Sazae-san (partially found anime series; 1969-present)
Sazae-san (サザエさん) is a long-running comedy anime series, adapted from Machiko Hasegawa’s comic strip of the same name. The series is noteworthy for being the longest-running animated series of all time, premiering on Fuji Television on October 5th, 1969, and continuing up to the present day.
Content and History
Sazae-san is a family-oriented slice-of-life series, centered on a Japanese housewife named Sazae Fuguta. Every episode is based on a small adventure from the simplistic daily lives of Sazae and her family. Each episode consists of 3 eight-minute segments, featuring relatively basic plotlines such as Sazae getting lost at the mall, or her brother Kazuo faking a stomach ache to stay home from school.
Aside from a few changes in design, the format of the series has remained largely unchanged since the manga began in 1946. As such, the setup is typically viewed as that of a “traditional” Japanese household and is currently regarded as a throwback to simpler times. The series has aired almost every Sunday night since its premiere in 1969 and is still extremely popular in Japan, continuing to pull the highest viewership of any animated series on Japanese television.
Despite Sazae-san’s popularity, only a small percentage of episodes have surfaced online. The most obvious reason for this is due to Machiko Hasegawa’s request that there be no home video releases of the series. Even after her death in 1992, her wish was honored, and to this day not a single episode has been released outside of TV broadcasts.
This, combined with the fact that most episodes air once and never again, and the fact that the series has been running since long before home taping became commonplace, means recordings of most early episodes are nonexistent outside of studio archives.
Things have started to relax here. In 2020, to celebrate the 50 years of Eiken, producer of Sazae-san, Columbia Japan released a DVD containing most opening and ending sequences from this studio. This DVD contains multiple songs from Sazae-san and Ijiwaru Baa-san, another anime adapted in 1996 from a manga series by Machiko Hasegawa. This DVD marks the first ever home media release of part of Sazae-san.
However, even many modern episodes have not resurfaced online either, due to Fuji TV’s aggressive takedown orders and a lack of any serious preservation effort from fans. The exact number of found segments is unknown and constantly changing; notably, a few early episodes have turned up after being re-aired in various anniversary specials. Aside from this, many episodes from the 2010s can be found on YouTube, but without any clear organization. Episodes from other eras appear to be few and far between.
Given the situation, it is extremely likely no full archive will ever exist, unless the rightsholders make the drastic decision to stop honoring Hasegawa’s request.
While the anime series is the most famous adaptation of the Sazae-san manga, it is not the only one, nor is it the first. The earliest known adaptation was a series of live-action movies released between 1948 and 1950, starring Tonko Azumaya as Sazae. The next adaptation was a radio drama which was broadcast in 1955, the same year that a short-lived live-action series aired on what later became TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System). From 1956 to 1961, a series of 6 movies were made based on Sazae-san, all of which starred Chiemi Eri as Sazae.
The following incarnation was another live-action television series on TBS, which ran from 1965 until 1967 and also featured Chiemi Eri. A biographical serial which depicted Hasegawa's life and the creation of Sazae-san was aired on NHK for 6 months in 1979. Two more live-action series ran on Fuji TV of the same broadcaster of the anime series from 1981-1985 and 1992-1996, starring Tomoko Hoshino and Atsuko Asano, respectively. None of these adaptations are known to have resurfaced.
Most recently, a series of 3 live-action specials were broadcast on Fuji TV, the same broadcaster behind the long-running Sazae-san anime series and the two live-action series from 2009 to 2011, which starred Alisa Mizuki in the title role. All three have been uploaded to Japanese video-sharing site the Pandora.TV (albeit in low quality), and subsequently mirrored to YouTube. Interestingly, the third special has also been released on a bootleg DVD from Malaysia, marking what is possibly the only DVD release the franchise has ever seen.
- Wikipedia page for the Sazae-san franchise. Retrieved 11 Feb '17
- MyAnimeList page for Sazae-san. Retrieved 11 Feb '17
- Japan Today news page on the series entering Guinness World Records. Retrieved 11 Feb '17
- Anime News Network page for the show. Retrieved 11 Feb '17
- Cartoon Research article on the show. Retrieved 11 Feb '17
- Eiken 50shūnenkinen Shudaika DVD
- Forum post describing the show's international obscurity Retrieved 11 Feb '17.
- Article on the series from the International Institute for Children's Literature, Osaka. Retrieved 11 Feb '17
- Google Books excerpt of The Anime Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11 Feb '17
- ANN news item announcing the third special. Retrieved 11 Feb '17