April 25, 2015 posted by

The Lost Astro Boy Episode


Before I begin, I need to clarify that there are actually several episodes of the original 1960s Astro Boy that were considered missing. Of the 193 episodes made, episodes 34, 125, 127, 139, 163, and 191 were lost. Episodes 34, 163, and 191 were eventually found, however, leaving only three episodes (125, 127, and 139) still missing.

Fujiko animation

Fujiko Fujio animation

Episode 34 is the most infamous of the missing episodes. Originally called “Midoro Marsh” in Japan (it was known as “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” in the Fred Ladd dubbing), it aired on Japan’s Fuji Television on August 20, 1963. The episode centers on Astro Boy being sent to investigates sights of dinosaurs in the nearby Midoro swamp after recent events.

Osamu Tezuka wanted to give the staff of Mushi Production a week’s vacation, so they decided to outsource this episode to Studio Zero, an animation studio founded by some of Tezuka’s former proteges, including Shotaro Ishinomori, Shin’ichi Suzuki, Jiro Tsunoda, and the Fujiko Fujio duo. Of all the people I’ve listed, Suzuki is the only one with actual animation experience, and thus was the director of the episode. Every other artists were comics people who were juggling their weekly comics deadline while trying to animate.

Studio Zero

Studio Zero

The results were not pleasant, to say the least. When the footage came back, Tezuka was aghast at what he has seen. He ordered to have the film destroyed, but only until after it aired on Fuji TV. It was also sent to the US as well, for dubbing by Fred Ladd.

The inexperience of the artists involved is very evident. The animation are very poorly done, and Astro Boy’s face seemingly change in every shot in order to suit the cartoonists’ style. Ironically, this makes it easier to decipher who animated what scene.


Fujiko F Fujio animation footage

Fujiko F Fujio animation footage

This wasn’t the last time Mushi subcontracted work to another studio. Episodes 94 through 144 were animated at P Production, a studio that later became known for tokusatsu programs. This was due to Mushi being busy working on shows like Kimba the White Lion and Princess Knight. However, Studio Zero no longer received work from Mushi.

But it wasn’t the end of Studio Zero. They later started employing actual animators on staff and began producing their own shows, mostly in collaboration with Tokyo Movie. The studio existed from 1963 to 1971.

For years, only the US dubbed version was known to survive. An audio track of the Japanese version was later found, which was then inserted over to the picture footage from the US 16mm print. It’s a fascinating look in terms of behind the scenes and rarity context, although, by its own, it’s still a poor episode. The English dubbed version is now available for all to see:


  • “The English dubbed version is now available for all to see”

    Except the video is “not available”.

    • Works just fine for me.

    • Kurtis Findlay wrote: “Works just fine for me”.

      Which probably means that the video is only viewable for Americans. I’m located in Norway. So not exactly available for “all”. 😉

    • Probably a regional issue with YouTube. There are ways around that if you’re smart enough.

  • Hey there !

    Just an FYI – The AstroBoy DVD collections released by RightStuf Intl (http://www.rightstuf.com/cgi-bin/catalogmgr/=3WanF=LDQjttevGWd/browse/item/68786/4/0/0) do have episode 34 in both English and Japanese. However they also stop at # 104 and do not have the other missing episodes however

    • Yes, it’s a shame they don’t go past #104 besides give us the final episode of Tetsuwan Atom, but I can see why they did simply because the second half was never picked up over here by NBC Films (feeling they had enough to sell, so we missed out on seeing how Astro saved the worth for the final time).

  • If nothing else, the giant ant-looking robot that’s shown in the opening title sequence appears in animation at the 20-minute mark of this cartoon. So at least someone thought some piece of animation from this episode was worth excerpting for placement in all of the U.S. syndicated episodes.

    • The opening title sequence was made in Japan before this episode was produced, at Mushi Production. Looks like they decided to use the same design for this episode.

      Incidentally, “Astro Boy” had three opening title sequences in its original Japanese run; the one seen in the Fred Ladd version is the first one.

    • That intro was also in the Japanese version as well.

  • I first heard of this “Lost Episode” nearly 20 years ago as Right Stuf released both a VHS cassette and later a LaserDisc through Lumivision (it was paired with Tezuka’s experimental short “Legend of The Forest”). I don’t think Right Stuf went into as much detail as Charles has shown us as to who was responsible for the mess, though I’m sure it was still a mystery 20 years ago when it was released (those pre-internet days).

    Speaking of Astro Boy rarities, I just noticed this on YouTube for anyone’s interest, a colorization test of an episode from ’94 with a new English dub added (this may have been Fred Ladd’s company behind it), glad it never came to pass.

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