FUMOON (TV special)
Essentially a movie adaptation of the Nextworld manga, was, like Marine Express which followed it, one of twelve TV specials produced as charity works for the Charity show "Ai way Chikyu wo Suku". It was broadcast in 1980.
Nuclear testing has resulted in the abrupt evolution of the Fumoon, a tiny but highly intelligent humanoid race on a small island, who are detected by Dr. Yamadano. Except for a few witnesses including the detective Shinsaku Ban, and the young men Rock and Kenichi and Kenichi’s sister Pichi (Pinoko), no one believes him. The Fumoon are kidnapping animals from around the world to bring with them as they use their space ships to evacuate the earth, because they know Earth is shortly to be destroyed by an enveloping cloud of black gas created by a stellar explosion. The Fumoon intend to abandon mankind, but one Fumoon, Rokoko, who becomes good friends with Kenichi, tries to help Dr. Yamadano and the others to develop a space ship to allow a few humans to escape, with the help of Dr. Ochanomizu and Dr. Frankenstein.
Major cast: Kenichi, Rock, Higeoyaji (Shunsaku Ban), Dr. Yamadano, Dr. Ochanomizu, Rednof (Duke Red), Ganata (Lamp), Notarin.
While the film sticks strictly to the larger plot of the Nextworld manga, there are a number of significant differences. The story begins with Dr. Yamano’s discovery of the Fumoon, not of the space gas. Many of these changes seem to pertain to correcting problems in the structure of the original manga which were caused by the large sections which were cut before publication, and which left many dangling characters and plot elements. For example, Kenichi’s many strange roommates, who were already largely out of place in the original manga since much of their materiel was cut, appear only very briefly. Much of the military and political drama, including the saga of Rock as he is trained as a spy and captured and enslaved by the enemy, has been omitted, leaving his part very small. While the military conflict between Japan and Russia is preserved, it is very simple without much ideological debate or character participation. Kenichi is largely unchanged, as are Rokoko and most of the scientists. Lamp, the scheming capitalist who tries to exploit the panic over the development of the escape rocket, is still present, though much more peripherally.
As is typical of animated adaptations of Tezuka’s work, Fumoon is much simpler and more optimistic than the original. The characters suffer less and are less transformed by their suffering, the political intrigues are simpler, and the overall environmentalist and pacifist messages are more heavy-handed, especially in the ending. Still, its portrayal of the darker sides of human nature, particularly in the world’s reactions to its impending destruction (riots, wars, even self-destructive attacks on the escape ships) remain quite powerful. Many of the background details of the world are interesting, from the very creative mutated insects resident on the Fumoon home island, to the cityscapes where plants grow in jars, implying an environment in which they cannot live otherwise. While this is far from the best of Tezuka’s animated works, it remains an interesting specimen of science-fiction of its day, and is worth watching for any enthusiast of Tezuka, or of sci-fi animation.