Reviews of Conan, the Boy in Future (1978) and related work

Conan, the Boy in Future (1978Moving picture, 10 hours)

Ōtsuka Yasuo (animation director), Miyazaki Hayao (director), Kawajiri Yoshiaki (key animator).

July, 2008 CE. Humankind faced extinction. Far surpassing nuclear arms, super-electromagnetic weapons annihilated half the world in an instant. There were great changes in the Earth’s crust, the axis of rotation shifted, and all five continents ruptured, sinking into the sea.

20 years later, a child has grown to the threshold of puberty on one little island. It’t not the only island left in the world.

A peculiar Rosetta stone of Miyazaki’s career, in the shape of an original TV adventure with 26 episodes (29 minutes each). Miyazaki has the overall direction credit, storyboarded many of the episodes (including the beginning and ending), directed many of them (again including the beginning and ending) and is sometimes credited with some of the writing as well. He also did mechanical and character design, but it’s clear that he did not have the power he would later wield at Ghibli.

There is a gentleness all the way through Conan: a warm and fuzzy, occasionally numinous glow compromising the generally shōnen-style narrative. The animation is very well planned but cheaply implemented, the story is sexist and not as environmentalist as it may seem, but this is clearly Miyazaki’s glow.

References here: Ghibli movie titles, “Albatross: Wings of Death” (1980), Castle in the Sky (1986), “What the Scenario Means to Me” (1989), Now and Then, Here and There (1999), Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (2020).

animation fiction Japanese production moving picture series

“Speaking of Conan” (1983Text)

Miyazaki Hayao (interviewee).

Read in Starting Point.

Even if someone’s lost all hope for the future, I still think it’s incredibly stupid to go around stressing this to children.

A good in-depth interview. In it, Miyazaki describes realism in good animation as a trick rather than an art, through worldbuilding:

It’s an imaginary world, but it should seem to actually exist as an alternate world, and the people who live there should appear to think and act in a realistic way. This can be a truly ridiculous line of work, but when depicting a world with three suns, you have to construct a world that will seem to the viewers like it could have three suns. I think the trick here is turning the lies you create into a single, coherent world.

References here: Starting Point: 1979–1996 (1996/2009).

document Japanese production non-fiction text