Friday, November 9, 2007

your scientific ninja team gatchaman update

If you're like me, you grew up watching Battle of The Planets. Well, actually, I preferred Star Blazers. It took a while for me to really understand what was going on with those 5 bird ninjas and their struggle against Galactor. Actually what it took was seeing the original Tatsunoko Japanese version; TV producer Sandy Frank's BOTP was chopped, channelled, rewritten, repainted, lowered, and had a new, vastly inferior transmission installed. And that's as far as I'm going with that car metaphor.

At any rate it's a terrific titan of 70s anime, featuring super monsters, colorful heroes, lots of kids-action-anime drama, and muscular, fairly realistic character designs. Not to mention a great musical score. As bad as the BOTP dub is, the greatness of the original show still shines through.

Once 1978's Battle of The Planets had run its syndication course, the entire series was re-dubbed by Fred "Astro Boy" Ladd for Turner, under the new title G-Force. This new, uncut version of the series (1986) featured goofy character names and new background music that never went away. The series was shown a few times on the various channels of the Turner cable network before vanishing mysteriously.

In the 1990s Saban (you know, the Power Rangers people) took the second and third Gatchaman series (Gatchaman II and Gatchaman Fighter) and dubbed them under the title "Eagle Riders". This fairly nonsensical dub worked its way into syndication and vanished opposite a late-decade wave of anime imports like Sailor Moon.

Once DVDs made their appearance, Rhino Video produced six volumes of Battle Of The Planets - each release featuring two BOTP episodes, two subtitled Gatchaman episodes, and one G-Force episode.

A little later ADV released the entire 105-episode Gatchaman series, with new, accurate dubs AND subtitles, in DVD box sets with extras. I feel we've reached some kind of turning point in anime fandom; panellists can spend an hour discussing a show at an anime con panel, and then go to the dealers room and purchase an offically licensed, uncut, super-high-quality edition of the actual show under discussion.

Gatchaman was one of the first American anime releases to have a substantial fandom built around it; when I got into anime fandom in the 1980s, Gatchaman fans were there already, publishing APAs and writing fan fiction and drawing fan artwork and swapping 13th generation copies of the last 5 episodes of Gatchaman F. It's an enthusiasm that's mirrored in the culture at large; Battle of The Planets inspired two completely separate American comic book releases and continues to be a minor cultural touchstone among former 70s cartoon kids. And in the rest of the world it's even more popular.

Tatsunoko continues to milk its most famous cash cow; apart from an abortive, crazy-looking 1990s OVA series, a new computer-animated film AND a new live-action film, thank you Wendy, is in the works. The Science Ninjas are not going anywhere.


Wendy said...

Thanks for the links! I do have one thing to add: In addition to the computer animated version of Gatchaman currently in production, Tatsunoko has approved a live action version to be released in Japan in 2008/2009. This show is being revived like crazy.

Winter said...

Actually my grandparents kept that exact puzzle at their house for when we would come over. It was a cornerstone of my early childhood, strangely enough.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Too bad I was only a year old when the show first aired back in '78, and hardly knew of any channel that might've had it on in the early 80's (besides WTBS I've noticed). Had to find out about it years later in books and a pirated videotape I had to get for $25 someplace just to get some idea of the show. I guess if I had saw it as a tyke, my impression would've been more favorable than it is now. I don't want to knock that it still had some great action sequences and funky designs for it's day, but it's editing and newly hand-cranked animation made it felt more like a Superfriends wannabe to me.

Being reminded, the Eagle Riders dub Saban put out totaled 65 episodes or so (mostly using II and some from F in the process), but only 13 episodes were ever seen in the US, while the rest of the world got to suffer through the rest. I still love the episode where they found a great way to segue between II and F by making the villain from the first morphed into the baddie in the second (and probably the best line I've ever heard if a clunky anime dub of it's time I should've used as a sig).

Fairlight said...

It's a rare cartoon that still holds interest after 30+ years. I enjoy watching it as much for its storyline and character development as for nostalgia. Gotta love the Kagaku Ninja Tai.