After the success of manga to television hits like ASTRO BOY, JUNGLE EMPEROR, and MAGMA TAISHI, creator Osamu Tezuka added one more to the mix with the horror story Vampire. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday in 1966 and then continued in Shonen Book, but unfortunately the manga was never finished due to the publishing company going out of business.
Tezuka’s very own Mushi Pro. released a black and white 26 episode live action TV series mixed with animation for Fuji Television . The story follows a 15 year old boy named Toppei (Yutaka Mizutani [also a famous singer]), a descendant of a race of shape shifting vampires. These vampires differ from the Transylvanian blood suckers you‘re used to, they crave human beings in the way a wild animal hunts prey, yet have more lycanthropic abilities. Each vampire is different, some transform into wolves, others into bears, snakes, even butterflies.
The people in Toppei’s village are tired of hiding from humanity and being pushed from place to place, so they burn down their homes and leave to secretly start a vampire revolution. Not agreeing with this decision, Toppei separates from the others to find his missing father and pursue his dream of being a manga artist. He later runs in to a reporter, named Morimura (Fumio Watana [ULTRA Q episode 15]) who helps Toppei land an internship at Osamu Tezuka’s Mushi animation studio.
Later Toppei gets involved saving a woman who is being attacked by two men, but during the scuffle a full moon rises. This causes Toppei to transform into a wolf and he wards off the aggressors. Each vampire’s transformation is triggered by a different things, not just the moon. The woman laughs and reveals she is actually a he, a master of disguise named Makube“Rock”Rokuro (Hiroshi Sato, Kaze Takeshi in some later episodes). Rock is a shady character using the war between humans and vampires to his advantage and own self gain. At one point Rock visits three creepy fortune tellers that predict he’ll actually take control of the world in the future. Throughout the series Rock is a constant thorn in Toppei’s side doing everything he can to gain power among the vampires. Rock is originally a character from Tezuka’s DETECTIVE BOY ROCK HOLMES. His name, Makube is derived from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Rokuro a combination of rock and the Japanese word for black (kuro).
Things get even more complicated when the police get involved, constantly in pursuit of the vampires. The second person to know Toppei’s secret is Morimura, but unlike Rock, he aids Toppei to help stop the vampire revolution and hopefully find a way they can live in peace with humans. In the manga version it’s Tezuka that helps Toppei, not Morimura. Also joining Toppei is his 6 year old brother Chippei, who also changes into a wolf, which is triggered by sphere-like objects.
The series becomes intense near the end with Rock drawing closer to becoming the king of the vampires and the development of a drug that can cure a vampire from it’s beast-like tendencies. This show was unique since it was a pioneer for mixing animation with live action on an entire television program. Toppei’s transformation is amazing, starting with contact lenses in the actor’s eyes, then animated hair growth, ears pointing upwards, canine fangs appearing, all while twisting in pain to become a wolf. This show was very enjoyable in black and white, all old school horror is, but the pilot episode was in color. Even Toppei’s wolf design was different, and in my opinion cooler. Vampire is a must for Tezuka fans just for being an oddity.