Space Captain Harlock

In the year 2977, humanity is apathetic. Robots farm resources on far off worlds and have them shipped back to Earth. The population ids lulled into a state of indolence by television programs which contain hypnotic waves. Far off in space, however, Captain Harlock leads his crew of rag tag ruffians aboard the star ship Arcadia. Harlock raids the supply ships, taking on the food and shifting the remainder of the stock into space. Harlock believes a time is coming very soon when humanity will have used up their food stocks and will be left with nothing. It is for this reason that he is stockpiling food for the future.

A strange object drops from a far off galaxy onto the Earth, causing untold amounts of damage as the streets are ablaze. The government does nothing to quell the flames as it interrupts their tea time. Only four individuals are interested in the object; Tadashi Daiba, his father, Proffessor Kusco and Captain Harlock.

Kusco translates the ‘pennant’ which reads in an ancient language tied to Mayan and Inca civilizations, “this is the second homeland of the mighty Mazone empire.” The government views the object as an oddity and wants to build an amusement park around it. Kusco determines that the sphere is emitting a signal to a far off galaxy as a marker for invasion which, given the state of humanity at the time, would be disastrous. But the Mazone have sent assassins to eliminate anyone who has figured out their plans including Kusco and Tadashi’s father.

With nowhere to go and the Earth government hot on his trail, Tadashi joins up with Harlock aboard the Arcadia. He is put off at first by the what appears to be laziness and playfulness of the crew but soon settles in after he sees them in action.

Written by Leiji Marsumoto (Star Blazers, Galaxy Express 999), Space Captain Harlock started life as a manga which ran from 1977 to 1979. It was adapted into an anime in 1978 and caught the imagination of a generation. A tale of rebellion and defiance, of defiance against corruption and impossible odds, Captain Harlock has captured the attention of viewers for years.

The series is full of poignant dialog and touching moments including the lyrics of the moving theme:

The sea of space is my sea
my limitless yearning
The song of Earth is my song
the homeland I don’t abandon
My friend, even though I know it’s a star without a tomorrow,
I’ll still fight to protect it 
I’ll throw away my life and live
The darkness of space is my darkness
my endless battlefield
The skull and cross-bone flag is my flag
The marker of the place I go to die
My friend, even though it’s become a star without a tomorrow,
You loved the Earth
I won’t cast aside this planet
The wind of space is my wind
my everlasting wandering
A ship that flies the skies is my ship
my uncontainable soul
My friend, because I know it’s a star without a tomorrow,
I’ll fight on my own
I’ll throw away my life and live
I’ll throw away my life and live

Space Captain Harlock ran for 42 episodes and several film iterations including a CG animated version in 2013. It retains a cult following to this day and has set a high mark for space opera and action adventure anime. The series can be found on DVD through specialty stores and the manga is easy to get ahold of. If you are looking for an awesome space adventure series look no further than Captain Harlock. It has it all!

Star Blazers

In the days of my childhood, when I was just a wee narrator, I was addicted to action packed cartoons. In the morning, I was left to my own devices and it was my responsibility to catch the bus to school. During my fifth grade year I missed that bus almost every time thanks to one program, Star Blazers.

Honestly, there was no contest when it came to responsibility over entertainment. Star Blazers was a series that combined action adventure, fantasy, high drama and space opera all in one. And there was a ticking clock and the stake were high. As the opening song proclaimed:

We’re off to outer space
We’re leaving mother Earth
To save, the human race
Our Star Blazers

Searching for a distant star
Heading off to Iscandar
Leaving all we love behind
Who knows what dangers we’ll find

We must be strong and brave
Our home we have to save
If we don’t in just one year
Mother Earth will disappear

Fighting with the Gamalons
We won’t stop until we’ve won
Then we’ll return and when we arrive
The Earth will survive with our Star Blazers

Star Blazers was an American translation of Space Battleship Yamato created by legendary director Leiji Matsumoto (Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock). In the year 2199, Earth is at war with the far off planet Gamilon. The Gamilons are attacking the Earth with asteroids that are riddling the planet with radiation, forcing the population to live underground. The once mighty star fleet is reduced to just one ship commanded by Captain Avatar. A mysterious pod crash lands on Mars where a pair of soldiers find a capsule inside containing a message.

On the planet Iscandar, 148,000 light years away, Princess Starsha awaits the humans with a device that can cancel the radiation that threatens the future of the human race. Even with the restrictions and underground civilization, Earth has just one year left to live. Included in her message Princess Starsha included schematics for a wave motion engine making the journey possible. Using the new technology, an ancient battleship is refitted into a mighty spaceship, the Yamato (renamed Argo in Star Blazers).

The series focuses on the reckless and brave Derek Wildstar, the noble Mark Venture, the beautiful Nova and many more members of the crew such as the cold and calculating engineer Sandor. Each episode depicts another barrier placed in their way from Gamalon forces to spatial anomalies. The tension is always gripping and the pay off is always worth it.

The series ran for two seasons and a third was also made though it didn’t air in the US. A remake was released in 2012 and a live action film in 2010. An English language film has been in development for some time. Who knows if that will ever see the light of day, but the interest is there.

For me, Star Blazers is a touch stone of my childhood and judging from its ongoing popularity and legacy, the sane can be said for many other fans. The series can be found on DVD (it’s very pricey though) and on bootlegs. I highly recommend the original Yamato series with subtitles if you can find it. A saga like no other, Star Blazers left an indelible mark on my life. Blaze on, Star Force!

Giant Robot Commercials

Hold onto your hats and get ready for the most explosive advertising you have ever seen. Straight from Japan come these giant robot ads with all the die-cast, first flying, missile shooting action you want.

Eagle eyed viewers will spot Getter Robo, Grendizer, Mazinger, Raideen and more in this fascinating capsule of yesteryear.

Enjoy.

Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (1981)

A breathtaking animated feature, Adieu Galaxy Express 999 is the sequel to the 1979 film. Based on a manga series from 1977 by Leiji Matsumoto (space opera genius), the story follows the adventures of Tetsuro Hoshino and the mysterious Maetel who journey through a strange universe towards a final destination on board the Galaxy Express 999. Along the way, they encounter synthetic life in the form of androids. Tetsuro longs to become a robot to rid himself of his problems but slowly learns that this is not a wise choice. The last stop in their first trip was Prometheum, the origin of the robot empire. There Tetsuro destroyed the empress of the empire and escaped aboard 999 for Earth, splitting off from Maetel who boarded another train, the 777, for a different destiny.

Set three years after their adventure on Prometheum, Tetsuro is fighting a robot incursion on Earth with a battle weary group of freedom fighters. He receives a message from Maetel to board the 999 and is shocked to hear from her again. He finds the train and embarks on a new adventure, finally reuniting with Maetel on the planet La Metal. The two have an awkward reunion as it is still unclear to Tetsuro why she called for him and what she intends to do. To add to the confusion, the ship computer is reluctant to tell them where it is headed.

The 999 docks at a space station where they meet the Black Knight Faust who is a mighty mechanized man. He forces Tetsuro to relive a memory of the death of his mother at the hands of a mechanized troop of killers. More confused and angry, Faust is disappointed that Tetsuro did not learn from the memory. The train makes its final stop at Great Andromeda, the hub of the robot empire. Here robotic life is present in varied form. Faust greets them and explains that the innocence of youth can live forever here and indeed Tetsuro glimpses robot children playing.

Maetel is taken aside to meet her mother who lives within the core of the planet. The empress longs for Maetel to join her and proclaims that Maetel is the ruler of the empire. Maetel is driven through the city in a carriage to a ticker tape parade and Tetsuro is gut wrenched by the betrayal. He takes aim at Maetel but cannot bring himself to take a shot. In the end, Maetel betrays the trust given to her and shows her friends inside a forbidden dome where living humans are transformed into energy capsules, food for the robotic life. Tetsuro is shocked and finds a good friend from his travels in a pile of corpses.

The group decide to revolt against the empress, the consciousness of the planet Prometheum. Faust arrives to stop them but Captain Harlock and his pirate crew have arrived to attack the planet’s defenses. Maetel manages to shut down the main reactors and avoids the killer satellite defenses but a black hole, Siren the Witch, appears and draws all mechanized life towards itself. Harlock and the 999 shut down all mechanized programs and steer their crafts manually. Tetsuro is even shown shoveling coal into the engine.

Faust and Tetsuro duel one last time dramatically on top of the 999 as maelstrom whirls around them. After Tetsuro strikes his killer blow, Faust reveals he was the boy’s lost father all along and he falls to the arms of the Siren. The 999 pulls away to the planet La Metal where Maetel splits once again from Tetsuro who is headed back to Earth with arms to destroy the robot army there. The boy has become a man.

A dramatic and moving film, Adieu Galaxy Express 999 is a classic of anime. It has so much action and drama going for it that it ranks high among my recommendations. Creator Leiji Matsumoto was also behind Space Battleship Yamato and Space Pirate Captain Harlock, so the quality for this material is quite high.

It is streaming on Amazon currently as part of the Prime offerings so if you have that service take a look.

Saturday morning revisited

Back in the day, Saturday morning was a magical time. Not to dig too far into the nostalgia rabbit hole (too late), I recall getting up early, my action figures gripped firmly, to catch all of the best cartoons. From the Fantastic Four to Space Ghost to Dungeons and Dragons, the 1970’s through to the 1980’s was rife with majestic material of unending entertainment.

The major stations waged war against each other for the child market with many excellent ideas (the Tarzan/Lone Ranger hour), weird choices (a variety show based on Shazam?) and outright bizarre oddities (the Fonz travelling with an alien?), the morning was a madcap venue of wild colors and excitement. There were also Sid and Marty Krofft shows.

These days, Saturday morning is more about catching up on sleep to be honest, but thanks to the internet and re-releases, one can recreate the experience.

Thundarr the Barbarian

The Herculoids

Spider-Man

Mr. T

 

Available on Amazon:
Thundarr the Barbarian
Herculoids
Saturday Morning Cartoons
Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Animated Series

Justice League Vs. Teen Titans coming from DC Entertainment

JLA-sekowskyThe ultimate team of superheroes, often called a superheroic pantheon, the Justice League was a clever way to combine several top selling characters in one book. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter were the initial lineup and while there have been many iterations, the Big Seven remains the ideal team. Each issue was split into separate parts that focused on pairings of heroes to tackle a particular problem with the final part seeing the entire team tackle the deadliest of foes. It was a proven model that JLA writer Gardner Fox had enacted way back in the pages of the JLA’s precursor, the Justice Society of America.

It seemed only fitting that a teen version of the JLA would be a surefire hit and Robin led a team of Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy and Aqualad. The series remains a cult hit, mainly due to the exemplary artwork of Nick Cardy, but it was the ‘New’ Teen Titans that saw the group meet explosive success. Alongside Robin, Kid Flash and Wonder Girl were new heroes Cyborg, Starfire and Raven. Additionally, the shape-shifting orphan Beast Boy was included as Changeling. In the 80’s, the New Teen Titans was DC’s hot series, on par with Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men.
New_Teen_Titans.png

In animated form, both the JLA and Teen Titans have been adapted several times from Super Friends to Teen Titans Go all the way to Justice League Unlimited and (the oft-overlooked) Young Justice. A new animated feature will see the teams set against each other in a feature length animated movie. I have mixed feelings about their cinematic endeavors, but on the home entertainment direct-to-video world, DC Entertainment has produced the best cartoons.

DC-Animated-Superhero-Movies-That-May-or-May-not-be-Worth-WatchingStand-out DC Animated features include New Frontier, Under the Red Hood, the Son of Batman/Batman Vs. Robin/Bad Blood trilogy and Earth Two, but there is so much more. Wonder Woman and Green Lantern were also presented in ways that eclipsed other attempts in live action. A Teen Titans animated feature has been hinted at for years so expect the animators to go all out.

Titans_JLA
Via CosmicBookNews:

The movie is being directed by Sam Miu with James Tucker on board as supervising producer.

Justice-League-Teen-Titans-01-812x522The voice cast includes:

Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead, Dardevil, Punisher) as Trigon, described as “a ruthless demon who shares a long comic book history with the Teen Titans.”

Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) as Raven, a member of the Titans and daughter to Trigon.

Fivesome-JLWarJake T. Austin (The Fosters) as Blue Beetle; Brandon Soo Hoo (From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series) as Beast Boy; Kari Wahlgren (Phineas and Ferb) as Starfire; Shemar Moore as Cyborg, Sean Maher as Nightwing; Jason O’Mara as Batman; Jerry O’Connell as Superman; Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, and Christopher Gorham as The Flash.

Justice League Vs. Teen Titans arrives this Spring with the story about: Robin gets sent to work with the Titans after his volatile behavior botches a Justice League mission. The young team then must really step up to face Trigon after he possesses the League and threatens to conquer the world.

The original story is written by Bryan Q. Miller (Smallville and Defiance), with the script by Milller and Alan Burnett; Phil Bourassa did the character designs, and Sam Register is executive producer.

A preview of Justice League vs. Teen Titans will be featured with the Batman: Bad Blood animated movie.

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2016 Movie List

February – Deadpool

March – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

May – Captain America: Civil War , X-Men: Apocalypse

June – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, WarCraft, Independence Day Resurgence

July – The Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond

August – Suicide Squad

October – Gambit

November – Doctor Strange

December – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Batman: Bad Blood First Look

A symbol that criminals fear, Batman is nonetheless mortal. His legacy, however, has created a family of heroes who rise to the challenge and defend Gotham City for the forces of evil… if they don’t kill each other first.


Building on Son of Batman and Batman Vs Robin comes Bad Blood, an animated film that will blend several story lines from R.I.P., Batman Inc. and more. Featuring a gang that leads to the ‘death’ of Batman, Bad Blood sees a race to fill the gap left by the dark knight detective. When Nightwing dons the cowl, Damian Wayne becomes a surly sidekick as Batwoman is a relative outsider in the war on crime. All three are joined by a new hero, Batwing. But are four heroes enough to fill the shoes of Batman?

Bad Blood will see several actors return to the roles with Jason O’Mara making his fifth outing as Batman, Sean Maher once more voicing Nightwing and Stuart Allan providing the petulent tones of Robin. This film will also introduce Ernie Hudson as Lucious Fox, Gaius Charles as Batwing and Yvonne Strhovski as Batwoman. Several villains will make an appearance including Brick, Electrocutioner, Firefly, and of course ‘The Heretic.’

(excuse the many cut outs in the video, this can also be seen in the Justice League: Gods and Monsters release)

Produced by James Tucker, Bad Blood is a film that explores the Bat-Family dynamic through an action-packed adventure. While that Batman is missing from the monthly comics (unless you are reading the outstanding Batman ’66), the animated features have held the torch high for the caped crusader.

Trailer

The third in a series of Bat-themed animated stories, Bad Blood has a TBA 2016 street date

Delve into darkness with Justice League Gods and Monsters

Justice-league-Gods-and-Monsters1

They are a power-mad alien with the strength to topple buildings, a blood-thirsty demon and a new god from another world. They are the Justice League. Someone has framed them for murder and that is a crime that cannot be tolerated.

The team behind such successful animated programs such as Batman, Superman, the Justice League and more; Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, have united once more Justice League: Gods and Monsters. This will be a darker vision of the familiar heroes, set in another reality.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: GODS AND MONSTERS centers around the murder of prominent DC Universe scientists like Ray Palmer, Victor Fries, Silas Stone and others that the Justice League is being framed for. They attempt to investigate these murders while dealing with mounting pressures from outside sources.

The inspiration for this new vision comes from the Silver Age reboot that introduced new versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman among others. The team decided to instead go big and re-imagine the trinity of the DCU, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

A special preview of the latest direct animated feature Batman Vs Robin release next week. There will also be a digital mini-series ‘Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles’ on Machinima before the Gods and Monsters movie arrives later this year.

Click here for the first look which includes an interview with the production team.

More as it comes.

Star Trek – Yesteryear

StarTrek_Spock_YesteryearWritten By DC Fontana, Directed by Hal Sutherland
Transmitted September 15, 1973

After three years on TV, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek was canceled. This cut the ‘five year mission’ stated in the opening sequence incomplete. Fans got a special treat when a Filmation series aired. Thanks to Norm Prescott and Lou Scheimer, Star Trek got a new lease on life in adventures starring the original series cast set after the third season. In a way, the animated series rounded off the five year mission with two additional seasons of Saturday morning cartoons.

Some Trek fans dismiss the animated version of the program, but as it involved the voices of the original cast (with one exception), and several key writers from the program the cartoon is very much in a similar tone to the original series. With a much shorter run time, the scripts are pretty tight and as a viewer you must pay close attention or you’ll miss it.

Yesteryear is a sophisticated story involving the Guardian from ‘City on the Edge of Forever.’ The Enterprise crew is performing an experiment with the Guardian, taking a journey into the past which greatly changes the timelines. When Kirk and Spock emerge from the Guardian’s portal, the crew are confused by the inclusion of a Vulcan in a Star Fleet uniform. No one remembers Spock since in this reality, he died as a child. In order to set the timelines right, Spock must travel back and insert himself into his own history, playing an important role as a mysterious cousin.

Mark Lenard reprises his role as Spock’s father, Sarek and greets the older Spock into his household as a cousin named Selek. As a youth, Spock is shown as a bullied child desperate to impress his father. In a crucial coming of age ritual, young Spock wanders into the wilderness without any assistance as rite if passage. He is followed by his pet sehlat I Chaya(kind of a cross between a dog and a bear), who saves his life from a deadly lizard. During the combat, I Chaya is wounded from poison a poisoned claw and starts to die.

Young Spock goes through a very sad lesson when a doctor arrives and informs him that I Chaya is in pain. The wound can be treated but the shlat will still be in pain. Reluctantly, Spock agrees to let his pet die, realizing that to do otherwise would be selfish. Yes… euthanasia in a child’s cartoon.


Yesteryear is a beloved story that has some very heavy tones and heartfelt emotion along with references to past TV episodes.I know I have propped the importance of the Star Trek animated series, but I admit that it is not for everyone. However, if you are a fan and want more Trek, this is a great addition to your journey deeper into the human adventure.