Takeshi Shudo 1949-2010

Takeshi Shudo, who died yesterday, was a scriptwriter on some of the best-known anime of modern times. After a stumbling start in scripting, he would eventually become the first recipient of a prestigious anime screenwriting award, and would go on to establish the dramatic voices of some of the most-watched anime characters of the early 21st century.

The son of an assistant prefectural governor, Shudo was born in Fukuoka, and spent his childhood in Sapporo, Nara and, eventually, Shibuya in Tokyo. His knowledge of this latter location would eventually be put to use in his scripts for Idol Angel Welcome Yoko (1990, Idol Tenshi Yokoso Yoko), in which a pop star masqueraded as an anime superheroine. But his road to anime was a rocky one, and encompassed a false start in live-action.

After flunking his first set of university entrance exams, the teenage Shudo picked up his sister’s copy of Scenario magazine, which intrigued him with its “how-to” articles on screenwriting. He was still only 19 years old in 1969 when he sold his first script, an episode of the long-running live-action ninja-cop TV show Oedo Dragnet, a.k.a. Oedo Untouchables. However, his script was pilloried, not least by Shudo himself, for its “surfeit of unconvincing emotions,” and no further work was forthcoming. He drifted through a number of sales jobs in Japan and Europe, before a meeting with the prominent screenwriter Fukiko Miyauchi gave him a second chance, writing “Sly Coyote”, an episode of the anime series Cartoon Folktales of the World (Manga Sekai Mukashi-banashi), broadcast on 18th November 1976.

After working on some other serials for Dax International, he moved to Tatsunoko Productions and then Ashi Pro (now known as Production Reed) in the 1980s, where he was an instrumental writer on several new serials. Although both Idiot Ninja (Sasuga Sarutobi) and I’ll Make a Habit of It! (Ch? Kuse ni Naris?) were based on works by manga creators, Shudo put his mark on them as lead screenwriter, coining catchphrases and the comedy business that would become his trademark. In 1983, his work on these shows and others would secure him the first Anime Grand Prix Screenwriting Award, an honour that would later be conferred on the likes of Kazunori It? and Hayao Miyazaki.

Shudo’s most enduring influence was arguably his creation of Fairy Princess Minky Momo, one of the first of the new generation of “magical girl” shows, refashioning the Japanese folktales of Momotar? for an audience of young girls. Particularly successful in France and Italy, where she is known as Princess Gigi, Momo was able to transform into an adult version of herself, taking on various jobs in the grown-up world. Other series that featured his work included Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Martian Successor Nadesico.

Shudo also worked as a novelist, largely on books spun off from anime shows. He wrote many of the Goshogun novels, nine volumes of the fantasy series Eternal Filena, and the first two books that novelised the Pokémon series. Pokémon was Shudo’s most identifiable work for modern audiences. As with his the successes of his youth, it was not his personal creation, but he still injected many recurring tropes and comedy elements that would come to define the series. He wrote the screenplay for Pokémon: The First Movie (1998), one of the best-selling anime videos of the decade in many territories, including the UK, where it sold over 360,000 copies.

On 28th October 2010, he collapsed in the smoking area of the JR Nara train station. He was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery, but died several hours later from a subarachnoid haemorrhage. At the time, he had been working for the companies Gonzo and Dogakobo on a new cheerleader “character project” called Cheer Figu!, although its precise nature (anime, computer game, manga?) remains unclear.

Shud?’s death deprives the anime world of yet another of its creators, in a year that has already taken the lives of several prominent figures. Moreover, it further diminishes the dwindling population of 20th century anime screenwriters. The Anime Grand Prix for Screenwriting was only awarded for seven years in the 1980s, and four of its recipients have already passed away, including Susumu Takaku (1933-2009) and Hiroyuki Hoshiyama (1944-2007).

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade.

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