Thursday, April 2, 2015

Battle Of The Planets Ep7: Ace From Outer Space

"There he is! Man he's weird!"
-A classic, natural and hilarious reaction from Tiny upon seeing Captain Doom-

They don't make them like this anymore. We return to the classic anime adaptation, Battle Of The Planets, or as I affectionately refer to it - moving artwork!

This is Battle Of The Planets, Episode 7, Ace From Outer Space.

G-Force is forced to battle Captain Doom and his devastating laser whip. With Captain Doom the creators at Tatsunoko Productions have character designed one of the most memorable of villains on the series to date apart from the recurring favorites of Zoltar and the Luminous One. Doom, with a skeleton head, strikes of pure menace and less the buffoonery of some of Zoltar's unreliable henchmen. But this is the first occasion whereby G-Force takes on a villain that is not working directly for Spectra but rather in competition with Zoltar. He too wishes to conquer Earth. The one aspect that doesn't quite add up from this Battle Of The Planets English adaptation is the fact that Doom utilizes Spectran goons as his henchmen. This often happens and is essentially explained away as nothing more than an alliance between enemies to fight a common end. The enemy of my enemy is my friend as it goes.

Battle Of The Planets opens with kid-friendly 7-Zark-7 who enjoys some playful banter with the positively sexy and sultry whispers of Susan, voiced by Janet Waldo. Waldo also handles the Princess chores of course. If 7-Zark-7 wasn't a robot he would often be left with a bad case of blue balls after speaking with her each episode. Who wouldn't? The writers got away with much innuendo for a children's program.

Mark is tasked with handling the flight of an experimental aircraft, the XF-97, when he makes contact with Captain Doom, the ace from outer space - a space pirate from Urgos, in the skies above.

Like Battle Of The Planets, adapted from Japan's Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, the show was also adapted later into G-Force: Guardians Of Space (1986) but lacked the consummate, distinguished, professional polish of Sandy Frank's classic cast. Characters on that adapted series included another ace. The characters were named Ace Goodheart (Mark), Dick Daring (Jason), Agatha June (Princess), Pee Wee (Keyop) and Hoot Owl (Tiny). Chief Anderson became Dr. Brighthead. Terrible. In a funny twist, the Anderson character on Battle Of The Planets was actually the name of the President Kane character found on Battle Of The Planets in the original Gatchaman series. I suspect Science Ninja Team Gatchaman may be the most adapted of all of the Japanese anime properties in English and the most confusing to follow in all of its translations.

So Mark is struck down and crashes into the ocean. While in the drink Mark utilizes a device to communicate for help. That device would one day become the Apple Watch or smart watch and would finally make it to the commercial market from Apple in April 2015. Today we can finally transmute ourselves like the very heroes of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. He parachutes to safety and is rescued by the Phoenix.

Doom unleashes a wave of destruction on all of Earth's grounded aircraft. They say if you want to defeat an enemy control the skies. Fortunately we have G-Force here.

G-Force attempts to take out Doom but the Phoenix is forced to abandon the mission as its rudder is laser whipped. Doom, standing on a bat-like, bi-plane, sinks away into his plane which then transforms into a rocket. They will battle another day.

Mecha may have been a little more primitive in design back in the day, but this series delivered a good number of them over the course of 85 episodes.

Chief Anderson and the team meet to discuss the material that forges Doom's laser whip which appears to be indestructible.

When G-Force reaches Urgos Mark orders Tiny to employ the "wounded bird" act. Tiny fakes a hit by missiles unleashing plumes of smoke from the Phoenix as he plunges toward the surface. Meanwhile, Mark, Jason, Princess and Keyop take their mission on foot.

As the quartet makes its way deeper into the enemy lair there is a good bit of character exchange when Jason suggests it's dangerous and Princess and Keyop should return to the Phoenix. Princess responds with the kind of retort that women's liberation movements would be proud of in the 1970s. "Maybe we should send you back Jason." Classic. You go Princess! Mark tells them to quit the squabbling and stay on task as a good leader should. What we see in action is a team of highly skilled young people who are indeed a makeshift family, in effect like siblings arguing out of concern.

As Princess goes to work with her technical hacking abilities on the base the duo of Mark and Princess are attacked by praying mantis like robots. The two implement the whirlwind pyramid to escape the exploding area. Unfortunately Doom is waiting for them.

Elsewhere Jason and Keyop destroy the base generator and every second counts.

In a bit of a logic problem, Tiny responds to save the quartet. Jason and Keyop, the bird warriors they are fly up into the open hatch like the ninja assassins they could be. They don't break a sweat with one quick leap. Yet, when Mark and Princess arrive they are unable to do so and are surrounded by lava only to make it into the hatch by using Doom's whip and being carried away by a tether. Hmm. I think Mark and Princess (or the writers) may have been creating a bit of drama there.

The closing minutes see some terrible American animation as Princess greets 7-Zark-7 and 1-Rover-1 in a poor interpretation of the beautiful character design that is the Princess we know and love. Oh well, they had the license to do it. But some of the art that is provided by Tatsunoko for this episode is once again stellar. Singular images, thick black lines and other astounding cels are in evidence for fans to enjoy here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. Note even a rare moment when Mark and Princess actually hold hands. Wow.

Doom escapes to fight another day. Mark disposes of the whip in the open ocean. Once again, all is left unresolved as our heroes do their very best to keep Earth safe managing to win their fair share of battles but not the war.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman title: Galactor's Giant Airshow.

Up Next: Fearful Sea Anemone.

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