Starring Yuu Mizushima, Mami Koyama, Masatō Ibu, Iemasa Ieyumi, Kaneta Kimotsuki
Directed by Osamu Tezuka
Osamu Tezuka has a large catalog of creations beyond his most famous one, Astro Boy. Bander Book may be one of the more minor entries in that catalog, but it isn’t without some significance. This was the first of a series of TV movies made once per year beginning in 1978, so it kicked off a series of films that helped bring Tezuka’s creations to a new generation of viewers.
Tezuka’s visual style takes some getting used to. Despite having defined the genre, his designs look very little like anime as we know it today. It carries a very cutesy and childish impression that reflects his own influences from western animators such as Walt Disney and Max Fleischer. Since this is a children’s film, the art style fits naturally here. Although, Western audiences will no doubt be startled by the nudity. There’s some cultural disconnect here. Japan never considered bare breasts to be particularly taboo until American influence after World War II changed things. Nowadays, I wonder just how much the nudity would surprise even Japanese viewers.
The aliens raise the boy and name him Bander, teaching him their policy on never killing. They go so far as to cut the tails off animals, so they can eat meat without killing. His adopted sister falls in love with him, and he’s pretty happy with that. They aren’t blood relatives, so they figure that’s good enough.
Black Jack kidnaps Bander and dumps him on a desert planet, thus beginning Bander’s quest to find out who his real parents were and why they were killed. From here the movie bounces from space opera, to western, to a goofy horror mansion reminiscent of something from Scooby Doo, then some to time travel, and on to an Orwellian future dystopia. It’s a pretty meandering quest. While Bander’s goal is always at the forefront of his decisions, there’s often a sense that his current predicaments have little to do with anything.
There’s a lighthearted sense of humor that permeates this tale, even when it deals with the more depressing concepts of human savagery and a Big Brother government run by a despotic computer. If you’re fond of old Looney Tunes cartoons, then this humor will be right up your alley. It does make the mood of this film difficult to pin down, though. On the one hand it deals with disturbing moral implications about humanity as a species, but then it does so with cheerful exuberance.
Bander Book is tons of fun if you’re ready for it, and it would even make a great children’s film provided you won’t get too upset at the idea of little Johnny seeing drawings of boobies in completely nonsexual situations. Or even worse, he’ll see a quick overview of evolution! GASP!
And if you live in the US and my review has piqued your interest, you can watch it freely (and legally) at Anime Sols. You’ll have to register for their site (also free) and dig it up in the section called 24 Hour TV Specials where they also keep the next two annual TV movies that followed Bander Book.
No trailer, but I do have a small clip from the film you can checkout.