Over the course of this week I will strive to introduce my readers to the era of Force Five, a daily cartoon series consisting of a different episode each day of the week. Mainly showcasing mecha anime (aside from the last minute addition of Spaceketeers to take the place of Mazinger Z), Force Five ran throughout the early 1980’s, bridging the gap between the success of Star Blazers and Robotech on American TV.
In my own childhood, these cartoons formed a pivotal role in shaping my creative landscape. Absurd, dynamic, dramatic and packed full of action, Force Five seemed to be from an entirely different world.
Monday – Danguard Ace
My entire relationship with the days of the week has been impacted by the programming schedule of Force Five. I never did like Mondays and the scheduling of Danguard Ace has long suffered in this regard. A series centered on domination of the tenth planet known as Promete, the main thrust of the program was the relationship between the young pilot Windstar and his estranged and mysterious father, known only as Captain Mask.
Force Five – Danguard Ace Opening
As with many of these programs, the story in each episode was an explosive battle between Windstar piloting the mammoth Danguard Ace robot against the threat of Kommisar Krell and his horde of kill-crazy robots.
Like all of Force Five, Danguard Ace is a rewritten translation of a previously existing anime series from the late 1970’s. The original cartoon, known as Planet Robo Danguard Ace, was co-created by Leiji Matusmoto, famous for his work on Space Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999. Again, like many of the Force Five robots, Danguard Ace appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics’ Shogun Warriors, a kind of repository for Japanese robots in comic book form at the time.
While I admit to not wholly enjoying Danguard Ace as a child, re-watching it now I can find a new kind of appreciation for what the program was trying to do. Depicting a future where wars spanned planets and the fate of the human race hung in the balance, this series has a lot going for it. The addition of Captain Mask’s determination to both foster his son through adulthood while refusing to reveal that he is indeed Windstar’s father is so complicated it’s Shakespearean. The robot battles are in keeping with the other Force Five-ers, but the high level of drama makes this one stand out.
I just discovered that there is an episode that Jim Terry Productions didn’t bother to translate that explains all of the background behind Windstar’s dad and the Promete project (both of which you have to pay close attention to catch in the series). I wonder how many pieces of hidden info I’ll uncover as I revisit these cartoons!