In the 1970s, Japanese broadcasters were blessed with studios such as Toei Doga, Tokyo Movie, Tatsunoko, and Nippon Animation supplying them cartoons for their viewers to tune into. Not all of their shows were good, but for the most part they were competently made and suitable for regular TV broadcast, and many of them are memorable enough to be remembered for generations. Then there are studios like Knack.
Knack has the “honor” of being one of the worst animation studios in Japan. Their cartoons are plagued with sloppy layouts, poor animation, awful timing, camera errors, etc. etc. As much as it pains me to say this, Filmation had better quality control than this. Knack managed to produce over two dozen shows from 1970 to 1991. One of them is Dame Oyaji .
Dame Oyaji (No Good Pop) is a comic by Mitsutoshi Furuya that ran in Weekly Shonen Sunday from 1970 to 1982. The show is a Japanese version of the Casper Milquetoast henpecked husband and shrewd wife archetype that’s been around in American animation for generations, through characters such as Famous Studio’s Henry the Rooster and Terrytoons’ John Doormat. The difference is that Dame Oyaji suffers through domestic abuse, and I mean it when I say it’s physical.
Throughout the series, Oyaji is beaten, tortured, humiliated, and mutilated by his wife Oni-baba (name means Demon Hag) and their two children, Yukiko (eldest daughter) and Takobo (younger son). If that’s not bad enough, he is also ridiculed at his office job, too. The series was meant to make fun of the traditional patriarchy role in Japan, but it just comes off as too cringe-worthy to be taken for laughs.
In spite of the cringe-worthy content, the comic was a success, running for 12 years. The TV cartoon, however, was a flop. The show aired on Tokyo Channel 12 (now known as TV Tokyo) from April 2 to October 9, 1974 for 26 episodes. Originally it aired on Tuesdays at 7:30 PM, but halfway through the run it was moved to Fridays at 7:30 PM. It was moved for the third and final time to Wednesdays at 7:30 PM, where they aired the final two episodes. Here are the opening and closing titles:
A typical episode would involve Oni-baba wanting to advance her image in front of other house-wives, whom have more successful husbands than she does. She would then go home and force Dame Oyaji to advance his status (whether it’s getting a promotion at his company, buying a car, disguise himself as his son so he can take the difficult school test), only to fail in the end. The family would then blame the failure on Oyaji and beat him in the end. Fade to black.
One of the few episodes where Dame Oyaji managed to get an upper-hand is when he tried to mimic Uri Geller. Oyaji managed to successfully bend the spoon, but in the process he also bent his body. In the end, not only did Oyaji managed to cure himself, but he managed to turn the tables on his wife by bending her with his will. The episode ends with him torturing her instead, with the kids not being able to help because Oyaji threatened to bend their bodies if they lay their hands on him.
To be fair, this got toned down in later episodes, to the point that some of them had no violence at all. Some of those episodes are about the son Takobo with little appearances of the rest of the family. One of them features Takobo realizing that he left his sketchbook home on the day his school is having an art class. He was given an opportunity to get out to retrieve it when his teacher asked for a dog that they could get for a model. Takobo knows of a stray dog nearby and decides to get him as a model, while he rushes off to retrieve his sketchbook. Unfortunately, the dog causes trouble when one of the students laces his food with sildenafil, causing him to chase after Takobo’s female teacher. While this episode was amusing, this was in spite of the show’s shoddy production value.
In spite of Knack’s questionable quality they managed to produce a few hit shows, such as Don Chuck Stories (1975-78; 99 episodes), about a beaver boy and his animal friends, as well as their version of The Little Prince (1978-79; 39 episodes), which had a long life in international distribution, including America, where it aired under cable channel Nickelodeon. However, compared to the shows made by other, superior studios, most of their outputs will always languish in obscurity.