Posted by psgels on 7 November 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews

Hayao Miyazaki scares me. Back in the late seventies, when anime wasn’t even twenty years old, it was really starting to evolve and mature, resulting in quite a few early masterpieces. There was one thing however that all of them had notable difficulties with, though: the inbetween and cleanup animation. And here Hayao comes and animates Conan with such a consistent crispness that was completely unheard of at the time. It would take the rest of anime five to seven year to come that kind of refinement. How the heck did this guy accomplish all of that?

I mean, this guy knows like no other how to make something mainstream with his innocent yet exciting storylines. Mirai Shounen Conan is pretty much the base of what every children’s adventure should be: a lead couple, exciting, yet varied action scenes, villains who actually know what they’re doing and aren’t complete pushovers (plus, they use actual gunpowder guns, not those phony laser-guns), a solid story without any plot-holes or cheesy deus ex machina, a balance between action scenes and build-up that can both be playfully childish and able to take itself seriously, never taking itself too far to become unbelievable, yet putting constant tension on the characters. This series is so incredibly solid, it must have made a HUGE impact on 1978, and the way that its formula is still being used today, it must have had an immense influence as it played a major part in Miyazaki’s role in revolutionizing anime.

And yet, I do feel a bit disappointed: I expected more from this. Part of this has to do with the premise being used so often now that it hardly held any surprises. Heck, even Miyazaki himself revisited the general premise here with Castle in the Sky. Out of all of the works I’ve seen from him, this probably is the one that aged the least well.

But even beyond that, I kept feeling like this series was missing something. This show has an incredibly solid base, but beyond that I feel like it did very little to spice itself up. There is surprisingly little character-development, and Conan and Lana as a main couple don’t seem to develop at all, and weren’t really interesting enough to really keep my attention. Conan also has this huge amount of strength in him. I can understand why this was done for the action and to keep the plot going, but it also rather makes this series a bit too predictable for its own good when his only weakness is not being able to be at two places at the same time. When the once smart villains also get completely stupid and arrogant near the end of this series, I do feel like this series could have been much more in terms of its plot and characters.

I am a big fan of both Miyazaki and children’s adventures, but I have to be honest and say that I didn’t enjoy it as some other anime of those genre. If I watched it as a child I have no doubt that I would have loved it, but when you look at the same year in which this series was made: 1978, I just have to admit that I liked Captain Hardlock and Perrine Monogatari’s stories and characters a lot better. Technically speaking, it’s one of the most solid tv-series of its decade though, make no mistake about that.

Storytelling: 8/10 – This series both contains exciting adventures and down to earth drama and they blend quite well. Solid in just about everything it does, but could have taken more risks.
Characters: 7/10 – Could have been better: the lead couple isn’t interesting enough to carry this show, the side characters have their charms but they don’t stand out, and the main villain gets too stereotypical near the end.
Production-Values: 8/10 – For the standards of more than thirty years ago, the animation was fantastic. Today, it still looks good. The soundtrack in contrast is used surprisingly sparingly, if used at all. That could definitely have been used better for a better atmosphere.
Setting: 8/10 – A solid post-apocalyptic back-story, with Miyazaki’s usual pet peeves of airplanes and environmentalism.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold
Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Romeo’s Blue Skies

5 Responses

  1. Avatar Denizen says:

    I’m sort of disappointed I was never given the chance to watch this as a kid – I probably would have fallen in love with it. There’s a unique atmosphere of that classic childhood adventure, I wonder why it’s so unknown?

  2. Avatar Solaris says:

    I watched this on TV when i was a kid too! Think my TV was B/W at that time :O I literally felt in love with it, and the Italian music was also awesome (and poetic too) [Here it is: as for the lyrics i cant do nothing now]. They used to re-do ops and eds sung in Italian at that time, but the result was often pretty good. Another awesome music was Herlock’s one.
    But i’m digressing here ^^
    I’m pretty sad to hear Psgels opinion here. It’s clearly the opinion of someone grown up in another era. 10 or 20 years difference is something huge nowadays. A 70’s serie is somehow old compared to the shows we’re watching today. Anime was once less refined both in the plot and the visuals, but yet Conan was beyond the quality anime used to have at that time. The plot was important but nobody cared less if the villain was a little dull or Conan was too strong. Conan won your simpaty by his strenght and his neverending good attitude. It was something like a reference for the kids of that time, and teached them to become strong to protect their loved ones and behave good. Little char development you say? What about Monsuri and Capt Dyce? They show a complete change of heart during the serie. Conan, the good and bad alligned main chars show little development as they’re meant to set up a reference for the youn viewers. Keep in mind that anime was mainly aimed at children once with respect to present day.

  3. Avatar evolstar says:

    I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was for this show but what you said put it into words. I love the story but characters are important to me too and Conan and Lana didn’t change whatsoever. I would love to watch Les Miserables since you’ve praised it so many times but they have to finish subbing it first.

  4. Avatar GPrieto says:

    Solaris, I agree with you. A really good comment. Today is not easy to find series for children like ‘Mirai Shounen Conan’. Good anime series for children are scarce. And
    I can only think on two of them that make the job in the last years: ‘Dennö Coil’ and ‘Kemono no Souja Erin’.

  5. Avatar signorRossi says:

    I also agree with psgels that something is missing, but then again I didn’t watch it as a child, either (I wonder why, since I am probably of the same age as Solaris and have seen everything Goldrake, but maybe it was broadcasted by a station I couldn’t get in my ‘remote’ area). I also would have loved it, though, no doubt about that.
    But psgels, Miyazaki was already capable delivering a ‘perfect’ anime movie, if you haven’t watched ‘Lupin: Castle of Caglistro already, watch it NOW!

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