Beginning in 1972, Tatsunoko Productions began airing three Gatchaman series and a movie in Japan. The first series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman in Japanese) ran in Japan from October 1, 1972 through September 29, 1974, and it consisted of 105 episodes. The second series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman II began on October 1, 1978 and ran through September 30, 1979, consisting of 52 episodes. The third series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman F (for fighter) ran from October 7, 1979 through August 31, 1980, and was made up of 48 episodes. The movie was compiled of footage from the first series and aired on July 15, 1978.
The basic story was that an alien presence had come to Earth and was behind the terrorist organization known as Galactor. The International Science Organization (or ISO) had trained a team of young, gifted heroes to fight Galactor, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.
Members of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman:
G-1: Ken Washio, Eagle, 18 years old, Japanese. Ken was taken in by Dr. Nambu when he was eight years old, and has trained ever since to be the hero that he is. The leader with the weight of the world on his shoulders, Ken fights bad because he is good, he is "Gatchaman" after all. A little more dimension is added to his character after the death of Red Impulse, whom Ken has conveniently just found out is his father. He gets a little bitter. He fights with Joe like brothers, but they fight for each other like brothers would, too. Jun has a thing for Ken (who doesn't), but his is mostly oblivious to this fact for most of the time. An excellent pilot, like his father, he works as a test pilot in his down time and Ken's mecha is neat little plane.
G-2: Joe Asakura, Condor, 18 years old, Italian/Sicilian. Ken is your typical hero: rational, clear headed, keeps his personal emotions in check. My man Joe is Ken's polar opposite. Joe might be just a gun for hire except for one key element: his rage has a purpose. Revenge. At one time his parents were Galactor, and were killed by them as traitors. Little Joe witnessed the assassination, but fortunately was saved by Dr. Nambu. Luckily he was trained for the team or Joe might have turned out as, say, a mercenary or high school math teacher. Joe's kind of a rebel, the boy your mother warned you about. He's a ladies' man (he stole my heart!), which tends to get him and the rest of the team in trouble at times. When not saving the world he's even a race car driver, can you guess what his mecha is?
G-3: Jun (last name unknown), Swan, 16 years old, Japanese/American. Dr. Nambu picked up Jun at an orphanage. As is typical when one girl hangs out with a group of guys, she's the mothering one, the "Wendy" to her "Lost Boys". They are her family, and she fights fiercely to keep them intact. But don't underestimate her just because she's beautiful; an expert with explosives and electronics she can hold her own in a fight (and still manage to keep her lipstick perfect). She's even got her own restaurant/bar, the Snack Jun (a popular hangout for the group) and likes to go-go dance. As previously mentioned, she's longing for a relationship with Ken. But sometimes (I swear I'm not just making this up), she takes a peek at Joe, too. Plus, she's got a cool motorcycle.
G-4: Jinpei (last name unknown), Swallow, 10 years old, Japanese. Jinpei has thought of Jun as his older sister all his life, and became a member of Science Ninja Team when she insisted Dr. Nambu take him, too. Jinpei works for Jun at the Snack Jun. He looks up to the older guys, and gets a little indignant when he feels he is being left out. A "little buddy" to Ryu, he can sometimes be reduced to comic relief. But don't count him out. He's still an integral part of the team, and not so bad with electronics himself. His mecha is even childlike: a bubble like jeepy thingy.
G-5: Ryu Nakanishi, Great Horned Owl, 25 years old, Japanese. Ryu is the most "normal" of the group (as normal as you can be fighting aliens in a bird suit). He still gets to visit his family in the small fishing village he is from (and as his cover he conveniently runs a marina). He is older, wiser, and doesn't have as many issues to work on as the rest. He is every bit a team player, though. The loveable lug, Ryu pilots the God Phoenix and is left behind a lot waiting for the others to beat the baddies and then get them the heck out of there. The good news is he gets his own mecha in the second series. The bad news is it's called the Horned Tank. Not quite as cool as Ken's Eagle Sharp or Joe's Condor Attacker. It's a step, though.
Some Other Good Guys:
Dr. Nambu. Dashing good looks and a scientific brain, Dr. Nambu worked on the Mangle Project before training the Science Ninja Team. A prominent member of ISO, he is often the target of Galactor attacks as he guides his young group of heroes.
Red Impulse. Real name, Kentaro Washio. On a secret spy mission for ISO he faked his own death and changed his identity. Always putting duty before family, he entrusted his young son Ken to the care of his friend Dr. Nambu. As leader of his squadron he crosses paths with our young heroes often, only revealing his true identity shortly before his death.
Sosai X. Bad guy numero uno. X is from the world of Selectoru in the Andromida Galaxy. He has been hanging around Earth dormant for many years. Then, he decided to take over Earth, and to use Galactor as his hired thugs (previously Galactor had been part of the Mafia, a possible explanation as to Joe's parents involvement?). He made Berg Katse and GelSadora into the wacky villains we love to hate, and since hearing of his own home world's destruction has had an insatiable desire to destroy the Earth. Hey Uncle X, it wasn't our fault.
Berg Katse. My personal favorite of the villains. Looks kinda like a cat. Cat's chase birds, don't they? X mutated Katse by merging male and female fraternal twins inside their mother's womb. I'm not sure why X did this, but the result is that Katse is wholly male and female--switching back and forth at will. When female, she has an IQ of 280. When male, it's not so high (ha, ha). In female form as Onna Taicho she leads the elite able-to-kick-much-butt all female ninja team of The Devil Stars (who, by the way, were the Galactor responsible for Joe's parents' deaths). Katse freaks when he hears Ken's whistle (maybe the female part is not so much scared as excited). He/she wants to rule the Earth, and believes that is X's plan, to give Earth to him/her. When he/she finds out in the final episode that X is going to destroy the Earth instead, Katse redeems himself/herself in a way by committing suicide (in a scene not seen in America).
GelSadora. In anther of his mad-scientist mutant experiments, X force-grew GelSadora from a six year old. We find out her mother is Dr. Nambu's Administrative Assistant Dr. Sylvie Pandora. GelSadora is Sammie, thought dead in a shipwreck (caused by the crafty X). She's like seven feet tall and has a spooky male-like voice (not to mention the clown outfit). Given to temper tantrums like a SIX YEAR OLD (what was X thinking?), she's apparently smart enough to run Galactor, which may not be saying a lot. When she finds out who she really is X kills her mom, which makes GelSadora see the error of her evil ways. In a touching scene, mother and daughter are reunited in death.
Count Egobossler (real name Elun). The bastard son of the ruler of a small European country, young Elun locked up his brother (a la The Man in the Iron Mask), changed his face and skin to look like him, killed his father, and took over as the ruler of the Egobossler family and the country they control. Sosai Zed or Z (mutated from a single cell of Sosai X at the end of Gatchaman II) noticed the skills of Egobossler after he takes over most of Europe by force, and having an open position down at Galactor signs him up for the job. He's refined and elegant, most definitely the more intelligent of the villains in his military skill. But, he is called "Happy Boy" in English, which is always a strike against you, despite the sexy battle scar on his face.
Interchangeable Galactor Goons. Some are fat, some are tall and skinny, but all wear bellbottoms. These guys are human, mostly chumps picked up at prisons, flophouses, and the local shopping malls worldwide. Lured by the allure of power Galactor represents, they soon find out if they leave the organization they will be killed (if they stay they will probably end up dead, too). As mentioned before, it is believed Galactor was once an arm of the Mafia, but these dudes are more like Al Capone's dumb cousins. Given to laziness and easily distracted by shiny things, I'm quite sure none of them ever got lucky with a Devil Star girl. Although, an old boyfriend of Jun's was the leader of a faction called the Blackbirds, a Galactor ninja biker gang.
In the first series the main mecha was the God Phoenix (the coolest of all). In the second series it was the New God Phoenix and it looked like a chicken. The third series had the Gatcha Spartan, which wasn't as bad as the New God Phoenix.
Battle of the Planets
Battle of the Planets is what I grew up watching and what started it all for me (note the Star Wars-like logo, I'll get back to that later). In 1979 Sandy Frank Productions acquired the US rights to Gatchaman and transformed it into BoTP. It aired in the States in the late '70's and early '80's. The names were changed and footage was edited to remove most of the violence (I presume to protect the fragile psyche of the American youth). To cash in on the appeal of Star Wars, the R2D2-ish 7-Zark-7 and his robot dog 1-Rover-1 were added, filling in the holes in the storyline created by the cutting and splicing of footage. Occasionally Ken and Jun would drop by, and it is then that you can really tell that the added footage is inferior American animation. Jinpei became a human clone with a messed-up and distracting speech problem. Berg Katse was just the male form, with his female self changed to his sister Mala.
It is because of the many changes that most Gatchaman fans (or Gatchamaniacs) refer to Sandy Frank as the devil. I believe we should be somewhat grateful to Mr. Frank, though, for bringing the perfection that is Gatchaman to the non-Japanese world. In Spain it was known as Commando G. In France as La Bataille des Planets. The Italians knew it as La Buttaglia dei Pianeti. Now you can identify your favorite Japanese Anime in your conversations with the foreign exchange student living in your basement for the semester.
BoTP Name Changes:
Ken - Mark (my older brother's name, voiced by Casey Kasem)
Joe - Jason (my fiancÚ's name, voiced by Ronnie Schell)
Jun - Princes (voiced by Janet Waldo)
Jinpei - Keyop (voiced by Alan Young)
Ryu - Tiny (voiced by Alan Dinehart)
Dr. Nambu - Security Chief Anderson (voiced by Alan Dinehart)
Sosai X - The Luminous One (voiced by Keye Luke)
Berg Katse - Zoltar (male), Mala (female), Agent S-9 (female) (voiced by Keye Luke)
Red Impulse - Colonel Cronos (voiced by Keye Luke)
I have about 12 episodes of this on VHS that I got off of e-bay. Watching as an adult, it's hard for me to respond to the voice of Casey Kasem and the ticking and whirring of the American Jinpei, but the elements I loved as a little girl still appeal to me. I also have the last episode which did not air in America. It's all in Japanese, but I have the script to it in English. The show has more depth, more drama, and more guts. It's hard to believe how old it is, because the animation stands up very well when held against today's, especially given there wasn't anything generated by a computer. You can't buy these anywhere, but there's usually some up for auction on e-bay. Be cautious, though, in your expectations of what you're buying, most are probably poor quality and taped from the TV. If you are going to bid on one, ask a lot of questions of the seller before, such as how they got what they are selling, if it's in English, if it's a tape of a tape, etc. Also, check the seller's feedback for comments from people who bought similar items in the past. Finally, remember that it's an auction on the Internet, and there are no solid guarantees. Caveat emptor, buyer beware.
Saban's Eagle Riders
Saban brought us "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers". Power Rangers was inspired by a live-action series in Japan (as soon as I can find the name again I will put it here), which was in turn inspired by.....Gatchaman. So it is fitting that Saban bought the rights for Gatch II and Fighter and combined them into Saban's Eagle Riders. It aired in 1996 and 1997 in the United States. It's positive were that it followed the original storylines more, with allusions to events from the first series, and had no added American animation. Some negatives were that it again cut some violent scenes and the Galactor were changed to androids instead of humans (again to protect all the little children).
I've got almost all of these taped off of Fox. The animation is brighter and the men are suddenly more muscular, but it is still quite enjoyable to watch. I keep shouting at the TV "They're not android!" though.
Eagle Rider Name Changes:
Ken - Hunter Harris (voiced by Richard Cansino)
Joe - Joe Thax (voiced by Bryan Cranston)
Jun - Kelly Jenar (voiced by Heidi Lenhart)
Jinpei - Mickey Dugan (voiced by Mona Marshall)
Ryu - Ollie Keeawani (voiced by Paul Shrier II)
Dr. Nambu - Dr. Thadeus Keane (voiced by Greg O'Neill)
Sosai X - Cybercon (voiced by Peter Spellos)
GelSadora - Mallanox (voiced by R. Martin Klein)
G-Force, Guardians of Space
Turner Broadcasting re-did the first series as G-Force, Guardians of Space. It was shown on Cartoon Network in the 1990's (please, oh please, bring it back on Toonami). There was no 7-Zark-7, and less scenes cut (equaling more violence, but also more faithfulness to original storyline). The voice acting was not the best (but no Casey Kasem either), and the names were stupid. Most fans seem to agree it's the most acceptable translation to date.
G-Force Name Changes:
Ken - Ace (voiced by Sam Fontana)
Joe - Dirk (voiced by Jimmy Flinders)
Jun - Aggie (voiced by Barbara Goodson)
Jinpei - PeeWee (voiced by Barbara Goodson)
Ryu - Hooty (voiced by Jan Rabson/Gregg Berger)
Dr. Nambu - Dr. Brighthead (voiced by Jan Rabson)
Sosai X - Computor (voiced by Jan Rabson/Gregg Berger)
Berg Katse - Galactor (voiced by Bill Copizzi)
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