Anime Featured on BBC's QI Series

posted on by Andrew Osmond
Do you know why so many racoons were imported to Japan? The answer is an anime...

Here's a question for you: why are there so many racoons (as opposed to "racoon dog" tanuki, a completely different species) in Japan today? The question was set by presenter Sandi Toksvig in the latest episode of the long-running BBC comedy quiz series QI, broadcast on Thursday January 7 and available on BBC iPlayer here. The question comes up at the 26-25 mark; the information is also summarised on a web page for the episode.

The answer was anime related. In 1977, there was a year-long TV serial called Rascal the Racoon (aka Raccoon Rascal). The series told the story of Robby North, an eleven year-old boy living in Wisconsin, who finds an orphaned baby racoon and cares for it, naming it Rascal. The anime proved to be immensely popular in Japan, and a great many families imported racoons from North America as pets. Unfortunately, as the series itself made clear, racoons are not good house pets and many of those racoons were released into the wild. Since then, they've become pests in Japan, and about 80% of Japanese temples have suffered "racoon-related damage."

The QI presenters also mentioned the "racoon dog" tanuki in Japan and its famously large testicles.

Animated by Nippon Animation, Rascal the Racoon was one of the long strand of World Masterpiece Theatre animations which ran from the 1970s to the 1990s, plus some revivals since.

One of the animators on the Rascal anime was Hayao Miyazaki, who animated on twenty episodes. However he had bigger roles on other WMT series, such as 1976's Marco - From the Apennines to the Andes, for which he provided layout. Miyazaki also had the same role on 1974's nationally beloved Heidi - A Girl of the Alps, which wasn't technically a WMT series but set the template for its style. Both Heidi and Marco were directed by Miyazaki's colleague Isao Takahata; the two colleagues would later co-found Studio Ghibli.

As QI notes, Rascal was based on a 1963 children's book by the American writer Sterling North, called Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, based on his own experiences. The book was also adapted as a live-action Disney film (Rascal), which featured the child actor Bill Mumy, known for playing Will Robinson in the original Lost in Space.

QI previously made headlines in 2011, when it included a segment about a man who survived the atom bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The segment provoked complaints from London's Japanese Embassy and other Japanese viewers for its humorous tone, and the BBC published an apology.

Grateful thanks to Ian Wolf for pointing us to this story.

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