Future Boy Conan (未来少年コナン, Mirai Shōnen Konan) is a Japanese post-apocalyptic science fiction anime series, which premiered across Japan on the NHK General TV channel between April 4 and October 31, 1978, on the Tuesday 19:30-20:00 timeslot. The official English title used by Nippon Animation is Conan, The Boy in Future. It is an adaptation of American science-fiction writer Alexander Key's 1970 novel The Incredible Tide.
A spin-off series, Future Boy Conan II: Taiga Adventure (未来少年コナンII タイガアドベンチャー, Mirai Shōnen Konan Tsū: Taiga Adobenchā), aired for 24 episodes on TBS from October 16, 1999 through April 1, 2000. The original main staff did not work on the spin-off, and it is not connected to the original in terms of story.
An attempt by a group of people to flee to outer space failed, with their spaceships being forced back to earth and vanishing, thus shattering their hopes. But one of the spaceships narrowly escaped destruction and crash landed on a small island which had miraculously survived the devastation. The crew members of the spaceship settled there, as if they were seeds sown on the island.
Amidst these survivors, a boy named Conan is born in October 2010, bringing a new ray of hope to the survivors. After several years, during which most of the other survivors had died and the only people left on the island were Conan and his grandfather, Conan meets a young girl named Lana, and their adventure begins. Between the different islands left in the world, including Industria, High Harbor, Remnant, and others, the young group of adventurers travel and conflict rises between good and evil people. Throughout the series a pure love story develops between Conan and Lana.
Conan is an adventurous 11-year-old boy who was born on Remnant Island and raised by his grandfather after the Great Disaster. Conan is very attuned to his rural, secluded lifestyle. For his size and age, he is very clever, immensely strong, an exceptional athlete and swimmer, and can hold his breath for more than three minutes. He is also proficient with his spear, particularly at throwing it. Despite his lack of social exposure, he is gentle and kind. Deciding to rescue Lana in a self-constructed sailboat after his Grandfather's killing and Lana's subsequent capture, Conan meets new friends and acquaintances while becoming caught up in Lepka's plots for Industria and High Harbor.
Lana is a quiet, soft-spoken girl from High Harbor and the granddaughter of Dr. Lao, to whom she is devoted. Lana, who is also 11, is discovered by Conan, unconsciously washed up on the shore, as the first person other than his grandfather whom Conan meets. After a period of being held captive by Dyce, she follows Conan's group through Industria in an attempt to find her grandfather. Pursued by Industria, Lepka intends to capture her as hostage in order to obtain the secret of solar power from Dr. Lao. Lana is referred to as possessing telepathy, allowing her to communicate with a tern named Tikki, as well as sense the presence of her grandfather. With her affection for Conan, she begins to form a close telepathic rapport with him as well.
A wild boy living alone on the first island Conan arrives at, Jimsy quickly becomes Conan's first friend, helping him rescue Lana. Jimsy is a master hunter (with a particular preference for grilled frogs), proficient with his bow and able to draw with Conan in a race, although his constant desire of filling his stomach tends to get him into trouble. Jimsy ends up spending most of his time with Dyce after Conan and Lana are separated from the party. Initially, Jimsy has a negative view on women, but he gradually forms a relationship with Tera at the end of the series.
The head of administration of Industria, Lepka technically serves under the Industria High Committee, a group of benevolent but naive scientists. However, over the course of the series he becomes the sole dictator of Industria, and the primary antagonist. Cruel and power-hungry, Lepka desires to extract the secret of solar power from Dr. Lao to power his weapons, which would allow him to rule over what remains of the world.
The grandfather of Lana, and the scientist responsible for the development of solar power for both civil and wartime usage. Originally a member of Industria's High Council, he defected after he learned of Lepka's power-driven ambitions, and hid under the cover identity of a hard-handed salvaging crew captain named Patch. He believes that the people of Industria must be taught to discard their weapons and begin new lives in peace. For this reason he escaped, bringing with him the secret of how to access an orbiting solar power station left over from pre-war times.
The young assistant director of Industria's Administration forces. As a young girl, she was her family's only survivor when the final war broke out and the Earth was devastated; and as a result of that tragedy, she became a harsh, uncaring enforcer. She is tasked by Lepka to capture Lana, and eventually leads the invasion of Industria against High Harbor. However, as she encounters Conan, she is gradually swayed by his unwavering courage and sincerity, and eventually joins him and his friends in taking down Lepka.
Dyce is a citizen of Industria, and the captain of the plastic-salvaging ship Barracuda. He was originally ordered to track down Dr. Briac Lao, Lana's grandfather, and convey the girl to Industria, but ended up developing an affection for Lana, enabling her to escape to Remnant Island. Fed up with Lepka's cruelty towards Lana, he eventually becomes one of Conan's allies, helping to overthrow Industria's regime in their exploits. He is a comically inept character, and often makes it out alive only by pure luck in his fights with Industria's forces.
The leader of an underground cell composed of Industria's lower-class/slave citizenry. He is an old ally of Dr. Lao in the latter's attempts to improve the lives of the city's downtrodden people, and was repeatedly arrested and charged for rebellion. During one stint in prison, he and his compatriots are freed by Conan and in turn aid him and his friends in navigating the underground city beneath Industria's Triangle Tower, which is riddled with secret passages only the resistance knows about.
Orlo is the leader of a rogue gang based in the mountains of High Harbor, who tax whoever the gang catches crossing their territory. He originates from a village of herders on the other side of High Harbor island, but turned into a bullying outlaw after he found honest work to be unsatisfactory for living an easy life. He plots to become the leader of High Harbor, and thus cooperates with the Industrians when they invade the island, bringing down the villager's defenses. However, when a tidal wave hits the island and the Industrians subsequently surrender, his plans are permanently dashed. In the end, he finds his place back among his fellow islanders.
Orlo's younger sister, about the same age as Conan and Jimsy, and the deputy leader of Orlo's men. She and Jimsy quickly take a liking to each other, but their radically diverging views of life prevent them from reaching a common ground at first. During the Industrian invasion of High Harbor, she is rescued by Jimsy and Conan, which breaks down the barrier between them, and they become a couple.
Conan's adopted elderly grandfather, who raised him on Remnant Island. Originally part of a crew of people escaping from the largely destroyed Earth, their spaceship crashed back down, miraculously landing on Remnant Island, with all the members surviving, including Conan's grandfather. With every other crew member dying soon after Conan's birth, he was left to raise Conan alone for 11 years, taking him as his adopted Grandson. However, after being attacked by Industrian soldiers during Lana's abduction, he dies from his injuries. In the later course of his adventures, however, Conan encounters an Industrian low-class citizen who bears a striking resemblance to Grandfather.
Umasou (うまそう, Umasō)
Umasou ("looks delicious" in Japanese) is Jimsy's pet piglet which he acquired after becoming a pig herder on High Harbor Island.
Nippon Animation originally presented NHK with several proposals. At first a different story was favored, but eventually, The Incredible Tide novel was chosen.
There was a preparation time of three months for the layout. Six months passed between the start of the key animation work and the airing of the first episode. Although a stock of eight episodes was already produced by that time, the show still went behind schedule. According to Miyazaki it "took [them] from ten days to two weeks to produce a single episode" and that if "NHK hadn't inserted a special program in there as a padding, it probably would have turned into a real wreck of a series. If we hadn't been working for NHK, we never could have pulled Conan off."
In a 1983 interview with Yōkō Tomizawa from Animage, Miyazaki stated that he only worked on the show under the condition that he was allowed to change the story. He disliked the pessimistic world view of the original story, feeling it was a reflection of Alexander Key's own fears and insecurities. He wanted a story aimed at children to be more optimistic, stating "[e]ven if someone's lost all hope for the future, I think it is incredibly stupid to go around stressing this to children. Emphasize it to adults if you have to, but there's no need to do so to children. It would be better to simply not say anything at all."
Miyazaki further made an effort to distance himself from the notion of High Harbor representing North America and Industria representing the Soviet Union. In order to do this, he even considered making the setting more Japanese. For example, in his version of the story, the people of High Harbor would grow rice instead of wheat and eat using chopsticks. But this "would have led to all sorts of other problems", so he eventually dropped the idea.
One scene of Jimsy smoking cigarettes was removed by NHK before the airing of the episode. Miyazaki admitted that he put "way too much of [his] own feelings into episode eight", specifically the underwater "kiss" scene. He had grown fonder of Lana by episode 5 and 6 and "realized that [the show] incorporated the exact same story line of a manga [he] had created back in [his] student days" to the point where even the shots were arranged in the same way.
Opening theme: Ima Chikyū ga Mezameru (今地球がめざめる, Now, the Earth Awakens) (performance: Naozumi Kamata, Yūko Yamaji)
Ending theme: Shiawase no Yokan (幸せの予感, Premonition of Happiness) (performance: Naozumi Kamata, Yūko Yamaji)
Italian theme: "Conan" (performance: Georgia Lepore)
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Future Boy Conan first aired across Japan on the NHK TV network between April 4 and October 31, 1978, during the Tuesday, 7:30pm timeslot. It has been regularly broadcast across Japan on the anime satellite television network Animax, who have also later translated and dubbed the series into English for broadcast across its respective English-language networks in Southeast Asia and South Asia, under the title Conan, The Boy in Future.
In 1978, a video tape from NHK with early animation of the still-in-production film was sent to the Alexander Key family as a courtesy. Alexander Key hated how Hayao Miyazaki changed his story and told his estate to never allow the anime to come over to North America. 14 years later in 1992, Streamline Pictures licensed the anime along with Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water from NHK. Streamline Pictures dubbed the film compilations of the series Future Boy Conan (1979) and Future Boy Conan: The Big Giant Robot's Resurrection (1984) for Japan Airlines. Streamline was planning to release the two film in North America on VHS, but the estate of Alexander Key became aware. The Key estate issued a cease and desist letter, threatening a lawsuit if Future Boy Conan ever got a US release. This resulted in Streamline Pictures giving the rights back to NHK. As of 2021, the film compilations still had not been released to the US market.
North America and UK release
On July 8, 2021, GKIDS licensed the TV series which would include a new English dub and a 4K restoration. GKIDS released a four-disc Blu-Ray set of the complete series on November 16, 2021 alongside a digital release. On September 28, 2021, Anime Limited announced they got the license for the series for the UK. Anime Limited will release the show in a two part collector’s edition set with Part 1 releasing in the first quarter of 2022 on Blu-Ray and 4K UHD, making it the first 4K release of the series anywhere in the world.
A video game version of the series by Telenet Japan was released in 1992 on NEC's PC Engine console. The game was released on the Super CD-ROM² format and was only available in Japan. On October 20, 1995, another game titled Conan, The Boy in Future: Digital Library (未来少年コナンノデジタルライブラリー), was exclusively released on the 3DO, and was developed by Bandai Visual and published by Emotion Digital Software. The game also is exclusive in Japan, and is extremely rare. An 18-second clip of the Streamline Pictures English dub appeared in the game. Another video game adaptation of the series was released for the PlayStation 2 home console on August 25, 2005, only in Japan.
In 2005, a pachinko game titled Future Boy Conan was released. In January 2011, NewGin announced another pachinko game titled Future Boy Conan: Love and Courage and Adventure (未来少年コナン〜愛と勇気と冒険と〜, Mirai Shōnen Konan: Ai to Yūki to Bōken). A pachislot game titled Future Boy Conan was also released the same year.
Reception and legacy
In a 1983 interview with Yōko Yomizawa, Hayao Miyazaki acknowledged that ratings for the show had not been very good, noting that episode twenty-five had received the highest rating at 14 percent.
In her 1999 book Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation, Helen McCarthy identifies Conan as a "seminal" work and recognizes themes and story elements in this production which Miyazaki would continue to explore throughout his career. McCarthy also notes continuity in the development of the characters and their plight throughout Miyazaki's work. She sees Lana and Conan as precedents for his later heroines and characters, and mentions, among others, Sheeta's rescue by Pazu, from Miyazaki's 1986 animated feature film Castle in the Sky, as an example. In 2013, anime director Kenji Kamiyama, most known for the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, cited the series among the 15 best anime of all time.
Future Boy Conan appears, renamed and redrawn to avoid copyright issues, in the anime series Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, in which it is the foundation of the main character's love of anime, central to the story.
The show was very popular in the Arab world and still is today. The dubbing was performed by Arab Audio and Video Center, which was based in Kuwait. The cast included a number of Kuwaiti TV stars such as Jassim Al-Nabhan, Ali Al-Mufidi and others. Conan's name was changed to Adnan, Lana's was changed to Leena, and Jimsy's was changed to Abbsi so that they could have names similar to Arabic names. Unlike most Arabic dubs of anime, Future Boy Conan has retained most of its plot details without any altering.
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The spin-off series centers around a boy named Taiga and his adventure in the world of magical artifacts known as OOPArts. The central OOPArt, known as Obats (オーバッツ, Ōbattsu), is a giant living statue, and it is on its path to bring forth doom to the world as it collects other OOPArts and becomes more powerful.
A robust young boy who travels with his archaeologist father to ruins around the world. Conflicts arise once they accidentally awake the magical artifact Obats. Taiga then has to chase it and try to acquire key OOPArts before Obats can get them.
A beautiful young girl who likes riding her motorcycle. Her father is also an archaeologist. She is chosen to be the host of the energy harvested from Obats.
Gosh (ゴシュ, Goshu)
A "tribalesque" jungle boy who believes everything his TV says, including how to talk to girls. He becomes Taiga's best friend.
Obats (オーバッツ, Ōbattsu)
The apocalyptic giant living OOPArt. It originally takes the form of a giant bird, but after being awakened, it begins to head for places where other key magical OOPArts are kept, at the same time takes various forms, such a giant mole, a giant fish monster, a giant bat, a giant sphinx, etc.