Tezuka’s Mighty Atom manga was a big hit in Shonen Magazine, which led to this loose adaptation for television. The first 13 episode story arc concerned an evil organization called the ZZZ Gang, who kidnap prominent world peace activist Albert Leon and his daughter Michelle. As with many of the earliest Japanese superhero shows, American Saturday matinee serials are an obvious influence, but this formula is filtered through such a uniquely Japanese viewpoint; it’s also hard to understate how eerie and just downright weird this adaptation is. Case in point: that scene halfway through episode 5 where the ZZZ comic relief goons hold an impromptu jam session on the secret poison gas island.
Here are a few selected episodes of the black and white anime, a monster hit that put Japanese cartoons on the map worldwide. Astute viewers may have noticed that the ZZZ goons from the 1959 series appear in the opening titles of the anime. Episode 30 (included in this batch) is the one in which they actually appear, and it sticks closer to the ZZZ story from Tezuka’s manga than the live-action version does.
Finally, Dougo13 comes through for us again, with an original Japanese broadcast of the very first episode of the color anime, recorded on a 1/2″ Betamax cassette by his friend in Nagasaki on October 1, 1980. Atom himself even features in an ad for a high-end boombox, the Hitachi Stereo Perdisco 8800.
Thanks to Kira for the last-minute rescue with a much better script for the color episode.
Thanks also to Dougo13 for that autographed Tezuka magazine cover at the top of this post. You would not believe some of the stuff in his collection.