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Anime Profile: Battle of the Planets

USA Info
Japanese Info
Battle of the PlanetsKagaku Ninja-Tai Gatchaman ("Science Ninja Team Gatchaman") (η§‘ε­¦εΏθ€…ιšŠγ‚¬γƒƒγƒγƒ£γƒžγƒ³)Battle of the Planets
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Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
85 TV episodes105 TV episodes, 3 OVA episodes
1978–79Oct 1, 1972–Sept 29, 1974
Gallerie International/Tatsunoko Productions
Sandy Frank
Tatsuo Yoshida
Sci-Fi, ActionSci-Fi, Action
-- listed below ---- listed below --
7-Zark-7 & 1-Rover-1-- not applicable -- βŠ•
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Chief AndersonDr. Kozaburo Nambu
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-- more listed below ---- more listed below --

Last I checked, this anime was available on DVD at Amazon, and on VHS at Amazon.

Characters: Battle of the Planets

English Name
Japanese Name
English Name
Japanese Name
7-Zark-7 & 1-Rover-1 -- not applicable -- βŠ• Mark the Eagle Ken Washio
Chief Anderson Dr. Kozaburo Nambu Princess the Swan Shiratori no Jun
Jason the Condor Joe Asakura Tiny Ryu Nakanishi
Keyop the Swallow Tsubakurou no Jinpei Zoltar Berg Katse
Luminous One Sosai X

Description: Battle of the Planets

In 1978, countless viewers all over the world got their first look at Gatchaman as Battle of the Planets. Fans followed the adventures of G-Force, five young orphans augmented with cerebonic implants: the heroic leader Mark, hot-headed Jason, beautiful Princess, stuttering kid-clone Keyop and Space Burger-scarfing Tiny. Assisted by their "robot guardian," 7-Zark-7, G-Force flew their warship, the Phoenix, to faraway planets and battled evil armies from Planet Spectra with superpowered tricks like the "Whirlwind Pyramid" and the "Fiery Phoenix." The 70's-era fashions and phrases ("big ten", "hang loose") make the show a retro favorite today.

Of all the versions, Battle of the Planets, with its big-budget production and enthusiastic staff, hooked the most international fans. The only drawback to the show was that even the youngest viewers were able to see through certain kidvid cop-outs: All the battles on "other worlds" looked like they took place on Earth (where they actually did in Gatchaman). There were obvious differences between the original animation and the segments added in America (the "ready room" scene, shots of the Phoenix flying through space, etc.). And all those "robot planes" had suspiciously human-looking pilots.

This coverup wasn't all bad: the suspicion that there was more to Battle of the Planets made the show even more interesting. Why didn't we get to see Jason fight very much? Were there some special scenes we were missing? Why did Keyop make those funny noises? Some of us kids saw past the explanation that Keyop was a test tube experiment and guessed that the original character just had a lot to say, maybe some of it even naughty. (We were right!)

The professional voice cast and superb new music score made the show fun to watch and set the ultimate standard for dubbed Japanese animation. Sandy Frank put over $5 million into production of this series, and it shows. In order to reduce the amount of violence in the show, some episodes were dissected and substituted with poor-quality animation and lame excuses ("Don't worry, kids. All the injured and dying bystanders you see here are only robots." And what truly happened to Mark's father, anyway?). As much as ten minutes of the program was taken up by the prattling of 7-Zark-7 and his friends.

Battle of the Planets was the show that started it all; the show that introduced most Western fans to Gatchaman and to Japanese animation in general. (Tezuka's Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion ran in the mid-60s and early 70s, but it was Battle of the Planets that started the anime ball rolling.) It's only too easy to villify Sandy Frank for all the cuts that were made to this show, but to be perfectly honest, Sandy Frank was only responsible for seeing potential in Gatchaman, hiring a staff to do the conversion and marketing the result. The producer Frank hired, Jameson Brewer, worked an extremely tight schedule (one episode a week) with few to no resources (no scripts, just the Japanese episodes "as is"), under heavy limitations. If you think about it, the censors are truly to blame--anyone who had to butt heads with Action for Children's Television in the mid seventies will know just how exasperating it is to put out any kind of animated entertainment. On the other hand, we have a lot to thank Sandy and his staff for. They invested a great deal of money and effort in the production of Battle of the Planets; hired professional actors (some who truly enjoyed working on the show), writers and composers, and sold this show "like the second coming." Few other animated productions (including the subsequent dubs of Gatchaman: G-Force and Eagle Riders) have been able to match the quality due to tighter budgets and...I don't know, lack of "the right stuff." Personally, this is my favorite dubbed version, and has accounted for many happy childhood hours in front of the TV.

Description: Kagaku Ninja-Tai Gatchaman

In the near future, the world is menaced by a criminal organization known only as the Galactor Syndicate. Led by Berg Katse, who answers to a mysterious entity known as Overlord X, Galactor's monster mechs threathen the International Science Organization's (ISO) plans to create a pollution-free energy source. To combat the menace of Galactor, Dr. Kozaburo Nambu decides that the time has come to bring in the ISO's secret weapon: five bird-garbed youths trained in the ways of the ninja and armed with the most remarkable weaponry science can produce. These five are the Science Ninja Team!

Led by Ken the Eagle (also known as Gatchaman), a bold leader type, the team includes Joe the Condor, a rebel out for revenge against Galactor, Jun the Swan, communications and demolitions expert, Keyop the Swallow, Jun's adopted kid brother and just as skilled as the others, and Ryu the Horned Owl, a brawny sort who not only is the pilot of the God Phoenix, he is also the only one of the five with living family.

Together, these five are the world's only hope against Galactor.

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