By Thankyou-Tatsuo / Special to The Yomiuri ShimbunMany of the feature-length animated films that were a hit in theaters last year were remakes or reboots of masterpieces from the past, including “Godzilla: Kaiju Wakusei” (Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters) and “Uchiage Hanabi, Shitakara Miruka? Yokokara Miruka?” (Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?).
The same is happening in TV anime, too. I’m talking about “Infini-T Force,” which features heroes from past popular works produced by Tatsunoko Production Co.
Created to commemorate its 55th anniversary, the story features four superheroes who come to contemporary Japan: Gatchaman, Casshan, Polymar and Tekkaman. People who watched these heroes as children have now grown up and have their own kids. The renowned studio is taking on the challenge of producing a work that different generations can enjoy together.
That said, works that “dredge-up-a-masterpiece-from-the-past” usually end in failure. This may be because expectations are high, or because such works tend to be unexciting because all they do is bring the heroes back together. Also, these are big productions and people outside the creative team may have more power over the project.
But I’ve found “Infini-T Force” to be quite the opposite. The anime is filled with daring elements I would never have imagined, and the story is enjoyable even for people who aren’t familiar with these Tatsunoko heroes.
The United States has the Avengers series, films that feature heroes from Marvel comics. If a Japanese version of the Avengers were to be produced, I believe it would be like this tour de force from Tatsunoko.
“Infini-T Force” has made me feel this way thanks to its use of American-style 3-D computer graphics.
Anime creators in Japan are discovering their potential in a method called “cel look.” Material generated via this method looks like hand-painted animation and quite different from U.S. works featuring CGI. The cel look method involves reducing the movements and details of a character, encouraging viewers to use their imagination fill in the blank spaces. This method allows the texture of images to be enjoyed by deliberately leaving them untouched, rather than presenting exact depictions of a character’s movements or the wrinkles on the face.
However, “Infini-T Force” does not employ the cel look method. The choice of creative method depends on what is to be drawn, and the Tatsunoko characters are a bit like dark heroes who do great work while hiding their identities. Although they’re undoubtedly on the side of good, each hero has a reason to conceal their identity when fighting — an element that gives them a feel of American comic heroes. Therefore, using U.S.-type CGI makes sense. It blends in perfectly with the setting of the story.
The main characters fought in different worlds and different times in previous works, and don’t belong to the same generations. It’s interesting to see them come to today’s world and interact with each other, and that triggers many discoveries and events in their relationships, some anachronistic and some physical like the difference in their heights.
Longtime fans are excited to see what kind of conversations Tekkaman and Gatchaman have with each other. But it doesn’t matter whether you know the original characters, because this is the first time for anyone — including die-hard fans from the past — to see all of them together in one world.
“Infini-T Force” is aired on Nittele Plus.