Super Book, or Anime Oyako Gekijō ("Animated Parent and Child Theater") in the original Japanese, was a Japanese-American tag-team effort to try to show stories from the Old and New Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible to Japanese children. Released from 1981 to 1983, and produced by Tatsunoko Production (with animation assistance from Studio DEEN and SHAFT among others) for TV Tokyo, although it was aired on affiliates of all of Japan's major television networks (as TV Tokyo was not yet a national network). Originally, it was for Japan only (no one thought anime was marketable in the U.S. back then), but a positive response at a French convention led to an English dub in the United States of America and dubs in many other languages, becoming perhaps (due to its use as an evangelistic tool) one of the most widely distributed Japanese animated series ever, even if it isn't generally thought of as "anime" despite its origins.
The set-up went something like this:
The series focuses on the adventures of Christopher (Chris) Peeper and his best friend Joy. During the first episode, Christopher's father, an eccentric college professor who seems to specialize in Biblical archaeology, tells Christopher to clean out the attic, as it has gotten severely cluttered and messy. While Chris and Joy are working on the attic, some boxes fall over, and a strange book falls out of one of them.
Taking the book to Chris's bedroom and failing to open it on their own, Christopher and Joy are startled to see a blinding light coming from it as it opens itself. Things then get even stranger; the book starts talking to them, identifying itself as the eponymous Super Book. The book explains that it contains many stories inside, and that they need only peer into it to experience them.
Thus begin Chris and Joy's adventurers. Once an Episode, they travel within Super Book to experience one of the Biblical stories it contains, accompanied by Chris's toy robot Gizmo, who becomes a fully functioning robot during their adventures. Though they often interact with the Biblical characters themselves (at one point, they even try to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac), they primarily observe the stories, learning from them the lessons each tale has to teach.
Surprisingly, it was good. The creators did their best to keep true to the original stories as best as they could while still keeping it appropriate for kids. The Biblical characters, while often one-shots, were still given good characterization. And, importantly, the producers tried to illustrate the stories that showcased God's love and mercy, rather than focusing exclusively on the judgment and wrath part. And surprisingly in a nation where Christianity is a minority religion then as now, the show was popular: the two Superbook series as well as sister series Flying House attracted high ratings during their original broadcast runs and were rerun on TV Tokyo continuously through 1986.
The second series (Superbook II, or Pasokon Travel Tanteidan) took place two years after the first and had Super Book accidentally fall on a computer keyboard. This somehow transferred Super Book's powers to the computer, allowing anyone who wanted to see into the past. Unfortunately, Chris' dog Ruffles accidentally gets lost in time in the process. To find her, Chris' cousin Uriah (Uri for short; Yuu in Japanese) and Gizmo (now a fully functioning robot even outside Super Book, with a built-in computer for recall purposes) regularly travel back in time to find her, adding an overarching plot arc to the second series.
There was also a third, separate series called Flying House that focused more on stories from the New Testament, primarily the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Most of the tropes that apply are tropes from The Bible. The ones listed here focus primarily on the original cast, the series, its premise, and any other characterization tropes not on The Bible page.
In 2011, a computer-animated reboot of the series was produced. The remake is notable for being the first animated series to air on ABC Family (who aired the original back when they were known as CBN Cable in the early 80's) since around 2005. Interestingly, the reboot has also begun airing in the nation where it all started - Japan - as of early 2018. Meanwhile, the original series can still be found on the Christian kids' channel Smile Of A Child (but in the wee morning hours - better prepare your DVR!note ).
Compare to The Kingdom Chums, which also features time-traveling children witnessing Bible stories and was also animated in Japan (though the chief production staff were American and thus it isn't considered "anime").
This series provides examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: In the case of Chris' parents, or at the very least his dad.
- Adventures in the Bible: The premise.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese versions of both series have an opening and ending theme different from the English opening. For series one, the Japanese opening song was adapted for the English version as the closing. Most other foreign language versions were adapted from the English dub and use either the English language themes or adaptations thereof, an exception being the Italian dub, which has a completely original song (and keeps the Japanese opening and closing animation).
- Berserk Button: In one episode, Joy has a dream about a dress that she wants but that keeps flying away from her when she draws near to it. As a surprise, Chris's mother buys Joy an exact replica of the dress in the dream, but when Joy tries it on, it's too small for her. Chris jokes that the meaning of Joy's dream must have been that she wasn't supposed to have the dress, because she's too fat for it. Joy doesn't find this funny and begins angrily chasing him around the house.
- Bible Times
- Bowdlerise: A number of the Bible stories were altered to make them more kid-friendly. The story of Joshua, as told here, portrays Rahab as an innocent woman bullied by the soldiers of Jericho (she was actually a whore), and completely ignores the fact that every living thing in Jericho, apart from her and her family, were slain.
- Brought To You By The Letter U: Chris's cousin in the second series wears a shirt with a U on it. In Japanese, it's a bilingual pun, as the character's name is Yuu. It also left the English dubbers little choice but to rename him Uriah, or Uri for short.
- Chest Insignia: Again, the letter U on Uri's shirt.
- Christian Fiction: Your mileage may vary on whether the Bible stories themselves are fiction, but the stories in the "real" (or "modern") world at the beginning and end of each episode definitely count.
- Clark Kenting: After Uri and Gizmo go to the computer and never went back for days, Chris and Joy have to make excuses to Chris' mother before she gets worried.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Joy/Azusa seems to have budding feelings for Chris/Sho, which she doesn't try to hide all that well, even telling him outright in one episode that she expects him to marry her when they grow up. Thus she gets mad when Chris doesn't seem to reciprocate and shows signs of jealousy whenever Chris looks upon beautiful women like Eve and Queen of Sheba. (In reply to Chris's comment that Sheba is the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, Joy huffs, "I thought you liked blondes!" Of course, Joy herself is blonde.)
- In addition, in the Queen Esther episode, Joy got all huffy when she learned that Chris was thinking of voting for another girl in their school's beauty contest (only the promise of Joy's home-baked cookies got Chris to change his mind).
- Clockwork Creature: Gizmo is a robot version of this, as when he runs down on power he explicitly needs the key on his back wound back up for him to even move again (he can still talk just fine).
- Deranged Animation: Occurs whenever the kids travel through time
- Extremely Dusty Home: Or extremely dusty attic, anyway, in episode 1 of the first series. It's so dusty that Chris has to wear a mask to clean it. But it's also how he and Joy discover Superbook.
- Garden-Hose Squirt Surprise: This happens to Chris in the Job episode.
- God Is Good
- Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Refreshingly averted with Joy/Azusa. She's portrayed similar to Shizuka from Doraemon in that although she seems to be somewhat of a goody-goody at first glance, she has her own character flaws, including jealousy and a tendency to lose her temper whenever Chris teases her.
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Despite their attempts to, something always happens that prevents the kids and Gizmo from preventing any of the bad things from happening, thereby ensuring events play out as they did.
- One example was Gizmo running towards Eve to stop her from eating from the Forbidden Fruit. And he would have succeeded, if not for his gears winding down at exactly that moment, immobilizing him as the Fall from the Garden happened. Chris then tried to stop Eve - but the snake lunged at him and blocked his passage.
- Played with in the "First Christmas" episode - Gizmo managed to push two soldiers, who were looking to hunt down and kill the baby Jesus at King Herod's order (and threatened Chris when Chris tried to stop them), off a cliff. It ended up being a moot point, because Mary and Joseph were instructed in a dream to return home by a different route to avoid Herod's soldiers.
- I Will Find You: Uri and Gizmo's quest is to find Ruffles.
- Liar Revealed: The opening vignette of the "Samson and Delilah" episode features Chris lifting a barbell with the promise that his father will raise his allowance if he makes it to one hundred repetitions. When he makes it to one hundred, his father and Joy are thrilled - until Ruffles, the dog, picks up the barbell in her mouth.Prof. Peeper: Why, that barbell's a fake! It's just a toy!Joy: [angrily, to Chris] Yeah! You're a fake, too!
- Meaningful Name:
- Christopher Peeper - "Christopher" means "bearing Christ." His last name is rooted in peeping, essentially getting a quick look at something.
- In the German version, Christopher's name is Christian, and Azusa/Joy is known as Maria, or Ri for short, which seems fairly obviously a reference to the Mother of Christ.
- My Grandson Myself: How Chris and Joy explain looking the same when they meet the same person decades apart.
- Names to Know in Anime: One future "big name" showing up in the credits is episode director Kazuo Yamazaki, who would later become the series director of comedy hits like Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku, and The Slayers.
- Narrator: Superbook, who knew.
- Opening Narration: The opening narration of just about every episode in the first season (at least in the English dub) referred to Chris's house as "the house just down the street and around the corner."
- Our Time Travel Is Different: Both the Videocassette and Wormhole kind, depending on which direction they're headed.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Azusa/Joy wears a pink shirt, and Sho/Christopher wears a blue jacket and blue jeans. The show's character designer, Akiko Shimomoto, was apparently fond of this trope as she used it in several other Tatsunoko series - see also The Littl' Bits.
- Portal Book
- Powers as Programs: In Season 2, the Super Book's information are transferred to Chris' computer.
- Religious Robot: Gizmo, of course.
- Robot Buddy: Gizmo, in Season 2.
- Shonen Hair: Christopher
- Sibling Rivalry: Fred (Chris' father) and his younger brother (Uri's father).
- Strong as They Need to Be: Gizmo's wind-up function generally lasts until the plot requires him to break down. In the first episode this results in the Fall of Man.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: The kids and Gizmo literally experience days, if not weeks as the stories play out, but once they're done they are returned to their time, with no more than a minute, possibly five tops having passed.
- The Noah's Flood episode drops them into the story before the flood, and pulls them out after everyone emerges from the ark over a year later. When they get home it takes Christopher a moment to realize why his dad wasn't freaked out.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Many episodes of the second series feature Gizmo and Uri following up on a promising lead as to Ruffles' whereabouts, only to end up disappointed.