Blu-ray Review: Future Boy Conan

We associate animation legend Hayao Miyazaki with cinema. He’s won an Oscar (Spirited Away – 2001) and his films often play as part of Studio Ghibli festivals at cool movie theaters. But he hasn’t always been a theatrical creator. As he worked his way up in the Japanese animation industry, Miyazaki had his first major directorial breakthrough in television when he earned the position on the series Future Boy Conan. The 26 episode series aired in 1978, the year before Miyazaki would first hit movie theaters with Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. Many of the themes of his future movies could be found in his futuristic TV series so it’s a perfecting starting place to appreciate Miyazaki’s work. You might not have known this part of his past since the Blu-ray release marks the first time Future Boy Conan has been legitimately available in North America.

The world has been devestated thanks to the creation and use of ultra-magnetic weapons which caused the Earth to tilt off its axis. This screwing with nature unleashed massive earthquake and tidal waves that cause most of the planet to be flooded. A few people survived by blasting off into space in rockets however instead of landing on distant planets, they ended up pulled back to the wrecked Earth. One such rocket landed on a habitable island where against the odds, Conan was born. However things weren’t so good for the outpost as after a couple years, the only people left were Conan (voiced by Sabrina Pitre) and his elderly grandfather. They survive by catching the few fish that a nearby shark doesn’t claim. They have a bit of a doomed feeling being trapped on the island and feeling as if there’s no one else alive on the planet. That all changes when Lana (Lili Beadoin) washes up on the beach. Conan is thrilled to find someone new except he learns there’s more people out there when soldiers from Industria arrive on a hydroplane to nab Lana. Conan must build a boat and find Lana and see what else has cropped up on this watery planet. During his island hoping, he bumps into wild boy Jimsy (Erin Mathews). The two team up in their efforts to make sense of it all and rescue Lana.

Future Boy Conan plays like an extended Miyazaki movie with the mix of science fiction and fantasy on the screen. So many of his themes are part of the episodes including environmental issues. While the TV series is limited animation, it doesn’t feel like it was done on a tight budget. He and his team maximized the minimal. There’s a lot of action and adventure on the TV screen. This is a bit more complex than what Hanna-Barbera and Filmation were producing in the late ’70s. Even though Miyazaki has been a major name for decades, this is the first time Future Boy Conan has made it to America. Even with such a long delay, the show doesn’t feel dated except for the fact that the world was messed up in 2008 which was 13 years ago. The show does come to an ending in the 26th episode so you’re not left completely hanging with the future of Future Boy Conan.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The 1080p transfer brings out the beauty in the background art for the devastated world. The audio is 2.0 DTS-HD new English dub. There’s also the original Japanese track with a 2.0 DTS-HD mix. The levels are fine for the action and the theme songs. The episodes are subtitled in English.

Trailer (1:22) is from the GKIDS re-issuing of the series. It contains the numerous action sequences.

Shout! Factory and GKIDS present Future Boy Conan. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Screenplay by Akira Nakano, Satoshi Kurumi & Sōji Yoshikawa. Voices of Sabrina Pitre, Lili Beadoin, Erin Mathews, Noriko Ohara, Mieko Nobusawa and Kazuyo Aoki. Boxset Contents: 26 episodes on 4 Blu-ray discs. Release Date: November 16, 2021.

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