#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.

#209 : SilverHawks

Now this may just be me, but these pre-intro trailers really spoil the plot of each episode! … Are you a hardcore 80s cartoon fan? Several 80s creations have had life outside the decade either by nostalgia, reinvention, or a combination or the two. Many more exist as rumors, or more like a secret code that big kids like us never grow tired of. I pull a couple DVDs off the shelf and after gazing at the covers remember many things, but will they still hold up in terms of entertainment? Fun, adventure and deep space science fiction on today’s episode of The Classic Anime Museum… with… SilverHawks.

SH_11986… September 8, a Monday afternoon… If I am doing my math right I was in the beginning stages of the second grade in my elementary school years when a new cartoon would catch my eye. If memory serves me correctly I had anticipated the arrival of the SilverHawks for a couple of weeks knowing that it was created by the same folks behind ThunderCats and it was set in space this time. Seven year old me was drooling at the mouth as SilverHawks would become one of my favorite shows at the time hitting crucial buttons of joy. Cyborg soldiers, “partly metal, partly real” who act like the new sheriffs in town who take on the criminal gang of Mon-Star. And those SilverHawks were buff as all hell, true hard bodies. Do you remember the workout videos featuring Tamilee Webb? Buns of Steel, Abs of Steel, etc.…Yeah that sounds like the SilverHawks to me!

SH_2Sci-fi obsessed as we were in the 1980s, SilverHawks was very typical of depicting a future with high technology, space travel and alien encounters. Star Wars looked to be a huge influence, but also the American comic book hero character. Though based on a toyline, SilverHawks exudes the Marvel and DC type of characters who work as a team: X-Men, Fantastic Four, or Justice League. And while I am sure anime influence may not have been top on the listing I can compare the SilverHawks to sentai groups like Gatchaman, or more appropriately to the cyborgs of Cyborg 009. Once completely human both the cyborg soldiers of Cyborg 009 and the SilverHawks have been enhanced to become the ultimate fighting machines. Of course for Cyborg 009 this was done outside the characters’ wills for a criminal organization. These nine would rebel to fight against their creator. SilverHawks featured volunteers who fight for justice and peace and all the usual American apple pie sort of things that in reality is not always the picture perfect truth.

SH_3Every show needs some sort of identity markers from logo and typography, toys, characters, plot points and even a mascot at times. For SilverHawks the concept of mascot became legendary with the cybernetic enhanced Tally-Hawk. How many times did I want his talons to grip my forearm as I stare into his eyes; such a beautiful bird. Hawks and birds of prey in general have always been a personal favorite for me. The elegant grace, power and intensity of these birds are truly beautiful. While SilverHawks featured many characters from the heroic, to the diabolical, to the sly and even the goofy, none compare to Tally-Hawk whose only dialogue was a screech that said more than the length of a Russian novel. If Tally-Hawk was a Pokemon, I choose you!

SH_4Like many other Rankin/Bass titles, the design and pre-production was done in the U.S. while the heavy lifting of paint and pen ended up with a Japanese studio. In the case of the mid-1980s this was Pacific Animation Corporation. Though this show may not technically be anime in name it is certainly in spirit. Watch the opening credit sequence as an example. With ThunderCats lightning struck in a bottle in terms of success and in many ways SilverHawks would ride that wave as a sort of phase two. Does this show still hold up for me today? Yes and no. The early episodes still hold merit in my fandom, but the overall mythology lacks the breadth of ThunderCats and often times SilverHawks is a one trick pony that repeats itself. Yet as a single ride pony show it still is fun, in short bursts… “Ya know what I mean.” … a little nod to you Seymour 😉

#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.