Sunday, 26 June 2011

Anime Ramblings: Some of My Favorite Anime TV shows from my childhood, Part One - 1970s

As a young boy growing up in Canada, like so many kids I watched alot of cartoons. I loved cartoons. I watch any kind, even on the Canadian French language TV station, TELEVISION de RADIO CANADA. It was on those stations that I have my earliest memories of Japanese Anime. I didn't know that they were from Japan, I just knew that they were different somehow. These weren't no zanny WARNER BROTHERS LOONEY TUNES or family friendly WALT DISNEY cartoons. These were more Action packed! More adult in story telling. It didn't talk down to me as a kid like say the SUPERFRIENDS did. Probably because it they were written for adults in Japan. But North America syndicators didn't care about that. They saw that the shows were animated, so naturally they were for kids.

Goldorak, aka UFO Robot Grendizer
1st up is GOLDORAK, aka in Japan UFO ROBOT GRENDIZER. This was my 1st exposure to the SUPER ROBOT genre. Created by the great GO NAGAI, who 1st popularized this genre with MAZINGER Z in 1972.
Go Nagai and Mazinger Z

I recognized the character from MATTEL's SHOGUN WARRIORS toyline, which my parents got for me one Christmas. I was thrilled to find out that he had his own cartoon show, even though it was on the french language TV station my dad use to watch. The robot had a slick cool design I never saw before & his pilot alterego was JAMES DEAN cool way before I knew who JAMES DEAN was. The Super Robot battles were great to watch on the TV for a young boy wanting action.

UFO Robot Grendizer

Candy Candy
On that same french language TV station I saw CANDY CANDY, a girly soap opera anime about an good hearted pig-tailed blond orphan named CANDY. As a young boy, I didn't care that it was about a girl. The stories just pulled me in (that & I had a crush on her).
Candy just reflecting on things
She later reminded me of the Canadian Classic ANNE OF GREEN GABLES in storyline & character. Now I wonder if creator KYOKO MIZUKI was inspired by this book I was forced to read in school.
Unfortunately due many legal reasons CANDY CANDY many never see an officially licensed DVD/BLUERAY release, so fans just have to settle of bootleg copies.

Some Candy Wish Fulfilment

Albator, aka Captain Harlock
Next up is ALBATOR, aka in Japan the SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK, created by LEIJI MATSUMOTO. The reason for the name change for the French viewers was due to to similar name to a popular french character, CAPTAIN HADDOCK from TIN TIN (another great character). What can you say about this character. He's Just So Fucking Cool Looking! Turning the TV dial & seeing him in that awesome uniform with the skull & crossbones on his chest, cape flowing in the background was something that made you stop & look. I can see why a generation of viewing kids call themselves GENERATION ALBATOR. That's how popular he was to the french speaking Canadians in the 1970s.

The Black Terror
ALBATOR/HARLOCK was kind of reminiscent of Golden Age superhero the BLACK TERRROR in look. His character was kind of like CLINT EASTWOOD's "MAN WITH NO NAME", a strong silent type with an unshakable resolve. 
Clint Eastwood is The Name With No Name
Not even a year later I would see the Captain in my 1st Anime movie on TV when the SUPER CHANNEL played Producer ROGER CORMAN's edited verison of GALAXY EXPRESS 999 and introduced me the much large LEIJIVERSE.

The cast of Galaxy Express 999
In the early 1990s artist BEN DUNN (of the extremely cool comic book Ninja High School fame) did a short lived CAPTAIN HARLOCK comic book series for publisher MALIBU COMICS' ETERNITY line for the North American market. I found these comics in back issue bins in comic book shops over the years and really enjoyed them.
Harlock by Ben Dunn

I was happy to discover a few years ago that CAPTAIN HARLOCK returned again in a new anime series called CAPTAIN HERLOCK: THE ENDLESS ODYSSEY (2002), were he & his crew fight against "Space Zombies"! Cool huh.

March 2010 TOEI ANIMATION announced a new SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK computer animated movie in the works.
The trailer was shown at the KAWAII-KON ANIME festival in HAWAII April 17, 2010 as a special presentation courtesy of director SHINJII ARAMAKI, much to fans delight. A international release date set for sometime in late 2013.

Star Blazers, aka Space Battleship Yamato
In the late 1970s & early 1980s many people were looking for the next STAR WARS to cash in on it's huge popularity, but for TV syndication. North American Producers looked to Japan and found SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, a space opera anime created by LEIJI MATSUMOTO for producer YOSHINOBU NISHIZAKI. It was renamed STAR BLAZERS for the North American market. Even though it was marketed as a "kids show", it kept many of it's more "adult themes" such as personal tragedy, funeral scenes for fallen comrades, & the serious threat of extinction faced by humanity. I would tune in after school to see each episode of DEREK WILDSTAR (the westernize version of character SUSUMU KODAI's name) & crew. It was shows like this that made me a Sci-Fi & Anime fan. A fun fact, MATSUMOTO was going to use CAPTAIN HARLOCK in the series but decided not too haft way though the series.
The 3 seasons of the STAR BLAZERS have since been released on DVD (The Quest for Iscandar, the Comet Empire, & the Bolar Wars). A great pick for anyone interested in some classic old school anime.

Cast of Star Blazers
In 2010 a cool looking live-action Japanese film version of SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMOTO was released, this caused HOLLYWOOD to take a 2nd look at the old STAR BLAZERS cartoon. In February 2011 SKYDANCE PRODUCTIONS started to negotiate for the rights to produce their own version of a live-action film with CHRISTOPHER McQUARRIE (THE USUAL SUSPECTS; VALKYRIE; WOLVERINE) being tapped to write the screenplay.    

Battle of the Planets, aka Gatchaman
Another Japanese import set to cash-in on the STAR WARS phenomenon was THE BATTLE OF THE PLANETS, adapted by SANDY FRANK ENTERTAINMENT from the anime TV series SCIENCE NINJA TEAM GATCHAMAN. The show was about 5 young super ninjas protecting the Galaxy from the evil forces of SPECTRA. They had the coolest looking costumes I ever seen on any superheroes before. The bird-shaped helmets were so unique than the standard comic book domino mask. The action was quick & fast, thrill me to no end. THE BATTLE OF THE PLANETS was heavily edited & change from the original GATCHAMAN series, way different than the STAR BLAZERS. Producers tried to make the series more appealing to the Western juvenile TV market & wanting to avoiding any controversy from parents groups. They removed any elements of graphic violence (can't have ninjas hurt people now), profanity (the fowl mouth  JINPEI turned into the speech impaired KEYOP) & transgenderism (the sex transforming BERG KATSE made into just the gay looking ZOLTAR instead with a twin sister named MALA LATROZ, Zoltar spelled backwards.  HA -HA).

Zoltar & Sister?
Elements reminiscent of STAR WARS were add, like the R2-D2/C3PO robot hybrid 7-ZARK-7 to explain any plot holes the editors couldn't fix. Even the name "BATTLE OF THE PLANETS" was an attempt to associate itself with the popularity of STAR WARS (Battle vs. Wars and Planets vs. Star).

G-Force leader Mark

Voice of the G-FORCE leader MARK/KEN THE EAGLE was provided by CASEY KASEM, a familiar voice on radio (with his Top 40 Countdown) and Saturday mornings (as the voice of SHAGGY on SCOOBY DOO & ROBIN on the SUPERFRIENDS).

Top Cow's BOTP comic book
A cool looking comic book series by TOP COW was released in 2002 with beautiful painted covers by ALEX ROSS. Sadly it was cancelled after issue 12 with TOP COW leaving the series in a cliffhanger with G-FORCE/GATCHAMAN member JASON/JOE THE CONDOR betraying the team. I was hoping TOP COW would pick up were they left off, but never did.

Battle of the Planets by Alex Ross
ADV Films released a faithful uncut version of  all 105 episodes of the GATCHAMAN North America with an all-new English-language dub on. DVD in 2005, which sadly since became out of print since ADV went out of business. In 2007 SANDY FRANK's 30 year contract with TATSUNOKO PRODUCTIONS (owners of the GATCHAMAN franchise) for North American rights ended leaving fans of both the BATTLE OF THE PLANETS & GATCHAMAN in limbo.

So you North American Producers & Publishers out there,


Gatchaman's New Look
Then there was some cool news from the Hong Kong based IMAGI ANIMATION STUDIOS, who released CG animated movies TMNT (2007) & ASTRO BOY (2009), planned a CG-animated GATCHAMAN 3-D movie, they even posted a 1-minute teaser trailer in July 2010 on its company Web site, with a release date stating 2011 at its conclusion.
After a few set backs like the studio being closing down by it's parent company Imagi International Holding, Ltd. over financial trouble in February 2010, they reopened the studio in July 2010 & put their GC animated projects back into production, which included at the time GATCHAMAN & CAT TALE (which would feature the voices of actors SEAN ASTIN & JERRY O'CONNELL).
But sadly on June 21, 2011 IMAGI announced during their annual report that the GATCHAMAN film project was officially dead.

So There it is, some of My Favorite Anime, I Plane to do a 2nd part in the future.
- Raja Devilman74

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