endless potential and limitless nature of animation, which was not reduced to cels but could integrate every kind of visual language – be that manga, traditional live-action cinema or special effects.

Conclusion: doomed to fail?

1001 Nights had broken Mushi Production. Not only did it bring the studio near to its collapse by  increasing its debt, it had pushed all of the staff to its limits. As Atsushi Tomioka’s violent reaction illustrates, it wouldn’t be surprising if many in Mushi blamed Tezuka for it all. It wouldn’t be long before these frustrations finally boiled over, a union was created and Tezuka himself would admit defeat and step down from presidency.

There’s a continuity between these events, but I can only draw such a line because I’m writing this in retrospect and I know the end of the story. The narrative of this article was basically that, after Kaoru Anami’s death, Mushi entered a deadly spiral which would only end with the studio’s bankruptcy. But are things that simple? Was Mushi truly doomed as early as 1969, 4 years before it actually closed down?

First, let me go back to Anami’s death. I insist on it because, following Yoshiyuki Tomino, Eiichi Yamamoto and Atsushi Tomioka, I sincerely believe it was one of the most decisive events in Mushi’s history, and something important to recall to avoid Tezuka-centrism. But it would be a mistake to go too far in this direction and believe that, had Anami stayed alive, everything would have gone well. Anami alone could not have granted Mushi commercial success, good ratings, and endless prosperity. In a way, he was the one to bring the studio on the path of financial instability by having it depend just on TV series’ budgets. However, maybe he could have appeased the multiplying conflicts: those between Tezuka and Mushi Pro’s staff, between Mushi Pro and Mushi Trading, and between Mushi Pro and TV stations and sponsors. Indeed, more than anything, Anami played the role of diplomat or intermediary between all these instances, which is why he was so vital to negotiations. After his death, many producers in Mushi tried to pursue his work, but they had neither the position nor the charisma to do everything Anami had, leading business and personal relations to break down.

Then, there’s Mushi’s situation in 1969. By that point, the studio was riddled with debts and had lost much of Fuji TV’s goodwill. But were things so dramatic? According to Eiichi Yamamoto, the years 1970-1971 were actually Mushi’s “second golden age” as the studio reached a new artistic peak and the amount of new productions it launched managed to bring the company on more solid financial ground [71]. Perhaps this was the case, but it came at a cost, as the studio faced an overproduction crisis which had a toll on its staff and forced it to resort to outsourcing on an even more regular basis.

In the end, what strikes me about this is how familiar it all is. The anime industry was extremely young, and this was still unprecedented, but it has since then become the usual mode of existence of most anime studios: constant financial precarity, overproduction and understaffing problems… It’s a fragile balance but, like many other studios, Mushi could have kept it for a long time. What led the studio to its ultimate end, then, were other factors: failed attempts at rebuilding and the economic crisis that followed the 1973 oil shock, which hit anime studios hard as paper and cel prices suddenly rose. In sum, in 1969, Mushi was not dead yet – but it was more fragile than ever and ready to fall at the first major crisis.


[1] Yamamoto 1989, p.222; Nakagawa 2020, p.270

[2] Yamamoto et al. 2004a; Sugii 2015, p.165; Yamamoto 1989, p.213. To be quite honest, I don’t really know what to make of Yamamoto’s portrayal of Sakamoto. Even though he was the one to suggest Atom in the first place, Yamamoto claims that, in late 1962, he tried to convince Mushi’s employees and even Tezuka to give up the whole thing before broadcast started and things couldn’t be stopped anymore. I have a hard time trusting this, because Sakamoto’s arguments sound too close to what someone with retrospective knowledge of the hardships in the anime industry would say. Then, from the beginning of Atom onwards, Yamamoto describes Sakamoto in a constant depressive state of passivity and lack of creativity, which seems to be the ultimate cause of his departure

[3] Tomino 2019, p.31. In his memoirs, Tomino claims that the atmosphere in the studio got increasingly hostile against those who had supported Anami before his death; perhaps this was so among directors and animators, but given that most producers had had the greatest respect for Anami and seemingly resolved to carry out his will, I find this a bit hard to believe.

[4] Yamamoto 1989, p.222; Nakagawa 2020, p.270

[5] Sugii 2015, p.119 & 121

[6] Sugii 2015, p.120; Nakagawa 2020, p.267

[7] Nakagawa 2020, p.268; Okuda 2020, p.41. Okuda claims that 2 pilot films were made, but I wonder if he did not confuse the short promotional film as a completely separate work

[8] Sugii 2015, p.122; Tomioka 2015, p.243

[9] Tomioka 2015, p.244

[10] Takarajima Editors Room 2018, p.125

[11] Okuda 2020, p.41

[12] Sugii 2015, p.167

[13] Okuda 2020, pp.41-42; Sugii 2015, p.167

[14] Sugii 2015, p.136

[15] Sugii 2015, p.137

[16] Sugii 2015, p.123

[17] According to Sugii 2015, p.219, it seems that Dezaki was largely considered to be Sugii’s disciple at the time of Goku and Dororo

[18] Cited in Nakagawa 2020, p.275

[19] Sugii 2015, p.156; Okuda 2020, p.154; Nakagawa 2020, p.275

[20] Sugii 2015, pp.157-158

[21] Mushi Production 1977, p.38; Sugii 2015; Okuda 2020, p.54

[22] Sugii 2015, pp.159, 165; Rintarô 2009, p.153

[23] Sugii 2015, p.219; Takarajima Editors Room 2018, p.119

[24] Nakagawa 2020, p.269

[25] Nakamura 2007, p.286; Nakagawa 2020, p.279

[26] Cinema Novecento 2020, p.135.

[27] Nakamura 2007, p.285; Miyamoto 2009, p.291

[28] Yamamoto 1989, p.211; Nakagawa 2020, p.269; for the failure to sell Goku to NBC, see Sensô 2019, part 3

[29] Nakagawa 2020, p.279

[30] Nakagawa 2020, p.280

[31] Tomioka 2015, p.244

[32] Masami; Yamamoto 1989, p.229; Nakagawa 2020, p.307

[33] Masami &; Yamamoto 1989, p.229; Tezuka 1999b, 668; Yamamoto et al. 2004a; Tomioka 2015, p.244; Nakagawa 2020, p.297; Kiokunokasabuta n.d.

[34] in Tezuka 1999b, p.667; Kiokunokasabuta n.d.

[35] Nakagawa 2020, p.297

[36] Cinema Novecento 2020, p.134 + 

[37] Masami

[38] Nakagawa 2020, p.295

[39] Yamamoto 1989, p.229; Rintarô 2009, p.44; Masami

[40] Rintarô 2009, p.44

[41] Yamamoto 1989, p.251; Sudô cited in Makimura and Yamada 2015, p.35

[42] Yamamoto 1989, pp.232-233; Sugii 2015, p.252: Masami

[43] Yamamoto 1989, p.234; Masami

[44] Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[45] Yamamoto 1989, p.237; Yamamoto et al. 2004a; Nakagawa 2020, pp.300-301; Masami

[45] Yamamoto 1989, pp.234-235 & 237; Yamamoto 2003; Nakagawa 2020, pp.300-301; Masami

[46] Yamamoto 1989, p.268. Nakagawa 2020, p.321 explicitly cites Yamamoto as his sources, while Masami gives  the exact same numbers and repeatedly narrates events in a way very close to Yamamoto’s, so I can only assume that he used him as a source on top of his own memories

[47] Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[48] Yamamoto 2003; Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[49] Yamamoto 1989, p.238 

[50] Yamamoto 1989, p.241; Nakagawa 2020, p.316

[51] Yamamoto 1989, p.240

[52] Yamamoto 2003

[53] Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[54] Yamamoto 1989, p.248; Nakagawa 2020, p.316; Masami 

[55] Yamamoto 1989, p.254; Yamamoto et al. 2004a. In his novel, Yamamoto states that it was Tezuka’s story board that was too long, which is then repeated by Masami and Nakagawa. However, in the DVD box commentary, he states that it was the storyboard. The answer depends on which was done first: in Yamamoto 2003, Yamamoto claims that the story boards were actually made after the storyboard, but that goes against every other account of the production that I know of… To make things even more confusing, in the same interview, Yûichirô Oguro and Masatsune Haraguchi add in notes that the staff did “image boards” before the storyboard

[56] Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[57] Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[58] Yamamoto 2003; Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[59] Yamamoto 2003; Sugii 2004; Yamamoto et al. 2004a; Sasakado 2008, p. 283; Sugii 2015, p.254

[60] Yamamoto 1989, p.254. Both Masami and Tomioka (in the DVD commentary) claim that Mushi’s employee count in 1969-1970 was 300 rather than 250 people, but in any case, the decline compared to late 1966 is striking: the studio’s workforce had been almost halved

[61] Nakagawa 2020, p.320

[62] Yamamoto et al. 2004a

[63] Yamamoto et al. 2004a Masami

[64] Yamamoto 1989, p.262; Nakagawa 2020 pp.320-321

[65] Yamamoto 1989, pp.263-264; Masami 

[66] Yamamoto 1989, pp.258-259; Masami

[67] Yamamoto 1989, pp.260-261

[68] Yamamoto 1989, p.262

[69] Yamamoto 1989, p.270; Tomioka 2015, p.245

[70] Yamamoto et al. 2004

[71] Yamamoto 1989, p.289

2 thoughts on “The History of Mushi Pro – 3 – The beginning of the end (1967-1969)

  1. Very good tackling of the much messier period. It’s plain that you have less primary sources to rely on here than the previous posts, but it’s still coherent with good historical discussion of sources.

    “it would therefore be ironical” While ironical is technically a word, it’s basically used in the same context as “ironic” so it’s not really used.

    Was 1001 Nights one of the first times that external animators had been brought in for a showcase? In anime film especially this has become a trend and I don’t get the impression that Toei often wanted too much stuff coming from outside the studio. (Then again I only really know about Toei’s production from this blog series)


    1. Thanks for the comment, as always!

      Regarding the “bringing in” of external animators, it depends if you’re talking about people informally helping out another studio or proper outsourcing.
      Tôei started resorting to outsourcing in the late 60s, first on TV shows and then on their B movies throughout the 70s. I don’t think I know of any animation outsourcing to another studio on their “A movies”. As for the informal helping out, no example comes to mind either, except perhaps that of Seiichi Hayashi on Hols, Prince of the Sun: he was initially a member of the movie’s staff, quit Tôei, but ended up contributing some animation to it, presumably from outside the studio (though I’m not 100% sure about that).

      Liked by 1 person

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