Hiroshi Takajima (Japanese: 高島 博, Hepburn: Takajima Hiroshi) was a Japanese animator, game programmer, voice actor, and manga artist who was the founder of Drillimation Studios, who produced several successful anime shows and video game series under his guidance for over a decade and have continued to do so since his death.
Takajima’s name in Japanese public records was spelled as Takashima through the kanji. During his first trip to the United States, one of his translators made an error and romanized the kanji as Takajima instead. He liked it because it sounded "unique". This variation would be carried over after marrying his wife Miyuki and after their two sons were born.
Early years (1936 - 1940)
Late childhood (1940 - 1954)
College years (1955 - 1958)
After graduating from high school, Takajima attended Tokyo University, where he majored in animation. From Takajima's experience of reading manga, his beginning in the animation career marked the opportunity to make his own manga.
Takashima Production Origins (1958 - 1968)
Upon graduating from Tokyo University, Takajima and a few friends from their experience of making animated short films went on and created Takashima Production. After creating the studio, Takajima's aim was to create a genre that would be enjoyable for most people. Prior to their ten-year anniversary, Takajima began work on their first anime series, Ranger Man Fantasma.
Success of Ranger Man Fantasma and Space Ninja Boy Oija (1969 - 1972)
In February 1969, the Ranger Man Fantasma anime started its run on NET (now TV Asahi). It was a huge success for Takajima after he heard the fact of one-third of all viewers enjoyed it. After three seasons of the anime, Takajima began work on another anime, entitled Space Ninja Boy Oija. The anime was a huge hit and became very popular among children.
In 1974, during a visit to Los Angeles with his friend, Hiroshi bumped into Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott of Filmation at a A&W restaurant. After Lou and Norm told him about their company Filmation, Takajima asked Lou about working with Filmation on a series. Around that time, he met his wife, Miyuki Takajima, whom he eventually married. The couple had two children: a son named Hiroki Takajima born in 1977, and another son named Susumu Takajima born in 1979, who would later go on to succeed Takajima.
Bazinger!, Transition from Takashima Production to Drillimation Studios, and Star Girl Mayuko (1977 - 1986)
In 1977, Filmation produced Bazinger!, which featured character designs created by Takashima Production (so Hiroshi could have some creative control) but was animated, scripted, and storyboarded entirely by Filmation (to meet the company's "made entirely in the USA" standard). It was a huge hit for NBC, which broadcast the series, and when it was dubbed into Japanese for NHK it broke some ratings records.
While Filmation was producing Bazinger!, Takajima wanted to do a series based on girl fighters. He also wanted a new name for the studio, as he thought Takashima Production sounded "too bland". During a meeting with Lou Scheimer, Lou told Hiroshi that he was "drilling into the American animation market", which gave Takajima an idea. In tribute to Filmation and Lou's statement, Takajima changed the name of Takashima Production to "Drillimation".
After a long period of preparations, in 1984 Star Girl Mayuko premiered on NHK. The series was Drillimation's biggest success at that point, and Drillimation earned nearly 2 million yen in royalties from a wide range of merchandising. As Star Girl Mayuko exploded in popularity, Takajima also saw how successful the computer industry was starting to become, and he purchased a Commodore 64 from a computer shop in Leamington Spa whilst on vacation in the United Kingdom.
Using the Commodore 64, he began making simple games featuring Mayuko Wakakoshi, Professor Bazinger, Donald Fantasma, and Oija Sakiyama. The first game he made was a simple tennis game for animators who needed a break from working on Star Girl Mayuko. It subsequently became popular, prompting Takajima to make more.
Video game industry years (1986 - 1995)
During the run of the fourth series of Star Girl Mayuko, employees from Namco visited Drillimation, and discussed with Takajima on producing an arcade game based on one of Drillimation's properties. In November 1985, Namco paid a total of $200 million to partner with Drillimation to produce video games and anime shows. Namco then asked Takajima about creating a show based off Dig Dug. In response, Takajima named Dig Dug "Taizo Hori" and created a concept about Dig Dug/Taizo Hori going on adventures using a "digging drill". This became Mr. Driller, which was followed by a anime series that was given an North American adaptation by Drillimation's U.S. division Drillimation USA Inc. in association with Canada's CTV network and American television syndicator The Program Exchange.
Shortly afterwards, Hiroshi sold Drillimation to Fujisankei Communications International for US$21 million in 1987. Hiroshi remained CEO of Drillimation and oversaw the day-to-day operations of the company's anime and video game units for several years.
Decline of health and death (1995 - 1997)
In the fall of 1995, Takajima's health began declining and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 1996. The most common things his youngest son, Susumu Takajima, began noticing was leaving the lights on when leaving his home, and misplacing his keys in unusual locations. He was also starting to show signs of pneumonia around the same year. In the summer of 1996, Takajima underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor that inflicted a stroke on him. The following summer, Takajima suffered another stroke after the cancer had returned and died on July 2, 1997 at his home in Tokyo's Suginami ward, at the age of 61.
Hiroshi was buried in Zōshigaya Cemetery. His grave is inscribed with the Latin phrase "Rerum vade errabis, rerum vade rectum", (meaning "Things go wrong, things go right"), the corporate motto for Drillimation. His wife Miyuki Takajima died in 2017, and was buried alongside Hiroshi.