#214 : Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy

A great power, an energy source has been discovered that can be the panacea to Earth’s energy. And yet there is always a catch in finding or discovering any powerful MacGuffin device… the karmic baggage. Our protagonists are not the only ones who have an interest in this great source of power and it is up to them to save the Earth yet again. Except this isn’t your run of the mill gang of heroes. Our cast if a famous name in terms of anime, if not legendary. The brain child of Shotaro Ishinomori… one of the founding franchises of modern anime and manga. The beloved nine of Cyborg 009 are ready to go on yet another adventure; this time we look at the 1980 film Legend of the Super Galaxy, or Defenders of the Vortex.

C009_80_1Released during the airing of the reimagined 1979 TV series, Legend of the Super Galaxy would tell an alternate story that takes place several years later where all nine cyborgs are brought back together for a new special mission. This time the foe is not Black Ghost, nor of this Earth. This is a unique tale, a tale of heroes and villains, a tale of sacrifice, love and even the usual action all set mostly this time in outer space. Saving the the Earth from an evil organization is one thing, but encountering extraterrestrial forces outside our native homeward is another. The superhero genre is one thing, but as a space opera, it is something else.

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Cyborg 009 in the guise of a space opera? How can this be possible? The height of the genre was in full swing during the release of this film and in many ways, yeah why not give it a try? It’s like from my eye an injecting of a lot Leiji Matsumoto styled influence. Particularly Space Battleship Yamato as this was a hot sci-fi property at the time. And yet it works very well for our cyborg soldier team in terms of making them seem like a true family with the heightened melodrama… I’m such a sucker for these types of movies, how about you? The romance between 003 (Francoise) and 009 (Joe), the rescue of Princess Tamara as well as the self sacrificial act of 004 (Albert) in Legend of the Super Galaxy give this film just a little more added punch to the usual story dynamics of Cyborg 009. Even though this movie was available on VHS back in the day here in the west, dubbed of course, it was one that was never on my radar. Yet as a film seen years after the fact, this brought back the tingles of nostalgia that drew me into anime in the first place.

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Our collective nine cyborgs have always had a special place in my heart as well as other fans. More so because they don’t remind me of a team, but more so a family. Everyone has a back story and despite being from different backgrounds and ethnicities, everyone views themselves as fellow brothers and sister. This family bond is very present in Legend of the Super Galaxy. All nine work together as a team and fight together not because it is our job, but because they genuinely care for each other and also for the fate of the planet Earth. There is plenty of heart between their relationships and Legend of the Super Galaxy may perhaps be the most impactful adventure these nine go through in terms of showing that being cybernetically enhanced can never hide the true feelings of the highest form of human feeling… compassion.

C009_80_4With so much Cyborg 009 available, and with material constantly getting modern face lifts, does Legend of the Super Galaxy still hold up in more contemporary settings?. As a sibling to another Toei film from 1980, Toward the Terra, Legend of the Super Galaxy, like it’s twin, is a reflection of anime at that time. A large scale space opera that is in and of itself a fine film of action, drama and compassion (why can’t they make ’em like this anymore?); this is what drew me to anime in the first place and stills harkens me back for more. We have a showcase for a big budget franchise that has heart, soul and a plot beyond dazzle and display. I’ll keep this one on my shelf.

#107 : Cyborg 009 (1966 movie)

Cyborg 009 equals the epitome of ‘Old School’. Or, perhaps that is a mistranslation; I prefer ‘Old is Cool’. Because with age comes wisdom, or so I keep telling myself as I keep adding up solar cycles and still retain the heart and soul of my youth. A product of the 1960s, Cyborg 009 reflects the era with the rise and hope of big technology, growing social equality and Cold War politics. Cyborg 009 represents a story about brand new heroes in a (once long ago) modern age heading towards an uncertain future.

C009_movie_1Many adaptations of this Shotaro Ishinomori manga have see the light of day, but this film from 1966 was the very first time the cyborg soldiers of Professor Gilmore came to life on a screen brought to you by the great old studio, Toei Animation. The story begins simply with a young race car driver, Jo Shimamura, becoming involved in a nasty crash (knife in a tire, yikes!) and is subsequently hauled off in a mysterious ambulance. He soon awakens to find he now has incredible powers, including an ability to run extremely fast, and new clothes as well (I like the new threads man). Jo has had cybornetic enchantments and is now known as Cyborg 009 (you are the star of the show my friend, hooray), a tool for the evil counter organization Black Ghost (great name). 009 also meets eight other cyborgs, his new fellow comrades, who rebel against Black Ghost in the name of justice and freedom. An uprising ensues as the team of nine cyborgs kidnap Professor Gilmore and escape.

C009_movie_2Often Cyborg 009 can be seen as Japan’s version of the X-Men. Yet I see them as one of the great early examples of a sentai squad. Ishinmori should know that concept very well as he is the creator of the Super Sentai live action genre. But then again, I see the cyborgs as a reinvention of family. There is a tight bond between these nine individuals and even though they all come from different countries, ethnicities and backgrounds, they fight together and care for each other. Very forward thinking and yet perfect for the 1960s and even today to show that no matter who you are, or where you are from, we are all brothers and sister of the human race. It’s the formation of the greater family you can build when you embrace diversity and individuality. We all have a role and a part to play to help the greater good, it’s just all of us lack the technological enhancements of our brave nine heroes.

C009_movie_3There are a few oddities I caught from this release compared to the more popular, or better known releases of Cyborg 009. First, 009, is clad in white while the others have their uniforms in purple. All except 003, she gets to be closest to most adaptations with a pinkish shade of the standard red. And red is also the color of her hair, instead of the usual flaxen hue I am used to. Do blondes have more fun? Not this time around, it’s all about the auburn. And for some reason 007 (who is British, love the James Bond in joke) is portrayed as a kid. These characteristics are also carried into the second film, Cyborg 009: Monster Wars (on my radar to find) and the first TV series of 1968.

C009_movie_4Though the art style might be archaic to our more modern eyes and honestly this may not have been the most sophisticated film made at the time, Cyborg 009 makes up for it with pure fun. This feels like a period television series amped up just slightly, including cinemascope widescreen (fancy), that still retains much of the simple limited animation used during the era. Think Astro Boy and Speed Racer as a frame of reference. Yet it is a very attractive movie with bold colors and designs. If you are looking for a basic starter into Cyborg 009, this movie is a great option as it is action packed and about an hour long. Plus you’ll get to experience Cyborg 009 during the time of it’s genesis with all the hope, innocence and at times cheesiness that made the 1960s so great. For without the likes of Cyborg 009Speed Racer, or Astro Boy, we would not have the fruits of all the great animation that we treasure today. Thank you Cyborg 009 and thank you Shotaro Ishinomori.