Monday, January 6, 2014

Battle Of The Planets Ep2: Rescue Of The Astronauts

"We're not on a pleasure cruise Princess. Remember this is where two astronauts vanished. I want everybody serious...."
-Mark, the deadly serious commander of G-Force (which is kind of refreshing)-

I know some might wonder why I would spend so much time on a children's cartoon.  I understand the curiosity.  You're not alone.  Many in my family wonder the same thing.

As one who adores science fiction, collectibles, art work, production design and as someone who enjoys painting, artwork and drawing, well Battle Of The Planets brings many of these loves together for me.  It also takes me back to a more pleasant era fertile with imagination.

Ultimately blogging about Battle Of The Planets and capturing the images that speak to me and then assembling it all here is simply another form of artistic expression in many respects.  I simply enjoy it.  Many may find no reason to stop and read, but for me the post is like drawing a picture or sketching an image and capturing a moment in my life, but now it's on a computer for the world to see.  But the assembly of those images and words is an artistic release and speaks to me as powerfully as sketching an image once upon a time on a weekend afternoon when I was maybe 8-10 years old. That's about the size of it.  It's that simple. So I hope you enjoy them too.

With an alteration in the series opening logo, Star Wars-style, Battle Of The Planets is set to roll.  We launch into our second official look at this groundbreaking anime from Tatsunoko with Battle Of The Planets, Episode 2, Rescue Of The Astronauts.

1-Rover-1 receives his first official introduction and you realize just how out of place that cute robot dog is against the ultra slick, cool designs and hand drawn animation provided by Japan's artists at Tatsunoko. The introduction of the sensual, suggestive voice of Susan is also a first and just as strange.

When two astronauts splash down returning to Earth, 7-Zark-7 calls Mark and the G-Force team into action.  "BIG 10." They are also briefed by none other than Chief Anderson, the Oscar Goldman (The Six Million Dollar Man) of Battle Of The Planets.

It's suspected the astronauts have evidence of Spectra bases on Mars and were abducted upon their return to Earth to prevent the leak of that information.

With all of the high tech gadgets at Earth's disposal, surprisingly, information is still recorded and stored on video cassette which has been secured by Spectra. The alien commander reports back to Zoltar. The Luminous One reads Zoltar the riot act and reminds him he has much work still to be completed.

Some of the hand drawn work is downright painterly in its beauty.  Look no further than images provided in this entry to fully absorb what was conceived a long time ago, in a country not so far, far away.

Caught in a water vortex, the team pushes The Phoenix, and often does, to the very limit to break free of its deadly grip.

This is the entry where 7-Zark-7 notes he'll never be caught asleep at the "FOSDIC."  Okay. FOSDIC (Film Optical Sensing Device For Input Computers). I suspect 7-Zark-7 wouldn't mind if Susan got hold of his FOSDIC based on all of the innuendo between the two throughout the series for the many innocent ears to hear. With all of that innuendo, even as a kid, I always recalled things had the potential to get very hot and heavy between Susan and 7-Zark-7.  Sexy was clearly okay. Japanese anime violence in Gatchaman apparently not so much and unfortunately was removed within the editing room for Battle of The Planets.

For a second time, Mark urges everyone to cool their jets.  In Attack Of The Space Terrapin Mark halted Jason from taking action.  This time Mark stops Tiny.  Mark's answer for a second time is to infiltrate the Whale Ship.  It worked once.  Why fix it if it ain't broke. Battle Of The Planets always placed Mark squarely in charge and making the calls.

Taking charge there is one moment that is particularly funny.  I suppose you could say this anime was created when GatchaMEN were GatchaMEN.  Mark tells Keyop without missing a beat to "get out of there," literally kicking Keyop out of one of the console seats on The Phoenix next to Tiny. It is positively caustic and Mark never bats one of those pretty eyelashes in doing it.  This is business.  These are life and death stakes.

Keyop volunteers to go in. Mark responds, "It's a risky job and I'm appointing myself."  There was no shortage of confidence from Casey Kasem's Mark character.  The entire team stands by for the Mark show.

A key family moment and a reason we loved Battle Of The Planets, Keyop is offended ("Grrrr-er-doot-doot-doot, who needs him") when he is denied by Mark to assist.  Jason reaches out and places his hand on Keyop's shoulder assuring him not to take it personally and smiles. This was the stuff that we connected with as youngsters beyond the cool ships and science fiction adventure.

Mark scuba dives to his destination to have a look.  The tension mounts to Hoyt Curtain's glorious score which manages to build tension with every beat.

Discovered, Mark Transmutes and becomes the white shadow assassin. Unfortunately he's captured. Unfortunately for Spectra that is, because the Spectra Goons and the Commander in charge lead him straight to the cell block and the two astronauts Mark is looking for anyway.  And you can't keep a member of G-Force down.  They shall all perish for their overconfidence.  Keyop rescues Mark and the astronauts. Whoop ass commences.

Zoltar positively blasts his commander.  "You have one last chance.... And no excuses this time.  My patience with you is just about exhausted.  Do the job and do it right!"

Jason greets Mark on his return toning it down from the first episode and is clearly happy to see him.  It's one thing to challenge Mark, but Jason comes off a bit heavy-handed in that first episode. Still, it won't be the last time.  This family-based team of youngsters can butt heads with the best of them.

G-Force maneuvers into fiery Phoenix mode and destroys the mechanical head of the escaping Spectran commander.  Upon retrieving the Spectran data, rescuing the astronauts and awakening from the exhausting effects of the Fiery Phoneix, Mark and Princess smile at one another.  By the way, Princess is the second one to regain consciousness.  She's no shrinking violet.  She's also a babe and gives more than enough contemporary anime cuties a run for their money.

It's worth noting that it is 7-Zark-7 who notes the astronauts are rescued.  We never actually see them rescued because in the original Gatchaman episode they are murdered. It's true. And therein lies the graphic rub between the two episodes.  This is often the complaint with Gatchaman purists and understandably so.

Rescue Of The Astronauts, and you love the irony of that American title since they aren't ever rescued, delivers some nice touches to the team chemistry despite the whole edited, generally lack luster story effort.  This becomes essentially a Mark solo show vehicle with a touch of Keyop.  I suppose it was nice the astronauts were rescued.  It was just one of the many ways Sandy Frank and company tamped down the sometimes gritty reality of the series to satiate the censors stateside.

I actually viewed the unedited Gatchaman episode to compare. I can only assure those considering a purchase of Gatchaman on Blu-Ray that they will not be disappointed. The exclusion of the excess fat that is 7-Zark-7 and the inclusion of many minutes of additional footage from the original episode makes for a much more satisfying experience. The original Gatchaman is far less child-friendly and much more adult-oriented as a viewing experience. It will blow you away visually and on a scripting level. It's remarkable just how the stories contrast between Battle Of The Planets and Gatchaman. Rescue Of The Astronauts alone is a fine example. In fact, elements of the introductory episode carry over into the second entry in Gatchaman in a rare example of early era continuity and serialization. That serialization is nowhere to be found in the kid-friendly world of Battle Of The Planets. And the violence is actually fantastic in Gatchaman. To see Mark (or Ken) go nuclear including killing someone with his sonic boomerang and a neck snapping is nothing short of awesome in the 1970s. And again, the astronauts are actually used as props by the Galactor in Gatchaman and then discarded because they've already been murdered. Wow. Stunning stuff really. So do yourself a favor and get that copy of Gatchaman on Blu-Ray while it lasts.

Like the comic books that inspired them, these caped crusaders look magnificent.

Rescue Of The Astronauts. Writer: Jameson Brewer. Director: David E. Hanson.
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: The Monstrous Aircraft Carrier Appears.

Up Next: The Space Mummy.


Roman J. Martel said...

Yeah I remember seeing both the original and "Battle of the Planets" version of this episode and was surprised by the amount of filler in the American version, and yet there is no way the censors would allow such brutal episode to appear at that time.

Your image captures are really great, you picked some classic frames there.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks my friend.
Downright glorious art work to be sure.