26 Days of Future Boy Conan - Episode 01
Episode 01 - Remnant Island
My apologies for writing this so late. My plan for the evening Future Boy Conan post is something more reasonable, like 7pm Central Time. But I was hiking outside in search of food...which ended up being burned in the oven. Oops. But on the bright side, I discovered what the "broil" dial on the oven means.
Anyway...the pilot episode of Conan. This is one densely packed episode! In the course of 25 minutes, we are given a backstory, introduction to most of the major characters and the larger world, the basic framework of the larger themes, and the beginning of the relationship between Conan and Lana. I count around a dozen items of interest in my notes. I could easily imagine myself watching this episode over and over in anticipation for the next week's show.
Right at the beginning, we see the apocalypse that destroys civilization, and nature's eventual restoration of the world. This is one of the signature Miyazaki themes in his Studio Ghibli films. Also, what jabs at me immediately is how terrific the music is. There are really only a handful of basic themes - comedy music, chase music, resolution music - but it's all so wonderfully catchy and never fails to keep a smile on my face. The music is one of the very best things about Future Boy Conan.
In this first episode, we're introduced to Conan as a buzzsaw of boyish energy, as he's pretty much constantly dashing, jumping, leaping, or carrying people or things. He has that terrific underwater fight with a giant shark, which is something of an homage to Yasuo Otsuka's legendary giant fish fight in Horus, Prince of the Sun. This sequence is meticulously planned and executed; and it's definitely funny - catch the gag with Horus and the car door. And is it just me, or does this fight scene remind you of all those car chases from TV shows 30 years ago?
Lana is introduced as something of a Magical Girl, shares some traits with Hilda, but also reminds me a lot of Fio, the lead girl from 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother. Lana pretty much has the same outfit, too, other than a change in color. She also quickly establishes herself as someone who's quite smart, enough so that she towers over poor Conan like an older sister. Then again, if she's so smart, why is she constantly getting herself kidnapped so many times? I may have to keep a running tally of just how many cliffhangers involve Lana in some sort of danger.
Oh, and let's not forget our new favorite drinking game. "COONAN!" "LANAAAA!!!" If anyone reading this works in film or television, I have a request: Next time a scene calls out for some kids to shout out "Marco Polo" at a swimming pool, make it "Conan Lana" instead. Thanks.
Let's see...what else did we have in this pilot episode? We have Miyazaki's Amazing Flying Machines, in the spaceships at the beginning and the seaplane at the end. We were introduced to High Harbor and Industria, two islands which mirror the series' overall conflict between man and nature, that great Miyazaki staple. We have a very interesting break halfway through the show; NHK is a public television network, but Miyazaki and company still wanted a "commercial" break in the middle, just to make it easier for the pacing. So they introduced the flipping pictures, which is something of a novelty in Japan. Watch how those panels change as more characters are introduced to the series.
As far as riffs go, I spied references and allusions to Horus, Heidi, Animal Treasure Island, Castle in the Sky, and Nausicaa. I didn't keep a specific tally, because I just wanted to watch casually and enjoy the experience. But I do think that "Miyazaki Riffs" should become a mandatory drinking game for fans. If you've at least watched Horus and all the Ghibli movies, you'll handle yourself very nicely, and become very sloshed in no time at all.
I had a lot of fun with Conan's pilot episode. Most "first episodes" are largely setup and exposition, anyway, so the fact that we get a couple chase scenes, some slapstick comedy, and numerous locals is all very nice. The cliffhanger is suitably thrilling, and it is welcoming that they are genuine thrillers; I assure you that there will be no false, Rocky and Bullwinkle cliffhangers on this show.
Alright, that's it for episode one of Conan. In the next episode, Conan tries to rescue Lana from danger by tearing apart the seaplane with a spear, and sails the seas in his own boat. It's not as cool as the root beer barrel boat in Animal Treasure Island, but, then, what is?
(P.S. When I tried to publish this post, Blogger wouldn't let me. I swear it fed me HAL the Computer's line from 2001: "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't do that.")