FUNNY ANIMALS AND MORE
July 27, 2014 posted by Fred Patten

The Tezuka Pro TV Specials #9: “I Am Son Goku: The Osamu Tezuka Story”

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I Am Son Goku: The Osamu Tezuka Story. Tezuka Osamu Monogatori: Boku wa Son Gaku August 27, 1989. 70 minutes, 10:00 p.m. to 11:25 p.m. Directors: Rintarō, Masami Hata. Development: Kuniaki Yamashita, Rintarō, Masami Hata. Character design: Osamu Tezuka (classic characters), Yoshiyuki Momose, Norihiro Matsubara. Music: Haruhiko Maruyama.

This is listed on almost all anime websites as the 12th Tezuka Pro movie for the Love Will Save the Earth NTV telethons. But Yoshimi Suzuki of Tezuka Productions says that this really means that it was part of NTV’s 12th annual telethon in 1989. There were no animated TV movies at all during the 1987 and 1988 telethons.

Osamu Tezuka intended for this to be a new science-fiction version of the Chinese Monkey King legend that he created as a newspaper manga during the 1950s, I Am Son Goku, and as Toei Doga’s Alakazam the Great theatrical feature in 1960 and Mushi Pro’s Goku’s Big Adventures TV animated series in 1967. But Tezuka unfortunately was hospitalized and died during the early planning stage, in January and February 1989. His staff at Tezuka Productions turned it into a combination of that and a tribute to him. The first half is Tezuka’s idealized biography as a young boy, from his interest in insects (mushi) which gave him his childhood nickname, his professional pseudonym, and the name of his first studio; through his seeing the Chinese animated feature that created his desire to become an animator, and the World War II years. The second half is his s-f version of the Monkey King legend, set in 3010 A.D.

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osamu-story-TVposterIt begins with Osamu as a bookish boy, about 9 years old, being taunted by his schoolmates for his obsession with beetles and insects in general. His parents take him to see the first Chinese animated feature, Princess Iron Fan (which came out in 1941 and did not reach Japan until early 1942, when Tezuka was 13). Tezuka is tremendously impressed – the friendly projectionist (Higeoyaji) gives him the theatrical poster — and he vows to make his own movie about Son Goku. Suddenly it’s 1945, the schools are closed, and Japan is losing World War II. Tezuka, now 16, is beaten up for continuing to draw instead of devoting all his time to war work. Kiyoko, his first sweetheart, urges him to never forget his dream of becoming an animator, but she is killed in a bombing raid. The movie jumps to 1958, when Tezuka has become a successful cartoonist but not yet an animator. During a business trip to China, Tezuka meets Wan Lai-ming, the co-director (with his twin brother Wan Gu-chan) of Princess Iron Fan. Tezuka tells him of his determination to make an animated feature about Goku someday. (To digress, Princess Iron Fan was a hit in Japan in 1942 despite China being Japan’s enemy in the war. It was directly responsible for the Japanese military government’s decision to encourage the production of Japanese animation, leading to the two Momotaro films.)

osamu-frame250The movie shifts to the I Am Son Goku story. In 3010 Sanzo, a wandering space merchant, and Rular, his monkey girl assistant, come in their spaceship (which looks like a mechanical beetle) to a planet that is having a festival. Suddenly three delinquents on flying clouds, Goku (Monkey), Hakkai (Pigsy), and Sa Gojyo (Sand demon), appear and ruin the festival. Sanzo challenges them to knock over a seed, which grows into a tall plant with creepers that grab them all (including Sanzo). After Sanzo gets loose, he has to take the three on his spaceship to keep the townsfolk from killing them. He gives them each a present (a headband to Goku, a bracelet to Hakkai, and a necklace to Sa Gojyo) that causes intense pain if they disobey him. Hakkai and Sa Gojyo agree to become his assistants, while Goku still refuses and is imprisoned. They come to the Emerald planet in the Seta galaxy which registers life but no details. They land, and Sanzo, Rular, Hakkai, and Sa Gojyo explore a vast forest but apparently no animals. Hakkai smells food and runs off to find it. A beautiful woman (Princess Iron Fan) invites the others to a feast at her mansion, served by her servant, Hamegg. Hakkai finds a giant tree full of large fruit, but the tree captures him. The others are knocked out by the food at the feast, and come to attached to the tree, with Hakkai. The woman explains that their life force will be drained by the tree of life, which has already turned all the animals on the Emerald planet into its fruits. Sanzo mechanically releases Goku in the spaceship, and he comes and rescues them. Princess Iron Fan, furious, turns into a giant vampire to fight Goku. He wins, and everything explodes to turn Emerald into a lifeless planet of sand. Sanzo uses seeds from his spaceship, and water from the three’s clouds, to start life on Emerald again.

osamu-dvdSanzo’s spaceship leaves Emerald to continue its journey, but it is pulled by a dark nebula to a planet of volcanoes. Gyumaoh, the space demon (the husband of Princess Iron Fan; the audience is expected to know this – in Alakazam the Great, they were King and Queen Gruesome, or in Japanese Gyu-mao and Rasetsujo – from the Hindu Rakshasa, a man-eating demon), appears and threatens Goku for spoiling his plans for the Emerald planet. They fight, and Goku is apparently defeated. Sanzo takes the headband from Goku and uses it to close a volcano, and takes Goku’s flying cloud to fight Gyumaoh. Gyumaoh wins, but tries to remove the headband from the volcano, which erupts and kills him. Sanzo, dying, bids the three to look after Rular. They decide that Goku and Rular will stay on the volcanic planet to spread life, while Hakkai and Sa Gojyo will take the spaceship and continue Sanzo’s journey throughout the universe.

The final three minutes reveals that this has been the Tezuka Pro movie shown on the telethon. Osamu Tezuka is a successful animator watching it from his home. Goku appears on his cloud and asks if Tezuka has been satisfied with his life. Tezuka says yes, but he had meant for all of his manga and animation to lead to an improvement of the environment and an end to war, and there is still war and the environment is still being destroyed. Goku says to give it time. Tezuka’s work will continue to spread his message for him.

I Am Son Goku: The Osamu Tezuka Story was the final Tezuka Pro TV special. Tezuka was dead, and whatever agreement he had with Nippon Television was ended. NTV’s annual Love Will Save the Earth telethons have continued to today, often with animated TV movies by other studios. NTV raised ¥120,000,000 for victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks in NYC and Washington, D.C., and ¥100,000,000 for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Tezuka Productions produced the 1989 Jungle Emperor TV remake, the 1990 The Three-Eyed One TV series, and plenty of theatrical features and TV series since then.

Tezuka Pro made a separate 95-minute My Son-Goku theatrical feature, released in July 2003, that is a good alternate to Alakazam the Great, if you are looking for a more modern feature-length variant.

The Osamu Tezuka Story full movie

Next week: On to something else.

3 Comments

  • is this available on dvd in the US?

    • I highly doubt it. To my knowledge none of the Tezuka specials have ever been officially released in the States. At least we can watch them easily online now. I still remember attempting to download anime episodes via dial-up back in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

      If you want to get hold of some Tezuka anime released in the US, several of his ’60s TV series have been released by companies such as Shout Factory. Many of the theatrical Tezuka films are available as well such as the two Unico films, Jungle Emperor Leo (1997) and Metropolis (2001).

    • “I highly doubt it. To my knowledge none of the Tezuka specials have ever been officially released in the States. At least we can watch them easily online now. I still remember attempting to download anime episodes via dial-up back in the late ’90s and early 2000s.”

      I was lucky just to see a few of these at all back when I was tape-trading with friends. These days you have it too easy on YouTube.

      “If you want to get hold of some Tezuka anime released in the US, several of his ’60s TV series have been released by companies such as Shout Factory. Many of the theatrical Tezuka films are available as well such as the two Unico films, Jungle Emperor Leo (1997) and Metropolis (2001).”

      Prior to the 2000′s, anything Tezuka-related was really hard to come by around here. I think the first time I noticed his name was having found a tape at a public library’s book sale that had both “Broken Down Film” and “Jumping” on it. The tape itself was labeled “Award Winning International Animation 1980-85″ and the compilation reflected that as it contained other such works like Borg Ring’s “Anna & Bella”, John Canemaker’s “Bottom’s Dream” and Paul Vester’s “Sunbeam” to name a few. Released in 1986, the best anyone had seen of Tezuka’s work on home video was the two Unico movies from Sanrio. Similarly both “Broken Down Film” and “Jumping” saw releases later on from Expanded Entertainment in their video compilations based on “The International Tournee of Animation” and “Animation Celebration”. These videos of course were catered more to that indie animation group that would be into this sort of stuff than for the anime crowd I’m sure Tezuka’s name highlights more. In the 90′s Right Stuf came in with their VHS releases of the Astro Boy TV series and a standalone tape of Tezuka’s short “Legend of the Forest” before picking up “Kimba The White Lion” once those rights were straighten out (not to mention OVAs based on “Ambassador Magma” and “Black Jack” that did see VHS releases here too).

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