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The Crater

Story

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  • "The Crater" is a series of short complete stories ranging in genre from suspense to mystery and horror. In the second episode entitled "The Octagonal Mansion," a boy who is undecided over what to do with his life happens to go to an octagonal mansion, where he can start his life all over again. The 8th episode, "The Bell Rings" features three people who are haunted by tinkling bells that won't let them forget their past sins. Some stories end happily, while others don't. But all of them have the unforgettable imagery typical of Tezuka Osamu's short stories.
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Electronic Books

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Characters


  • Okuchin

    Nancy (1st episode)

    Kuma Ryuichi (2nd episode)

    Sato Eisaku (3rd episode)

    Yukari (4th episode)

    Tezuka Osamu (7th, 11th and 16th episodes)

    Midori (13th episode)

    Kantaro (14th episode)

    Chikuwana (16th episode)

    William Frost Wily (17th episode)
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Descriptions

  • August 10, 1969 to April 1, 1970
    Appeared in "Form Shonen Champion" (Akita Shoten Publishing Co., Ltd.) as a series of complete stories

    These episodes appeared in the boys' Manga magazine, "Shonen Champion," which was published every other week at that time, as a complete story.
    The title, "The Crater," has no particular meaning and each episode is complete in itself.
    But by having the boy character Okuchin appears in many episodes, "The Crater" maintained continuity as a work, and was very successful. At the same that he wrote this work, Tezuka Osamu also produced "Under the Air (1968-1970)," also a series of short stories, this time for a Manga magazine targeted at young adults. It is interesting to read both works to compare the two different messages that Tezuka Osamu was trying to convey in the two magazines.
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Episodes

  • 1. Two Dramas      August 10, 1969

    Nancy is a daughter of an unlicensed doctor in Chicago. She often daydreams that a nice guy takes her out of the slums to a faraway place. Jim is a bad boy who lives in the same slums and sometimes steals. One day, he has a strange dream in which he becomes a young elite Japanese man named Ryuichi who comes to Chicago to study. In the dream, Jim as Ryuichi meets Nancy and invites her to go on a trip together, but Jim himself appears there, and each man insists that the other is only a figment of the imagination, and the two start fighting.

    2. The Octagonal Mansion      August 27, 1969

    Kuma Ryuichi cannot decide whether he should go to college or become a cartoonist. One day, an old woman appears and advises him to decide by flipping a coin. She says that if the occupation he has chosen does not please him, he can start all over only once with another profession by visiting the octagonal mansion. Ryuichi chooses first to become a cartoonist. He is successful without a hitch for a while, but then comes up against a brick wall in his creative ability. Thus he visits the octagonal house, and starts a new life as a boxer this time. He gets bogged down again, however, and tries to go back to being a cartoonist, but then...

    3. The Man Who Melted      September 10, 1969

    Sato Eisaku is conducting research on certain chemicals at the request of the U.S. military. One night when he has worked until late, he runs into a student named Okada who is working frantically on research similar to his. Sensing something strange, Sato inquires about Okada, and is shocked to learn that he was on the school register during the war and is already dead. He also finds out that Okada was conducting research for the military on some dreadful chemical liquid that melted anything. Realizing why Okada's ghost has appeared in front of him, Sato decides to stop the research he has been doing for the U.S. military.

    4. Car Racer      September 17, 1969

    The protagonist of this episode, narrating the story in the first person, and Sakai Kazuo are both car racers sharing a room. The protagonist has a human-sized doll named Yukari as his mascot. He drives with the doll beside him even in races because he is in love with her. But Sakai does not like this habit of his friend. One day, after a race in Fuji City, the two of them decide to have a talk about it by an air hole of Mt. Fuji. While they are quarreling, Yukari falls into the depths of the air hole. After they wander about for a while in the air hole without seeing the exit of the cave, Sakai finally finds it, and they escape to safety. The protagonist feels grateful for having a reliable friend, but he realizes at the next moment that it is not Sakai but someone else who has been with him all the time...

    5. Sergeant Okuno      October 1, 1969

    The story is set in an imaginary country in future. Hit by bullets fired from an enemy plane during his attack on the enemy's base, Okuno Ryuichi, a third-class air force sergeant, makes an emergency landing on an uninhabited island and hides there. In his country, however, in order to raise the morale of the soldiers, the military authorities announce that Okuno has met a heroic death in a deliberate crash onto the enemy's base. The story about his brave action is gradually exaggerated to the extent that he is revered as a great model of the air force, and eventually as the god of war. His name appears in school textbooks, and even a monument to him has been built. Then, all of a sudden, Okuno comes back. Having been forced into a very awkward position, the military headquarters orders Okuno to go and die for real. What will he do?

    6. The Two-headed Snake      October 15, 1969

    Cicero, ostensibly a pharmacist in Chicago, is actually the boss of a gang called "Two-headed Snake." The gang hates and fears blacks, and have just killed Guillet brutally, a black man who headed the construction workers' union. Cicero has a small son who does not know the other face of his father. One day, the son of Guillet tells Cicero's son that his father is in truth a villain feared by people of the town. Hearing this, he runs away from home. Cicero is worried and asks Banky, a black police inspector, to find his son. As a result of this, the gang members regard Cicero as a traitor and put him to death.
    Guest Cicero's henchman / Acetylene Lamp

    7. The Three Invaders      November 5, 1969

    A group of ferocious beings from outer space come down into a group of villas to spy on the Earth. Tezuka Osamu happens to be working on Manga in his cottage built, where he is trying hard to meet his deadline. Transforming themselves into earthlings disguised as escaped convicts, the aliens invade the cottage next to Tezuka's, and take the family as hostages. The aliens observe Tezuka from the house next door. Seeing him drawing up a plan all day long, they infer mistakenly that Tezuka is a great scholar. Thus they assault him to suck up his brain and obtain his knowledge. As soon as they have done this, however, they become tormented by something called "deadlines."

    8. The Bell Rings      November 19, 1969

    Three guests are staying at an inn located in a hot-spring resort. But whenever each of them goes to enjoy the outdoor hot spring, they hear the strange tinkling of a bell. Since each of them has a guilty memory related to the sound of a bell, they cannot bear this. Having checked to make sure that there is no bell at the outdoor hot spring, the landlord of the inn assures his three guests.
    The landlord has a large python as a pet to which he gives live animals as food. One day, he gets angry at his wife's cat, and lets his python eat it. After the incident, however, he starts hearing the tinkling of a bell from the stomach of his python, the bell that the cat was wearing around its neck. The sound keeps haunting his conscience, and he finally finds out what it really is.
    Guest Ex-soldier / Marukubi Boon    Landlord of the inn / Ham Egg

    9. The Snowman      December 3, 1969

    Okuno and Sasaki are rivals in skiing, competing for first place in a ski championship. They stay at a lodge every winter to practice together and evaluate each other's progress. One winter, they go a little way further into the mountain to ski where a truck suddenly appears and nearly hits them. Since it is strange for a truck to be there because there is no road, they presume that this might be the mysterious phenomenon the local people call "the snowman." Confronted by the hostile truck again, they finally find what "the snowman" actually is.
    Guest Sasaki / Sasaki Kojiro

    10. Okuchin's Strange Experience      December 17, 1969

    Okuchin is a junior high school student who is good at fighting. In order to save 300,000 yen, he becomes a jack-of-all-trades to meet all kinds of requests. He has no problem with fighting on behalf of somebody, but one day, a man named Jordan asks him on the street to take care of a girl for a while. She is Kitada Yuko, who is already dead and is now only a spirit. She wants to borrow Okuchin's body until Heaven is ready to accept her. The situation confuses Okuchin completely because two minds now coexist in his body. Jordan promises to pay 300,000 yen for the service. But why does Okuchin need so much money anyway?
    Guest Akita Newspaper's employee / Police Inspector Geta

    11. The Mask of Tomoe      January 7, 1970

    Once upon a time, there lived twin sisters, Princess Tomoe and Princess Fushimi. Princess Tomoe was plain but sweet at heart, while Princess Fushimi had a beautiful face but was cruel by nature. Both of them loved Honjo Tadamichi, the head of a powerful clan, but Tadamichi chose Princess Tomoe for his wife. With a bitter grudge against her sister, Princess Fushimi tricks Tadamichi into killing Princess Tomoe. As a result, however, Princess Fushimi takes on Princess Tomoe's face, and she goes insane and dies. There remains only the mask of Princess Tomoe...Tezuka Osamu is requested to design a toy using the mask of Princess Tomoe from the above legend, and although he is reluctant, he agrees to do it. But an ominous incident occurs as Tezuka expected, and the mask of Tomoe...
    Guest Tezuka / Tezuka Osamu    Toy company president / Higeoyaji

    12. Good Fortune      January 21, 1970

    Okuchin is having a remarkable run of luck. He gets full marks on his test, finds a wallet on the street, and even gets Kumi-chan as his girlfriend, who is worshipped by all the boys. Suspecting something going on behind Okuchin's luck, the leader of a group of bad boys follows him, and finds out his secret in an earthen pipe left in a vacant lot. The pipe actually works as a "pipe of time" through which a river runs back in time to the past. Okuchin has been using the pipe to start all over with past failures. The leader and Okuchin compete to go back further and further in the past to get Kumi-chan's heart, but...

    13. The Riddle of Brunnen      February 4, 1970

    The athletics club of P Junior High School has mid-winter camp training in the windswept fields of Gotenba, in which they run round Mt. Fuji. The only pleasure for the club members in their free time when they can see Midori, a cute girl working at the coffee shop Brunnen located half way up a hill. One day, Okuchin becomes feverish, and is being nursed at Brunnen. While talking with the young owner of the shop, Okuchin is told that Midori is actually a fairy who was living in a spring, and that the owner has brought her to the human world. Meanwhile, Midori goes to the spring to get some medicine for Okuchin, but her father finds her there and finally comes to Brunnen to get his daughter back.

    14. The Purple Bems      February 18, 1970

    Kantaro is a mentally retarded boy living in a village in the depth of the mountains where there isn't even electricity. Since there is no other entertainment, Takashi, Kantaro's brother, often tells the story of Momotaro to him. One night, when Kantaro is late to come home, Takashi goes to look for him in the mountain and finds purple aliens getting information from Kantaro about the Earth using a strange device. Surprisingly, the information Kantaro is giving to the aliens is the story of Momotaro he has heard from his brother. The next day, using his wit, Takashi makes up a story to tell Kantaro that the demons of Onigashima were purple aliens who were all wiped out in a nuclear explosion. How do the aliens react to the story when they hear it from Kantaro?

    15. Bag Containing the Future      March 4, 1970

    Okuchin is feeling desperate because his father has lost his job and he himself is a failed student without any prospects for the future. Then a man appears before him, declaring himself as a great thief who steals the futures of others. When Okuchin wears spectacles that the man gives him, he sees that everyone has a bag hanging on his hip. The man says that if he steals the bag, he can obtain the future contained in it. Okuchin and the "future robber" decide to go out to steal the future of the luckiest man in the world, but...

    16. Sacrifice      March 18, 1970

    The episode originates in the empire of Maya 2000 of years ago. Just about to be offered as a sacrifice, a girl prays to God that she may live ten years longer to have a happy family of her own. Her wish is granted, and she drifts to the shore of Japan of the present time where she falls in love with a Japanese young man and marries him. The couple encourages each other to overcome hardships, and now they have children. She finally thinks that she has a happy family of her own. And it happens to be the tenth year from that day...
    Guest Tezuka / Tezuka Osamu

    17. The Man on the Crater      April 1, 1970

    When William Frost is examining Volcano Alfonsus on the moon, which is said to blow steam, he suddenly gets hung in the air from a precipitous cliff, becoming unable to move at all. Apollo, the spacecraft that sent him to the moon, has gone back to the earth. The oxygen in his space suit has run out. Although William is supposed to be dead, he returns to life for a while when exposed to gas emitted from Alfonsus periodically. He moves between life and death this way for many years. One day, when he happens to be alive, finally seeing a rocket from the Earth, William calls out for help, but...

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Animation

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