We resume our survey of the Tezuka Pro TV Specials of 1978-1989 with the one based on the epic manga, Nextworld.
Fumoon. August 21, 1980. 91 minutes, in a two-hour time slot, 10:00 p.m. to midnight. Direction and Character Design by Hiroshi Nishimura, from a story by Hisashi Sakaguchi based on Tezuka’s famous 1950-’51 manga Next World. Music by Yuji Ono, that mostly did not sound like recycled Lupin III music.
Next World (or Nextworld) was the final manga novel that Tezuka produced in Osaka, at the beginning of his career, before graduating from Osaka University Medical School and moving to Tokyo. It was published in two parts, on January 10 and February 10, 1951. It was considered the conclusion of his “trilogy”, the other two being Lost World (1948) and Metropolis (1949). After Tezuka’s settling in the Tokyo manga community, he began to create the series and single stories for which he is best-known: Tetsuwan Atom, Phoenix, Princess Knight, My Son Goku, Captain Ken, and many, many more. Tezuka’s “Osaka trilogy” became famous in reputation and was later reprinted many times. Next World was the first of the three to be converted into animation, as Fumoon. (Metropolis was animated as a major theatrical feature, produced by Tezuka Pro in collaboration with Studio Madhouse, directed by Rintarō from a screenplay by Katsuhiro Otomo, released on May 26, 2001; long after Tezuka’s death.) Nextworld was published in America by Dark Horse Comics in October (160 pages) and November 2003 (152 pages).
Reportedly Tezuka’s original version of Next World was over 700 pages, but he reluctantly edited it back to 312 pages at the insistence of his Osaka publisher. Fumoon smooths over some of the abrupt jumps and cuts in the manga, but leaves some in, such as Kenichi’s briefly-seen friend, Rokurro. In the cut pages, Rokurro had a much larger part. In the manga, Kenichi is a child (Tezuka’s original boy hero); in Fumoon, he is a more logical teen cyclist.
Fumoon did not have to be adapted to Tezuka’s Star System because Next World was one of the works that created it. Next World was heavily influenced by and was a parable of the Cold War that had begun dividing Earth in the late 1940s, the South Pacific nuclear testing of the early 1950s, and the fear of nuclear war/bomb-shelter craze of the mid-1950s.
The world is divided into two hostile superpowers; the Star Country (America) and the Uran Federation (the USSR). A lovely pastoral landscape under the opening credits gives way to blighted, dead Bateito Island. Dr. Yamadano, an old, white-bearded biologist in a pith helmet (Dr. Hanamaru, one of Tezuka’s Stars), grimly comments to himself that it has changed greatly. Looking around at the strange insects, he sees something fly out of a crater. He stuns it, preparing to collect it as a scientific specimen, and then shouts, “THIS – THIS IS –!?” Cut to the title.
A motorcycle races along an expressway in a major city. The cyclist is a teenager, Kenichi (another Star), with his old uncle, Detective Shunsaku Ban, riding behind him. Ban says that he has just received an urgent call from his old friend Dr. Yamadano, who has been conducting ecological studies around the world for the last seven years. Yamadano (who calls his old friend “Higeoyaji”) reveals a creature looking like a cross between an insect and a human, under anesthetic in a bell jar. He found it on Bateito Island. As Ban knows, Bateito was such a beautiful island when it was first discovered that many nations claimed it. It eventually led to a war for it between the Star Country and Uran that was so destructive that the island was completely destroyed and super-polluted until nobody wanted it.
It’s Yamadano’s theory that the radical change in ecology has led to a major speedup in evolution, and the strange creature is a new breed of mankind. The blue creature awakes from the anesthesia, and uses a psychic power to shatter all the glass in the room including the windows, letting it escape. Ban pursues it into a rainy yard, where it climbs a tree and summons a space gondola to help it. Lightning destroys the tree, and Ban rescues the creature from falling. The space gondola beams the creature, Ban, and the tree aboard, and leaves.
Kenichi returns home and greets his author friend, Rokakku. His little sister, Peach (Pinoko), is their housekeeper. Dr. Yamadano wants Kenichi to accompany him to the Star Country for an international scientific conference; Peach tags along. They note that the clues from Ban’s disappearance are the same as those from where pairs of animals – cattle, horses, dogs, lions in zoos – are disappearing. Yamadano’s address is that while scientific advances have increased humanity’s life styles, the increasing pollution and destruction of the ecology is making the planet uninhabitable. All the delegates including the leaders of Uran (Lednof; Duke Red), and the Star Country (Notarian; a Star), demand the right to increase their weapons development. In the conference’s parking lot, Kenichi and Peach meet Cocoa, the daughter of Notarian, and her boyfriend Rock (Rock Holmes), a journalist covering the mysterious disappearance of the animals from zoos and other locked areas. At the hotel after the conference, Dr. Yamadano is attacked by the Bateito creature, but the arrival of Kenichi, Peach, Cocoa, and Rock makes it retreat into its space gondola. The hotel is demanding that they pay for the damage when Kei Gamata (Lamp), the richest businessman in Japan, pays for them. The five plus Gamata discuss what to do. Kenichi guesses that his uncle may have been taken by the creatures to Bateito Island, and he will go there to investigate. Rock arranges to hire Captain Tabasco’s boat to take him there. Gamata feel that there may be money in this (the creatures’ space gondola technology, if nothing else), and he orders his employees to follow Kenichi. Peach hides in the car Kenichi drives to the coast. A gondola attacks them, but they escape.
On Bateito Island, Peach is attacked by a giant moth with fangs. Kenichi and Peach fall into a subterranean base of the creatures. Some of them want to get rid of Kenichi, Peach, and Ban, plus the three back on the mainland, before Lady Mozu, their leader, returns to Earth; but Lady Rococo, who is temporarily in command on Earth, orders that they be put in the same cage. Meanwhile, Dr. Yamadano and Rock are visited by the astronomer Dr. Franken (Frankenstein). Yamadano and Rock are told the same thing that Lady Rococo tells Kenichi, Peach, and Ban on Bateito Island. The strange creatures are Fumoon, the next evolution of humans. The current humans were destroying the Earth, and the Fumoon were going to restore it, until they learned that they were too late. There was a supernova near Earth a decade ago (this is what Franken is explaining) that produced a giant cloud of deadly black gas that is expanding toward Earth, destroying all life on planets along the way. It cannot be stopped, and it will reach Earth in a month. So instead of renovating the Earth, the Fumoon are building a giant ark to take as many animals as possible, including at least a breeding pair of each, to a new planet outside the black gas’ path. This is why the Fumoon have been raiding zoos.
The Fumoon announce that the animals in Uran that they are rescuing have been seized by Uran authorities, who have also discovered the Fumoon. Lady Rococo and the human captives go to Uran to stop the Uran government train carrying the captured Fumoon. (The Uran officials include several minor Tezuka Stars such as Lamune & Calpis (Tick & Tuck).) One of the Uran officials tries to shoot Rococo, but Kenichi saves her life. In Uran’s capital, Lednof blames the Star Country for the attack on the Uran train, and orders Commander Whisky to counterattack. The Fumoon’s Lady Mozu returns early, and she orders Kenichi, Peach, and Ban, who have escaped to the surface, killed. Rococo, whose life has been saves by Ban and Kenichi, revolts and saves them from the other Fumoon, who are captured by Gamata’s men. The three humans and Rococo escape from the other Fumoon. Kenichi announces that he will try to help Earth escape the black gas to the last moment. Rococo says that she will help.
Dr. Yamadano broadcasts Earth’s danger from the gas cloud just as Uran attacks. Notarian orders the Star Country to retaliate (the Star Country officials include more minor Tezuka Stars), and Yamadano & Franken are arrested for panicking the public. Gamata bribes the police (the Chief is Matahachi Honiden, a Star inspired by Disney’s Black Pete) to release them. Gamata proposes publicizing Yamadano as a hero fighting the Fumoon, but he refuses. Kenichi, Peach, Ban, and Rococo return in Rococo’s gondola. Franken proposes using the gondola to change the gas cloud’s trajectory to miss Earth. At that point the war strikes. Franken is killed, urging the others to go to Dr. Ochanomizu of the Japan Space Center to continue.
Ochanomizu says that it will take twenty days to build the rocket to carry the electronic barrier to change the cloud’s trajectory, which is one day before the cloud will engulf Earth. Meanwhile, other astronomers confirm that the black gas is real, and Earth will become extinct in 21 days. There is worldwide panic. The other Fumoon abandon the planet. Everybody forgets about the war, except for Lednof and Notarian who are ignored in their command centers. Kenichi, Yamadano, Ochanomizu, and the others race to complete the rocket; but between hysterical rioters attacking the rocket, and Gamata trying to steal Rococo’s space gondola to save himself, it looks like nothing can save the Earth from the black cloud – until Rococo uses THE POWER OF LOVE! Japan’s electronic barrier and Rococo’s gondola’s anti-gravity energy don’t hurt either. The gas cloud turned away, and the small portion that reaches Earth is thinned enough that a good rainstorm washes it away. Presumably the audience is not surprised that Rococo dies tragically saving the Earth.
The telethon’s theme of “Love Saves the Earth” was never adapted so literally. This was the last of the Tezuka Pro TV Specials to use the Star System so extensively.
Fumoon complete movie (in Japanese)