Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2000: An Anime Odyssey

By David Luhrssen
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For years, Japanese anime has been all the rage in Western mass culture (Pokemon) and among the cognoscenti (Akira). As far back as the 1960s anime began penetrating America. One early example was the popular TV cartoon series “Gigantor.” The initial 26 episodes, first aired in 1964, have been packaged in a DVD set, “Gigantor: The Collection-Vol. 1.” Anyone interested in Japan’s contribution to world popular culture will want to have a look at the DVD, out on May 5.

Set in far the away year 2000, “Gigantor” began life in the ‘50s as a Japanese magazine cartoon by Mitsuteru Yokoyama and became a television program there before being adapted for American audiences. The show starred a saucer-eyed boy of uncertain ethnicity, Jimmy Sparks, whose robot, Gigantor, fought evildoers on land, in the air and at sea. Shot in black and white and scarcely fluid in motion, the “Gigantor” seen in the U.S. was puerile in content, but set the stage in form for the more sophisticated anime films of coming years.

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