Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Battle Of The Planets Ep9: Jupiter Moon Menace

"I always get cut out. It's giving me a complex."
-Tiny cut out of the ground game yet again-

The Luminous One and Zoltar have joined forces with a commander called Scorpius. The evil planet Spectra proves how far they are willing to go to destroy G-Force.

The first seven minutes of the episode doodle about with the assembly of the Jupiter moon menace mecha which looks something akin to a Scorpion. It is able to convert the moon's surface's rock into Earth-destroying meteors. How will G-Force handle their latest challenge in Battle of The Planets, Episode 9, Jupiter Moon Menace.

The latest entry gives us an extensive, if not entirely welcomed look at the subpar American supplemental animation created for Battle Of The Planets. The notorious ready room sequence features Tiny eating space burgers, Keyop playing drums, Princess playing guitar while Mark and Jason strike up a game of ping pong ball. The sequence is essentially narrative filler when required but the animation simply doesn't rise to the heights of Tatsunoko's skilled artists that helped power a new generation of anime fans. And while there is recycled Tatsunoko animation here there are still a good number of delightful images.

And so incredibly, the ready room sequence pushes the episode out to the eight minute marker. We don't actually see the team-driven, proper cel animation created by Tatsunoko until roughly the nine minute marker. Truth be told not much really happens until after the eleven minute marker, nearly half of the episode. And one could argue there is complete inaction until after the fourteen minute point of the twenty-two minute entry. Astounding, yet somehow this episode likely dazzled kids as much as the next I'm sure. Of course, the coup de grace for Jupiter Moon Menace is that much more welcomed after an extremely slow start.

One of the most disappointing things about Battle Of The Planets, and we certainly didn't notice it as kids, is Sandy Frank and company thought nothing of cutting some of the more critical Japanese animation and filling it where required with supplemental, lesser American-made footage. In between shots of space and the Phoenix making its ride across the galaxy to give the illusion of a space-based show was a popular favorite. There were also notable editing snafus like in this entry when the creators cut from a space shot to a shot of the Phoenix against blue skies or open water and then back to space. The edits are completely out of place. A more critical eye for these things should have been in order.

Finally when things do begin to heat up for G-Force, Jason attempts a missile attack against the moon menace but to no effect. To make matters worse Spectra has impacted the instruments of the Phoenix. Zark orders a reversal of polarity to fix their problem. Ah the old polarity trick works almost every time in sci-fi.

To infiltrate the enemy Mark tells the team not to suit up, but suit down. They are going to do some "skin diving." When we were kids we did skin diving too in the birthday suits - at night. We thought we were pretty big stuff. Good times.

Mark has a rare, un-leader like moment in one of the episode's dialogue triumphs. "And here we are locked up tight inside with Tiny outside somewhere. I'm open for ideas." While the line should suggest Mark as a leader ready to delegate authority to others even under duress it comes off sounding silly given the real conundrum they face. Jason pipes in with a fairly easy solution. "Let's open that door with Princess' yoyo bomb."

After the mecha scorpion is destroyed the meteors "reverse" direction away from Earth. Huh!? And how does that work?

We get a little preachy with this entry too. "Two wrongs don't make a right." Ugh. This one, in hindsight, was rough viewing even for kids, of which I am at heart.

Jupiter Moon Menace is one of those episodes where you really want to do a compare and contrast to examine just how badly they mistreated the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman episode on which this is based. Just how much of the original story was edited and changed and it's safe to say it was a fair amount.

Jupiter Moon Menace definitely menaces the original story, chopping it up for a disjointed and awkward Battle Of The Planets affair that seems relatively short on proper flow. It just doesn't click in the same manner previous entries seem to so effortlessly. This is indeed perhaps the weakest of the first ten episodes. Ah well, even a classic cartoon like Battle Of The Planets comprised of 85 episodes is entitled to a stinker now and again.

American animation. Not its finest moment.
Mark open to suggestions.

1000th Post

Can you believe it?

This is the 1000th post for Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. Wow! Time flies. This blog commenced in October 2007. At this pace we should reach 2000 posts by roughly 2023. Sounds like a science fiction story to me.

So for this celebratory moment I respectfully request the purchase of one of these bikes please. That's not asking a lot now right? Combined small donations and we should be able to pull this off in short order. A boy can dream.

Seriously, thank you all who visit and enjoy making this one of your pit stops on an already busy day.

On with post number 1001 ...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Takashi Oshiguchi: On Tatsunoko Animation

"It's my belief that Tatsunoko animation was always on the search for the depths of human drama. Tatsunoko's animated productions are a reflection of the desires and exacting standards of its founder, Tatsuo Yoshida, and animation of that quality can never become outdated."
-Animerica, Vol.7, No.5, p.68, 1999-

Amen Takashi. Indeed Tatsunoko Productions continued to excel in its animating style moving from Mach Go Go Go (Speed Racer) (1967-1968) to Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (Battle Of The Planets) (1972-1974) and its extending franchise as well as Casshan (1973-1974), Macross (1982-1983; Robotech) on production, input on Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996) and beyond. Yoshida left an enduring legacy for the highest anime standards of excellence.

These aforementioned earlier series really demonstrate a high level of quality.

To offer an example, the hand drawn close cels of hands and gears, stick shifts, goggles, etc. can be seen as a running thread throughout these shows. The level of detail and thick black marker in shots is artistically stunning. The hands are a great example of that. They are so distinctively Tatsunoko we should dub the animation style the Tatsunoko glove and shift. You can spot the close ups with Go Mifune in Speed Racer, Mark or Jason in Battle Of The Planets when driving their respective vehicles and so on.

As we cover Battle Of The Planets' entire run we are reminded of the timeless quality of a series that hit the airwaves over forty years ago in its original form. It's just incredible the level of artistry and pride and care that went into these shows.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Herb Trimpe (1939-2015): Interior Art Samples

These were some beautiful interior comic book art samples taken mostly from the pages of Marvel's adaptation of Godzilla (1977-1979) by the late Herb Trimpe (1939-2015). This is another contribution and follow-up to our small tribute to the late Herb Trimpe here

Spam does suck Godzilla!