I can’t believe that I am writing about this. 2021 Had a lot of miracle announcements and releases of anime that would not have been possible otherwise. Maybe the pandemic is the price. Future Boy Conan has never made it to the United States until now. That is such a crazy thing considering that this is Hayao Miyazaki’s directional debut of anime. For real though. Him with Takahashi doing storyboards. Also, Yoshiyuki Tomino did some storyboards for this series too. All of this in 1978 before everyone got so much more famous for so many other works we know them from in North America. I say this because everywhere else in the world got a release but here. Why? Where was this anime for my entire life?
Have you ever watched a piece of media that was missing your entire life and you didn’t know it yet? This was me with Future Boy Conan. Not because every Miyazaki movie came from this series, but it pieces together parts of the anime historical narrative that was missing in my head. Let’s talk about something simple like Dragon Ball. The beginning and/or backstory of Goku and how he was found, besides the space alien stuff and a tail, comes from Future Boy Conan. Even the first part of how Dragon Ball is played being for martial arts is this story on a lot of levels. And there is so many other parts of anime that somehow click too. That one scene in Eizouken aside, there is so many pieces of anime that feels influenced from this.
With the world destroyed in 2008 from ultra-magnetic weapons, The Earth was filled with chaos. Tsunamis and earthquakes and so many other things caused continents to sink, have new continents form, and who knows what else? The point is that the human population almost went entirely extinct. Some people flew into space to escape it and who knows what else happened that allowed other people did to survive into it. Born in 2010, the protagonist Conan was raised by a group of former astronauts on a small island called Remnant Island and he was born into that world. Eventually it was just Conan and a man he called grandpa living together with no one else on Earth even alive. For now. Yup.
One day a girl named Lana washed up onto shore of Remnant Island. The two Miyazaki children are meeting. After Conan fought and killed a shark for food. Lana is an incredibly special girl that is the only granddaughter of the man who can run Industria’s solar powered system. So obviously, she is chased by some evil people from that mysterious Industria place and they show up immediately to take her back. This is where the story of Future Boy Conan starts and I feel knowing a lot of Miyazaki works, especially earlier ones, will get the viewer to know mostly what happens in this series without me saying anything else. Not in a bad way its good. This is Twenty-Six Miyazaki short films and its wonderful.
Everything about the world of Future Boy Conan is so meticulously thought out. For instance, this series feels so small in the ways that it should because this is the last pocket of humanity. There are five distinct locations that the series presents. Remnant Island, a random island Conan and others stop at, High Harbor or the Miyazaki dream world of farming in a small town, the all metal Industria that is slowly being taken over by an insane person, and a singular barge area where people are raising a boat. Each one has their own wonderful sense of identity ingrained into them that you know the instant characters go to a location. It is a living and breathing world that feels realistic.
The cast is similarly placed into groups like that too. A wonderful efficient but minimal series that makes it so believable and gives each person such a distinct personality. For instance, there is the pilot Monsley who greatly places so many things into their character besides how focused and determined they are for Industria. Same with Dyce who is the ship captain in the series and is in between the people of High Harbor and Industria because he’s a pirate. Lana and her grandpa (Dr. Lao) are the connecting tissue between it all. Lepka is the bad Miyazaki guy. Jimsy is Conan’s friend and Conan is the great protagonist who everyone relies on to solve problems. Simple but wonderful characters besides Lepka.
What is even better is how there is a believable and thought-out water table situation in this show and that the shaping of the world fall and moving apart shapes the entire story. I mean, the story does become every character in the show working together to defeat Lepka and his evil gigantic plane after some plot changes right? Well, the world’s storms and changing geographic state help decide the fate of so many people. High Harbor is saved from an attack during a gigantic tidal wave. Natural wildlife left the area to tell everyone something wrong is about to happen. Same with Industria lying on a tectonic plate which is slowly breaking apart due to Earthquakes. The geography matters.
This series looks so fantastic for a show from 1978. Its expected because this is Miyazaki right? He has high standards in how he wants to do everything. Same with how its produced because this is not an episode of the week series that relies on stock footage. There is no stock footage. Besides some noticeably clear minimalism with locations and story, the animation in this show is fantastic. I love the pretty standard Miyazaki character designs in this story that are simple and expressive yet streamlined to be animator friendly. All of that allowing such wonderful expressive animation from how they move to just being cartoony together as well. This show is so beautiful for having all these moments that are Miyazaki staples.
On a mechanical level, there is so many details placed on all its machinary. There are some obviously cut backs like the hallways of Industria that are the same location repeated, but that makes sense considering how the building is put together. Each piece of tech feels believable with how they work in real life as well. For instance, how work and raising a mast of a ship works or how about raising a sunken ship from the water. All including the huge airplane the Gigant as well. There is so many believable places of gears and joints and other things involved with the whole thing in that all parts can be broken too or fixed in believable ways. All big Miyazaki staples that help create the worlds he wants to make.
Future Boy Conan is such a special series that I wish I watched earlier in my life. Having the G-Kids blu-ray release is fantastic to finally hold in my hands. I love that it is legally watchable at such a high quality. This is a fantastic transfer that you can see all the scratches put into every single frame and I like seeing all the flaws when this series because it helps to make it feel more human. This is obviously an anime for kids to love and enjoy, but its great family entertainment that everyone will enjoy. It can capture every single person’s imagination so easily without any major question at all. This is one of my new favorite anime series and every anime fan should watch it at some point in their lives. Its that good.