Here’s an oddball classic anime you might not have heard of: Oraa Guzura Dado.
It was a slow process for Tatsunoko Productions when it first opened its doors in 1962. It wasn’t until 1965 that they sold their first show, Uchu Ace (Space Ace). After that show ended, production commenced on their second show, Mach Go Go Go, which gained even greater fame when it was dubbed and distributed in America as Speed Racer.
Things were now going smoothly for Tatsuo Yoshida and his two brothers, Kenji and Toyoharu (aka Ippei Kuri) who ran Tatsunoko. The same time they were doing Speed Racer, Tatsunoko began production a third show. It was a game changer for the Yoshida brothers, as this new series was a gag-comedy. The result: an unusual monster cartoon, whose title translated into English as Hey, I’m Guzura.
The series came in the wake of the “kaiju” giant monster fad in Japan, started by the popularity of Godzilla. Guzura was born from an egg that erupted out of a volcano. Guzura is a monster, but a lovable, goofy kind. He wears overalls and a bowtie and has a small bowler hat on his head. His favorite food is steel, and would eat them whenever he comes across one, whether it’s railroad tracks, cars, or a metal pole. Obviously this would make people angry, chasing Guzura away.
Guzura befriended two kids, Bonta, a nerdy kid with glasses, and his younger sister Suzuko. He lives in a small shack built for him in their backyard. Their misadventures stem from Guzura’s misunderstanding of the human culture, which is a common premise in Japanese cartoons at the time. Guzura, while he has super strength, is also a coward. He’s afraid of needles and always runs away whenever he sees a syringe. Unfortunately there’s a doctor that wants to research him, and he’s always carrying a giant syringe, chasing Guzura with it. In other episodes a group of gangsters would try to use Guzura for their illicit activities, which always end up being more trouble for the crooks due to Guzura accidentally messing up.
Tatsunoko produced “Guzura” in black and white, the last time they would do so (all shows would be done in color afterwards, even if the network broadcast them in monochrome). It aired on Fuji Television from October 7, 1967 to September 25, 1968, for 52 episodes. Hiroshi Sasagawa, who worked at Tatsunoko as a chief director on many of their shows (including Speed Racer), created and supervised the show. 52 episodes were made, each made up of two 12-minute segments.
Then something unusual happened 20 years later. Similar to how US distributors had black and white cartoons redrawn for color television, Tatsunoko decided to have Guzura colorized using the similar method. Beginning October 12, 1987, TV Tokyo started airing the redrawn Guzura, presented as a new program. Rather than just outright tracing old drawings – like how Fred Ladd did on the old Looney Tunes shorts – they updated the drawings to make it fit in with the 1980s Japan (see comparison frames below).
In the color version, characters would be wearing clothing that fit in with contemporary times, the buildings present more modern, and even minor characters were outright re-designed so that it fits with the animation style of the time. However, much of the old animation was still outright traced, and they still suffered from the usual sloppiness that redrawn colorization suffers from. One thing Guzura had in advantage was that the original show was done with limited animation, so there were fewer drawings to trace.
Only 44 episodes were colorized, with eight episodes being left alone. The last of the colorized episodes aired on September 20, 1988. The color version still shows up in foreign reruns.
Here’s an episode of the original 1960s show, dubbed in Portuguese.
Below is the same episode, redrawn and colorized 20 years later (skip to 11:08).