My special review of the daily cartoon anthology series called Force Five continues. New England readers may recall that on local UHF channels during the early 1980′s each day there was a new episode of Force Five, an ingenious series consisting of five unique cartoon programs mainly starring super robots.
The one exception to this rule of giant robots is the program known as Spaceketeers. Originally the granddaddy of giant robot cartoons, Mazinger-Z, was to fill this slot but when it fell through, this program filled its place.
Originally seen in my childhood, I’ve been revisiting this program. To my surprise I have found that the schedule of Force Five built up to an outlandish crescendo of devastating absurdity… but more on that later. While Monday’s Dangaurd Ace and Tuesday’s Starvengers are relatively straight-forward super robot toons, Spaceketeers is a whole other animal.
Wednesday – Spaceketeers
Many of these programs rely on the rule of three, where our heroes are a tightly knit trio of heroes each fulfilling a different role. In the case of Spaceketeers and Starvengers, we can see that there is a slender guy, an average guy and a goofy portly guy (who replaced a dead portly guy). I’m not exactly sure what this triumvirate of body types but I feel that it is bizarre enough in its repetition to be pointed out.
The story of the program involves Princess Aurora’s mission to restore the balance to the Galactic Energy. The Empress and Prof.Schnitzel assign a bodyguard to accompany her on this mission who remains one of my most favorite fictional characters. An unlikely orphan named Jesse Dart who willingly volunteered himself for transformation into a kill-crazy cyborg is one of the funniest characters in cartoons I have ever seen. Brash, destructive and self-centered, Dart is full of problems but in the end the Princess’ innocence and beauty always win out.
In time two additional guardians join the Princess and Jesse Dart in their journey. First the portly ‘space hog’ called Porkos abandons his empire of mud and later the calculator-obsessed Arimos leaves his planet of water to restore cosmic equilibrium to the galaxy and fight some of the most whacked-out monsters I have ever seen.
Known in its native language as Science Fiction Saiyuki Starzinger, Spaceketeers is loosely based on the Janpanes folklore Journey to the West. Jesse Dart is a sci-fi adaptation of the Monkey King character of myth.
Dart proves to be such an uncontrollable pest to the gentle and delicate Princess that it is only with the use of a golden crown that she can control his temper. Even as a child I found this to be far more evocative and meaningful than it appeared to be. I mean… what does this say about man/woman relationships? Maybe I’m reading into this too much.
I never tire of seeing Jesse Dart take his attacks too far, causing the Princess to remind him that they are on a mission of peace, cross her arms and force him to calm down. The middle of the week always proved to be one of the high points thanks to the high level of violence and comedy in each episode.