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2017-12-11

Future Boy Conan LaserDisc Box Set


Future Boy Conan is Hayao Miyazaki's 26-episode series that aired on Japan's NHK network in 1978. It was not a ratings hit, but the series has become a cult classic as Miyazaki's name rose to fame with the movies of Studio Ghibli. It may even be his finest achievement in animation, a perfect distillation of his many talents and personas. Action, adventure and romance crash head on into sober observations of war, decay and destruction. The buoyant, younger Miyazaki meets his cynical, older self that would soon emerge with Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind.

In the West, Conan remains virtually unknown, even among Ghibli fans. In Japan, however, the series has been widely celebrated on all the major home video formats, from VHS to Blu-Ray. Here is one excellent example of this: a glorious LaserDisc box set, featuring all 26 episodes on six discs and a large art book, all packaged in an impressive case design. This looks absolutely spectacular.

These Conan box sets are found on Ebay from time to time, and the price is quite expensive, as you would expect. At this point, it's really a conversation piece for the diehard fans. It certainly will look awesome on your bookshelf next to the other LaserDiscs and vinyl records. But would it actually be played often? Probably not, especially when a vastly superior Blu-Ray release is more easily available (and just as frightfully expensive).

Unfortunately, for English-speaking fans, no commercial release of Future Boy Conan includes English subtitles. It appears there was at least a cursory attempt at exporting the series, hence the "Engrish" title, "Conan, The Boy in Future." I don't have the heart to tell Nippon Animation that nobody actually talks like that. We've always used the direct translation of Mirai Shonen Conan, "Future Boy Conan." I just know that if we ever secured a Western release, this would become a major argument, just as we had a major fight over title "Horus, Prince of the Sun" a few years back.

I have no idea why Nippon Animation (the Japanese animation studio who holds the rights) has never successfully exported this series. Like most matters in the movie business, the answer likely comes down to money. Now that the show's creator is an internationally-famous movie director with two Academy Awards, the price tag has shot through the roof. Hey, this is their chance to cash in on that meal ticket.

Also, it must be said: there is virtually no interest or demand for Future Boy Conan in the States. Anime fans, who are largely teenagers and college students, won't touch anything they consider "old", meaning anything older than they are. They also won't touch Miyazaki or Ghibli, as they consider those too "mainstream". Ghibli fans, likewise, have little to no interest in anything Miyazaki or Takahata created before 1984. Believe me, I've tried. They like to share Totoro fan pictures. Beyond that, it's a struggle to gain any attention. Oh, well.

5 comments:

nitrateglow said...

FBC is a great series. I'm still holding out that it might get some kind of release someday, even if it's only a barebones one.

Jonathan Walmsley said...

I suppose not everyone is interested in seeing how their favourite artists started out, but I certainly am and I've watched FBC and Heidi both (and enjoyed them), and still need to get to Anne of Green Gables and 3000 Leagues.

Josh Leitzel said...

That last paragraph was so needlessly cynical, lol. And I don't know what anime fans you're associating with, but the overwhelming majority I know do not share that sentiment that Ghibli or Miyazaki is "too mainstream." I mean, most anime fans' tastes are mainstream and surface level to begin with.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Yeah, I really need to behave and not become so cranky. I hope that I've become better and more optimistic, but grouchiness is a hard habit to break. I probably should have just gone outside and burned some calories until I cheered up.

In any event, Future Boy Conan remains somewhat obscure, even among Hayao Miyazaki fans. I have no real explanation why this is so, beyond simple exposure. We finally saw the complete Studio Ghibli feature film library this year, in 2018. When I began this website, most of those movies were not only unavailable, they were completely unknown. Perhaps it will take another decade for those pre-Ghibli works to trickle down as well.

Another question: what does the anime community think of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli? Do they love him? Do they hate him? Would they just rather watch something else?

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

...And we now see clear evidence that I'm going senile and need to be heavily medicated. I published two posts about this LaserDisc box set. How do I forget such things? It's a miracle that I can dress myself at this point. Oh, well.

"They say goldfish have no memory, I guess their lives are much like mine. And the little plastic castle is a surprise every time."

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