Galaxy Boy Troop: Ancient Anime Puppetry

Posted by Guest Author on Aug 1, 2008 in Animation |

Before the classic anime version “Astro Boy” (“Tetsuwan Atomu”) in 1963, there were a couple of partially animated tries at bringing Tezuka’s manga creations to TV. Previously “Tetsuwan Atomu” had been adapted as a live action TV series with an animated prologue in 1959 (shown above). Then in 1963, Mushi Production teamed up with the Takeda Puppet Troupe to adapt his manga “Galaxy Boy Troop” (“Ginga Shonen Tai”) for 2 seasons of TV:

What caught my interest besides the puppet work was most of the effects are being cel animated. It’s well known that TV posed an enormous challange for animation production since the schedule and budgets were extremely tight. So one assumes that the puppets were cheaper and very likely faster than animation.

However in this circumstance, while cel animation was economic for special effects, I’m guessing that miniature effects weren’t. Then again all those miniature effects really ace it for Gerry Anderson’s science fiction puppet shows (“Thunderbirds”, etc.). Though perhaps the cel animation was something to give Tezuka’s Mushi Animation company a piece of the pie. The first episode actually aired after the all anime “Astro Boy”
premiered and for all intents eclipsed it.

Apparently most of the ninety-two 15 minute episodes have been lost or destroyed. Only some examples subtitled for French broadcast in 1964-5 have survived, hence the giant French subtitles from the 1960s. …Hmmm, the notion of a subtitled kids shows is something to think about.

Kinosuke Takeda (1921-1979) was the man behind the puppets. I’ve not run into much info about him though the Takeda name has been associated with mechanical dolls since the 17th Century and there is a museum theater displaying his work. Another Takeda still performs there, most probably his brother. He and his team made other science fiction puppet series in the 1960s that were not based on Tezuka’s characters. I’ve seen an episode of “Spaceship Silica” from 1961 and “Aerial City 008” from 1969 on NHK’s “Puppet Chronicles” series of DVDs. All have scores by Isao Tomita who’s best known for his “Kimba the White Lion” music as well as his excellent synthesizer arrangements of classical music from the 70s. Recently he scored a “Black Jack” anime feature based on Tezuka’s characters.

Nick Kent is a New York based artist who works with electronic media and is an occasional pop culture pundit.

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