Monday, January 25, 2021

Lost Rockman Anime Materials Surface: "Early Ruby-Spears" & "Beware Fire & Earthquakes"

Just when you thought you knew everything about Mega Man, history throws a curve ball. Evidence of two long-lost animated adaptations have surfaced... and they're pretty wild.

The first is a very early incarnation of the Ruby-Spears cartoon that we all know and love. The twist? It has a completely different, abandoned anime art direction. Authentic production materials from this oddity were recently obtained by Rockman Corner and friends. I've written a lengthy (and on-going) Twitter thread on the topic here. You can see these materials after the break below as well.  We will be scanning and posting high resolution versions in the weeks ahead. (UPDATE: Since this post was published, we've since learned the identity of an animator worked on this project. Be sure to read up on that info after the jump!)

The second is a long-rumored educational OVA titled "Do Your Best, Rockman! Beware Fire and Earthquakes!" Fans in Japan have debated the legitimacy of this single episode animation for years... but no one could actually prove it existed. However, a recent auction for a Do Your Best, Rockman! activity book has vanquished any fears of a potential Mandela Effect, proving once and for all the show was a thing.

Read on and see these lost treasures for yourself!

 

Early Ruby-Spears Animation


UPDATE (1/26/21): Acclaimed animation director and character designer Nobuyoshi Habara has come forward to reveal that he worked on this project. In a Twitter thread between myself and Habara, he indicated that this Rockman anime was indeed in development at Ashi Productions in 1992 (two years before the studio signed on for the Ruby-Spears cartoon). Habara drew the first two cels himself as part of the planning phase. The project was intended to be the very first Rockman animated series for TV. Unfortunately, the project stopped at the planning stages. Ashi Productions changed course and started development on an unrelated short film about traffic safety for young children.

While not *directly* related to the Ruby-Spears cartoon, some ideas from this would-be 1992 Rockman anime were reused in Ruby-Spears. These include a focus on Dr. Wily, Cut Man, Guts Man and an "evil" Proto Man as the primary antagonists.

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Original Story (1/25/21): Now, it's not 100% confirmed that these pieces belong to an early incarnation of the Ruby-Spears cartoon. There's a tremendous amount of research to be done. But some curious details do give credence to the thought. As such, it's the theory we're leaning towards most.

First off, these pieces place a great emphasis on Cut Man, Guts Man and Proto Man. These characters form the primary "bad guy" trio from the Ruby-Spears cartoon, appearing in nearly every episode. Second, Proto Man is deliberately depicted as a villain; a role he fulfills tenfold in the Ruby-Spears cartoon. No other media before Mega Man 5 positioned Proto Man as an antagonist. Again, that's Proto Man... not Break Man. 

Third, the characters themselves feature some very obvious "realistic" proportions. We consider these designs to be a stepping stone toward Ruby-Spears more human, superhero-like designs. These character designs act as the missing link between the rejected "video game" direction from Mega Man: Upon A Star, the "anime pitch VHS" and Ruby-Spears. Some traits, like Mega Man's helmet emblem and Proto Man's buster shot effect, do appear in the final Ruby-Spears product, albeit more refined.

And finally, the one commonality among the Ruby-Spears cartoon, Upon A Star and the "anime pitch VHS" is Ashi Productions. They are the Japanese studio largely responsible for animating all three programs. In my preliminary research into these pieces, the name Yumiko Horasawa/Horazawa stood out. She was both an animation director and character designer at Ashi Productions. Her work can perhaps best be seen in the 1988 adaptation of Appleseed. Click that link and give the character designs a look-over. 

See anything a little familiar? Some of the finer details, line work and shading bare a close -- but not definite -- resemblance to these materials. So point is, if this is the handiwork of Ms. Horasawa/Horazawa, then our connection to Ashi Productions has been set.

Again, there's quite a bit of research to be done. But in the mean time, hang tight for scans and more details! And thank you all, again, for your support! We couldn't have obtained these bad boys without you!

Do Your Best, Rockman! Beware Fire and Earthquakes! OVA

Above are five pages from the Beware Fire/Earthquake coloring book. As you can see, the pages contain some images from the animation itself. Again, no one has actually seen this thing in DECADES. It's pretty darn validating to have something, anything from this super unusual production.

Now that we have a look at it, what even *is* Do Your Best, Rockman! Fire and Earthquake Safety! Well, again, it's a one-off educational anime. According to the recollection of a few Japanese fans, the program would have been distributed sometime between 1989 and 1992. Looking at the recycled key art from the video games, that makes sense. We have reused art from Rockman 2 through Rockman 5. That would potentially make this OVA older than 1993's Mega Man: Upon A Star. The copyright on the back cover place it between those dates as well.

Similar to Upon A Star, this OVA takes place in the "real world" where Mega Man and co. are video game characters. Through currently unknown circumstances, Mega Man and Rush leave the confines of the video game world to rescue an elementary school-aged boy from fires and earthquakes. They save his life and, in turn, he learns about fire and earthquake safety. Cute.

A quick Google search of the program's Japanese title, "がんばれロックマン 地震用心" yields at least one interesting results: Rockman was voiced by Hekiru Shiina, a veteran actor/singer who later voiced Rockman in Rockman: The Power Battle and Rockman 2: The Power Fighters

Also, the Japanese text on the front cover also provides some clues but it's a bit hard to read. In any case, this program was animated by "Sankyo", the same studio that worked on Bomberman Yuuki wo Arigatou Watashi ga Mimi ni Naru.

At the time of this writing, the whereabouts of the coloring book are unknown. Someone did win the auction, though. If we're lucky, perhaps they'll share its contents online. If we're lucky.

As for the animation itself, Do Your Best, Rockman!'s whereabouts are unknown. This unassuming coloring book, Ms. Shiina's resume and the childhood memories of a few fans overseas are merely surviving testaments. We may never find it.

But... who knows? Lost media does tend to reemerge in some fashion. There's an entire community dedicated to it, you know. We may yet have our day. Until then, do enjoy what we've found!

23 comments:

  1. Proto Man's proportions seem...weird in the last cel. Idk if it's just me, but his arms feel a bit long and his legs feel a smidge short and squatty. Something about Cut Man seems a tad off as well, but I can't quite put my finger on what. Those other two cels look dope, though. This is a really fantastic find, and I can't wait to see what the research uncovers.

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    1. I think that Proto Man's whole upper body in that one are more realistically proportioned while his legs look more like they were trying to draw something closer to the game art. Cut Man has the same issues, but also his eyes are much smaller than what we're used to as well as, I think, his entire face being sort of smushed into the center of his head. It really really looks like someone took a rough sketch and made a cel based on it for that one; I mean, look at that Metool! He's just a blob in a hard hat...

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    2. "I think that Proto Man's whole upper body in that one are more realistically proportioned while his legs look more like they were trying to draw something closer to the game art."

      Huh, that's actually a good way to put it.

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    3. Cut's missing details on his neck that would clearly separate it from his torso, so I think that's not helping the way he looks.

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  2. Aw man, now I wish Ruby-Spears kept that art direction

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    1. At least with Roll. Rolls design in Ruby Spears was always pretty off.

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    2. So was Air Man's

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  3. This is rad, well done on securing this!

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  4. I dont think it is really from Capcom. Look at odd team's face. Not legit. Maybe a fanmade or something. And some are weird drawing too. No, I dont think its really licensed from Capcom at all.

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    1. It's 100 percent licensed by Capcom.

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    2. The standards of licensing were different in the 90s. It was far more acceptable to take a character or brand and adapt it in a wacky way to your choosing. It wasn't until the 2000s that people started to get real touch and go with how they let folks handle their properties, especially internationally.

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  5. I think that maybe its an ova i had read many comments by japanese people that they remember seen this in school

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  6. I dont know how to feel about this. On one hand HOW DID THEY FUCK THAT UP? This version or at least the first image looks amazing. On the other hand if this existed I wouldn't get megaman protecting president Lincoln or, the pharaoh man punch.

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    1. We might have other things, though. You can't miss what you never had to begin with.

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    2. This Mega Man is like the polar opposite of what we got, where as that one was the definition of unnecessarily MANLY robots, this is like unnecessarily weenie robots that almost pass as Sailor Moon.

      Capcom struck the right balance through most of their official Mega Man work, cute and charming but still boyish and shonen bound basically not straight up girly.

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  7. I'm really blown away by how you folks manage to find all these rare and obscure stuff related to Mega Man. That safety OVA sounds like something that has quite literally vanished with the passage of time. I wonder if anyone can manage to dig it up.

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  8. Dang, for a minute there I thought I had that book, but alas. It's the same cover from the "Rockman Character Collection" and I got prematurely excited :<

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  9. Y'know, that fire safety video reminds me of a Mario one released around the time SMB3 was released in Japan

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  10. Maybe Rock's VA in theses OVA could remember the names of other people who worked on it.

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  11. Wait a minute.. Look at Rockman's buster. Totally different. I hope OVA can be found so we can watch it. :)

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  12. Those anime inspired Ruby Spears Mega Man designs look really off. I wish they had stuck to the original designs as seen in the anime pitch video.

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  13. outside dr. light and cut man i don't think they're that bad(mega man & roll look right out of slayers a bit imo.) and really wish the ruby spears cartoon went off the pilot animation as i liked wish upon a star.(weird yellow devil shows up in the pilot but not even once in the tv series.)

    also cool that in the fire safety one megaman was voiced by his power battle/fighters actor.(really loved those games and capcom should do a more complete megaman collection.)

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