Shunsaku "Higeoyaji" Ban is a recurring character in the Astro Boy franchise and the Osamu Tezuka Star System. He is one of Tezuka's first characters and always appears as a loud-spoken, hardboiled devotee to justice.
Higeoyaji was created in 1944, and was actually inspired by a drawing by Tezuka's classmate in high school. This classmate drew a caricature of his grandfather, who once owned a confectionary shop in Itami. Tezuka, then 16 years old, adapted the caricature into his own character, "Higeoyaji" (lit. "Old Man Mustache"). Higeoyaji officially debuted in the 1945 manga Ghost Men.
In his Star System roles, Higeoyaji usually appears as a detective, teacher, or a lawful good civilian. Kenichi is often his nephew and generally his closest relative. He is prone to cameoing very often in manga or anime where he doesn't play a starring role.
In the Astro Boy franchise, he is almost always Astro's homeroom teacher, but in the 2003 anime he is an independent private detective.
Higeoyaji has a simple but iconic design: he is a short, portly middle-aged man, balding with a thick white mustache. This mustache is particularly the source of his nickname. Usually, Higeoyaji dresses in business casual style, such as sport coats and ties. He is said to speak with a Kansai accent.
In Atom: The Beginning, he appears as a teenaged version of himself, but now skinny and with a full head of brown hair. His uncle Kensaku Ban bears a strong resemblance to the adult Shunsaku Ban in other canons, implying A:TB Shunsaku will grow up to look just like him.
Shunsaku Ban is boisterous, opinionated, and outspoken. This is intimidating for many, but he's a fantastic ally for Astro. Like Professor Ochanomizu, Ban is a strong supporter of robot rights, and gladly invites Astro into his classroom. He is generally devoted to justice and protecting others' civil rights. If he catches someone attempting to wreak havoc or hurt someone else, Ban will not hesitate to come at them, fists swinging.
However, Ban's short temper doesn't always work in his favour. He tends to overreact or jump to conclusions very easily. He also has a bad habit of speaking too harshly.
His opinion on robots tends to vary in some adaptations. In most incarnations, he is depicted to be very openly supportive of robots having human rights, and warmly allows Astro to be a part of his class. In the 2003 anime however, he is initially portrayed as having a distrust for robots in general, but quickly warms up to them after Astro helps him solve a case.
In Tezuka's original Astro Boy manga, Higeoyaji is both a private eye and Astro's homeroom teacher. He is a strong supporter of robot rights and technological advancement, but prefers to live in a low-tech traditional Japanese home. He is said at one point to be 42 years old.
This series' Higeoyaji is adapted directly from the original manga. He is loud and outspoken, and rather in-your-face, which leads to some chaos during his detective work. He's clumsy, but still a strong contender in a fist fight. In a time-traveling episode, Higeoyaji reveals that he is terrible at drawing pictures, after cavemen make fun of his art.
Higeoyaji is a good friend of Professor Ochanomizu, which is how he first meets Astro. At a live TV conference, Astro is declared as the first robot child to go to a human school, and after someone makes an anti-robot statement, Higeoyaji crashes the interview to voice his objection. Later, after congratulating Astro about joining his class, Higeoyaji also introduces his hobbies: private detective work, judo, and flower arranging.
As bold and loudmouthed as Higeoyaji can be, he still means well, and cares deeply about his students' well being. He occasionally teams up with Astro to solve crimes in Metro City. Higeoyaji also has a particularly long-running feud with Skunk Kusai, whom is known to even taunts Higeoyaji over the phone.
Shunsaku "Higeoyaji" Kisaragi is a private detective who, in his first appearance, mainly investigates lost pets. He is Yuko Kisaragi's uncle, and she is shown to be exasperated with how reckless he is during his investigations. In contrast to his previous incarnations, Higeoyaji begins the series distrustful of AI robots. He comes to change his beliefs after working with Astro and getting to know him better.
Higeoyaji's role in the 2003 series is also scaled back. He has non-speaking cameos in some later episodes, but is featured in the following (in English dub order):
- Episode 27: Old Dog, New Tricks
- Episode 29: The Case of the Phantom Fowl
- Episode 34: Shape Shifter
- Episode 35: Firebird
In the English dub, his first name is changed to "Wally"; this is a tribute to his voice actor, who also played dozens of characters in the series' dub.
Higeoyaji is renamed as "Mr. Mustachio" and works as Toby Tenma's teacher. He appears only in a handful of scenes during the first act of the film. Mustachio runs a pop quiz for Toby's class, and can later be seen trying to propose to a woman in downtown Metro City.
Higeoyaji appears in Jetter Mars as a teacher and detective, just as he would appear in a mainline Astro Boy series.
Shunsaku Ban appears in this series as a 15 year old, and he is a huge science and robotics enthusiast. He hangs around at Lab 7 and has a huge crush on Ran Ochanomizu.