"Anyone who takes food out of your mouth is the lowest!
... I couldn't a lived with myself if we'd a blown up all that sugar without saving a little bit."
-Tiny Harper, speaking for the kids, and clearly one team member with a healthy (or unhealthy) appetite-
The latest episode opens with a request for rest and recreation by 7-Zark-7, because, of course, robots would need to rest right? Okay, maybe artificially intelligent, complex robots endowed with the essence of humanity might express such a desire. But for 7-Zark-7 Mark denies the request because he is required at all times. Clearly there is little empathy for this American robot and animated addition to the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman animation. So much for our little Battle Of The Planets robot buddy.
Battle Of The Planets, Episode 12, Beast With A Sweet Tooth takes us to a sugar cane field in the heart of the Dominican Republic. It is our introduction to the beast with a sweet tooth and the devastation it is causing to farmland everywhere.
Spectran attacks result in a worldwide sugar shortage of all things. It is a shortage some dieticians on Earth seem to be okay with despite the fact it is the consequence of something called an alien invasion.
An amusing misunderstanding occurs over communications between Chief Anderson and Tiny and Keyop and Princess are amused.
Beast With A Sweet Tooth may be the first installment of the series whereby we hear 7-Zark-7 actually narrate the pick-ups by The Phoenix of its G-Force members in their respective vehicles. He notes Mark in the G-1 Sonic Jet, Princess in the G-3 Galacticycle, Keyop in his G-4 Star Buggy and Jason in the G-2 Space Mobile. Zark calls Jason "sometimes a little difficult to get along with but... a valuable member of G-Force." As Zark notes G-Force is a "family." When squabbles occur between teammates it is only natural, born out of concern, love and even taking one another for granted as families sometimes do. In knowing one another so well and being so comfortable in one another's company sometimes tempers flare.
Chief Anderson informs the team that Zoltar and Spectra have set up a secret base on Earth. Sugar cane reserves are now at an all time low.
The writers certainly took the importance of sugar to heart in the 1970s. They must have been raised and reared on all those cereal commercials that were played like me. Like Tony the Tiger would declare with great gusto about those Frosted Flakes, They're GRRRREAT!
The sugar crisis in the installment is like a crisis we've never seen before! Who knew it would be centered on sugar of all things? Hey, kids love their candy bars. We could never have that. Kids across the planet declare, Go get 'em G-Force!
When finally finding the mecha beast with a taste for sweet treats The Phoenix is nearly sucked into its grinding gears. The effort leads G-Force to leave Keyop and Princess in control of The Phoenix while Mark, Jason and Tiny fly into its mouth taking the battle to the creature on foot. Apparently, there may be a need for some muscle with big Tiny on board. The episode further underscores that while Tiny may be the chief pilot of The Phoenix everyone on board is capable of handling her and is trained accordingly. And that's pretty logical. This family never knows when they will be in a scrape and when or who they will need called to take the helm.
As the trio enters the creature's mouth, Mark flings his Sonic Boomerang in a nick of time stopping the metal gears. The three of them come crashing hard into its metal teeth. WOW! Ouch! In a funny bit of animation (screen capture provided) Tiny appears to be knocked out cold for a moment. He is literally laid flat out for a time that is quite comical. You don't have to pay too close attention to spot it.
The trio discovers a massive refinery inside of the metallic beast, but why? The trio fall into a sugar silo and narrowly escapes. Mark even expects Tiny to use his muscle to hold off a giant metal compressor that is pressing down upon them. He may not be Superman but he gets the job done. Jason finds an escape hatch and Tiny gets pushed through by Mark and even submits perhaps a diet is in order. I can hear those kids on South Park now. That's not fat. That's muscle. I'm big-boned.
Eventually the trio discovers a hot vat of boiling syrup. Was this show speaking to kids or what!? Did Sandy Frank have investments in sugar?
While Mark, Jason and Tiny leave kids in suspense as they make every effort to survive the various vats and tunnels within the beast, Princess and Keyop take cover under the mecha giant's wing to gain entry into the secret Spectran lair.
The trio hangs on for dear life and for minutes and minutes as Jason and Mark hold onto Tiny and the three cling to the wall of a hot vat. Jason lets go of Tiny and Mark handles the job while then Jason pulls out the cable gun to save them. It is suggested that Mark has dropped Tiny as Jason flies into rescue him as he falls just in nick of time. Even Mark is seen cringing at the sheer thought he would have failed his friend and teammate. Of course this is given cursory coverage, but the depth behind these characters is at least given a window. In 1970s era animation, that's pretty deep. Upon escaping, the trio is captured again while Princess and Keyop must throw a wrench in the works.
It's interesting to see the various dynamics created within each episode regarding who is paired with who or if the episode winds up a solo show for Mark or another member. The creators of the original genuinely kept things from being predictable in this fashion and made efforts to juggle an ensemble cast.
And speaking of fashion they really need to bring back those striped, colored pants and the T-shirts with their respective numbers. I want some.
Finding themselves in a pile of sugar, Mark needs everyone focused and singles out Tiny. "Turn off your stomach Tiny." Surrounded by Spectran goons and Zoltar's henchman, the trio initiates the trusty whirlwind pyramid.
The team reunites and Princess, the world's seemingly greatest computer hacker, hacks the Spectran computer changing the negative polarity. You have to love the negative polarity trick every time. They have three minutes to evacuate. Tiny, like a kid overcome by the drug that is sugar, has temporarily lost his mind and is utilizing valuable time to load a bag of sugar for the trip home compromising the safety of his team. It is a funny, but risky move. Tiny is a bit of a beast with a sweet tooth himself. Could the episode have been referring to Tiny Harper? Of course not. But Mark's remark to Tiny may have seemed a little cold earlier, but clearly Mark had Tiny's number and was very much aware of his weakness for the sweet stuff.
Following the departure of The Phoenix, the beast is destroyed which causes an avalanche. With just seconds to spare before the base explosion the team transforms into The Fiery Phoenix. Thermo dynes. Fusion. Fiery Phoenix!
The story ends with young Keyop dispersing sugar treats to children from his delightful little Star Buggy. The moment, which includes the Skipper-like Tiny looking over fondly at his little buddy, proves once again the relatively stealth organization was not averse to a little good publicity now and again or mixing with the public. Keeping in good with the kids was a nice strategy. This isn't the first time Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny or Keyop interacted with kids or set about in the public eye, but it is another of those, well, sweet moments.
But why on Earth (literally) would Spectra need sugar? Ultimately we are led to believe their efforts were intent on starving children everywhere of their sugar needs. Now that is a pretty reasonable dastardly plan if ever a kid heard one. That is definitely a job for G-Force! And so ends one of the scariest Battle Of The Planets stories to ever grace a child's ear. The episode comes complete with great shots of the team's mecha and more deliciously rendered cels and painterly backdrops compliments of Tatsunoko Production.
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: The Gluttonous Monster Ibukron.
Up Next: Perilous Pleasure Cruise.
1970s era anime fan service.
Tiny out cold.