9.18.2015

Acknowledgement is the first step: Confessions of Prince Planet cartoon junkie

The black and white kid's show Prince Planet (aka Planet Boy Papi), for countless numbers of snot-nosed kids living in and around "Chicagoland" in the mid-1970s, was an innocent-looking cartoon gateway drug that lead an untold many into lifelong spiral patterns of addiction for the animated films and TV shows of Japan. This blogger/failed addict in recovery was an impressionable 4 year-old when Prince Planet was aired at 3:00 in the afternoon on WSNS Channel 44, a station situated on the ultrahigh frequency or UHF dial of antique analog TVs. On weekday afternoons, after being awakened from my midday nap, I would scramble like a little lunatic to the television in the living room, 'jonesing' like a junkie for my quick fix, my daily dose of that half-hour high called Prince Planet.   

It's nearly indescribable, the hold that this cartoon had on myself and also many others who, I would learn later as an adult, were similarly effected by its habit-forming charms. It was an incredible appeal that grabbed at us all from multiple levels; from the catchy, kid-voiced theme song and the show's brave kid hero, to the crazy cast of equally brave supporting characters, wicked villains, and planet spanning adventures. Prince Planet was like no other cartoon show on TV. Unless, of course, you'd been a kid in during in the 1960s –– which I hadn't –– and had the pleasure of seeing episodes of the exciting Astro Boy or Gigantor (which I didn't), two other black and white imports from Japan that also featured pint-sized heroes.   

Well, quite unexpectedly, I turned on the TV one day to find that Prince Planet was gone, replaced in the 3:00 time slot by another show called Speed Racer. Unlike the monochromatic cartoon that I had come to adore, Speed Racer had been produced in color––apparently the kind of thing that was more attractive to advertisers, whose dollars paid for the commercial airtime that sustained TV stations like WSNS. I, of course, being a lil' kid, had no idea about the very shady business side of the TV racket. It took a while to get over the sense of loss that was felt, but soon enough I warmed up to Speed Racer. Despite my age, I was still astute enough then to realize that, like Prince Planet, Speed Racer characters had similarly large eyes. And though I was still too young to understand the connection, I was satisfied just thinking that there was one, and that the large-eyed look suggested something in the way of uniqueness. 

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