People involved in film preservation can attest to the challenges of finding missing films. Maybe the original masters were thrown out, maybe it got destroyed in a fire, or maybe they just plain forgot where they put it. Typically, films from before 1950s were prone to this.
One would be hard-pressed to think that made-for-TV animation would suffer from missing and lost films, but it does happen. It’s especially the case in Japan. Due to Japanese television having limited rerun potential, and the fact that studios never really saw long-lasting values in their shows after it aired, a lot of anime from the early days of television, especially those shot in black and white, would turn up lost. I figure I would cover some of those missing shows. Note that I’m only covering shows with verified missing episodes. There may be more lost shows that we don’t know are lost.
Astro Boy (1963, Mushi Production)
I wrote about one of the infamous missing episodes here (#34). In addition, episodes 125, 127, 139, 163, and 191 were regarded as lost. 34, 163 and 191 were eventually found, although 125, 127, and 139 are still missing.
Big X (1964, TMS Entertainment)
Yet another series created by Osamu Tezuka, and the second anime to air, after Astro Boy. This was produced by Tokyo Movie (TMS), their very first show. The series focuses on a boy with a drug that can increase his body to that of a giant, a result of a failed experiment from the Nazis during the World War II.
59 black and white episodes were made, but only episodes 1, 11, and 40-59 are known to survive. The survival of episode 1 is due to this website’s own Jerry Beck owning a 16mm print. He announced he was showing the film at an Asifa meting – but a rep from TMS Entertainment attended and cancelled the showing. Jerry was informed that the series was lost, and was asked to loan the print back to the studio so that they can make a video transfer for their archive.
Jerry explains further:
A friend of mine with connections to CBS in New York, obtained the print of “Big X” years ago from an ex-executive of the network. Back in the 1960s, before DVDs, VHS or even 3/4″ U-Matic tapes, networks would be pitched series like this from producers around the world. They would leave (or loan) a 16mm print of the series they were pitching with the network. Perhaps it was to be returned – but it never was. Decades later the print is traded to my friend in a deal including several rare pilots. As it was animated, and in Japanese language, the print was worthless to my friend – who gifted it to me for deposit in my collection.
I had it for several years before I decided to screen it for Asifa with several other 1960s anime prints I had in my collection. An executive from TMS came to the screening – and forbade me from publicly showing the print. We spoke after the meeting. They allowed me to keep the film on condition they could professionally transfer it. A few weeks later I brought the print to the transfer session and sat through the whole process – the print never leaving my sight. I had no idea it was so rare – but I’m so glad I played a part in making it accessible again.
Here’s an excerpt from the first episode:
Space Alien Pipi (1965, Japan Tele-Cartoons)
Of the 52 episodes, only two (37 and 38) are known to exist. More here.
Harris no Kaze [Whirlwind of Harris] (1966, P Production)
The series focuses on a boy named Kunimatsu, a wild child who keeps getting expelled from schools due to him fighting other kids. One day, he meets an principal of Harris Academy, where he enters him in numerous sports club the school has to offer, which allows him to channel his aggression in sports, improving the schools’ atheletic ability. Based on a manga by Tetsuya Chiba. The series was later remade in color as “Make Way for Kunimatsu” in 1971, produced by Mushi Production.
One episode (#64) out of 70 only exists in picture format with no audio, but otherwise the entire series exist.
Robotan (1966, Daiko Production)
35mm picture negatives for a couple of episodes showed up on a Japanese auction website out of a blue several years ago, but otherwise the survival of the entire series is pretty slim, just based on that. More about Robotan here
Perman (1967, Studio Zero and TMS)
A superhero parody created by the Fujiko Fujio duo. Perman focuses on a boy who was given tools to become an apprentice to be a superhero (“Perman” is “Superman” without “Su”). The boy is rather clumsy, but with the help of other Permans (including a monkey), he is able to save the day usually.
54 episodes (each half hour split into two segments) of the black and white anime were made, with production alternating equally between Tokyo Movie and Studio Zero. A DVD boxset was released in 2014. The DVDs avoid mentioning that the set is “complete”, because several episodes are missing.
To be specific, episodes 4-A, 17-A, 39-A, and 45-B only exist in picture format, with no audio to be found. Episodes 16-A and 47-A are missing altogether, although one of them can be found online somewhere in a dubbed Portugese format. In the DVD menu, they list those episodes, with a caption “(missing)” next to title. Finally, episodes 26-A and 51-B exist, but in poor quality.
Doraemon (1973, Nippon TV Doga)
Of the 26 episodes made, barely half are known to exist. Episode 4 exist in a soundless workprint format. Episodes 5-A, 10-B, 12-B, 18, and 20 through 26 all survive in entirety. In addition, a workprint of the pilot film is reportedly around. More click here.
Animated Travels: Marco Polo Adventures (1979, NHK)
This was an animated documentary on Marco Polo, mixed in with live-action footage. 43 episodes were broadcast on NHK from 1979 to 1980, but only the first and last episodes survive. While the cel animation was shot on film, post-production and editing were done on videotapes (normal for NHK programs), which have since been wiped.
The final episode in two parts:
Of course, sometimes missing episodes do turn up. Episode 11 of Big X was found as recently as last year, when it was broadcast on the Animax network as part of the TMS’s 50th anniversary celebration. And some entire shows were eventually found hidden inside a TV station’s film vault. While it’s not likely every single lost anime will be found, bits and pieces do get discovered eventually.