Zero Man (lost pilot episode of cancelled Osamu Tezuka anime; 1968)

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Young RIcky.gif

An early design for Ricky from the lost Zero Man pilot.

Status: Lost

Zero Man (0マン) is a Shōnen manga created by Osamu Tezuka that was serialized from September 13th, 1959 to December 11th, 1960. In 1968, a four-minute pilot was made by Mushi Productions in the hopes that the series would be picked up and turned into its own show, much like what was done with Kimba the White Lion and Astro Boy. However, due to budget constraints, it was cancelled. The pilot has not surfaced since, however material such as concept art and storyboards have been found.]]

A much earlier design for Ricky, in which his design much more reflects his appearance in the original manga.


This sci-fi story centers around Ricky, a Zero Man raised by humans in Tokyo. Zero Men are very similar to humans, but their intelligence and strength is far greater, while also sharing similar characteristics to squirrels. When Ricky finds out that the Zero Men are planning to go to war with the human race, it’s up to him to try and put a stop to the conflict and save his adopted family.[1]

A reference sheet depicting the final design for Ricky.


Concept art from the time shows that Ricky was originally going to look much like his original appearance from the manga. However, this quickly changed, and later concept art shows a much older, teenage Ricky. Sources claim that the decision was made as a result of Tezuka wanting the character to resemble Hyūma Hoshi, the main protagonist of a popular sports manga and anime at the time titled Star of the Giants. Tezuka would later collaborate with Star of the Giants author Noboru Kawasaki to produce a 30-minute animated special titled Star of the Giants vs Astro Boy.

The head animators in charge of production were Kitano Hideaki and Murano Moriyoshi.[2] Other Mushi Production staff members involved in the project include Osamu Tezuka, Eiichi Yamamoto, Arashi Ishizu, Masami Hata, Yoshifumi Seyama, Tsunehisa Ito, and Makoto Tsuji.[3]


Due to budget issues, the pilot was never picked up, and was unable to develop into its own series. Although the pilot itself remains lost, storyboards and concept art have surfaced. The book Osamu Tezuka Storyboard Collection #2 has a section dedicated to the Zero Man pilot; But, as of the time of writing, these storyboards have not yet surfaced online.[4] Additional information on the pilot was published in the September 1978 issue of the magazine Animage. There’s speculation that it was once shown to the public at a private screening during the 1970s.[5]

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