Sunday, April 13, 2008

here comes prince planet

My “career” of writing about Japanese cartoons seems like an eternally repeating cycle of recurring motifs. Every ten years somebody pays me to write about Star Blazers, and no matter what medium I write in or what name it goes under, I eventually wind up writing about Prince Planet. The show impacted my brain at an early age, and you might say I’ve been under its influence ever since.

(splash page from a 1965 issue of SHONEN MAGAZINE)

The show’s original title, YUSEI SHONEN PAPI, means "Meteor (or Asteroid or Comet, take your pick) Boy Papi". It was produced by Television Corporation Of Japan (TCJ) who also produced Tetsujin-28-Go/Gigantor, Eight Man/Eighth Man, Yusei Kamen/Asteroid Mask, Kamui The Ninja, Kaitei Shonen Marine/Marine Boy, and Skyers 5. Papi’s original Japanese air dates were June 3, 1965- June 27, 1966, totalling 52 episodes. The show was based on the manga by Hideoki Inoue, which appeared in Shonen Magazine, the '60's weekly comic which also featured Tetsuwan Atomu/Astro Boy, Tetsujin 28-Go/Gigantor, Wonder Three/Amazing Three, Eight Man/Eighth Man, and Ashita No Joe/Joe Of Tomorrow. Papi was sponsored by Japanese candy manufacturer Glico, the name of which makes up a refrain at the end of the Japanese theme song.

Spurred by the success of Astro Boy, Gigantor, and Eighth Man, "Papi" was turned into “Prince Planet” and dubbed by Miami-based Copri International Films, an outfit partially staffed by gun-toting anti-Castro Cubans. The show was distributed to independent TV stations in America and elsewhere by American International Pictures, the same outfit responsible for releasing hundreds of cheap biker movies, most Gamera films, Alakazam The Great, Wild In The Streets, Roger Corman’s Poe epics, and Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot. AIP was later bought by Filmways, which was bought by Orion Pictures, which in turn was bought by MGM, part of which was aquired by Sony/Comcast. At this point nobody at MGM or Sony or whoever seems to be aware they even own Prince Planet. Two episodes of the series were released on the “Starman” DVDs from Something Weird, and several gray-market outfits are selling DVDs of the show online and through eBay, at conventions, etc.

I first saw Prince Planet at the age of 2, and for years afterwards memories of this show would impinge upon my consciousness, usually spurred by the imagery of Speed Racer or Kimba or whatever Japanese cartoon that happened to cross my vision. 15 years later I’d see the show again thanks to tape trading, and nowadays thanks to the internets and DVDs the show is out there for people who REALLY want to see it; though a legit DVD release would be nice.

So what’s this show about? Prince Planet is a young boy of about 12 from Radion, a far off planet. He was sent to Earth on a mission to study Earthlings and aid them in the fight against all kinds of evil. The organization behind this is called the Universal Peace Corps, a UN-like conclave of alien beings concerned with preserving galactic peace and justice. As the narrator explains frequently, Prince Planet's power comes from his pendant, which is capable of just about anything and must be constantly recharged by a power transmitter on Radion. The plot of any given episode usually calls for the guy operating the power transmitter to be away from his post, or sleeping, or knocked unconscious, or otherwise incapacitated when Prince Planet really needs him. Our hero changes to Prince Planet form by holding the medallion and shouting "Kazow" or sometimes "Kapow" or sometimes "Kazam" or “Wowee”. Sometimes the original Japanese dialog of Papi shouting "Piiiii-Papi!" can be heard in this scene.

When Prince Planet first came to Earth, he landed on the ranch owned by Diana Worthy and her father Mr. Worthy (sometimes called "Pops Worthy"). Prince Planet took the name of “Bobby” and made himself more or less an extended houseguest. This ranch is located somewhere near the city of New Metropol. Sometimes New Metropol is close enough to walk to, and sometimes New Metropol requires a plane trip. It all depends on what the city was in the original Japanese show, and how lazy the American writers were in coming up with names for cities. Diana is approximately Prince Planet's age, dresses like the girl on the Swiss Miss package, and has a knack for getting into all sorts of trouble that only Bobby can extricate her from.

Their big pal Dan Dynamo was an out-of-work studio wrestler who lost his job because he was just too strong. He was almost led into a life of crime, but Prince Planet rescued him and thenceforth Dan Dynamo aided Prince Planet in his mission to fight evil. He also is constantly hungry. He first appeared in episode #2.

Adji Baba is an Arabian wizard from the fake Middle Eastern nation of Abadon. He first appears in episode #4. Prince Planet and the gang frequently travel from place to place with his magic carpet. At one point a hatch is opened on the carpet, revealing machinery inside, so I'm not quite sure what kind of magic carpet this is. Adji has all sorts of wacky magic powers, and they usually backfire amusingly. He and Dynamo don't get along much. The exact spelling of his name is unknown, but he has a son and three grandkids back in Abadon, whom we see in episode #51.

One recurring foe is Warlock, an evil Martian magician with an evil laugh, three feet of spiky black hair, and an incredibly high-pitched voice. His plans may be to conquer the world, steal a secret formula, or destroy something important, but they always include killing Prince Planet and/or Adji Baba. Naturally, these plans always fail. He meets his end in episode #51. The main villain in Prince Planet, however, is Krag. Sometimes known as the Master Of Misery, Krag is the evil warlord of planet Kragmire. He's like the Godfather of outer space, sending legions of enemies, monsters, and heinous devices against Earth and Prince Planet. He has a huge square head and dresses like a deranged undertaker, with a gigantic stove-pipe hat and a black suit with a flower in the buttonhole. His favorite weapon is a pocket watch with hidden sawblades – he throws it - and when he wants to fly, sleek batwings pop out of his back. They just don’t make cartoon bad guys like Krag any more. In contrast to Warlock, Krag has a very deep voice. His end comes when Prince Planet blasts him out of existence in episode #52.

Having first been exposed to Prince Planet when I was all of two years old, I can personally testify to the strange appeal this clunky old show holds. The animation is passable at best, the dubbing is laughable, and the plots are grade-Z comic book science fiction, but Prince Planet has a wacky charm that more than surpasses its weak points. This mixture of SF, fantasy, monsters, aliens, spies, and gangsters, combined with bizarre, dada-esque scripts, villains reminiscent of the Batman TV show, and heroes that weren't afraid to blast, zap, or crush their way to justice, wound up congealing into a show that left an indelible mark on many young, impressionable minds.

A Japanese friend of mine reports that not only did she watch and enjoy Prince Planet during its original run in Japan, but she also had an entire Prince Planet costume, complete with medallion, that was obtained by collecting wrappers from Prince Planet chewing gum. The mind boggles. The Japanese DVD set of “Papi” episodes features two discs of extras that include TV ads for Glico “Usei Shonen Papi” candy, complete with all sorts of “Papi” themed prizes and giveaways. The show was a particular hit in Australia, where several other anime shows like Ken The Wolf Boy got English dubs and broadcast releases denied us here in the States, and where the later adoption of color TV meant B&W programming enjoyed a longer lifespan.

The show was one of the first animated series to have a definite beginning and a definite end; in the last episode Prince Planet hops into a spaceship and returns to Radion to make his report. Characters like Krag make their appearance halfway through the series. Other characters like Dan Dynamo and Adji Baba enter and exit the series. Since most syndicated TV shows at the time shunned continuity, Prince Planet’s continuing storyline is surprisingly progressive, in a “stuff that happened in earlier episodes is referenced in later episodes” kind of way, not in a “depicting minorities in non-stereotypical fashion” kind of way, there’s plenty of that.

Being black and white hurt Prince Planet’s chances at syndication in the 70s; stations wanted color shows. Programs like 8th Man, Amazing Three, and Gigantor joined Prince Planet on the monochromatic rubbish heap, to be revived only through video trading and the tables of bootleg VHS dealers at SF conventions.

Back in the late 1980s I started an organization devoted to 60s Japanese cartoons and deliberately set out to get in touch with fans of Prince Planet and other shows. Since then I’ve heard from hundreds and hundreds of fans who remember the show and have a real desire to see it again. Nostalgic tail-end boomers want to relive their youth, parents want to share the show with their children, and students of goofy kids cartoons always have room on their shelves for one more DVD box set of obscure 60s goodness. Other black and white cartoons like Astro Boy and Gigantor have enjoyed success in re-release; why not Prince Planet?

90s print version of Let's Anime, cover by Paul Young

For your future reference and general edification, allow me to present a Prince Planet episode guide, obtained from that invaluable research resource, the Internets. The titles are from the original Japanese series; the American version would mention episode titles in the “coming next episode” trailer at the end of each show, but there was never an official title card. I’ve added commentary where appropriate.

1. A Boy From Outer Space
2. Giant on the Matters (enter Dan Dynamo)
3. The Formidable Rival
4. The Arabian Magician (first Adji Baba)
5. The Flying Jelly Fish
6. Dinosaur Men
7. A Big Showdown
8. Robot Island (features a cameo by Gigantor!)
9. The Overgrown Lizard
10. Shaberia (aka “Shabiria The Vicious Vegetable”)
11. Fancy Machine
12. S.O.S. Global
13. Gold Picker
14. Attack of the Radioactive Ants (aka “Atomic Termites”)
15. The Great Space War
16. The Star in Memory
17. The Space Zoo
18. The Stolen Mount Fuji
19. Pirate Satan
20. Planet Of Terror
21. Robot
22. Good-Bye Saturnian
23. The Earth Zero Hour
24. The Ghost Space Ship
25. Battle on a Desert Island
26. Secret Under the Sea
27. The Rocket Pilot
28. Gaist the Devilfish
29. The Gift From Prince Planet
30. Gollen, the Formidable Foe
31. The Pollen Bomb
32. Operation Rico
33. Rico, the Great Detective
34. A Spy From the Necro
35. The Demon Scientist
36. The Young Spies
37. Pollo The Secret Agent
38. The Magic Glove (aka “Diana Will Believe Pretty Much Whatever Anybody Tells Her”)
39. The Robot Prince
40. Rico's Adventure
41. The Lion in the Desert
42. Crisis on the Earth
43. The Horror of a Snowman
44. Revenge in the Valley
45. The Comet Missile
46. The Mystery of a Mummy
47. The Mystery of Organ
48. Horror at 10:10 PM
49. The Birdman Racket (aka “The Birdman Bandits”)
50. Secret Path into the Earth (aka “Invaders From Alkali”)
51. Ajababa's Grandchildren
52. The Star at Home

I hope this list helps those of you out there with Prince Planet episodes to catalog your findings and expand your Prince Planety knowledge. Together we can keep the memories of Prince Planet alive until somebody somewhere down deep in somebody’s film archives gets the moxie together to throw this stuff on a DVD for us. With extras.

(thanks to Meg Evans, Shaun Camp, and Tim Grumbly)


Chris Sobieniak said...

Thanks for another kickass article!

You only wish someone at MGM/Sony would bother looking into these things and we can finally see something good come out of it, but I doubt anything will happen. It just seems to be lost in the shuffle (much like how I like to believe MGM no longer exists as a studio and more a brand name being thrown around now, but apparently they're still slugging by).

d.merrill said...

It's a tangled mess of who knows what going on there. Eventually it'll get sorted out, but in the meantime, no Prince Planet...

Anonymous said...

God Bless the internet. I used to watch this in the early 70's and i've never met anyone else who has seen this.

funny how this stuff can impress you at an early age. reading your blog on this show, everything about his calling to fight evil and the pictures was really, really rad. Thank You!

Anonymous said...

I think I saw this show once when I young in Toronto in the 70's. I have a memory of the character having a pendant with a P on it that showed the power charge. It was in black & white and definitely was Japanese style characters from what little I can remember.


Anonymous said...

I LOVED Prince Planet.. it's so hard to find people who remember him. But I often find myself saying PeeeeeeKAPOW!! at the oddest times LOL .. Thank You for the memory burst :)

Anonymous said...

Great article. l remember PP and he was always one of my favourite cartoon series. The other 1 that l like was The Eighth Man and to this day wishes someone would make it into a movie. Not animated though.

Anonymous said...

omg! finally i have found prince planet again after all these years! it was my all time favourite program as a child and if anyone knows where i can get an t shirts or other prince planet stuff please let me know!
reagards andrea

daleonsouth said...

As a child living in Florida. I remember watching this cartoon. For years I kept looking for any kind of reference... every time I would see "Astro Boy". I'd think to myself "That's kinda what I remember "Prince Planet" looking like".

Thanks for the article. My fuzzy memory remembers him grabbing his medallion and saying "Pee-Pa-Pow" just before turning into P.P... it's nice to have a clearer picture of what I was watching... hopefully it will someday be available on DVD.

The boyfriend of said...

l will never forget you PP as well as me other mate Freddo Frog.

Roberto Pereira-Saito said...

I believe you forgot your brazilian friend...

Unknown said...

You can watch episodes here:

Not many, 8 or 9 episodes. But it's better than nothing. And it sure brings back memories.

negrofrankenstein said...

Can anyone tell me how Prince Planet escaped the avalanche when his medallion was stolen by the pickpocket? I've been wanting to know since the show was cancelled (mid-cliffhanger) back in the mid 70's in Chicago!

Anonymous said...

Like many of the others comments posted I watched Prince planet as a kid in the 60s and was always looking out for a rerun but never ever saw one. it was my all time favourite and loved seeing the P fill up. I recently downloaded the theme song it was like going back 40 years.
What a trip = thanks for the article

Unknown said...

I truly am of belief that watching that watching shows like Prince Planet,Gigantor,Speed Racer,UFO,Thunderbirds,...etc, impacted me as a youth in such a way that they caused my imagination to activate to the extent that it made me want to copy in painting and drawing what I saw. So today as an adult I am educated as a visual artist, and art teacher. I also have a true love of the many various forms of story telling!
David K.Crim

Rodders said...

perhaps part of the charm of prince planet has been amplified by its never being released or rerun.
I grew up with PP until i went to secondary school and it was canned.
lately i've been thrilled to step back in time Marine Boy is aired on Digital TV here in OZtralia.

Astro Boy has also seen a resergence but Giggantor and kimba seem to also be abscent.

Abscence makes the heart grow fonder.....even for nostalgic cartoons and I am happy to be very fond of PP as a nostalgic look back at times gone by.

feedergoldfish said...

For many years I thought I'd imagined Prince Planet. It seemed as though no one else had watched it or even heard of it. But, I remembered the music, lyrics, magical pendant, etc... Finally, about eight or so years ago, I found information about the series online. What a relief! Now I know I'm not crazy. In that particular way.

Thanks for your great article!

Anonymous said...

My favourite cartoon show from the 60s. Even made my own pendant.

MGM have put (almost) the entire series on YouTube. But it's not accessible to all countries.

You can find it here:

tattoogazza said...

Greatest cartoon of my childhood, here in Australia it was HUGE, i pestered my brothers (me being the youngest) to make me pendents all the time and drove them mad, i recently picked up an entire 52 ep' DVD set on ebay from a collector in Australia, 1 ep' is in Japanese but all the rest are in English!!! All the memories came back and even though it had been nearly 40 years i remembered a lot of actual scenes! I even have Prince Planet Tattooed on my shin and yes, its in black and white! Cheers from down under!

d.merrill said...

If you send me a photo of your Prince Planet tattoo, I will post it at Let's Anime for the world to marvel over.

professortheremin said...

Loved your "AKA" on "The Magic Glove". Prince Planet (along with Astro Boy) was/were among the few animes that posessed a true sense of humor. Not as "Fleischeresque" as Astro Boy, Prince Planet does know where comic relief is needed, EG: the feud between Adji Baba and Dan Dynamo. Like the Famous Studios Olive Oyl, Rico (AKA Diana) was a heartthrob for my agegroup, and I should also point out a rarity in animation that unlike other cartoons where people wore the same clothes in every episode, Diana changed her "Swiss Miss" costume, for a cowgirl uniform, in "Rico, The Great Detective". Her seemingly shiny boots had an effect on the libido, long before New Zoo Revue's Emily Peden...about 6 years before that show. Mr. Ultraskank is quite right about how a show can affect us at a young age.

Thomas Robson the Scythian said...

I grow up in Hialeah Florida; and whatched this toon when I was a kid. When ever I get on the subject of old anime, I never could think of the name of this toon, I could only remember the medalion, the kid grabbing it, and saying "Piii Kapow". This morning I had a wild hair and remembered I wanted to find the name of the show and typed "1960s anime piii kapow" and your site came up (cool) Prince Planet. The problem now is that not that many people remember 45 years old toons, so I'll probalbly get a response like "Prince who".

Anonymous said...

Another PP fan from Australia. Amazing that the show had such an effect on so many around the globe (kimba and gigantor too!).
Can't work out why they dont release it on dvd. Must be a fortune to be made. I'd pay heaps to give a copy to my kids.
If anyone has the series, pls post.

Anonymous said...

That was great. I used to warch it in Chicago on channel 44 waaaay back in '72 or so. It was my intro into the world of scifi and animation. I always thought he was saying 'Priiiince Planet' to activate the medallion. I LOVED this show and have never forgotten it. I dont know why it generates such fond memories, but it might be worth MGM's time to invest in a revival of this series. I made my own medallion and would fight with other first graders who made their own versions. It seems that everybody remembers Johnny Sokko, Speed Racer, Space Giants, etc but when the topic comes up, very few know about PP. I am off now to check it out on Youtube. Thanx for the info.

DubtheAmbassador said...

That was awesome.I never knew that my fascination with this cartoon(in the 1st gade) was shared by others out here today. Me and my fellow first graders would say PriiiiincePlanet(for forty years I did not know what he was saying), then fight for over our home made medalions. I really enjoyed reading theis bio of the cartoon and your great comments. I am off to Youtube now to watch my childhood fave.

Anonymous said...

I just started watching the complete dvd box set.
I also thought he said "PRIIIIINCE PLANET". But im about 10 episodes in and so far he just says "PIIIII" ...was i wrong too? I also dont remember it being in b&w as i have swap cards of pp in colour. But it was early to mid 70s . Also iv only met melbourne people who remember it in oz. I dont think the other states got it?

d.merrill said...

The "Piiiiii" Bobby says as he transforms into Prince Planet is a little bit of the original Japanese dialog track - in the Japanese show, Papi says "Piiiiii - Papii!" The original background music is sometimes present.

The TV series is black and white, though there are plenty of promotional materials in color.

I have no idea how widely it was broadcast in Australia. I'm from the US and watched it in the Chicago market.

Anonymous said...

Thanx d.merrill. that makes sense. I asked my mother when we got colour tv ...she reckons about 75. Amazing how yr imagination colours yr world! Also the memory of the "Priiince Planet" is likely from the theme song. Im a 68 breed so it was very young memories, and later went on to speed racer and kimba. Didnt go for gigantor much. So many people out there with childhood memories of it. B gr8 to read from someone who grew up with it in japan!

Anonymous said...

I live in Adelaide Australia, and as a kid, I remember watching Prince Planet on one of the network channels here in the early 70's. I use to love it. I have not met anyone here who watched the show. I always wondered whether they would ever bring it back on, or re-make the show. It would be great if a animation company would re-make the show, I'm sure kids would watch it. I know I would, and I'm now 50.

Anonymous said...

Dont think u will ever see it on tv again as its in B&W. The presentation and script r poor our modern times. the kids would thonk it stupid... like kids who play xbox and ps-3, and then telling em howw COOL space invaders is, or the state of the art graphics of the firsy ever Atari games tennis. when i finish watchin all the episodes, i will sell the dvds. Does anyone know how much i could get for them? Dont know of they r region free?? But they play ok in australia. Gypsy-Steve

Anonymous said...

Outstanding...thank you for sharing.
You'd think that someone would remake this great cartoon. Especially, when you consider Ben 10 is not far off Prince Planet.

Anonymous said...

PP stuck out to me as someone who had his own unique approach to defeating bad guys. I'll never forget the episode where he tickles a robot to release his friend's magic carpet before destroying him. also, whenever he threw a weapon at a bad guy or threw the bad guy towards a target, it was always a direct hit, no matter the distance.

Unknown said...

How about a PrincePlanet app for smartphones showing our current energy store from our solar energy + battery system using the 'P' symbol ?

I was watching PP in Sydney in the mid sixties when I was about 6 years old, a great show.

ToRo said...

I managed to get a DVD set of all the episodes from e-Bay a few years ago. I watched Prince Planet in reruns from a local UHF station in Miami in 1969. I even made a pendant and wore it. The DVD shows these were made from 16mm prints. I also remember reading that the original negative film prints were destroyed in a warehouse fire. Watching it now as Warlock battles Bobby/Prince Planet.

Anonymous said...

I BELIEVE ALL 52 EPISODES ARE AVAILABLE ON HULU. I wonder if they own the rights to it and if they could possibly have these put onto DVD's for sale. My brother and I grew up watching P.P. back in Chicago in the early 70s.

Dave said...

Hi great read, I loved watching Prince Planet as a child in Melbourne, Australia. For those that want to enjoy all 52 episodes they are available here

d.merrill said...

With regards to the last comment, I'm always iffy about allowing links to unauthorized or unlicensed hosting sites. But this is Prince Planet and I'm gonna allow it.