RUNNING BOY : THE SECRET OF STAR SOLDIER (ランニングボーイ スター・ソルジャーの秘密) is an original anime film created by FILMING INTERNATIONAL for HUDSON SOFT.
RUNNING BOY was released in 07/20/1986 during the notorious「FAMICOM BOOM」period as a promotional for both the FAMICOM and for HUDSON's latest hit game「STAR SOLDIER」which had been released a month earlier.
In 1984 HUDSON SOFT were the first ones to support the NINTENDO FAMICOM. Just two years later however, the FAMICOM had already become the most popular and successful video game system in history, and as all of you can imagine, by that time pretty much all of the non-rival (and even those!) software companies around wanted a piece of that cake.
It goes without saying that competition was fierce at this time, so game companies both big and small were constantly arranging all manners of promotional activities in order to win the hearts of the rapidly growing number of video game fans - most of which were children at the time.
From 1985-1998 a couple HUDSON Caravans toured Japan once a year setting up all kinds of cool video game-related events along the way to promote the company and their games.
These on-the-road shows were exceptionally well organized and quickly gained nationwide recognition. The massive Caravan Tournaments for example, became the stuff of legends since the participants knew that winning one of those could make them famous in the eyes of their fellow gamers all across the country.
So it was during these exciting times when video games were still an uncharted frontier that RUNNING BOY : THE SECRET OF STAR SOLDIER was released and also takes place.
GENTA SASAYAMA is an enthusiastic 6th grader who loves anything FAMICOM and dreams of one day becoming a game programmer. After a small series of events, GENTA becomes acquainted with HUSON SOFT's genius programmer NOMOTO who previously had been working on his company's ultimate shooting game project「STAR SOLDIER」but now was suffering from a severe case of programmer's block.
Fortunately GENTA's contagious passion for video games quickly manages to get NOMOTO out of his creative slump, and in return NOMOTO takes GENTA to the HUSON building in Tokyo so he can help out in putting the project back on track.
But while things had been working wonderfully for GENTA on this end, back at his school none of his classmates would believe anything of what had been happening.
To make matters worse, the notebook containing all of his original game ideas got stolen by his rival gamer HIDEKI who used it to win the「Game Idea」contest of the popular CoroCoro Comic Magazine (the same magazine where HUDSON unveiled STAR SOLDIER for the first time, by the way). Furious, GENTA confronts HIDEKI over the theft, but only to be called a fraud in front of everybody...
Later that night HIDEKI confronts GENTA once again, and after a heated argument, they both agree to have a definitive showdown match to finally settle once and for all who's the best gamer in town.
So after gathering their friends, the gang sneaks in the HUSON building and into the STAR SOLDIER virtual simulator unit「HONEY COMB」where their duel will take place inside the game.
【 GENTA 】
GENTA is a die-hard FAMICON fan although since he comes from a poor working-class family he doesn't own one himself.
Still, Genta keeps his game skills in shape playing a BOMBERMAN handheld game that he shares with her little sister.
GENTA wishes to become a game programmer in the future, and to this end he's already started to work on his very first programmer's notebook.
Unfortunately, his constant day dreaming of game ideas often gets him in trouble at school.
【 MAKIBA 】
GENTA's ever-supportive girl friend. She really doesn't do much throughout most of the film other than following GENTA around.
That is until near the end where she...
【 HIDEKI 】
HIDEKI is GENTA's classmate turned rival turned best friend.
He is an expert player who's just won his local TDK FAMICOM Caravan Tournament. However, in spite of being a skilled player and coming from an upper-class family.
HIDEKI is very resentful and even jealous of GENTA who seems to be happier just playing video games.
GENTA doesn't think of HIDEKI as a rival though, and even goes to his house to show him some of the game concepts he's been working on. HIDEKI however, sabotages GENTA by stealing his ideas and using them to win a popular Game Idea contest.
【 NOMOTO 】
The genius game programmer behind the hit game「STAR FIGHTER」(most likely a pun at「STAR FORCE」which is considered the spiritual predecessor of the STAR SOLDIER series). NOMOTO had been working in the development of the「Ultimate Shooting Game」, but now a creativity slump has him in the dumps.
It would seem that being a renown programmer and having a sexy wife in spite of being an obvious geek is not enough for NOMOTO who's being a jerk towards everyone around him, and that includes his close friend and fellow HUSON staffer TAKAHASHI MEIJIN to whom he engages in a good old buddy fist fight when he tried to put some sense into him.
【 TAKAHASHI MEIJIN 】
HUSON's most famous and recognizable face!
By 1986 TAKAHASHI MEIJIN had already become famous for his notorious finger speed of 16 shots per second, which of course earned him the nickname of「16-SHOT」.
RUNNING BOY actually takes place during the peak of TAKAHASHI's popularity, when his skill at playing STAR SOLDIER was impressing the children all across Japan.
Also, something interesting is that while TAKAHASHI doesn't voice himself in the film, he actually sings the opening and ending themes.
【 THE PRESIDENT 】
HUSON's head honcho. The President is basically the guy that makes things happen.
He seems to approve of「unorthodox」programming techniques, and among other things, he has OK'd the creation and usage of an advanced V.R. unit called the「HONEY COMB」in order to create the ultimate shooting game.
■WATCH IT ALREADY !
Well, the good news is that a YouTube user has uploaded the entire VHS film in 6 parts, so those interested on it can watch it. The bad news is that since the videos were uploaded by a Japanese user, they of course lack any subtitles. Fortunately, the story is simple and straightfoward enough that it's very easy to follow even for those who don't speak Japanese.
The videos themselves don't have that many views in spite of having been uploaded more than a year ago. This is very strange considering the FAMICOM still has the biggest Japanese fanbase of any retro game system. I can only assume that not a lot of people know about the film.
■GAME KING : TAKAHASHI MEIJIN VS MOURI MEIJIN FINAL CLASH !
RUNNING BOY was screened at the same time than the legendary GAME KING showdown match between the game celebrities of the time TAKAHASHI MEIJIN and MOURI MEIJIN. For those interested, here's the final of their series of STAR SOLDIER Score Attack matches.
Personally, I was never a FAMICOM fan. And while I think that STAR SOLDIER was a decent-enough shooting game for its time (I own the MSX version of it) - the game is certainly far from being as great as HUDSON managed to pass it on back then.
Still, I really like RUNNING BOY : THE SECRET OF STAR SOLDIER because it's a honest film that does a terrific job at depicting the wonderful game spirit of the mid '80s, specially among the children that were growing up at the time. This was indeed the time where the core shooting genre was still one of the dominant genres of gaming, and not just a niche genre for a select few that stopped being innovative a long time ago, like it's the case today.
Obviously the point of the film was to make more kids play the FAMICOM and STAR SOLDIER. Yet the film manages to get its message around without shoving anything down your throat.
Ultimately, RUNNING BOY is a film about how a bunch of friends overcome their problems and differences through the magic of video games. How could anyone not like it?
If you consider yourselves even remotely fans of either the FAMICOM, HUDSON, or just shooting games in general - RUNNING BOY is a must watch for you.