Ganso Tensai Bakabon Episode 3
Episode 3 of Ganso Tensai Bakabon is finally subbed, and as with episode 2 we see more hitherto-novices in the anime industry suddenly coming to the fore and cutting their teeth as staffers on this show. The results, as expected, are fairly ropey, yet nevertheless historically significant.
The first segment, written by Yoshiaki Yoshida, is a fairly middling showcase for Papa’s blatant disregard for others’ well-being as long as he gains enjoyment from a given situation. In this case, after using the family’s fall cleaning as an excuse to beat Bakabon like a tatami mat, he reads an old newspaper that claims it’s April Fools’ Day and decides to fake losing his arm as a way of messing with his family and a desperate doctor.
This segment’s lack of finesse can be attributed in part to how this was the directorial debut of Hideo Takayashiki, who was essentially Dezaki’s other main protégé at Madhouse in the mid-70s besides Yoshio Takeuchi; he had already been working for some time as a writer, most recently on Ganba no Bouken. His largely pedestrian direction in this episode is compounded by the wonky animation of Doga Kobo, specifically studio co-founder and president Megumu Ishiguro and Kazuo Tomizawa; their movement can be very fluid at times, as in the scene of Papa panicking after the enraged doctor declares he’ll kill him, but more often their animation and character drawings are workmanlike, lacking in the sheer energy and fun that characterizes the show at its best. This was the first of seven segments during the show’s early period to be outsourced to Doga Kobo, and unfortunately none of them turned out especially good.
There are several moments in the first segment of episode 3 that look as though either Megumu Ishiguro or Kazuo Tomizawa were trying to draw the characters “realistically”, with standard human proportions and features, and frankly it does not look right at all.
Perhaps they just weren’t a good fit for the show. Although Tomizawa had been an inbetweener on The Gutsy Frog at Studio Z, with Ganso even appearing to be the first time he regularly served as a key animator, he and Ishiguro went on to be prolific on projects that were generally on the other end of the spectrum from the likes of Gutsy and Ganso, in particular various Toei shows of the period like Ikkyū-san and Candy Candy. Indeed, Tomizawa would become a regular animator on Dezaki’s immediate post-Ganso works (Nobody’s Boy Remi, Takarajima, Ace wo Nerae! 1979) and then a top animation director at Madhouse in the 1980s (Barefoot Gen, among others); Ishiguro, meanwhile, has been active as a storyboarder and animation director up to the present day, with his greatest recent involvement being Kenji Nakamura’s masterpiece Mononoke (as storyboarder of the final arc).
The second segment, written by Haruya Yamazaki, is by far the better episode thanks to the same stellar team that created the show’s very first segment, namely Dezaki-lite director Yoshio Takeuchi and the A Pro trio of Yoshifumi Kondō, Michishiro Yamada, and Shinichi Ōtake. Unlike the essentially amoral Bakadad of that segment (and of the first segment in this half-hour), here Papa is gracious enough to help a struggling father-and-son food stand on a cold night by eating several bowls of their shaved ice, resulting in his body going completely cold—and fueling rumors amongst his university buddies that he has died. After an extended confrontation with a skeptical Omawari-san, Papa encounters a real octopus ghost who tries to kill him and Bakabon after they uncover his true identity, only for Bakada University’s Funeral Club to revert him back to a dead octopus; ultimately, Papa and Bakabon land in the hospital from trying to eat the corpse, their faces transformed into those of octopuses. (‘Tis worth mentioning that, at one point, the octopus ghost belts out the main lyrics of Tokiko Katō’s 1970 song “Kaeritai Kaerenai”.)
Great staging by Yoshio Takeuchi with art director Shichirō Kobayashi and his protégé Kazuo Oga, from the second segment of episode 3.
As expected, Takeuchi makes the nonsensically spooky story much more interesting with some fairly cinematic staging and occasional stylistic flourishes: witness, for instance, the candle-lit sequence of Bakabon meeting the octopus ghost, or the rapid, colorful flurry of stars that ensues as Bakabon and Papa violently tear the ghost’s garment off and reveal his octopus legs. Kondō and his team, as usual, do a fine job bringing the characters to life, with an abundance of beautiful drawings, nuanced gestures, and moments of fast-paced, manic action; I particularly like the introduction of Papa’s university buddies, in which their singing is rhythmically interrupted by spasmodic outbursts of crying. Another highlight is the scene of Omawari-san reacting in terror to Papa’s cold hand, which convinces him that Papa is a ghost; the animation here particularly strikes me as being Kondō’s work, as no one else at A Pro was quite as adept at creating such crazed movement.
It seems whoever typeset the end credits in this episode had an off day or even strongly disliked the first segment of episode 3. The title card for that episode is conspicuously missing its screenplay (脚本) and director (演出) credits, and Doga Kobo inbetweener Masayoshi Kobayashi (小林正義) is misspelled as “Masayoshi Komura” (小村正義).