TNB Night Owl – Daicon

Daikon radishes, photo by jetsun

Have you ever wondered what sort of things you might be able to get done if you didn’t worry about the annoyance of copyright law?

A daicon is a form of large radish with a firm texture but only a mild bite compared to the small, rounded radishes common to American salads. It represents something beyond a root vegetable, as well: it’s one of the names given to an annual roving Japanese science fiction convention.

Nihon SF Taikai is the convention, and it follows the general rule set up by Worldcon, giving a secondary name depending on the location (for example, LACon III was the 1996 Worldcon, marking the third time it had been located in Los Angeles. When Nihon SF Taikai is in Osaka, it’s Daicon.

Daicon 3 happened in 1981. Daicon 4, in 1983. At these events a little bit of animation groundbreaking occurred. A small group of three fans got together and created a handmade video to be shown at the opening ceremonies. They were hoping to some day form their own studio, but they made many mistakes… they didn’t use the correct type of plastic for the cels, they didn’t track the time of the animation correctly, they didn’t even own a hole punch to aid in setting the cels for photographing. They pulled long days and nights and barely completed their work on the morning of the convention’s opening.

Against all odds, the video was a hit. Sure, it was a bit rough around the edges… but the trio had created an original animation piece for the convention, and they had included cameos from many copyrighted works.

The creators were able to proudly show the video to Osamu Tezuka… the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney… the night after its debut. It could have been disastrous if he’d pressed them on the copyright issue, but the reverse happened. After seeing it, he commented that there were many characters in the film, but some who weren’t there as well. It was at that point that the team realized they hadn’t bothered to include any of Tezuka’s characters in their little tribute to science fiction.

The group, emboldened by their success (and a little wealthier after selling videotape copies of the Daicon III animation) set to work to create another piece for the upcoming Daicon IV. With an actual studio and new faces on board, a fifteen person sweatshop was opened and a new work produced… again working with no consideration for copyrights, and this time including Tezuka works as well as the Playboy bunny outfit and an ELO song.

The group subsequently formed a studio, Gainax, which has had international hits with work like Nadia and Evangelion. They have learned about intellectual property rights. Meanwhile, the early fan works have earned a place in animation history.

Question of the night: how many of the cameos from 1981 or 1983 do you recognize?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.