Zillion fans in the house stand tall and proud! I am one with you. A simple sci-fi shonen adventure with promotional tie-ins that never had a longterm sequel or reboot is Zillion in a nutshell. It can be cliche, sometimes cheeky and just a lot of fun in general, plus it belongs into the universe of that fallen video game giant I love so dearly… SEGA! Woohoo. Sit back, grab some snacks and chill out to that little ol’ anime from 1987, Red Photon Zillion.
Imagine a weapon so powerful it cannot be recreated and yet it was harnessed into three guns. These Zillion guns are in the hands of our three heroes, The White Nuts. Yeah, Nuts… after all that is the Japanese wording for Knights, think of original NES Zelda’s Dark Nuts (those Blue ones still give me nightmares on how difficult they were). The names of these three young warriors are Champ (the cool guy leader type), Apple (the tough, yet cute girl) and JJ (the main character and the clown of the outfit) and together they fight against the Nohza invaders that have come to conquer this far off planet known as Maris, the second Earth. Mix in some transforming motorcycle mechs and an aircraft that can take on extra vehicle add-ons that reminds me of the classic British marionette adventures of The Thunderbirds… are GO!
The origins of Zillion can call into question two sources that I am aware of, or maybe the anime was the original? Remember Lazer Tag (yes with a ‘Z’ as in Zillion… yea for puns)? That was a hot toy in the mid 80s here in the U.S. and there was an alternative in Japan that featured the Zillion name. The gun looks like the upgrade seen later in the series. That counts as possible origin #1, well what about #2? I can sum it up as one word… SEGA! Yes Zillion was featured as a video game (actually there are two) on SEGA’s then hardware the Master System or Mark III, depending on what part of the world you were in. Even former mascot Opa-Opa is a re-occuring character (I love Fantasy Zone!). And come to think of it the SEGA phaser is a dead copy to the original Zillion gun. Wait, then that means… the SEGA phaser is the ultimate weapon of the universe… take that Nintendo!
The production for the anime was done at an old favorite of mine, Tatsunoko Production. And ironically this show is linked with my main gateway drug of Robotech, in not one, but two ways. First much of the production design work that was going to be a part of the sequel Robotech II: The Sentinels. So recycled designs… interesting, but it works. Most likely backgrounds, mecha and maybe the Nohza themeleves, but I am only speculating. The second of course is the fact that Carl Macek, the main face behind Robotech, along with his then company of Streamline Pictures (VHS nostalgia) released the first five episodes and the OVA Burning Night. These were dubbed of course and features many of the old standard cast of Robotech. So Zillion could almost be a full circle production if you can connect the dots in a certain way.
Now… do yourself a favor and crank up the segments when the music plays, in particular the opening (Pure Stone) and ending themes (Push and Rock Candy) as these are very catchy tunes. Pure Stone in particular is often on repeat for me as this is a song that just makes me happy. And while many anime have great soundtracks, Zillion’s may be one of my all time favorites. Funny thing is how our cast ended up forming a band and performing in the follow-up OVA Burning Night. Catchy 80s pop-rock is cornerstone to Zillion, even the 8-bit versions on the Master System games get me singing.
While the 1980s brought us many big name franchises and singular entries that have gone into the status of legend, we have many more that even today remain cult classics. Zillion is one of these and though it may not hold the high class caliber of say certain mecha, or magical girl properties, or even Shonen Jump fighters… it has it’s place in my collection and I hope yours as well.