Future Boy Conan (未来少年コナン, Mirai Shōnen Konan), also known as Conan, The Boy in Future, is an anime series produced by Nippon Animation. It premiered across Japan on the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) between April 4 and October 31, 1978, in a 30-minute broadcast frame from 19:30 every Tuesday.
The series is an adaptation of Alexander Key's novel The Incredible Tide and spans a total of 26 episodes. It was Hayao Miyazaki's directorial debut, and featured work from industry luminaries such as Isao Takahata, Seiji Okuda, Yasuo Ōtsuka, Yoshiyuki Tomino and Noboru Ishiguro who assumed various roles such as directing, storyboarding and designing.
The audience rating for the original broadcast was a disappointing 8% on average in the Kanto region, and the maximum audience rating was only 14% by the 25th episode. It was remade as a compilation film but was dismissed by the original television production staff, who saw it as going against their original intentions.
A video game version of the series by Telenet Japan was released on February 28, 1992, on NEC's PC Engine console. The game was released on the Super CD-Rom format and was only available in Japan. A compilation movie was released in 1979.
The series marked Hayao Miyazaki's directorial debut and was the first ever animated series aired on NHK. Television shows aimed at young boys were traditionally broadcast at 18:00, but considering children and adolescents accounted for the majority of viewership during prime time, they decided to schedule the series' broadcast at 19:30. Following this series' release, the 19:30 Tuesday timeslot became a regular anime program block.
The production faced numerous production delays, as it took one year and three months to complete all 26 episodes. When an episode wasn't completed for broadcast, NHK would air another program and apologize for the delay due to "production circumstances". Miyazaki recalled that "it was possible because it was the NHK."
Yasuo Ōtsuka was originally in charge of the key drawings in the first episode, but Miyazaki was appalled at how Lana, who was described as a beautiful girl, was depicted so poorly. Miyazaki took charge and ended up checking all the key drawings for the first eight episodes.
The story begins in July 2008, during a time when mankind is faced with the threat of extinction. A devastating war fought between two major nations with ultra-magnetic weapons far greater than anything seen earlier brings about total chaos and destruction throughout the world, resulting in several earthquakes and tidal waves, the earth thrown off its axis, its crust being rocked by massive movements, and the five continents being torn completely apart and sinking deep below the sea.
An attempt by a group of people to flee to outer space failed, with their spaceships being forced back to earth and vanishing, thus shattering their hopes. But one of the spaceships narrowly escaped destruction and crash landed on a small island which had miraculously survived the devastation. The crew members of the spaceship settled there, as if they were seeds sown on the island.
Amidst these survivors, a boy named Conan was born, bringing a new ray of hope to the earth. After several years, during which most of the other survivors had died and the only people left on the island were Conan and his grandfather, he meets a young girl named Lana and their adventure begins.
Between the different islands left in the world: Industria, High Harbor, Rambent, and others, the group travel and conflict rises between good and evil.
- Conan (コナン, Konan)
- Noriko Ohara
- The main protagonist of the series, Conan, is an 11 year old boy who grew up on the island and was raised by his grandfather. Conan is very strong, and can even hang from a ledge using only his toes. Conan is friends with Lana.
- Lana (ラナ, Rana)
- Mieko Nobusawa
- Lana is the first non-Remnant Island inhabitant, and the first girl Conan sees. Lana is the granddaughter of Dr. Lao, and Lepka wants to use her to get Lao to tell him the secret of solar power. Lana is referred to as possessing ESP, allowing her to communicate with a tern named Tikki, as well as sense the presence of her grandpa. She comes from High Harbour.
- Grandpa (おじい, Ojī
- Masato Yamanouchi
- Conan's elderly grandfather, who's alive after their spaceship crashes on the remnant island in the first episode.
- Monsley (モンスリー, Monsurī
- Rihoko Yoshida
- A young commander of Industria's armed forces, Monsley is the second non-Islander Conan sees. Piloting the flying boat Falco, she follows Lepka's orders by helping capture Lana, and eventually leading the invasion of Industria to conquer the High Habor. Ultimately after the lost battle in the High Harbor, Monsley renounces Lepka's ambitions, and joins with Conan against him.
- Jimsy (ジムシー, Jimushī
- Kazuyo Aoki
- A wild boy living alone on the first island Conan arrives at, Jimsy quickly becomes Conan's first 'companion', helping him rescue Lana. Jimsy is a master hunter, and motivated by his stomach.
- Dyce (ダイス, Daisu)
- Ichirō Nagai
- Dyce is a citizen of Industria, and the captain of the ship Barracuda. He was ordered to kidnap Lana prior to the start of series, but let her escape due to his obsession with his captive. Dyce is initially a comedic villain in the show, but eventually becomes one of Conan's allies. Orlo calls him "Uncle", a nickname he dislikes.
- Lepka (レプカ, Repuka)
- Iemasa Kayumi
- The head of administration of Industria, Lepka technically serves under the Industria High Council, a group of scientists. However, over the course of the series, he becomes the sole dictator of Industria, and the primary antagonist. Lepka desires to extract the secret of solar power from Lao to power his weapons, allowing him to rule over what remains of the world.
- Dr. Lao (ラオ博士, Rao-hakase)
- Masato Yamanouchi
- The grandfather of Lana, the main scientist responsible for the development of solar power for both civil and wartime usage. Originally a member of the Industrian High Council, he defected after he learned of Lepka's ambitions. He believes that the people of Industria must be taught to discard their weapons, and begin new lives. For this reason he escapes, bringing with him the secret of how to access the orbiting solar power station from pre-war times.
- Umasou is Jimsy's piglet, "unmasou" which means "Look Delicious" in Japan.
- The coward and the traitor of the High Harbor, he follows the Industria and has an evil plot to become a leader of High Habor then he gives a demand to everyone to give up Industria.
- Orlo's younger sister, she's injured by a rocket from Industria's soldiers and is the second leader of Orlo's men.
- Terit (テリット, Teritto)
- Rokurō Naya
- The cowardly, craven worker who once worked for "Patch" but has since betrayed him to Industria.
The series is based on American novelist Alexander Key's science fiction novel The Incredible Tide. According to producer Junzo Nakajima, he wanted to work on the project not only because it was the first anime series to be broadcast on the NHK but that he assumed it would be "family friendly" similar to other World Masterpiece Theater works by Nippon Animation. He presumed he would be working on an adaptation of Frances Hodgson's "The Secret Garden" but later changed his mind and decided to "make it an adventure for 5th and 6th grades of elementary school".
Due to the anime boom at the time, NHK decided to adapt The Incredible Tide. According to Miyazaki in an Animage interview, "NHK at first apparently favored a different story, but then they came out and said this was more interesting." Nakajima chose Hayao Miyazaki to direct, but the latter was initially reluctant. Miyazaki said he would only direct on the condition that he be allowed to alter the story and setting of the novel significantly and that Yasuo Ōtsuka was appointed as the animation director.
The original novel is a pessimistic tale with a strong ideological point of view set against a Cold War backdrop. Miyazaki was reluctant to show this type of story to children, so he significantly modified the settings and characters. Miyazaki explains, "I think that the dark quality of the original story comes from the author's intrinsically dark worldview. And in discussing the subject, it's probably hard to come up with a very optimistic answer. I think we may also see the story as dark because we live in Japan. That aside, I think it is still something we probably need to talk about. In a post-apocalyptic world, any human survivors would obviously have to possess a very powerful will to live. I know I'd want that for my own children. Rather than be told the human race is gong to be destroyed, I know I'd rather have my son thrilled by the girls he sees around him and chasing after them."
"I incorporated my own hopes in the work. It may seem odd to say this, but those lines in the animated story, where Dr. Lao talks about talking responsibility for having killed billions of humans and exterminated tens of thousands of animal and plant species-are personally meaningful to me. I really wanted to make all the characters Japanese and, if not Japanese, at least have them all the same nationality so we could totally forget about language barriers; to differentiate characters visually we did have some red-haired people appear, but I basically wanted to avoid having different races of people in the story. Also, even if Japan were to sink of sight, I thought it would be good to at least have a tip of Japan's Boso peninsula or some vast industrial complex alive. In other words, in a story like this there is a problem of distance, because if there is no means of transportation, and we have a totally unknown world, then everything is really far away."
The scenario was now set twenty years after a fictitious war nearly ended all life on Earth. Miyazaki also expressed discomfort in how the original work depicted High Harbor as the United States and Industria as the Soviet Union.
"I frankly feel frustrated by the fact that the world of Conan turned out looking a bit like the American West. I think it would have been perfect if insteado f the Barracuda ship, we'd had an old Japanese fishing boat called the Bentenmaru, and instead of knives and forks, we'd had chopsticks and china bowls, the characters demanding food in Japanese, saying 'Meshi!'"
"In the original story, the whole focus on the Soviet Union and America represents a type of arrogance, and I really hate it. And therefore it really bugs me that-despite all my efforts to eliminate this perspective from the story- some people still say that High Harbor represents America and Industria represents the Soviet Union. Thinking of the Soviet Union or of the United States in those terms is in itself a problem."
Behind the Scenes
"The first episode? To tell you the truth, when I first saw it, I thought of hanging myself. At Cinebeam, the recording studio, there's a graveyard out back and hanging rope [laughs] I thought that Lana should be so beautiful that Conan would want to devote his life to her the instant he spied her, but the Lana that appeared on the screen was so very unbeautiful!"
- —Hayao Miyazaki in a 1983 Animage interview regarding the debut of the series
The series is a co-production between an in-house animation team at Nippon Animation and OH! Production. Miyazaki found the production extremely challenging at the time stating, "When we started, we didn't have the right conditions to work on the project. We had no animation staff, and we had no art director. For episode one Nizou Yamamoto came to help for three days. I met many people like that." In an interview with an In-Between Animator named Yoko Tomizawa on Animage, Miyazaki, who had been drawing storyboards until then, elaborated on the series being his directorial debut, "It was tough, frankly. I'd been working with Paku-san (Isao Takahata) up to then, you see. In watching him, I really thought directing wasn't for me, because a director has to assume such a heavy individual responsibility. Seeing what directing involved me not try it until then."
Miyazaki had just worked on storyboarding the Akado Suzunosuke (Little Samurai) animated film, and was inexperienced in directing. He said that storyboarding was the "easier thing to do". "And the easier something is, the easier it is for me to motivate myself. It was just a silly story, without anything particularly good or bad about it. Rather than focusing on something twisted, it was just a warm story, the sort of thing that evokes a bunch of chuckles and then ends. I think this is true for lots of manga, so in this case its probably better to call Akado Suzunosuke a cartoon film, rather than animation."
Each episode averaged roughly 6,000 to 7,000 drawings. While Yasuo Ōtsuka is credited as animation director for the series, he shared responsibilities with Miyazaki, especially with regard to how Lana was depicted. Miyazaki was dissatisfied with how Lana was drawn in the first episode so he took over as animation director for several episodes. "At Nippon Animation, there were many series with 8,000 cels for twenty-two minutes on the Calpis-sponsored track. So, 7,000 cels wasn't surprising. I think it was fewer than The Perrine Story. Even for a twenty-five minute show, as long as the movement's vigorous, it looks like there's a lot of action."
The credited screenwriter wrote scripts based on the synopsis provided by Miyazaki. It was customary for the producer to require a final script be written before production begins, but in practice it was rarely done and Miyazaki drew e-konte (storyboard) directly. While the production team had initially completed several episodes before airing to act as a buffer, that quickly dwindled due to several production delays.
When describing Conan's character, Miyazaki described him on Animage magazine as, "an ordinary kid who mainly thinks about having fun in life. But humans are complex characters. And one fact about Conan is that the conditions in which le lives amplify certain aspects of his personality. He doesn't go out looking for adventure; he just does his best to stay alive in the conditions he finds himself. Conan sees the world through Lana, and Lana sees the world through Dr. Lao. And ultimately, Conan comes to embody what is most important in the world in which he lives. Even though he doesn't express it verbally, he comes to embody the vitality, resolute spirit, and understanding of others that his world needs. I personally like that the idea it is because of Conan's silent influence that Jimsy becomes happier, that Dyce tries to become more normal, and that Monsley is transformed."
Regarding Miyazaki's characterizations of Lana, he describes her duality, saying she "had a somewhat darker aspect to her character". Her concern for her grandfather, Dr. Lao, changes her personality to be more somber while being in the presence of Conan makes her more upbeat. "Conan suddenly lifts her up in his arms and starts running after her. At that point it's as if she's always been an upbeat girl, but Conan is the one who brings out this part of her personality. TO Lana, Conan is like a kid from another dimension; she has to change because of the way he suddenly acts towards her. Land is basically torn between the feelings for her grandfather and Conan... In fact, in episode eleven, Lana becomes such an upbeat kid that she probably seems like a bit of an idiot. But when Triangle Tower is liberated and all the underground residents are freed, Lana is the only one who's held back. Because of her concern for Dr. Lao, her heart starts to close up and eventually she stops being able to hear Conan. Actually, Lana herself realizes what's happening and wants to flee, but is unable."
Miyazaki reiterated his fondness for Conan, "I can say that I like boy characters like Conan. They always make me think about how old children are when they start imagining themselves as the heroes in their own fantasy stories. It seems to me that most boys are about eleven when they start imagining themselves as heroes in their stories where they have traditional roles like saving princesses, etc., so that's why I made Conan eleven. Of course, there's always something half-baked about all of this, because when my son turned twelve I always told him Conan was twelve too. I merely wanted to give shape and form to the hopes and dreams of children. But I don't think that in this story we literally have to think of the characters' age as being the same rapidly growing eleven or twelve as in the real world. Both Conan and Lana sometimes behave as adults, and sometimes as children, but in the world of cartoons, I think that's okay."
In that same Animage interview, Miyazaki elaborated on the character of Dr. Lao and his relationship with his granddaughter Lana, particularly in the final moments of the series when he tells her that it's okay to leave him and to join Conan. "With his he frees her. And when that happens, it seems to me that Lao has to die, and the line where Lana says to the dying Lao, "Conan would stop them," seems evidence to me that she is gradually shifting away from her grandfather. Without the death of Lao, Lana can never be free. She would probably have had a complex about her grandfather. I think Conan probably knew this, too. That's why, in scenes-as in episode eight-where he lifts Lana up on top of the tank, it seems to me apparent that Dr. Lao must have had an amazing anger toward other people."
"Whether we're talking about Mao Zedong or others, it's always the bad guys who try to change history dramatically, so in that sense I think Dr. Lao is essentially an evil character. He felt responsible for the destruction of the precious world, and has been living down his shame trying to act as a bridge for the next generation." Miyazaki further expounds that if the people in the underground relied purely on Conan and Lana, he believes Lao would have left them to their own devices and let them sink into the sea.
When discussing the sudden turn of Monsley, Miyazaki said he applied "emotional animation". "I should calculated more calmly what I wanted to express in directing the film, but I tend to proceed on an emotional basis. I can't do the work unless I have an emotional investment in it... When I (invest heavily in my work), I start to empathize with characters, to feel sorry for them. Monsley's such a sad case that she nearly brought tears to my eyes. So then I started feeling that I ought to do something to help her out. In trying to help her, I started to think that it would be great if she could fall in love with Conan, but Lana already existed, so that wouldn't work. and if that's not possible, then i thought of having her marry Dyce, but at that instant her eyes would have sparkled too much. In other words, she'd just turn into an ordinary woman. I like women like Monsley. They look tough and defiant, but say they're waiting for someone to make them change. When I see someone like that, I always feel like saying something gentle to them. I think what happens to people like that is not that they change while being defiant, but that they get to the point where they no longer need to be defiant. And in order for them to change, I think they need someone to appear who really understands what they're being defiant about, but understanding what's beneath the surface of their existence."
According to Miyazaki, her change in personality was decided upon seeing the greenery at High Harbor. This made her despondent, and since the Gunboat had been sunk, this made her recall her childhood. As to why she would marry someone like Dyce, Miyazaki says "it was first suggested as a joke. But then I realized that I would have to shave Monsley start to think that Dyce might not be such a bad person after all. That's the problem with Dyce. We had to gradually reveal his good qualities, and in the end this worked quite well. When Monsley becomes a more normal woman, and when she's freed from the tension that she's always felt, and no longer has to restrain herself all the time, then she's able to view things that might have once seemed utterly idiotic to her. Dyce is a total fool, and from the beginning, Monsley's always referring to him as a 'stupid' or 'fool'. But while she's using these words, the meaning of them starts to change, and Dyce starts to accept this. So bother their views change in the end."
"I could have had Monsley dump Dyce in the end, but I would have felt too sory for him, especially since so many of the crew memebers already had new babies by that point."
The series' background music and opening was composed by Shin'ichirō Ikebe. Compared to Ikebe's previous works, his work in Conan has a stronger tonal orientation and is characterized by more upbeat / bright music. The film version's score was done by Koji Fujika.
Many aspiring creators cite this work as a major influence in their careers. Mitsuru Hongo, Masayuki Masayuki, Toshiyuki Inoue, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, Hitomi Tateno, and many more. Kitarō Kōsaka, a longtime animator for Studio Ghibli, saw this work in high school and joined OH! Production, an animation studio just so he could work with Hayao Miyazaki. Tadashi Hiramatsu states that the series taught him the joy of moving pictures, and it became his jumping off point as an animator.
Yoshiyuki Tomino, who worked in the series as a storyboard artist, said that he imitated this work when directing Combat Mecha Xabungle (1982). Mamoru Oshii, who was a newcomer to the industry at the time, learned story layout after studying the storyboard collection of this series, particularly those done by Isao Takahata.
Pixar's Luca has the character Alberto, whose human form was inspired by Conan.
Attempts at sequel never left beyond the concept stage in the 1980s. Miyazaki planned to produce a second animated series based on Around the World Under the Sea on NHK, but the idea was eventually scrapped. These concepts were then recycled in the 1986 animated film, Castle in the Sky, and some were also seen in the 1990 series Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, which was directed by Hideaki Anno.
In 1999, TBS aired a spinoff series called, Future Boy Conan II: Taiga Adventure. While not directly tied to the original, the series shares a similar sense of adventure featuring the titular Taiga and his father, the archeologist Dr. Daino. They visit the continent of South America to investigate an ancient ruins discovered by treasure hunters. There they find a stone statue of a gigantic bird which stands more than 50 meters tall. To their surprise, the stone bird wakes up and flies away from the very spot it remain motionless. It turns out that the stone bird is called "Oobats" and when obtains a relic called the "Ooparts Egg", it will become a dangerous weapon which could destroy the whole universe. Taiga must hunt down the bird to prevent worldwide disaster.
Its animation and setting emphasize a sense of movement reminiscent of the original. The series also has a few returning staff from the original, such as director Keiji Hayakawa. As for the title of the work, the name Future Boy Conan II was omitted after the 15th episode.
A 123-minutes Future Boy Conan compilation movie was released in theaters on September 15, 1979. It was screened alongside the baseball anime Yakyū-kyō no Uta, which was also produced by Nippon Animation .
Hajime Sato, who previously directed live-action movies such as Terror Beneath The Sea and Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell, served as the director of the compilation film. The story was significantly modified, omitting several scenes in High Harbors and the climax with the Gigants. The theme song was re-recorded and performed by Naoko Ken, and the background music was also changed. The film also had added narration provided by Kiyoshi Kobayashi.
Key plot points were also changed, such as Dr. Bliack Lao surviving and Industria not sinking. Noriko Ohara, who played the role of Conan, re-recorded new dialogue while suffering with acute laryngitis, had revealed she had mixed feelings over the project. Fan reaction was also generally negative. The film received a home video release in 1984, but is currently out of print.
Koichi Honhashi, the president of Nippon Animation, and producer this film, and Osamu Ueno, who was a radio producer for Nippon Broadcasting Corporation, presented the story of the film adaptation. The proposal was sent to the Nippon Broadcasting Side, and the production was decided by Toei's production cooperation and distribution.
Director Hajime Sato and the screenwriter Eiichi Imado were hired by the producers at Toei. Initially, Hayao Miyazaki was set to be appointed as director, which was announced in May 1979's issue of the Animage magazine. However, Miyazaki opposed the changes made to the film's story and demanded that all 26 episodes of the TV series be screened in the theater or that a sequel be produced as a new movie. Despite his protestations, the film was released and Miyazaki chose to have his name removed in the credits.
In order to build hype for the movie's release, on July 20, 1979, 10,000 fans were gathered to hold the Conan Festival at Nippon Budokan. Series voice actors performed on stage, and the movie's version of the theme was sung by Hiroko Taniyama. Special guests include Isao Sasaki, Mitsuko Horie, Kumiko Osugi, Yutaka Mizushima, Akira Kamiya, Takashi Toyama.
Furthermore, on August 31, 1979, Nippon Broadcasting hosted a special event the day before the release of the movie called All Night Nippon performs a live broadcast of four hours. It was basically a radio drama with several special guests calling in on the phone.
On August 8, 2012, a digitally remastered version of the film was broadcast on NHK BS Premium, part of the Summer Vacation Anime Specialties.
|Screenplay||Akira Nakano (13 episodes), Satoshi Kurumi (eps 2, 4), Sōji Yoshikawa (eps 9–11, 15–22)|
|Series Director||Hayao Miyazaki (eps 1-26), Isao Takahata (eps 9–10), Keiji Hayakawa (eps 11–26)|
|Episode Director||Hayao Miyazaki (15 episodes), Isao Takahata (5 episodes), Keiji Hayakawa (5 episodes), Noboru Ishiguro (ep 11), Seiji Okuda (eps 5–6), Takayoshi Suzuki (ep 17), Yoshiyuki Tomino (eps 14, 21)|
|Animation Director||Yasuo Otsuka|
|Key Animation||Hidenori Ooshima (14 episodes), Hideo Kawauchi (eps 2, 4, 6-26), Johji Manabe (eps 8–17), Kazuhide Tomonaga (eps 11, 18–26), Kōichi Murata (eps 8-26), Masako Shinohara (eps 3-26), Nobuhiro Okasako (ep 2), Nobumasa Shinkawa (20 episodes), Nobuo Tomizawa (eps 5, 7-26), Shojuro Yamauchi (eps 8-26), Shunji Saida (eps 5, 8-26), Toshiyasu Okada (ep 7), Yasuji Mori (eps 6–7), Yoshiaki Kawajiri (ep 1), Yoshifumi Kondō (8 episodes)|
|Background Artists||Junji Kasahara (eps 8, 10–26), Masamichi Takano (20 episodes), Taizaburō Abe (eps 1–3, 6, 9–15),|
|Color Design||Michiyo Yasuda|
|Planning||Shoji Sato (Nippon Animation)|
|Animation Cooperation||Anime Toro Toro, Nakamura Productions, Studio Planning, Studio Cockpit, O Productions, Video Studio, Sakuraku Create, LIBERTY SHIP, Mad House, Production IG|
|Producer||Junzō Nakajima, Shigeo Endo|
|Scene Design||Hayao Miyazaki|
- "Secret Garden" was eventually adapted as an anime series in April 1991.
- Hayao Miyazaki Essay (1996), p435, "Talking about Conan"
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Guide Book, Tokuma Shoten (March 30, 1984)
- "We Meet Again!", Animage Bunko, Yoko Tomizawa (October 31, 1983)
- "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Roman Album Extra 61" (1984), p114.
- Oshii (2004), pp178-179
- Future Boy Conan on Amazon Japan