Have we seen the last of traditional Astro Boy anime series?

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Shiyonasan
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Have we seen the last of traditional Astro Boy anime series?

Postby Shiyonasan » 2 years ago

It's nice that we are still getting new Astro Boy series nowadays with both Little Astro Boy series, Atom The Beginning, Astro Boy Reboot, and (if you count it) Peeping Life. Both Little Astro Boy series and Astro Boy Reboot are part of Tezuka Productions' strategy to broadcast Astro Boy series outside of Japan due to Japan's declining birth rate. Then you have Peeping Life, which is a Tezuka parody series which includes Astro Boy characters, and Atom The Beginning, which is a spinoff prequel series to the original Astro Boy series.

We've got Atom The Beginning, Astro Boy Reboot, and the new Little Astro Boy series coming in the next couple years.

But beyond that, will we ever see another traditional Astro Boy series, or have we perhaps seen the last of traditional Astro Boy series with the 2003 series?

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Postby DrFrag » 2 years ago

Childhood exposure to Astroboy always colours our views with strong nostalgia for the series we grew up with. Mine was the 80s series. Having said that, I feel as though no Astroboy series will ever properly capture the spirit of Tezuka's work now that he's dead. Studios can replicate most of his themes of superhero, schoolchild, Pinocchio, etc but they always leave out death in order for it to be pallatable to western audiences.

Take the Zero/Lightray/Denkou story for example. In the 60s and 80s series he died in the end, and it's a powerfully emotional scene. In the 2003 series he survives and it's just another forgettable happy ending. This happens throughout the entire 2003 series. When every ending is changed to a happy ending, there's no tension. Nothing is on the line. I stop caring about the characters because they're all indestructable. Then the story becomes forgettable.

Quick example: What happens in Bambi?

Top answer on answers.com: click for spoilerBambi's mom dies.

It's an hour long movie and that's what people remember. It's emotional and memorable. Take away that scene and what's left? I remember him making friends with Thumper and Flower, but I honestly couldn't tell you the plot. Parents these days don't want their kids exposed to the concept of death, either because they're ridiculously overprotective or having them cry is too annoying.

Tezuka's works are full of death. The 80s series averaged something like 1 death per episode. He wasn't being morbid, life and death were and intertwined in his storytelling and message. His magnum opus was about the Phoenix! But big studios want to make money, not art, so they cut out all the death to appease parents. We're left with a pale shadow of Tezuka's vision and Astroboy becomes another generic kids' action show with Pinocchio themes.

I think the new Astroboy series will still be okay. Certainly no worse than 2003. I mean, it's Astroboy. He can shoot fricken laser beams out of his fingers. But I'm resigned to never seeing Tezuka's vision realised again.

If, by traditional, you mean a straight run of 50 episodes retelling the manga, then that's another essay and I have to go out now. :-)
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Postby Shiyonasan » 2 years ago

"DrFrag" wrote:If, by traditional, you mean a straight run of 50 episodes retelling the manga, then that's another essay and I have to go out now. :-)


Whoops, I suppose I should I clarify what I mean by "traditional Astro Boy anime series".

I mean a Japanese-made Astro Boy series entitled "Astro Boy" that's either a retelling of the manga (i.e the 1963 and 1980 series) or a story that closely resembles the manga (i.e. the 2003 series). To me, the traditional Astro Boy anime series are the 1963, 1980, and 2003 series.

To get to your post, I think you raise two interesting points:

The first is that studios cut out big emotional scenes to appeal to a larger audience. I think this has started to happen with anime in recent years along with Western cartoons. The 2003 series did cut out a lot of the big emotional scenes that the 1963 and 1980 series had (though don't get me wrong; the 2003 series is still amazing in my opinion).

That leads to the second point: Tezuka is dead now. The sad fact is that there will never be another new Astro Boy series with Osamu Tezuka's supervision. Thankfully, Atom The Beginning has Makoto Tezuka's supervision so there is the Tezuka influence there, but obviously he's not Osamu Tezuka.

You took the conversation a bit of a different way, but I don't mind. I think those things are important to think about when thinking about how a new traditional Astro Boy series would be.

To take the conversation back though, I think a new traditional Astro Boy TV series could happen IF the Atom The Beginning anime and Astro Boy Reboot perform well in reception and ratings. Astro Boy is still an important and relevant fixture in Japanese culture, so it's hard for me to believe that another traditional Astro Boy anime won't happen.

Do I think it'll be soon? Definitely not. I think if another traditional Astro Boy series were to be made, it won't exist for several years. I know that's a very safe bet, but it's a bet I'm willing to make. This is just speculation, but I'm guessing maybe sometime in the 2020s we'll see another traditional Astro Boy anime since there were two decades between the three traditional Astro Boy anime series respectively.
Last edited by Shiyonasan on Wed Feb 08, 2017 12:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Kitty Lue
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Postby Kitty Lue » 2 years ago

I was actually thinking a similar thing a few months ago, just lacking a lot of the info present here. I was surprized to hear about the reboot happening so soon, since I'd figured it'd follow that 20 year pattern. It was probably why I initially wasn't so receptive to the art style seen in the ABR trailer; the different look made me a bit suspicious that other things would change, and there was no guarantee that what I had seen would be returning.
With the info on all this other new AB content, though, I can more easily see a new "traditional" series coming out in the 2020's. I hope this is the case. :)

It also would be good to see a new series not tip-toe around death. Unfortunately, I don't see this as likely to happen because, with how easily triggered people seem to be these days, they'd probably have to use the TV-14 (or equivalent) rating to do so. I'm pretty sure that the decision to avoid so much character death in the '03 series was influenced by how western (possibly even American in particular) audiences would react, and even then it never actually finished running in the U.S. because it was apparently too dark (even with the English dub removing the remaining 2 deaths!) ...I'd better stop now before I rant about this topic...
...And then there's the fact we still haven't seen the arc in volumes 6-8 animated... okay now I'll stop for real. :lol:

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Postby DrFrag » 2 years ago

Sorry I couldn't write more about the traditional format, I had to dash off for a short holiday. But I've had some time to think about it a bit.

Like Kitty said, the 20 year pattern is kind of expected. It's generational and it's good for each generation to get their "version" of it. But there's something else Astroboy does with each incarnation, and that's ground-breaking animation.

The 1963 series was one of the first anime series ever (I think Instant History beat it by a year or two) and even though some of the animation looks a bit janky, there are also some cool moments where they did some expensive looking parallax background animations. So many new techniques were pioneered.

The 1980 series had fantastic animation for its time. Visually it looks a decade ahead of any western kids' cartoon, and most other anime as well. There's virtually no sign of the "Hanna Barbera effect", where the foreground characters don't match the background art. Episodes dealt with climate change, self-identity in cybernetics, morality in AI, etc. Advanced stuff that's still relevant decades later. Even the futuristic architecture doesn't look terribly dated.

The 2003 series had some of the most expensive production costs of any anime series. Computerised layout (I assume since I never saw any cels from it) and visually it still holds up today.

So as far as production value goes, there's no "typical anime" version of Astroboy. It's all been top quality stuff. Astro is such a cultural icon I can't imagine the Japanese making it second rate. They do have the technology to make something better now (4K, maybe rotoscoped CGI like Appleseed which would also allow for higher frame rates) but the 2003 series is still solid. So I think kids now can watch the 2003 series and still think of it as modern. There's no rush to bring forward another generational retelling yet.

In the meantime, making non-traditional versions is a great idea. It's a well-loved anime, spin-offs in general are popular, and they're splitting it into different age demographics. Now we just need an anime of Urasawa's Pluto. :w00t:

I would expect to see a 4th traditional retelling in maybe 5 ... 10 ... 15 years from now. They're not going to discard the original stories of such a major cultural icon, especially as we move into real life issues of emergent AI. Astro has been a strong bridge between humans and robots in sci-fi, and I expect that'll make him a relevant icon in years ahead. Maybe we can ask an AI to direct it from the perspective of a robot. :D
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Postby Shiyonasan » 2 years ago

"DrFrag" wrote:In the meantime, making non-traditional versions is a great idea. It's a well-loved anime, spin-offs in general are popular, and they're splitting it into different age demographics. Now we just need an anime of Urasawa's Pluto. :w00t:


Oh, I definitely agree. After three traditional Astro Boy series, I think the best route to go is spinoffs and alternate retellings, whether in Japanese animation or international animation. It's a good way to refresh a 65 year old series. (And yes, I would also like to see a Pluto anime one day).

I think we were all surprised back in January 2014 at the announcement of Little Astro Boy, because none of us expected a new Astro Boy series of any kind until 20 or so years after the 2003 series. The fact that we're getting four(!) new Astro Boy series in the span of possibly four years (2014-2018), spinoff or otherwise, is crazy. I don't anyone is complaining about it though. :p

I would expect to see a 4th traditional retelling in maybe 5 ... 10 ... 15 years from now.


That's my best guess. Like you explained, each Astro Boy series brought about the best kind of animation at the time they each were released. There is 4K, but there's probably something new on the horizon that we're not aware of yet that could come sometime next decade. If there is, I could see Tezuka Productions making use of it to create a new traditional Astro Boy anime.
Last edited by Shiyonasan on Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Kitty Lue » 2 years ago

"DrFrag" wrote:The 2003 series had some of the most expensive production costs of any anime series. Computerised layout (I assume since I never saw any cels from it) and visually it still holds up today.


I think the '03 series used traditional animation in conjunction with computers. I saw a video about the making of that series and they showed people drawing and painting frames, but in several cases it's evident that they used CG as well, like when scanning Atom or Uran, or with some of the aircraft.

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Postby Rejoyce » 2 years ago

I don't really see the need for a new "main" series, since the ones that already exist are fairly accessible (except for not being on TV), not to mention the 2003 doesn't really look outdated yet. Making a new one this soon would be redundant, unless they make some really major changes. Which is what all these spin-off shows are.

The death dilemma may be why they're not making another direct adaptation, too. It would be difficult to market it to kids (meaning parents), and since it's a kids show it would be difficult to market to adults. Unless they appeal to nostalgia, but that won't really bring in many new fans. Honestly I'm glad there are so many different interpretations of Astro Boy, and that we'll get to see so many adaptations. It's more fun than seeing the same story over and over again.

Kitty Lue, what was the "making of" video that you mentioned? I saw something like that a while ago but I can't remember where.

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Postby Kitty Lue » 2 years ago

"Rejoyce" wrote:Kitty Lue, what was the "making of" video that you mentioned? I saw something like that a while ago but I can't remember where.


I came across the "making of" video when I downloaded a softsubbed version of the Japanese dub for making AMVs and to allow me to edit the subtitles for the second half of the series (since the subtitles aren't part of the video file). It was in the same torrent, as well as both openings and all 3 endings without credits. I'd love to let you know where I found it, but since, despite my intentions for downloading the files, it was technically piracy, I'm not sure if I can share the info on here. Maybe we can work out a way to send you the single video file. I'm pretty sure that should be fine, since it's not an actual episode and I don't know if there's even a way to buy it.

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Postby DrFrag » 2 years ago

"Kitty Lue" wrote:I think the '03 series used traditional animation in conjunction with computers.


Yeah you're right. I found the making-of video you mentioned, it's on the DVDs. It looks like they used a lot of traditional methods which surprised me cause the background pans are way more stable than the 80s version, and there's clearly a lost of post effects.

Hand drawing douga:

click for spoilerImage

Hand painted background:

click for spoilerImage

Hand painted cel:

click for spoilerImage

Cutting room. This looks like old technology to me:

click for spoilerImage

Halo and lens flare effects. Probably computerised? They're definitely not painted on the cel:

click for spoilerImage
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The neural zoom in the opening sequence is definitely CGI:

click for spoilerImage

I remember watching a making-of video from Gantz. They drew and inked the cells, then scanned them into a computer. It allowed them to do blended shadows, 3D modelled backgrounds, and massive zoom scenes.

click for spoilerImage

This was done in 2004, so definitely technology of the 2003 Astro era. I guess the 2003 series was on the cusp of computerised layout. Something to look forward to if/when they do a new traditional series. :)
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