Space western… isn’t that kind of oxymoronic. But if steampunk works, then space westerns do as well. Outlaws, cowboys, the wild frontier and spaceships with warp drives are a killer combination. The time has come to highlight some animated shows that are one foot in Japan and the other in the west. I have one of my favorites of that bygone era that competed with Filmation’s Bravestarr and Saber Ryder and the Star Sheriffs (an adaptation of Star Musketeer Bismarck) for the definition of an 80s cartoon space western. That show is The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers.
Though not an anime outright since this series was conceptualized and sold to the west, it can be what I call an example of a half-anime or perhaps a second cousin once removed. Galaxy Rangers was a collaboration with the awesome Tokyo Movie Shinsa (TMS) studio via American producer Robert Mandell. Mandell’s vision was to create a western infused space opera that appealed to a more mature audience, mix it with the elements of anime he liked while working in Japan and do it all without an already existing merchandise license. Sounds par for the course today, but in 1986 this was a new frontier. The economy of that time allowed the west to use Japan’s studios for production often in animation, but collaborations were rare. This was the ‘Wild West’ so to speak (how fitting).
I could mention much about the plot of Galaxy Rangers, but I should introduce our quartet of heroes and how they fit into the show. First we have the leader, Zachary Foxx, the straight man and also the father and husband who has a mission to rescue his family back from the Crown Empire. Shane Gooseman, a former Supertrooper (kind of like the X-Men or Cyborg 009), is the bad-boy of the group. Niko, the token pretty girl, has brilliant intuition, knowledge of archeology and gorgeous hair. And finally ‘Doc’ Walter Hartford, the essential computer geek. All four work as a collective unit, or separately, on various jobs requiring their help. So kind of like a sentai squad like Gatchaman crossed with the Dirty Pair.
Now… Galaxy Rangers, what makes you so special? How do you rock our universe? How about the music for a start! We have no synth pop or cheesy songs on this soundtrack. We get arena hair-band hard rock. WHOA! Last time I jammed this hard was Transformers: The Movie. And what about influences from Japan? The character designs and colors are closer to ‘anime’ of the time. In fact Shane Gooseman resembles M.D. Geist from my eye, though he takes after a blonde Clint Eastwood to be honest. Zachary Foxx has an arm that acts like a laser blaster, very similar to a space pirate named Cobra. Plus, how many cartoons featured the late TV and Broadway actor Jerry Orbach? OK, on research I found he was also in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as well, but to me he will always be Zachary Foxx. Finally I have to give a nod to Speed Racer: Peter Fernandez worked on production and Corinne Orr played the Queen of the Crown.
Now being that I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed seven year old in 1986, I bet you thought I saw this show everyday after school. Well… I had no knowledge of this show back then. Very true indeed as my watch list that year was Transformers, Silverhawks, Robotech and at times Jem. It wasn’t until about 2011/12 and finding a review of the DVD sets that an itch began to arise that needed a scratch. How did I not know about this show at the time? Again I remind myself that as a kid cowboys and westerns were not my cup of tea, plus I never heard any classmates talk about it. If you remember, I mentioned that this show began without any merchandising. So their was no alternative way to get your interest to see this show. But like anything, time will cross the paths of destiny in whatever schedule is set before it.
While most 65 episode 80s shows of my youth can often be stained with nostalgia perfection, upon viewing with more mature eyes apparent flaws are often present. If you isolate the best 26 or so episodes of Galaxy Rangers when the show was running on all cylinders, you have a solid production; a fine hybrid. Rangers are Forever!