June 18, 2013 posted by

Rampoo the Flying Warped Boy (1984)

As we all know, the early 1980s was a dark time in made-for-TV animation in the ‘States. Everything had to be talked down to the audience so as it doesn’t “corrupt” the children, no violence was allowed, everything needed a moral, the animation was even more stilted. In short, they just wern’t plain fun, and there was hardly any ambition, at least for few more years.

For the most part, it was the opposite in Japanese television. It was around this time that its cartoons became more ambitious, with shows featuring over-the-top scenarios, fast-paced timing, and more off-beat humor. Cartoons such as Urusei Yatsura, GuGu Ganmo, and Dr. Slump comes to mind, but the underrated Rampoo took this style to the max.

(PRONOUNCIATION NOTE: “Rampoo” is the official English spelling, seen in merchandising and also the opening title sequence. However, it’s pronounced “ran-pou”)

rampoo200Rampoo is a short, perverted middle-school boy who goes on crazy misadventures with his talking mouse friend Chutaro, a genius who invents things for the two to mess around with. Rampoo’s pink-haired girlfriend Mutsumi, as well as their long-suffering teacher, Mr. Kakumaru (whom Rampoo lives with in his apartment), would frequently get caught up in his crazy ride. Mr. Kakumaru has a crush on Miss Iwasaki, another teacher in Rampoo’s school. Rampoo frequently looks up her skirt, always saying “I saw it! I saw it!” whenever he sees her panties.

In the first episode, Mutsumi explains that Rampoo was actually a very handsome student with good character who got the attention of every girl in class. One day, however, when they went on a class picnic, Rampoo and Mutsumi saw a UFO landing. When they went to investigate, the aliens kidnapped Rampoo and performed experiments on him, which made him a short, over-the-top perverted weirdo that everyone knows today. And that’s the origin of the main character, now forever dubbed the “flying warped boy” (Rampoo can fly when he’s excited), and after that first story the UFO thing is never mentioned again.

Much of the humor stems from taking an already crazy scenario and pushing it up to eleven. When Rampoo is tricked into eating too much pepper, not only does he starts breathing fire like any cartoon character, but it actually sets the building on fire, rendering everyone inside covered in black soot. In order to cool himself down, he goes to the bathhouse (on the women’s side, to add to the show’s already prevalent fan-service) and drinks every last drop from the giant tub, bloating him up like a sumo wrestler. When Mr. Kakumaru chases Rampoo around in the classroom, they swim around the other students and desks and throws them to the side like they’re in a ballpit. Another episode has Miss Iwasaki chasing a giant ant underground with a laser gun (built by Chutaro), rapidly firing it in the air, which ends up destroying downtown Tokyo.

That doesn’t begin to cover pop-culture parodies this show is full of. The first episode alone starts with a throw-away gag where Rampoo crushes Godzilla, King Kong, Mothra, Ultraman, and other giant robots and monsters that all happen to be fighting in the city at the same time. Another episode features Rampoo and Chutaro playing a virtual reality game, a Sci-Fi parody that combines Captain Harlock, Nausicaa, and Future Boy Conan into one. Not to mention, references to other anime that shows up here and there.

That should give you an idea of what the show is like. The show’s premise was already strange as it is, but they just keep pushing far far they can go, and that’s just remarkable.

rampoo_bookRampoo was created by Masatoshi Uchizaki (b. 1957) and the comic appeared in Weekly Shonen Champion magazine from 1978 to 1987. 37 book collections were put out altogether. Alas, just because it had a long print-run doesn’t mean the adaptation did, too. In fact, the anime was rather short-lived.

The TV series aired from April 5 to September 27, 1984 on Fuji Television for 21 episodes. It was produced by Nihon A.D. Systems (NAS), an animation development company (that’s what A.D. stands for) that sprung up in the 1980s to develop cartoons for production and merchandising. The animation production was handled by Tsuchida Production, an animation studio that was active from 1976 to 1986, only to go out of business barely 10 years in, a victim of an economic downturn in Japan.

The show aired on Thursdays at 7 PM. That was not a good time-slot, according to Dave Merrill, who says that the show was airing against a baseball game in some areas. Even in Japan, anime doesn’t stand a chance against televised sports game, and Rampoo was no exception. The final episode didn’t even air in some cities.

Too bad, because the show is very funny. It took the common gag elements in 1980s Japanese cartoons and filtered out other stuff, only leaving behind one funny scenes after another. As it is, the show was never re-released on DVD in Japan, yet, although maybe someday. Alot of even more obscure shows are being released over there, so it’s only a matter of time.

(Thanks to Dave Merrill for sending me copies of the show so that I could write this)


  • “It was produced by Nihon A.D. Systems (NAS), an animation development company (that’s what A.D. stands for) that sprung up in the 1980s to develop cartoons for production and merchandising.”

    Some people might recall “NAS” popping up on the TV anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion”.

  • I can spot Lupin III, Mospeada and Nausicaa references in the opening titles alone. I wouldn’t be surprised if every shot is a spoof.

    • Me neither, I’m sure if “Streets of Fire” came out much earlier they’d be mocking that too!

  • The show does seem slightly derivative of Urusei Yatsura, with the title character some sort of unholy cross between Ataru and Ten. (Not really as the two mangas debuted the same year, just that the Rampoo anime is a bit of a latecomer in comparison).

    However this show seems almost entirely devoted to insane gags and situations without even a semblance of seriousness, like an early 80s gag anime series distilled to its most base element. Your description–“It took the common gag elements in 1980s Japanese cartoons and filtered out other stuff, only leaving behind one funny scenes after another.” is pretty apt.

    Looked like a fun series. Too bad it’s been essentially buried in obscurity up to now.

    • And this is why I became a fan of this slop! Nobody’s gonna keep that torch lit!

    • Sounds to me like NAS was hoping this series would repeat the success of Sasuga no Sarutobi (aka L’Academie des Ninjas in France) as the premise sounds very similar. Speaking of which I’d love to see a writeup on Sasuga no Sarutobi if you ever get the chance – the influence of Urusei Yatsura is all over that show as well. (Not to mention Takahashi fans will recognize the voice of the female lead, Mako, as Saeko “Shinobu/Kodachi” Shimazu.)

  • I always thought it was interesting myself that the 1970s-most of the ’80s American animation was pretty bland and safe, whereas animation in Japan was in sort of golden period on television. It’s sort of a shame that a lot of older anime never seems to get licensed abroad if its from before the late ’80s (or if it does, very rarely. Diskotech has put out a few vintage titles though.)

    • That’s “Discotek Media” by the way. And yes, we Americans missed the boat completely over it.

  • This looks right up my alley.. Love that it looks so similar to Urusei Yatsura!

    • It certainly spells the 1980’s to a T in my book. Arguably 1984 was a big year for anime in Japan with movies like Macross: Do You Remember Love?, Nausicaa and even Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (which isn’t so much a UY movie as it is more an insight into the thin line between dreams and reality). This was of course the time of the “Bubble Economy” in Japan and the sudden push for where cartoons could go or what audiences they could pick up long the way, and of course the start of the ‘OVA Boom” that followed. 1984 is kind of a crossroads between the earlier days of the “Terebi Manga” to the acceptance of “anime” as a medium not to be overlooked as far as Japan was concerned, though it was still a tough road to go down.

      For more historic look at anime of this period, I suggest checking out this blog (though it’s reviewer for 1984 felt more compelled to talk about Fist of the North Star for the entire entry of that year).

  • Well it’s not to surprising considering that guy’s internet handle. That’s why I’m glad this section of Cartoon Research exists.

    • It’s good we have variety here.

  • I bothered thinking of this while having read what someone wrote about having worked on Filmation’s He-Man series while this craziness happened. I sorta wonder what kind of show could the US have had had we done something like Rampoo on Saturday mornings, no so much in terms of it’s content, but with that “totally 80’s” frenetic nature that would make it somewhat unable to hook in a very young audience intended for said program and cancelled after a few episodes. Would we still remember that show today? I suppose it would be one of those odd cult classics among fans that would be there throughout the 90’s and 2000’s before Rhino Video or Shout! Factory finally answered the call to release it on disc for the masses to enjoy outside the nth-gen copies we were so use to. We just never quite had that show I suppose (though I suppose the closest in terms of breaking the norms of the period, it would be Bakshi’s Mighty Mouse series).

  • If you look at the Japanese Wiki page for this anime, it seems this production was troubled from the very start. NAS had first sold the show to TV Tokyo, but a change in management at TV Tokyo led to the series being canceled and production halting, only resuming once they were able to sell it to Fuji TV. Even then, the show got stuck in “local sales” time on FNN affiliate stations, meaning it didn’t air at all (not just the final episode, but the entire series) in some areas. One example is Hiroshima, where the show wasn’t seen until it was rerun on the TV Asahi affiliate – in 1998!

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