LOST PLANET ANIME
October 23, 2013 posted by Charles Brubaker

“Kaibutsu Kun” (1968)

Kaibutsu550

Cartoons centered on monsters has been a staple for generations. Series such as Milton the Monster and the animated versions of The Addams Family has been produced, and The Flintstones had the Gruesomes (and The Frankenstones in later spinoffs). In comics you had Mr. and Mrs. Evil Scientists, Melvin Monster, and Oona Goosepimple (recently revived in the Nancy newspaper comic strip).

Japan is no different in this regard. One of the most popular manga and anime is the long-running GeGeGe no Kitaro, which helped popularize the ‘yokai’ genre in Japan again. On a less serious side is a gag cartoon called Kaibutsu Kun (translates to either “Little Goblin” or “Little Monster”). This is yet another series from the Fujiko Fujio duo, but it was primarily written and drawn by Motoo Abiko, and after he and Hiroshi Fujimoto broke partnership, rights to the series went to Abiko, and thus he is now listed as the true creator of the series, signing as Fujiko Fujio Ⓐ.

The series centers on Taro Kaibutsu (referred to as “Kaibutsu Kun” by his friends or “Master” by his servants), a young Prince for the kingdom of Kaibutsu Land (lit. “Monster Land”). One day, he is sent to the human world, and since this is a Japanese cartoon, he ends up in Tokyo. He gets a haunted house set up for him to stay. On his journey he brought his servants: Dracula, a Were Wolf, and a Frankenstein’s Monster.

Kaibutsu68-200Kaibutsu looks like a normal human boy, but he’s a spoiled Prince who has no problems ordering his servants around. He has the ability to stretch his limbs like rubber, which can make him appear to be taller and thus intimidating (for a normal-looking little boy, he can be pretty scary due to his royal status). He also uses this whenever he’s trying to catch somebody running away. In addition, he has the ability to change his face into anything by rubbing it really fast, which he uses whenever he’s in disguise or whenever he’s looking for somebody, in this case he changes his face to the person he’s looking for while asking around. However, he has weaknesses. He’s afraid of lightening and hides whenever there’s a thunderstorm.

Dracula only shows up in nighttime, frequently seen flying around due to the use of his magic cape. He loves drinking tomato juice, which he sees as a substitute to blood.

The Were Wolf is the only other character who looks human, unless he sees a full moon or a circular object that looks like a moon, which turns him into a wolf. Even when he becomes a wolf, however, he still stays the same, personality wise, and doesn’t become vicious. Were Wolf is a chef and is always seen cooking food in the kitchen.

1968-3-200The Frankenstein’s Monster (called “Franken” in the series) is depicted as being physically strong. In the cartoon he’s seen cleaning up the house, responsible for household chores. He doesn’t speak coherent sentences, only making “Unga” noises. In a true cartoon hallmark, characters don’t have trouble understanding him.

After moving to Japan, Kaibutsu befriends a human boy named Hiroshi, an orphaned boy who lives in an apartment with his older sister. Hiroshi would inadvertently encounter a monster from Kaibutsu’s kingdom (through the course of the series they show up in Japan), which would lead to him telling about it to Kaibutsu Kun. Sometimes the monster causes problems in the city and so the young prince would have to stop them. Other times they have hard time adjusting to the human world, requiring assistance from him.

The comic strip ran in magazines Shonen Gaho and Shonen King simultaneously from January 1965 to May 1969, then revived for CoroCoro Comics magazine in 1980-1982. Two anime were made during those times.

The first TV anime ran for 48 episodes from April 21, 1968 to March 23, 1969 on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). This version was made in black and white, which was common in anime at the time. Two studios took turns producing episodes, with Tokyo Movie (TMS) and Studio Zero each doing half of the episodes, alternating during broadcast (Example: a TMS episode would air one week, then a Studio Zero episode the following week). This way of production is similar to how King Features had TV Popeye cartoons made through multiple studios. However, for Kaibutsu Kun they had a overall supervising director, Shin’Ichi Suzuki, supervising the show at both studios in order to ensure that the overall style remains consistent at two different studios.

It was later revived in color by Shin’Ei Animation Studio. This version aired on TV Asahi from September 2, 1980 to September 28, 1982 for 94 episodes. Directed by Hiroshi Fukutomi, the tone is more or less the same as the 1960s black and white series, although it was easier to maintain consistency in the animation style since it was produced at the same company.

If that wasn’t enough, a live-action TV series was also made. This one aired on Nippon Television for 13 episodes from April 17 for June 12, 2010. It was widely publicized and it led to a revival of the show’s interest with the public. As a result, DVD box sets of both anime were released around this time; As of now, Kaibutsu Kun is the only black and white Fujiko Fujio anime to have a DVD release.

Kaibutsu Kun is not as widely merchandised as Fujiko Fujio’s more popular Doraemon, but with the DVD releases and the color version still shown in reruns, it’s not going to be forgotten anytime soon.


17 Comments

  • The color version of Kaibutsu-Kun aired in Italy as ‘Carletto, Principe dei Mostri” (Charlie, Prince of the Monsters). Here is the Italian version of the opennig theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfTi7q21z60

    • I was going to say something about that, but didn’t think it was important, but yes the 80′s series did managed to get exposure in a few sections of the planet like Italy and Latin America.

  • I especially liked the closing credits.

    if this was made in 1968, how long were they making cartoons in black and white in japan?

    • The final black and white anime aired in 1971, so quite a while.

    • So much the opposite in the US where you had cartoons that might’ve aired originally on TV in B&W already made in color beforehand.

    • Chris,
      isn’t that odd that japan made black and white anime for so long? with Japanese business eager to break into the American market, and with usa going to all color and snubbing B&W series, you’d think they would have switched over to all color by this late date.

    • Fred Patten mentioned in his previous article that Japanese animation studio’s weren’t eager to release their shows abroad. They were very focused on their domestic market and that any country that wanted to air their stuff was considered a nice bonus.

  • Charles,
    i read that anime for television was originally filmed on 16mm. if they were still filming in B&W in 1971, i wonder if they were also still filming on 16mm at this late time. it would be interesting to know if/when they switched over to 35mm.

    Johnny,
    i seem to recall reading that Toei Dooga originally hoped to distribute their theatrical films in the USA, but gave up after “gulliver’s travels beyond the moon” bombed.
    gulliver was a beautiful and well made film. as beautiful as anything that came out of hollywood at that time. also, cartoons like “hustle punch” looked as good if not better than the made for tv cartoons that aired in the usa at that time.
    i can’t help but wonder if somebody (like disney and/or hanna barbera) were keeping anime out of the usa, and if toei perhaps knew it.

    • A lot of early animes were shot on 35mm. The black and white “Kaibutsu Kun” is one of them; when it was released on DVD few years back the press release explicitly said that it was remastered from the 35mm negatives.

    • i seem to recall reading that Toei Dooga originally hoped to distribute their theatrical films in the USA, but gave up after “gulliver’s travels beyond the moon” bombed.

      I didn’t know they had a plan to set up a US satellite offer for that sort of thing. Later features from them like Puss ‘n Boots or Animal Treasure Island would be released through other distributors, mostly for television.

      gulliver was a beautiful and well made film. as beautiful as anything that came out of hollywood at that time. also, cartoons like “hustle punch” looked as good if not better than the made for tv cartoons that aired in the usa at that time.
      i can’t help but wonder if somebody (like disney and/or hanna barbera) were keeping anime out of the usa, and if toei perhaps knew it.

      I would say there was more an interest by American distributors to stick to domestic product rather than encourage the imported films in an already established market.

    • The Toei Doga films really are a treat to watch and it’s quite the shame that they had such little success with them. Even in Japan they eventually shifted to putting out lower budget films based on their hit TV shows.

    • @ Chris S. – oops. I should have phrased that “… i seem to recall reading that Toei Doga originally hoped to HAVE their theatrical films DISTRIBUTED in the USA …”
      I don’t think they ever intended to do the distribution themselves.

      @ Johnny – it really is sad to see how the quality of toei’s theatrical films declined in quality after Gulliver. I remember being so disappointed with “doggy march”. it was just a tiny bit better than their anime for tv product.

  • odd that they would film in B&W to save money, and then not follow with filming in 16mm. 35 mm film is at least 4 times bigger than 16mm and cost a lot more. they could have saved a fortune by filming with a camera rigged as super 16 and gotten great quality images for a fraction of the price.

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