If you were around in 1961, you may have seen an obscure animated feature titled Alakazam the Great, about three friendly monsters – Son Goku (monkey), Sir Quigley Brokenbottom (Pigsy), and Sandy – escorting Prince Amat from China to India.
This was part of the first wave of Japanese animated films, known as anime, to enter the United States. The other two features in that wave were Panda and the Magic Serpent and Magic Boy. They were box-office failures at the time, and because of this the anime film genre is still fighting to enter the American theatrical market.
Alakazam the Great was also America’s first cinematic introduction to the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West or Monkey King, as it is better know in America. This legend is over a thousand years old in the oral form. It was written into a novel, probably by the scholar Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century. The first Oriental animated feature, the Chinese Princess Iron Fan (1940), is an adaptation of part of Journey to the West. Alakazam the Great, more specifically, is a movie adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1952-59 My Son Goku manga version of Journey to the West.
Toho Films has just released an aw-it’s-cute trailer for its August 6 CGI theatrical feature adaptation of author Hiroshi Saitō’s children’s book Rudolph and Ippaiattena. But Toho has also added a mention of one of its other big summer releases, Godzilla: Resurgence. Japan still has theatrical monopolies, so these features released by Toho Films will only play in the Toho Cinemas theatrical chain.
Anime News Network has news on the film’s voice actors, Saitō’s original children’s book series, and a translation of the trailer’s text.
The Boy and the Beast (aka Bakemono no ko – English trailer) is a 2015 animated film from Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda, who directed the film Wolf Children in 2012. Both are of furry interest; this one even more so!
Ren is a 9-year-old boy who runs away to the busy streets of Tokyo after his mother dies. He has no way of contacting his father, whom his mother divorced, and has no love for his mother's relatives who want to take him in. Angry and upset, he wanders by accident into a parallel Earth, the beast world, where everyone is an anthropomorphic animal.
In the city of beasts, the current Grand Master (a rabbit) intends to transcend and reincarnate into a god, with two possible successors: a bear named Kumatetsu, or a boar named Yozen.
The Cartoon Brew website has just announced two new animated features with anthropomorphic animals coming later this year.
Last year’s Japanese cartoon animation The Boy and the Beast (Bakemono no Ko), directed by Mamoru Hosoda, will be released on March 4 “in selected theatres” by Funimation, in both subtitled and dubbed versions. It’s about a Japanese homeless boy, Kyuta, who goes into “the beast world” and becomes the apprentice of Kumatetsu (“Iron Bear”), a martial arts warrior. Tickets will go on sale on the Funimation site on February 5. The Cartoon Brew announcement includes the new American theatrical poster.
Can a massive theatrical animated hodgepodge make a massive theatrical animated anthropomorphic hit? That’s what a lot of people are hoping when Blazing Samurai, an animated pastiche of the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, only with samurai in Old Japan instead of cowboys in the Old West and animated cats and dogs instead of humans, hits the theaters in August 2017.
How much of a hodgepodge is it? Blazing Samurai is announced as the first feature produced by former Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Yair Landau’s Mass Animation online company, founded in August 2008 to “develop wikimovies and content using a new production model – a virtual animation studio and an open invitation to artists around the world to collaborate in creating the next generation of animated stories.” Mass Animation has attracted “over 58,000 participants from 101 countries”, and has produced the 5-minute “Live Music”, advertised as “the first ever theatrically released crowdsourced animated film”.
The File 770 science fiction fandom website reported on October 17 that the top-end Takashimaya Tokyo department store is selling a solid gold statuette of Baltan, a giant space lobster-man villain from the Ultraman TV series, for the yen equivalent of $91,000. A Japanese news video shows solid gold statuettes of Ultraman himself, plus other Ultraman space villains such as Bogleech.
Ultraman, a 40-foot-tall superhero from outer space, appeared on Japanese TV for 39 weekly half-hour episodes from July 17, 1966 to April 9, 1967. It was produced by Tsuburaya Productions, the company of Eiji Tsuburaya, the creator of Gojira (Godzilla) in 1954, and was meant to be for Japanese TV what Godzilla was for Japanese movies. It succeeded wildly.
Adding to the list of upcoming anthropomorphic animal movies, a feature film version of 1980s cartoon Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds was announced at the Annecy Film Festival on June 15.
As the title suggests, Dogtanian was an adaptation of The Three Musketeers, with dogs in the roles of d'Artagnan and his friends. Your humble reporter surely cannot have been the only nascent furry to be stirred by the portrayal of Aramis, one of literature's great lovers, as a Springer Spaniel.
Can’t think of a better title than that, so why try? Several places on the Net (including Flayrah) have already made note recently of The Boy and the Beast. It’s the latest anime feature from Hosoda Mamoru, the man who brought us Summer Wars and The Wolf Children. As you can tell from those works, the man has an interest in anthropomorphic characters — and this new one just may be his most furry feature yet! The Boy and the Beast “… tells the story of a lonely young boy who strays into a parallel world inhabited by supernatural creatures, where a bear-like beastman becomes his companion and mentor.” It’s set to premier in Japan this July. No word yet on any planned release in North America, but most of director Mamoru’s works have made it over here eventually. Check out the article over at Twitch Film — it includes a trailer with subtitles.
Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics, based on Fred Patten’s weekly columns from Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research animation website, was published March 26 by Theme Park Press. It is available in paperback and digital formats, and on Amazon.com.
The book is about animation and comic books rather than specifically anthropomorphic animals, but cartoon and CGI funny animals are a major theme. Topics include anime cat girls; Pokémon and Monster Rancher; Astro Boy and Atomcat; how a popular 1970s anime TV series led to the import of thousands of baby North American raccoons into Japan as pets, whose descendants are ruining thousand-year-old Buddhist and Shinto shrines today; animated Summer Olympics mascots like Misha the bear cub, Sam the eagle, Hodori the tiger, and Cobi the sheepdog, from 1972 to 2012; Patten’s favorite childhood comic-book funny animals like Amster the Hamster, Doodles Duck and his nephew Lemuel, Nutsy Squirrel, Dunbar Dodo, and SuperKatt, and how he would still like to see them animated; Crusader Rabbit; rats in animation; Reynard the Fox in animation; and Disney’s forthcoming 2016 Zootopia.
The last time I met Osamu Tezuka was at Daicon V, the 25th Japan National Science Fiction Convention, in Osaka on August 24-25, 1986. He was in a good mood, and told me through a helpful fan interpreter that he had just started a new manga that I was sure to like, considering my fondness for funny animals. It was a new version of Astro Boy – turned into a cat! “WHY?”, I asked. He chuckled and said something like, “Why not? It’s important to not take yourself too seriously.”
Tezuka had created Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy) in 1952 and drawn his adventures until 1968, including the five intense years of the TV series (1963-1966, with production starting in 1962). After that, Tezuka was “Astro Boyed out”, and turned down numerous requests to create new adventures of the robot little boy. He had other stories that he wanted to develop in manga and anime. So, when he got a request from the children’s Smile Comics in 1986 to produce a new manga for young readers, why did he return to Astro Boy, but as a kitten; besides “Why not?”
Well, Atomcat never pretended to be more than a humorous trifle. It was a self-parody, and also a parody of all the talking animal comics where a human little boy or girl has an animal companion to help him or her out. In Atomcat, young Tsugio is the only human who knows that Atom the kitten is not an ordinary kitten, and Atom protects Tsugio from being bullied. Yet Tsugio is such a coward and crybaby that Atom, exasperated, has to take the lead most of the time. Tezuka was very proud of having worked out the English pun Atomcat = A Tomcat, since he claimed not to speak English. He probably also delighted in naming the school bully who always picks on Tsugio, “Gaddafi”. Atomcat was published in the monthly Smile Comics for seven months, seven self-contained stories, from July 1986 to February 1987. The last couple of stories lacked the freshness of the first stories. I suspect that Tezuka had lost interest in Atomcat and was just hacking out the last few stories; he was probably glad to end the series.
I “read” Atomcat in Kodansha’s 400-volume Japanese Osamu Tezuka Complete Manga Works around 1997; that is to say, I looked at the artwork. This current Atomcat edition from Digital Manga’s Platinum Manga has enabled me to read it in English for the first time.
Gardena, CA, Digital Manga Publishing, April 2013, trade paperback $12.95 (194 [+ 9] pages).
Have you heard that Satan is a Furry; a cat-man from the Large Magellanic Cloud, responsible for all the evils on Earth?
That might be funny if over ten million people did not believe it.
Oops. This manga would be a lot funnier if not for the serious news in August of a man in Idaho being arrested for having sex with a cat. Many of Flayrah’s readers wondered how that was possible, considering the size differences of a human’s and a cat’s sex apparatus.
One of the ongoing questions in Monster Musume is how Kurusu, the terrified human teenaged protagonist, is going to have sex with a snake? Well, Miia’s human above the waist. And with boobs that, like the Maryland judge said describing Jane Russell’s (in banning the movie The Outlaw), "breasts hung like a thunderstorm over a summer landscape." And Miia really, really, REALLY wants to f--- with him, despite his genteel inhibitions.
So does Papi, the harpy. Well, when she’s old enough. She’s about the equivalent of a nine- or ten-year-old human girl. And, being a bird-girl, noticeably feather-brained, too. (Kurusu isn’t into cradle-robbing, either.)
And Centorea, the centauress. No “centaurette” as in Disney’s Fantasia; this is a dignified but horny adolescent female centaur. The centaurs are supposed to be too haughty to comingle with humans, but Centorea proves the old adage that you can justify anything if you try hard enough.
Always wanted to visit Japan's capital city, but don't have the funds? Now you can travel vicariously through the eyes of a beloved plushie.
Japanese travel agency Unagi Travel, a self-styled 'Japan Travel Agency for Stuffed Animals', offers a selection of holidays for cuddly critters which range from a $35 mystery tour to the top of the range, a visit to the historic city of Kyoto for $95. Plushie owners also cover the cost of packaging their pals and mailing them to their destination. (Anyone who has ever experienced a budget airline might well envy the ability to go first class by private Jiffy bag.)
In celebration of the 25th anniversary (!) of Hayao Miyazaki’s popular animated fantasy My Neighbor Totoro, Viz Media have released a new hardcover edition of the My Neighbor Totoro Picture Book, written and illustrated by Mr. Miyazaki himself. You can order it now at Barnes & Noble. “The companion book to the beloved animation classic My Neighbor Totoro by legendary Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki. Featuring artwork taken directly from the movie, this updated edition will allow parents and children to relive Totoro’s magical adventures with scene-by-scene illustrations and character dialogue. Eleven-year-old Satsuki and her sassy little sister Mei have moved to the country to be closer to their ailing mother. While their father is working, the girls explore their sprawling old house and the forest and fields that surround it. Soon, Satsuki and Mei discover Totoro, a magical forest spirit who takes them on fantastic adventures through the trees and the clouds — and teaches them a lesson about trusting one another.”
Gusk? Budori no Denki (The Life of Guskou Budori) is a 105-minute anime film released in 2012. The story had been previously adapted into anime in 1994, however the 2012 version did it with anthropomorphic cats - largely identical to the cats in the 1985 anime film Night on the Galactic Railroad. Not coincidentally, both films were directed by Gisaburo Sugii, and both were based on stories written by Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa, published in the 1930s.
The 2012 Life of Guskou Budori is visually rich, but has an incredibly dull narrative. Full spoilers ahead! Budori, his parents and his younger sister have an idyllic life in a forest by the mountains, but two years of sudden cold weather leads to the death of his parents and everyone leaving the local village. Oh, and his sister is taken away by a mysterious entity. To paraphrase:
Supernatural cat: I'm here to save you from famine. You're good kids, but that won't help you. Hey girl, if you stay here, you'll starve. Come with me.
(Budori's sister goes to him, seemingly in a trance.)
Supernatural cat: Well, bye! (vanishes)
Budori: ...Hey! You thief!