Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More LardAss-tro Boy

A few months ago I first reported on the article about the new incarnation of Astro Boy conceived by Lily Frank, which has been "affectionately" called "LardAss-tro Boy" by fans.

Now the marketing surrounding this strange character is in full swing with new cell phones barring his likeness.

The Star Online has a new article about this bizarre interpretation of The Mighty Atom, as well as other examples of how Tezuka's classic characters are becoming more "open source" then ever before. You can read it on their website or click the link below to read it right here.

Sunday June 22, 2008
Astro Boy’s new look

ATOM-KUN, SoftBank’s new cell phone, may prove a bit of a shock for long-time fans of Astro Boy as the character on it looks nothing like the original artist’s Mighty Atom.

Osamu Tezuka’s character has been reenvisioned by popular illustrator Lily Franky with a big belly, thick lips and tiny eyes. While Astro Boy is known for having “Juman-bariki” (100,000 horsepower), Atom-kun looks run-down and laid-back.

But Atom-kun has been authorised by Tezuka Production Co. In fact, it was the company that asked Franky to make the new version of Astro Boy. “We are aware Lily is paying his respects to Mr Tezuka. We asked him to create Astro Boy in his own style,” says Yoshihiro Shimizu, the head of the copyright and operation division.
The quirky Astro Boy featured on SoftBank’s mobile phones looks decidedly different from the original creator’s version (below, right).

Yawaraka Sensha (Fragile Tank) creator Rareko has released to the Web Yawaraka Atom, a merging of the web animator’s series with the anime classic. The anime, which can be seen by clicking on anime.livedoor.com/yawaraka atom/, is another example of the characters being restyled in completely new ways. “Sure, we get complaints from old Tezuka fans,” Shimizu says.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Tezuka’s death. A decade ago, Shimizu began introducing new products based on Tezuka’s creation under what he has dubbed the “avocali system” – an amalgamation of avocado and California Roll.

“For Edo-style sushi to take off internationally, chefs had to incorporate local foods (such as avocado),” Shimizu says. “In the same sense, we felt the best way to disseminate Osamu Tezuka’s DNA was to have artists from around the world ‘cook’ his characters – even if it meant changing their look.”

The theory behind this is that it is better for the life of the character to allow popular young designers to make “secondary creations”.

Pluto, a manga by Naoki Urasawa based on Tezuka’s Astro Boy, is one such outlet.

In a more daring project, Tezuka Production allowed the public to create animations, manga and other fan fiction works, such as those found at Comic Market, by using all of Tezuka’s characters at Open Post. On the site, launched by groups including the Association of Japanese Animations, under the direction of Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, works were posted and discussed interactively by creators, users and others. The project ran for five months, ending in March.

Shimizu says his firm is ready to work with any particularly talented artists it might find.

Not to be outdone, the global film industry is having its own go at the character, which has a healthy following overseas. Hong Kong’s Imagi Animation Studios has a CGI version of Astro Boy slated to hit theatres in 2009, with Freddie Highmore voicing the main character, according to www.imdb.com.

Thanks to this strategy, which can be compared to the open source system used in the software world, there has been a rise in revenue from Astro Boy licensing in recent years. The large-mindedness of the production company, in which model changes and parodies are welcomed, may open new possibilities in the character business, distinguishing it from the example set by the Walt Disney Co, for example.

But doesn’t that lead to the loss of the original Astro Boy’s identity? “Shakespeare’s Hamlet is ultimately the same no matter how it is presented, isn’t it?” Shimizu rebuts. – The Daily Yomiuri / Asia News Network


Anonymous said...

I didn't know... thanks!