The disappearance of Toshimichi Suzuki

Toshimichi Suzuki is credited as the official creator of BubbleGum Crisis when working at Artmic. He is also credited for the few spin-off series that spawned after the success of the anime such as AD Police.

There is also a hint based on his Twitter posts that his son did not have a good relationship with his father. Hence, he knew little of what happened to Artmic following its dissolution. “It seems that my father spent his last years drawing pictures while living alone. I have been out of touch for about twenty years.”

Previously we talked about BubbleGum Crisis and how its success in the late 80s to the early 90s brought both pros and cons for those involved in the production. It was made at the time when Japan’s economic bubble (from 1986 to 1991, estate and stock market prices were inflated) was about to burst and so it faced numerous financial issues concerning its budget and internal strife that saw the companies involved parted ways as well as a legal issue that caused the sequel to be cut short to only three episodes. This was of course common for other anime productions of the time as the interest in that form of animation was declining as well.

BubbleGum Crisis can be considered his pet project as he was disappointed by the reception that his prior anime film, Techno Police 21C, got when it was released in 1982. Techno Police 21C began life in 1978 as an idea from Toshimichi Suzuki. So, work began on developing the concept into a TV series as a collaboration between Artmic and Studio Nue. The technology to be featured in the series was heavily researched to make the future as plausible as possible. Unfortunately, the project ran into many problems. The animation produced after four years was only enough for one episode. As a cost-recovery measure, Toho released an 80-minute movie using footage from the series. However, the film was not well received by the public and so Suzuki would later revisit that connection in 1987.

BubbleGum Crisis was extremely successful when it first came out due to its dark themes and catchy, western-style music. Many fans enjoyed the series, but it was canceled shortly afterward. There was a sequel titled BubbleGum Crash which featured most of the voice actresses, but it was not well made and was negatively received by fans although, in recent years, the sequel is reanalyzed and viewed more positively. With the departure of AIC and Youmex, Suzuki thought that he held the rights to his pet project. Little did he know that his work was copyrighted by AIC, the other animating team behind the original anime series.

BubbleGum Crisis was rebooted in 1998 with “Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040” which featured the same mechanical designs as before but with a slightly altered storyline and new voice cast. It fleshes out what the original series was lacking and was extremely successful. Jason Bustard of THEM Anime Reviews praised the new series, stating that "lots of detail went into humanizing the various cast members. From Nene’s snack habits to Priss's icy mercenary attitude, to Linna (best known from the original for her acrobatic green hard suit) tripping all over herself the first time she tries on her suit, the characters shine with personality; a vast improvement over the somewhat distant characters of the OVA."

In addition to that, Tim Henderson of Anime News Network gave the series a B- rating, remarking: "Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 is a difficult beast to heartily recommend, but it's hardly a show to ward potential viewers away from either."

There is a darker side to the story which involves the original creator. When the rebooted series was released and gained huge traction, Toshimichi Suzuki went to the headquarters of AIC, demanding that he should be paid for the usage of his original concept. He was furious when he was told that AIC would not be paying him any royalties as they owned solely the copyright of BubbleGum Crisis. This anger went out of control as Suzuki went to the headquarters of AIC a few days later with hired Yakuza men and was aggressively threatening the staff of the production team that they were stealing his idea. AIC simply called the police and have the Yakuza men arrested. However, Suzuki managed to flee and remained in hiding. He continued to remain in hiding due to him now being a fugitive (Or he thought he is). It is disheartening to see the original creator being pushed aside due to legal issues a decade ago that continue to remain unresolved. Little is known about his work after the 1998 debacle, but it was revealed as recently as 2020 that Suzuki continued to participate in the entertainment industry discreetly. His son created a Twitter account and stated that his father passed away in late January 2020 with the following message: “ His father, Toshimitsu Suzuki, who was the representative of Artmic in the past, passed away at the end of January this year.”

Toshimichi Suzuki should be considered a veteran and a legend in the anime industry for creating one of the most influential anime OVAs of the 80s as it continued to inspire other cyberpunk-themed anime series in the future. You can also read about the missing Kinuko Oomori.


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