Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tatsunoko Productions: A Brief History Of

"... Just like in Seven Samurai, we gathered people from all sorts of fields. It was a time when, for the most part, if you could draw, if you said you wanted to make things in a group, if you liked art, you could participate in animation."
-Ippei Kuri, Newtype USA, [Inside] Tatsunoko Production, August 2004 (p.16)-

Heavily influenced by American comic book superheroes, not to mention martial arts films, a trio of talented brothers forged and founded what would become Tatsunoko Productions in October 1962. Artist Tatsuo Yoshida, scriptwriter Kenji Yoshida and Toyoharu Yoshida (better known by pen name Ippei Kuri) laid the framework for the still active and thriving Tatsunoko.

The studio's first statement came with Space Ace (1965) followed by Mach Go Go Go (1967-1968), fondly remembered as Speed Racer in America.

Tatsunoko, represented by a seahorse symbol, would become famous for productions like Time Bokan (1975-1976) and Tekkaman: The Space Knight (1975).

The three productions that meant the most to us here in the United States on a grander scale were likely Mach Go Go Go or Speed Racer, Kagaku Ninja-Tai Gatchaman (or Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) (1972-1974), infamously and famously edited stateside as Battle Of The Planets (1978) and finally Casshan (1973-1974).

Tatsunoko took the costumed hero of American comic books and maintained a generally realistic physique and musculature and even added a popular feminine heroine capable of much ass-kicking of her own for the ongoing Gatchaman franchise.

Gatchaman II (1978-1979) and Gatchaman F or Gatchaman Fighter (1979-1980) would follow suit.

Tatsunoko also infused a good deal of emotional depth and passion into its characters.

Gatchaman II and Gatchaman F were derided slightly later. Sadly, many felt the saga of Gatchaman that followed the original first series became predictable and/or overly simplistic when compared. Of course producing 105 episodes of a TV series can certainly have that detrimental effect particularly when Tatsunoko and other companies were hard-pressed to stray far from original formulas. Neverhtheless while Tatsunoko changed up the series with different mecha and variations on villains, the animation was generally not regarded as highly as it was under the guidance of founder Tatsuo Yoshida. *// Unfortunately Yoshida passed away in 1977 a year before Gatchaman II and Gatchaman F were to see fruition. Left in the care of his brothers, a significant guiding light on that series had been silenced with his death.

Still, Tatsunoko would be one of the great forces in anime to generate attention and grow its popularity internationally.

A big inspiration for anime TV Tatsunoko would be a financial backer to the popular Macross (1982) series also edited and brought famously to America as the wildly popular (with kids) Robotech (1985) also a superior robot series to the likes of copy cat works such as Transformers.

Later, Tatsunoko would revisit its popular properties like Gatchaman and Casshan with new interpretations. Using the employ of character designer Yasuomi Umetsu, who Robot Carnival's extraordinary Presence, Casshan Robot Hunter (1993) and Gatchaman (1994) were recrafted and reborn for a new generation and met with modest success.

But it was the series from the 1970s by Tatsunoko that has left its most enduring mark and legacy, at least for me personally.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman was directed by Hisayuki Toriumi (1941-2009). Toriumi was a remarkable talent for Tatsunoko and his input should not be understated. His work had a profound influence on all three components of the Gatchaman franchise. But Toriumi would one day co-write Dallos (1983) with Mamoru Oshii and direct Area 88 (1985) vacating Tatsunoko in 1979 and helping to found Studio Pierrot that same year. But Toriumi was there for Tatsunoko from the start even working on Speed Racer. He was indeed a gifted animator.

Today Tatsunoko is owned by Nippon Television and others including Production I.G. still making anime. For me, they were certainly one of the formative best in the field.


1 comment:

El Vox said...

Nice little history. I'd agree that Tatsunoko made a mark with some of their animes.