Episode 03 - The First Companion
Episode Summary: Conan arrives at an island where a wild boy, Jimsy lives. After an initial fight, Conan develops a good friendship with Jimsy. The Baracuda comes to the same island getting the inhabitants to salvage for plastic. After Conan runs rampant with one of Dice's robots, he finds out the Barracuda is from Industria, he and Jimsy plan to stow away.
Aha, now we're getting to the good stuff...The Jimsy Episode! This is one of my favorite episodes in Future Boy Conan. We have perilous storms, Conan's really cool boat, a new island, the Barracuda's goofy walking robots, and the star of tonight's show: Jimsy! What's so great about Jimsy, and why is he the greatest Miyazaki character you've never heard of? Well....he has his own island, he chases lizards, he gives away smoked frogs to everyone he meets, he steals smokes, he smokes - can you tell a bunch of Japanese chain-smokers made this cartoon?
Jimsy is the anti-social wiseacre of the series. He fits into a nice space along the Conan-Lana-Jimsy axis, and the three form the main nucleus of the show. I'm sure it was a challenge to create a character who is, essentially, a third banana, the best friend who gets in the way of the romance. Miyazaki and crew thought this out pretty wisely, and it's best to let Jimsy have all the laughs. From this point on, Conan will play less the clown and more the romantic hero, and Jimsy will stampede around like a bull in a china shop.
The initial showdown between Conan and Jimsy calls for some terrific comedy, and you can see how much fun the animators were having on this episode. Each boy tries to one-up the other, first boasts, then stunts, then the mad galloping around the hills and trees. I love the bit where they're trying to out-shove the other, getting stuck in a tree like the Three Stooges. It ends, naturally, because some new distraction pops up, and by this point, they've already bonded. Heh heh.
Once again, I am struck by the pacing of this series. Scenes are given the space to breathe, to play out naturally. We are not being assaulted every second with explosions, movie cliches, or stupid one-liners. Have you seen that preview trailer for the upcoming cartoon, The Governator? That is exactly what I'm talking about. It's so unbelievably stupid and comically bad that you almost need proof it isn't a parody or a late April Fools Day joke. Are we really getting Arnold Schwartzenegger as a superhero in cyborg armor and a Tron light cycle? Did he really do that Matrix slo-mo move? Did they really steal from Iron Man? Really? I'm going to need to see some ID from everybody involved.
That's the key between Hayao Miyazaki and the standard American cartoon - sincerity versus cynicism. Most American cartoons are green-lighted by suits who have zero respect for the audience. They're just a bunch of stupid kids, a pack of suckers. Besides, hardly any cartoon show has a chance unless there's a lucrative toy line backing it up, which threatens to make every 1980s toy-commercial-slash-cartoon the standard. How did Spongebob ever manage to navigate this minefield and still thrive? Ah, thank goodness for that. At least we have one great cartoon on the airwaves.
True artists like Miyazaki don't care, frankly, if the studio bosses approve or if the audience even bothers to show up. He has a story to tell and he tells is masterfully. I can't imagine a series like Future Boy Conan ever getting anywhere in this country. It's too honest. It's too sincere. American cartoons are cruel by comparison, cruel and stupid and cynical. Spongebob's the only good guy in the bunch. Conan and Jimsy would like Spongebob.