Gatchaman Overview by Alara Rogers

(Note: This article is outdated, but gives accurate information about the original Gatchaman series and Battle of the Planets. It gives limited information about G-Force and no information about the OAVs or Eagle Riders. I plan to update the article by November in time for the Gatchapalooza '97 minicon at Anime Weekend Atlanta.)

(Acknowledgements: This article is heavily influenced by Pat Munson-Siter's original Gatchaman overview, where I first learned about the show. I must also credit Pat for getting me into Gatchaman in the first place. Other resources I would like to credit are James Long, whose Gatchaman library is probably the most extensive in the country; Allen Rowe, who provided me with source materials on "Gatchaman Fighter" and helped me clarify some thoughts in the review; Jay Felton, who gave me information on BOTP in French and Italian; Luke Menichelli, who also provided me with a lot of written Gatchaman material; and Mari Fujimoto, who helped me translate over a dozen episodes and taught me a lot about the idiosyncratic expressions in Gatchaman.)

My first love in animation-- and the only childhood interest I've maintained to the present day-- was the cartoon series "Battle of the Planets," produced by Sandy Frank Productions, which ran from 1978-79, and then proceeded to repeat in syndication. It wasn't until I was 17 that I learned there was an original Japanese version of the show, and I proceeded to move heaven and earth to get it, and then to learn Japanese so I could understand it. The original Japanese version, "Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman", or "Science Ninja Team Gatchaman", ran in Japan weekly from 1972-74, and had two sequel series which were never translated in America, "Gatchaman II" and "Gatchaman Fighter." In total, this made 205 episodes, making Gatchaman one of the longest-running drama series in anime history-- it's matched only by the likes of "Uchusenkan Yamato" ("Space Battleship Yamato", translated as "Star Blazers") and "Kido Senki Gundam" ("Mobile Suit Gundam", recently released here as a series of novels under its own name.)

For anyone who's given the series a cursory glance, it's obvious that it's a *lot* different than "Battle of the Planets." People die, frequently. The plot is much better connected (due to the fact that it doesn't have 5-8 minutes cut out and replaced with 7-Zark-7!) And oh, yes, there's no Zark. For anti-Zark fans like me, this alone would make the series worth watching. While "Battle of the Planets" was supposedly set in outer space, and involved travel to many different planets, Gatchaman took place entirely on Earth, except for a few expeditions to Mars and the Moon. The enemy were terrorists, not aliens (although their true ruler did turn out to be an alien, after all). Most importantly, the series had a continuity-- though most of the episodes stand just fine on their own, and don't meld into each other the way most modern shows do, references were made to previous episodes frequently. Everything and everyone, from the individual weapons to the Galactor leaders, had an introductory episode and a death/destruction/end of series episode, after which they no longer appeared.

In 1986 or thereabouts, Sandy Frank Productions sold the translation rights to Turner Broadcasting, which commissioned a new translation from Fred Ladd, the producer of old shows like "8th Man" and "Gigantor". This new translation, "G-Force", released in 1987, was far more accurate than BOTP in terms of translation, taking only one major liberty with Gatchaman's plot line. However, it featured bad names and poor voice acting, and most fans were rather disappointed in its music. Some episodes of "G-Force" are available in England on videocassette.

Background: The time is uncertain. Although the technology levels seem in many respects to be appropriate for 1972, other technological advances, such as reliable, pollution-free energy, are obviously futuristic. For this reason, and because the names of many of the locations have been subtly changed, I personally postulate that the Gatchaman world is an parallel dimension-- it is not *supposed* to be taking place in "our world", past, present or future.

In any case, the world has just apparently recovered from World War III, and has finally achieved peace. The United Nations is a strong and respected entity governing the interaction of the nations (that alone would set it in an alternate universe!), and a bureau of the United Nations, the International Ministry of Science and Technology (also referred to as the International Science Organization, or ISO), is putting most of its efforts into developing pollution-free forms of energy and improving the quality of life for humanity.

The only thing that stands between humanity and peace is the Galactor organization (referred to by some sources as the Galactor Syndicate), a vast terrorist organization aiming at world conquest. Galactor utilizes superscience in its weapons of terror, sometimes obviously trying to force people to surrender, sometimes trying to hamper ISO, and sometimes apparently just causing destruction for the heck of it. Ordinary military might is useless against them; only one group has proven long-term deterrent capacity against Galactor, and that is the Science Ninja Team.

Characters:

DR. KOZABURO NAMBU (Nambu Hakase): Age 48 at the beginning of the series, but looks to be several years younger. He is Japanese, and single, which-- considering the high priority the Japanese put on marriage-- says something about him. This is usually interpreted to indicate his dedication, but scripter for the series Jinzo Toriumi postulated in his Gatchaman novel that it might indicate a problem Nambu has in dealing with women. In any case, he *is* intensely dedicated. He is an ISO Associate Director, which is a rank a number of other men share, on paper; but in practice he wields a disproportionate amount of power as the Science Ninja Team's coordinator. The only person besides Nambu who can give the Ninja Team orders is his immediate superior, Director Anderson, and that only when Nambu himself is in danger. Reputed to have a number of doctorates in a number of fields, from schools such as Oxford and Cambridge, Nambu, like most anime scientists, can do anything, but his specialty is astrophysics. He is supposed to be independ-ently wealthy, and funded the creation of the Science Ninja Team, at least in part, with his own funds. He fought in World War III, apparently, and met Kentaro Washio there. (See Red Impulse.) Inside sources say that he got the technology for the Science Ninja Team's equipment from benevolent aliens, but this never appeared in the series.

In "Battle of the Planets", his name was Chief Anderson. (This is an in-joke-- his superior in Gatchaman was named Anderson. This man, by the way, became President Kane.) In "G-Force", he became Dr. Brighthead.

KEN WASHIO (G-1) Eagle Ken: In Japanese, his title (Owashi no Ken) and his name (Washio Ken) are remarkably similar-sounding. Owashi literally means "great eagle", but English speakers generally shorten this to "eagle". Most often, in battle, he is called Gatchaman. This is a nonsense word in Japanese, but is used in the series to mean "commander of the Science Ninja Team" frequently. At other times, Gatchaman seems to represent the name of the whole team. In any case, Ken is 18, and Japanese (never mind his big blue eyes). His father, Kentaro, was a fighter pilot who vanished in the South Pacific when Ken was 4. As Ken's mother was sickly, Nambu became the child's legal guardian. When Ken was 11, his mother died.

Ken's occupation is test pilot for ISO, and he also runs mail out to far-flung Japanese islands in his airplane. He is a superb fighter pilot. In personality, he is your "typical" hero-- noble, dedicated, and singularly thick when it comes to romance. In the beginning, Ken is pretty well emotionally balanced, aside from his lack of love life-- the battle with Galactor cannot spoil his joy in life, and he keeps his two lives-- that of Ken Washio and that of Gatchaman-- emotionally separate. As the battle grows more intense, however, the two worlds collide, and Ken begins to turn colder, darker, and more violent in his feeling toward Galactor. The death of his father is one of the factors leading to this change, as is the death of Joe (See Joe Asakura) and the gradual destruction of his own body.

In BOTP, his name was Mark, and he was most often called "Commander" by his enemies. In "G-Force", his name was Ace Goodheart.

JOE ASAKURA (G-2) Condor Joe: The name he was born under was George, and it is still used sometimes, as evidenced by the fact that the first letter of his name is represented on his belt in G-II by a letter "G". In Japanese, "George" is spelled and pronounced "Joji", so Joe is not much of a stretch. His parents, Giuseppe and Caterina Asakura, were Galactor bosses (well, Giuseppe was, at least), based out of BC Island in Sicily. (This and Japan are practically the only national names that don't get changed.) When young George was 8, they decided to betray Galactor-- possibly intending to turn evidence-- and were assassinated by a masked female assassin, who nearly took George's life as well with an exploding rose. Nambu found the boy and made up a false death certificate for him, renaming the boy Joe and taking him as his ward. Joe blocked out all memory that his parents were Galactors, remembering only that Galactor killed them, and he became consumed with desire for revenge on Galactor.

After recovering his memory that his parents were Galactors, he softened slightly in his attitude toward them, but not in time to avoid suffering severe head wounds. He began suffering dizzy spells and freezing up in bright light toward the end of Gatchaman I, and eventually learned that he had very few days left to live. In traditional hero fashion, he decided to make the most of the time he had left by trying to take down Galactor. He didn't succeed, but the information he gathered enabled the Science Ninja Team to confront Katse and Overlord X for the last time.

He should have died at that point, but a scientist named Dr. Rafael (See Dr. Rafael) came and rescued him, operating on him to make him a cyborg. Joe returned in G-II after having been thought dead by everybody (except the audience-- we saw him in the opening credits). At first, he tried to keep it a secret that he was a cyborg-- the Science Ninja Team do not tend to consider cyborgs human beings-- but eventually it got out, and the team accepted him anyway.

While Joe never mellowed completely, his attitude became much more relaxed in comparison to how he'd first appeared as the series went on. His specialties were always guns and cars, and in the first season his occupation was racer, but he quit after Galactor figured out who he was.

His name in Battle of the Planets was Jason, and his personality was altered in several respects. In "G-Force", he was Dirk Daring.

JUN (G-3) Swan Jun: In Japanese, her name is Shiratori no Jun. Jun is 16 at the start of the series. Half-Japanese, half-American, she is an orphan with no known parents. At some point in her life, she adopted Jinpei (See Jinpei) as a little brother, and is responsible for raising him. She runs a combination bar, small restaurant, and disco called the Snack J (or sometimes the Snack Jun, depending on the source), despite the fact that she can't cook. (Jinpei does the cooking.) In Gatchaman, she covers all scientific specialties-- she is a saboteur, paramedic, engineer, and also handles communication and sensors. She may, in fact, be the most intelligent on the team, but for some reason-- perhaps a severe case of insecurity, due to being female in a highly sexist society-- all she ever thinks to say in most cases is "That's right!" She is in love with Ken, but seems incapable of telling him so until faced with near-certain death. She also has an annoying tendency to get herself captured. Despite this, she is perfectly capable of kicking Galactor butts with as much skill and intensity as the guys. She also, moreso than any of the others, appears to be conscious of the Science Ninja Team as a *team*, and it is perfectly plausible that the reason she doesn't go hotdogging it on her own nearly as often as the guys do is because she disapproves of doing so.

Her name in Battle of the Planets was Princess. In "G-Force", it was Agatha June, sometimes called Aggie.

JINPEI (G-4) Swallow Jinpei: Pronounced "gin-pay." His name in Japanese is Tsubakuro no Jinpei. He is 9 years old at the start of the series, Japanese, and may or may not be the son of the head of the Jupiter Ninjas, a group of ninjas in the Himalayan mountains whose leader Berg Katse assassinated. Jinpei is the name Jun gave him. Jinpei acts very much like a typical kid in a lot of respects. He loves his older sister ("onechan") Jun deeply, but takes every opportunity to bust her chops. He calls Ken, and sometimes Joe, "big brother" ("aniki"), but Ryu is just Ryu. (See Ryu Nakanishi.) He also refers to himself frequently as "Tsubakuro no Jinpei-sama", or "the great Swallow Jinpei." (To get an idea of the connotations of this, keep in mind that Berg Katse refers to himself in the same way [See Berg Katse].) The conceitedness is probably something of an act to bolster his ego-- Jinpei is the smallest, youngest, and least-trained member of the Science Ninja Team, and as a result screws up most often. He is smart, but not too much so-- his commentary on Nambu's briefing lectures is frequently "This is tough going," and Ryu and he are always checking to see if the other understood something. At the same time, he has a fascination with all living things-- bugs, plants, and animals. In fact, his rapport with animals is so good, it has been postulated by some that he has some mental ability to communicate with them. He is a smartmouth, and uses foul language rather more than he should.

In BOTP, he was Keyop, a laboratory creation, and he was given a speech impediment that radically altered his personality. (Not for the better, either.) In "G-Force", he was called Peewee, and his personality was a bit closer to the original.

RYU NAKANISHI (G-5) Owl Ryu: In Japanese, he is Mimizuku no Ryu (Ryu is pronounced like a cross between Rue and You, *not* as Rye-you.) His code name actually means "horned owl", but English speakers shorten to "owl". Ryu is the only member of the team to have two living parents, although we never ever see his mother. He also has a younger brother, Seiji, and they all live in a fishing village in northern Japan, making Ryu something of a "country bumpkin". For this reason, he is frequently left behind in the God Phoenix in the first season-- he has a family who don't know he's a member of the Science Ninja Team, and they would be terribly hurt if he died, according to Ken. Other reasons might have something to do with the fact that he is big, slow and not a quick thinker. On the other hand, he is very insightful about people, terribly good-hearted, and incredibly strong. Most of that bulk isn't fat, it's muscle. He is trained in sumo wrestling. Ryu can be as ferocious as any of them in battle, but he is temperamentally gentler than any of the others, even Jun, one suspects. In the second season, his family finally find out that he's a member of the Science Ninja Team.

His name in BOTP was Tiny Harper. In "G-Force", it was Hoot Owl, called Hooty by his friends.

KENTARO WASHIO, aka RED IMPULSE: When Nambu first received indications of the existence of Galactor, he sent his best friend, the fighter pilot Kentaro Washio, to the country of Huntwall to investigate. Fearing that Galactor would retaliate against his family, Washio faked his own death (but failed to fool his son), and took on a new identity as the captain of the Red Impulse squadron. (The other two members, Masake and Oniishi, didn't come into their own until after his death, and so frequently he is referred to as "Red Impulse", as if he were the whole squad.) An extremely ruthless man in his own way, he fights for the salvation of innocent people but is willing to sacrifice the happiness of himself and anyone who loves him to achieve his goal, which is the destruction of Galactor. Ken finds out that he is his father moments before Red Impulse boards a missile and blows himself up to save the Earth.

His name in BOTP was Cronos. In "G-Force", his name would have been "Red Ranger", according to a friend of mine who met Fred Ladd personally, but he has not appeared by name in any of the episodes shown in America, so I cannot confirm this.

DR. SYLVIE PANDORA: In Japanese, "Shirubii Pandora Hakase." Her age and nationality are never given. Pandora is a widow, who lost her husband Domingo and daughter Sammie when Overlord X returned to Earth in the first episode of Gatchaman II. We don't find this out until near the end of the series, however. Both Domingo and Sylvie were ISO scientists specializing in cybernetics and robotics. In the middle of the series, Dr. Pandora (her first name isn't given until the end, either) is chosen by ISO and Dr. Nambu to be Nambu's personal assistant. She is the *only* female scientist to hold a significant role in the entire series. Pandora is very beautiful, and dresses to maximize her assets, but she is also very tough. On more than one occasion, she proves to be a valuable asset to the team and ISO on the battlefield as well as in the arena of the mind. She is also psychic, and has a weird psi-link to Gel Sadra. (See Gel Sadra.)

DR. RAFAEL: In Japanese, "Dokutaa Rafferu". A former Galactor scientist who was responsible for calling X to the Earth. Rafael now bitterly regrets what he did, and seeks the destruction of Overlord X by any means possible. He is an advanced cyberneticist, with the capacity to turn people into cyborgs-- usually people who want to give their lives in destroying Galactor, as few of his cyborgs last beyond the completion of their intended mission. It should be noted that these people are volunteers-- Rafael does not cold-bloodedly murder them, they choose to die-- but he's *still* outfitting people with doomsday devices, and so probably qualifies as more ruthless than Red Impulse. His constant companion is a pet falcon.

CHIEF ENGINEER SABURO KAMO: In Japanese, "Kamo Saburo Gishichô". 60 years old, and Japanese. He is the designer of the Gatchaspartan and Hypersuit in Gatchaman Fighter. Mostly a gentle, grandfatherly man, he shows no ability to fight, but has administrative abilities as well as his inventing genius, and takes over as head of the war effort when Director Nambu dies. He has a grandson, and the team occasionally refer to him as "grandpa."

THE VILLAINS:

OVERLORD X: His Japanese name, Sosai, literally means "governor" or "president" according to most dictionaries, and has been translated as such. I felt that these have entirely too democratic connotations for the autocratic ruler of Galactor. On the other hand, another translation, "Generalissimo", seems to me to be *too* militaristic, as well as being very unwieldy. So I choose to call Sosai X "Overlord X." Whatever you call him, he is an alien agent from the planet Selectro (sometimes the planet Select, or Selector, depending on the source), which is in the Andromeda galaxy. He was apparently instructed to take over Earth. The show is not entirely clear on whether he is an energy being or a giant computer-- there is definite evidence that he inhabits a computer body, but he also has vast mental powers that cannot be explained by his actual body, since he demonstrates them even when his body is all but destroyed. The image of him we see is an image he chooses to represent himself, not his true self. He does not appear to understand people terribly well, and while there's no doubt that he knows more than any human alive, he does not appear to be particularly more intelligent than most humans-- in fact, he may be less intelligent than many. In Gatchaman II, he is destroyed, and a fragment of him that survives rebuilds itself, renaming itself Overlord Z. (This is pronounced Zed in the show, because the letter Z is pronounced Zed everywhere but America.) X, and later Z, appears to have some loyalty to his chosen rulers of Galactor, but whether this has to do with the inconvenience in having to make a new one or an actual emotion is unclear. He did appear to have some slight emotion for Katse, rather like a human's feeling for a pet-- exigencies may force you to abandon it, but you'll take care of it until then.

In BOTP, he was called "The Luminous One," or "The Great Spirit", and was worshiped as the god of Spectra. In "G-Force", he became Computor, a mere advisor (!) to the Berg Katse character, Gallactor.

BERG KATSE: Phonetically, this is Beruku Kattse, and is spelled, variously, Berk Katse, Berg Katze, even Belg Katse. Berk Katse is the closest to the actual pronunciation, while Berg Katze is a meaningful pair of words in German and appears to be the spelling that was originally intended. However, I personally like the Berg Katse spelling, and the majority of fans spell it that way, with the result that this is the spelling I'm using. Katse is from 28-30 years old, depending on the source, and has an IQ of 280, but due to insanity rarely demonstrates his full intellectual capacity. Throughout most of the series, Katse's face is never seen, and the Science Ninja Team make elaborate attempts to get his mask off. By the time they finally do, Nambu has uncovered Katse's secret.

Katse is a hermaphrodite mutant, genetically engineered by Overlord X. Having been created by the merger of fraternal twins, male and female, Katse has the capacity to transform into either a man or a woman. This capacity was not under conscious control for most of Katse's life, and he was forced to change every year of his childhood, as a result having to pull up his roots and establish a new identity elsewhere. This nightmarish life of secrecy, deception and emotional isolation made Katse very emotionally vulnerable to Overlord X's assurances that he was a superior being, created to be a conqueror, and from then on Katse's sanity was doomed. He appears to be able to survive things that would kill most people as a result of his mutation, and also has a tremendous advantage in doing impersonations. He is a disguise artist, and practiced at illusion-generating and sleight of hand.

In BOTP, he was "Zoltar." The characters of "S-9" (Curse of the Cuttlefish) and "Mala, Zoltar's sister" (The Galaxy Girls and Rage of the Robotoids) were both based on Katse's female form, "the woman captain". In "G-Force", he was called Gallactor, and apparently was an alien trying to invade Earth. The Sosai X character, Computor, served as his advisor. It's unknown what role Katse's female forms were intended to play in Ladd's version.

GEL SADRA: Phonetically, Gerusadora. The "G" is hard, as are all "G" sounds in Japanese. Her name was supposed to have come from the German "Gier" (greed) and the French "Sade" (the root word for sadism), but "Gier" would be phonetically spelled "giru", so the etymology simply doesn't work. She was a three-year-old child, Sammie Pandora, who was taken and grown to adulthood in instants by Overlord X. (Phonetically, Samii Pandora.) As a result, although her mental capacity is an adult's, her emotional development is not much better than a three-year-old's. She tries to be a good little girl, "good" in her terms meaning "obeying Overlord X", and demonstrates extreme jealousy of anyone who might hold as high a place in X's estimation as her, including the late Berg Katse (who she is constantly belittling). She is sadistic in the manner of a small child, laughing as people die, and also throws tantrums and gibbers in terror like a little girl. Although she is not terribly skilled in the beginning of the series, she gets tougher and more skilful as time goes on. She develops psi powers in about the middle of the series, coincidentally around the time Pandora shows up.

Although it is obvious in the opening scenes, as she is developing into an adult, that she is female, her masculine voice and great height (she's taller than Berg Katse was, and he was taller than Ken, who is NOT short!), as well as her masculine language, combine to make the series characters somewhat uncertain of her sex, as they never unambiguously refer to her as a woman. (Various Japanese sources have also been fooled, and have managed to call her a "hermaphrodite" or a "son" with a straight face...)

COUNT EGOBOSSLER: In Japanese, "Egobosura Hakushoku", with the E in "Ego" pronounced like a Spanish/Italian E, more like a long A. His real name is Helm (last name never given), but he goes by the name of Cassary Egobossler, actually the name of his half-brother and the "rightful heir." Egobossler is major nobility in some European country-- in fact, apparently he rules whatever country it is. After the deaths of Gel Sadra and Overlord X, he moves into the power vacuum left behind, taking over the remnants of Galactor and absorbing them into his army, so that the "Egobossler Family"-- his familydominated military organization-- and "Galactor" become essentially the same thing.

Helm was the son of the previous Count Egobossler and a maid named Margot. He was assigned as Cassary's bodyguard, and beaten severely when Cassary broke his arm. Margot tried to intercede for him, and was whipped to death. Before she died, she told Helm not to be angry at the Count, because the Count was his natural father. Helm did not quite take the information in the fashion intended. He had plastic surgery done, transforming his facial features into a replica of Cassary's, while dying his skin blue and his hair white. Then he shot his father and captured Cassary (after receiving his characteristic scar from his brother), and took Cassary's place as the new Count.

Egobossler dreams of power and glory, and is extremely ambitious, but for all that is no more insane than, say, Napoleon-- perhaps even less so. He is not a genius mutant, nor Overlord Z's creation, and is a lot more free to plot against the Overlord than Katse or Gel Sadra were. He is also much more "straight"-- both in the sense that his gender is not ambiguous, and in the sense that he prefers normal military operations to the sort of weird stuff Galactor is famous for. He is far more loyal to his men, and they to him, than his predecessors were, and in general makes a more effective leader. However, he has no scientists working for him, and is forced to rely directly on Z for all his superscientific equipment.

MECHANDOR: One of Egobossler's two seconds. Mechandor is actually loyal to Egobossler above and beyond his own life, something extremely rare in Galactor. His huge size and unusual toughness, as well as the fact that he is *never* seen without his helmet, have prompted speculation that he is a cyborg.

KEMPELER: The other of Egobossler's seconds. Kempeler is *not* loyal, and after having been kicked around once too often, he locates Cassary Egobossler and uses him to stage a coup against the leader of Galactor.

GALACTOR GOONS: Otherwise known as "cannon fodder" or "the green guys." Galactors are recruited from prisons, mental hospitals, slums, etc, and once they join, they can never leave. They are taught to consider the lives of their companions-- and even their own lives-- as less than the greater good of Galactor. One suspects that some brainwashing techniques are used here, as *no* amount of money can get mercs to behave like this, and in fact there is evidence that they're not paid too well, either. This lack of respect for even their companions' lives is a major failing on the Galactors' part, making it very difficult for them to use teamwork-- they often end up shooting or stabbing or blowing up each other. There are about a million of them worldwide.

In BOTP, these people were soldiers of the planet Spectra, which was trying to invade Earth and steal its resources. It's unknown what the term for their organization is in "G-Force"-- probably just "Gallactor's gang."

OTHER GALACTORS: The ranks of Galactor tend to go: Green Guys-- Chiefs-- Captains-- Leader-- Overlord. Chiefs are distinguished by differently colored standard uniforms, while captains are distinguished by unique costumes similar in principle to the Galactor leader's. (In fact, the only way someone who has never ever seen the show can tell apart the captains and the leader is that the leader survives; the captains typically don't.) There are also elite squads, some of which are given names and some of which aren't, that can be told by uniforms distinctive from the green suits, but similar or identical to each other. Some of these groups include the Blackbirds, black bird-suited ninja males in the first season; a group of women assassins, saboteurs and disguise artists known to fans as the Devil Stars, also in the first season; Wrestler Commandos in the third season, huge, brawny and somewhat brainless muscle-types; and so on. Women were apparently hired in Berg Katse's time-- not only the Devil Stars, but several other women appear in Galactor during the first season, and when Jun impersonates a Galactor no one seems to notice that she's female. The only woman in Galactor during the second season seemed to be Gel Sadra herself, and there were *no* female Galactors in the third season.

MECHA AND WEAPONS:

Gatchaman was one of the first programs to do transforming, uniting mecha. However, the mecha's transformations were done through some sort of pseudoscientific energy field, not the semi-realistic step by step transformation in shows like "Macross" ("Robotech" in English), while the linkup of the mecha was actually *more* realistic than giant robot shows with transforming, uniting mecha, such as "Go Lion" ("Voltron" in English). The separate vehicles would transform the same way the team transformed from civilian clothes to Bird Style, and at the same time; once transformed, each piece could be taken into the God Phoenix mothership, into a special berth prepared for it. From the outside, the only difference between the God Phoenix mothership and the complete God Phoenix linkup was the presence of a middle fin and the point of the ship on the complete God Phoenix. From the inside, the difference was not visible, but readily apparent, since the incomplete God Phoenix could not match the complete version for speed and maneuverability and had no access to its major weapons, the Bird Missiles and the Phoenix Effect. This was explained as an electrical circuit, running through the vehicles, that needed to be connected before these weapons could be used. In one episode, Jun jury-rigs a substitute for Ken's plane by running a yo-yo wire between the leads that should ordinarily contact the G-1.

Gatchaman I:

BOOMERANG (sometimes called Birdrang): Ken's weapon, a boomerang with a double-bladed edge. When he throws it, he shouts, "Bird Run!" (or possibly "Birdrang!", depending on the translation convention used-- it is impossible to tell the two apart in Japanese.) The boomerang's blades can be folded up, to place it in its holster, or extended into a long crescent-shaped blade. They can even be pulled apart, revealing a chain in between, which allows Ken to use the boomerang as nunchaku. The beak screws off, revealing a compartment that explosives can be put in. Ken can use this as a time bomb, throwing the boomerang somewhere and letting it stick there until it's time to blow up, or he can blow things up directly by putting shock-sensitive explosives in and then throwing it at something. The back has a tiny internal rocket that can be fired, causing the boomerang to travel long distances. But the boomerang's primary ability, of course, is the ability to return to Ken's hand after he throws it.

AIR GUN: Joe's weapon. Ryu also has an air gun, but rarely uses it. The air gun fires a cable in one of two directions. If it fires forward, the cable has a harpoon head or a sucker (the heads are interchangeable, and apparently Joe adjusts them before using the gun); if it fires backward, it has a crescent-shaped weighted hook, suitable for slamming into people's necks and breaking them. Apparently the intuitively obvious trigger-pulling fires backward, as every time a Galactor has stolen the gun and tried to use it, he is killed by the backward-firing cable slamming into his neck. The point on front screws off and can be replaced with a drill.

YO-YO: Jun's weapon. The wire of the yo-yo is electrically conductive; Jun can use yo-yo string to wire up circuits, and by sending an electric impulse through the string, she can cause the yo-yo to blow up. The wire is also strong enough to garrotte someone with. The casing is made of a hard plastic that she can break Galactor bones with, when she flings the yo-yo, and occasionally it sprouts a blade on the side, which she can use to pick fallen objects up with or to cut Galactor throats. The yo-yo itself can separate into two halves, which can be fastened to an object such as a console and act as time bombs.

AMERICAN CLACKER: Jinpei's weapon. These are best described as looking like an American toy called Kerbangers; they are two hard balls on separate strings, connecting to a single handle. As a toy, they can be clacked together; Jinpei throws them as bolos, or fills them with explosives. They can also be used as nunchaku.

SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH: Rather than using a tool, Ryu, even more so than the others, uses his body as a weapon-- sitting on Galactors, leaping onto them, charging into a group of twenty and slamming them all into a wall, that sort of thing. Ryu has been trained more in a sumo-wrestling style of fighting than the straight martial arts that the others use. Despite the name of this weapon, his strength is not actually superhuman-- he's just trained to make maximal use of it.

FEATHER SHURIKEN: Everybody's weapon; however, it's very rare that anyone but Joe uses them. These are thrown steel darts ("shuriken" is the Japanese word for a hand dart) shaped like feathers. Since Joe has been known to kill people with them by hitting them in non-fatal regions, speculation among fans is that they're poisoned. If they are, Joe himself would need to be immunized, since he frequently puts them in his mouth.

G-1: Ken's plane, normally a single-seated Cessna prop plane. It transforms into a mini-jet with a top speed of Mach 4. After ep. #67, it was mounted with a heat-ray cannon called "Gatchaman Fire", which produces a beam of 3000C.

G-2: Joe's car is a 2000 cc class stock car that transforms into a custom racecar. Equipped with a gas turbine engine, its top speed is 1000 kph. After ep. #67, it was mounted with a Vulcan cannon called the "Condor Machine", firing customized 20 mm bullets.

G-3: The Sonic Car, Jun's motorcycle, is a 700 cc class motorcycle before transforming, and a custom motorcycle that can also hydroplane after transforming. After ep. #67, it was fitted with two missile launchers called the "Jun Rockets". It was also equipped with the "Anti-Heat Capsule", for use during the "Separate Shadow Phoenix Effect" (see "Phoenix Effect", below). The anti-heat capsule is a globular capsule that closes around the entire Sonic Car, and protects Jun from the heat the Phoenix Effect produces.

G-4: The Helicobuggy, Jinpei's all-purpose vehicle, is a sand buggy before transformation. After transforming, it becomes a powerful mini-tank, capable of travel via land, air or undersea, as well as underground. By changing its adapters, it can handle any environment, except possibly vacuum. It is, however, the slowest of the vehicles, which is its major weakness. After ep. #67, it was equipped with anarchist bombs called "Jinpei Bombs". These are a lot more powerful than they look.

G-5: The God Phoenix mothership, Ryu's vehicle, is an amphibious hovercraft, usually kept at the bottom of Ryu's yacht harbor. When it links up with the other four vehicles, it becomes the God Phoenix. The tailfin of the G-1 sticks out, and the nose only closes when the G-2 is present, so it's possible to tell visually when the G-1 and G-2 are connected in. The G-3 and G-4 are kept in ports on the left and right respectively, however, and there's no way to tell from the outside whether those are present or not. The God Phoenix can take temperatures of up to 3000 C.

BRACELET: This is the device that controls all the transformations. It is a voice-controlled mini-communicator for most purposes. When it is swung near the head and the code words "Bird Go" are spoken, it initiates the transformation from civilian to Bird Style (and presumably back again). Team members take off their bracelets when asleep; they're not supposed to do so at any other time, but since Galactor can recognize the bracelets (as those are the only part of the outfits that don't transform), they may sometimes take them off when going undercover. The bracelets also serve as emergency signalers; when their surface is struck hard, it emits a signal called a "Bird Scramble", that can be used to send messages in code. This is the only function of the bracelet that is not voice-activated; it's used when team members are tied up or otherwise prevented from sending voice messages. The code used is a special one developed for the Science Ninja Team; the use of Morse code may make the team suspicious that someone else is using the bracelet.

BIRD STYLE, BIRD SUITS: The team's costumes are called Bird Style or Bird Suits after transformation. These are resistant to heat and cold (yes, even Jun's-- perhaps she's wearing flesh-colored leggings and sleeves?), and are bulletproof, at least to relatively small-caliber bullets. The bullets do hurt when they hit, however, so team members cannot stand and shrug off a hail of gunfire-- they try to dodge out of the way. The wings permit gliding and extremely high leaps, and enable special attacks like the Whirlwind Fighter (see below).

SCIENCE NINJA PHOENIX EFFECT: In Japanese, this is called the "Science Ninja Style Phoenix"-- "Kagaku Nimpo Hinotori" ("hinotori" can also be translated as "firebird"). In English, the translation of "hinotori", unless rendered as "firebird", conflicts with the name of the God Phoenix, so extra words like "effect" are thrown in at the end by most translations. They produce this by pushing the God Phoenix's generator up to redzone, whereupon they're sheathed in a powerful forcefield that violently ionizes the air around it, creating intense heat and the characteristic "phoenix" shape. As this is draining for the team to use, they reserve it as a last resort. It can only be done when all five vehicles are linked together. A variant they develop later, the "Separate Shadow Phoenix Effect", involves each of the team's vehicles splitting off from the God Phoenix mothership and becoming a tiny Phoenix in itself. The New God Phoenix can also perform the Phoenix Effect, but not the Separate Shadow Phoenix Effect.

BIRD MISSILES: Missiles used from the God Phoenix until ep. #67. They cannot be used unless the God Phoenix is complete.

ULTRA BIRD MISSILES: Installed in the God Phoenix after ep. #67. These are much more powerful than regular Bird Missiles.

WHIRLWIND FIGHTER: The team form a scaffolding, usually a pyramid. This can be done with from 3-5 members. Typically, when it's five members, Joe and Ryu are on the bottom, Ken and Jun stand on their shoulders, and Jinpei stands on them. They begin to rotate at high speed, generating a mini-whirlwind that can break through metal doors, fling enemies all over the place, and carry the team members themselves up quite a distance. In Gatchaman II, they generate the Whirlwind Fighter with their belts (I'm not kidding.) They stand in a circle, holding hands, and their belt buckles glow as a whirlwind is generated in the center.

CRESCENT CORAL REEF BASE: Also called the Crescent Base. Most English speakers shorten this to Crescent Coral, but this is rarely done in Japanese. A mobile scientific center, used primarily as the headquarters for Science Ninja Team operations. The machinery to repair the God Phoenix and build more Ultra Bird Missiles is housed here. The base has four underwater rockets, permitting it to move through the water, which is its only defense; it has no weapons. It gets its name from a crescent-shaped coral reef that's been attached to the top for camouflage purposes.

DEVIL STAR: A circular, spinning mecha generally used by Berg Katse for transportation and escape purposes. Devil Star has no weapons per se, but five fighter plane/cars serve as the Star's points, and these can separate and be piloted independently. The Galactor woman assassins use this vehicle in one of their two appearances and call themselves after it; as a result, fans call these assassins the Devil Stars, though actually in the show they don't have a name. Devil Star is spaceworthy.

Special Galactor Squads:

BLACKBIRDS: Dress in black stylized bird costumes, and are referred to as "Galactor's Ninja". They are all male, and trained in disguise. Also, their teamwork is much better than that of typical Galactors. They are sufficiently loyal to the organization to kill themselves in order to complete a mission (such as blowing up the mecha they're aboard to take out the Science Ninja Team).

WOMAN ASSASSINS: Called "Devil Stars" by fans; in the show, they're not actually given a specific name. They are, as the name implies, all female, and also trained in disguise and teamwork. Normally they wear colored wigs, masks and bright red fur-lined uniforms; they have been known to dress in traditional ninja outfits, however. One of these killed Joe's parents. Like the Blackbirds, they're also willing to kill themselves for Galactor.

 

Series 2

CUTTING SAUCER: Ken's weapon. Has three detachable pieces.

FEATHER SHURIKEN: In this series, they are solely Joe's weapon.

AURORA RIBBON: Looks like a gymnast's ribbon, but is in fact a rather nasty whip. Jun has been known to shred men's clothes with this. (Kinky...)

REBOUND BALL: Jinpei's weapon, a hard plastic ball that is caught in a scoop on his hand. It is apparently hard enough to do serious damage to people.

GRIPPER: Called by fans the "Silly Putty" or "glop", the Gripper is Ryu's weapon, a blackjack that can stretch and glue itself onto things (no one ever said this show made sense.)

G-1, EAGLE SHARP: Ken's new plane. Non-transformable.

G-2, CONDOR ATTACKER: Joe's new car. Non-transformable; equipped with a missile on top, the Condor Missile, that can perform the Phoenix Effect.

G-3, AUTO SWAN: Jun's new motorcycle. Non-transformable.

G-4, SWALLOW HELICO: Jinpei's new vehicle, a mini-helicopter. Non-transformable.

G-5, HORNED TANK: Ryu gets a personal vehicle in this series, a non-transformable tank.

NEW GOD PHOENIX: The new warcraft for the Science Ninja Team is significantly larger than the old God Phoenix, with a top speed of Mach 5, 60 knots underwater. It has a 50mm Vulcan cannon and Bird Missiles for weapons. It is also capable of the Phoenix Effect and the Separate Shadow Effect. The New God Phoenix is equipped with a piloting robot, Piemur, permitting Ryu to go out with the rest of the team while Piemur pilots.

G-TOWN: The new base for the Science Ninja Team, an underwater aircraft carrier, mobile like Crescent Coral. G-Town can do 40 knots on the sea bottom. It weighs 60,000 tons and is much larger than Crescent Coral. It has no camouflage and no weapons.

DEVIL SAUCER: Gel Sadra's private escape ship, a golden flying saucer. She uses this far more often than Berg Katse used Devil Star-- most episodes where she actually has an escape ship, rather than an escape platform, it's Devil Saucer. Devil Saucer has no apparent weapons, is aerodynamically unstable (it wobbles when something flies near it), and seems to fly under remote control, as we never see Gel Sadra actually at the controls of the thing when we see her inside.

Special Galactor Squads:

GALACONS: These Galactors wear berets and gold face-fitting masks. They appear to be better-trained fighters than the typical run of Galactors.

 

Gatchaman Fighter:

GATCHAMAN FENCER: An extremely powerful weapon used by Ken. In conjunction with the Gatchaspartan, it forms the Hypersuit, the most powerful weapon in the team's arsenal in this series. By itself, the Fencer is a glowing energy-sheathed sword. When it's in its sheath on Ken's belt, the blade is retracted into the hilt (an interesting feat, considering that the hilt is only about half as long as the blade). As Ken draws it, he presses a button that causes the blade to extend. Because it's energy-sheathed and it doesn't appear to have a blade until Ken turns it on, people have mistaken it for a lightsaber, but it is definitely a solid object. When wielded by Ken without the power of the Hypersuit behind it, it can cut through most things a lightsaber would be able to. When used in conjunction with the Hypersuit (see Hypersuit), it can cut through anything at all.

ROCKET-POWERED FEATHER SHURIKEN: Some of the feather shuriken Joe uses in this series have mini-rockets built into them.

ELENET: Jun's weapon. Stands for Electric Net. A bracelet worn on her left arm projects an electric forcefield that paralyzes anyone who it's fired at. Even the giant Wrestler Commandoes are not immune to this attack.

SWALLOW TOP: Jinpei's weapon. Essentially similar to Jun's yo-yo of the first series.

OWL SICKLE: Ryu's weapon, a rocket-powered kusari-gama. A "kusari-gama" is a Japanese weapon consisting of a sickle on a chain. The Owl Sickle looks like a miniature rocket, but when fired, a chain extends and the top snaps open into a sickle. He rarely gets to use this weapon in the series.

GATCHASPARTAN: The main vehicle for the team. Unlike previous series, the Gatchaspartan is a genuine uniting mech, with the five personal vehicles of the team coming together and uniting into the Gatchaspartan. This can do Mach 5 in the air and 60 knots underwater. For weapons, it has four "laser machine guns", two 30mm Vulcan cannons, and ten "Victory" missiles, but its main weapon is the Hypersuit. Usually the team fly around with their personal vehicles until they need to use the Hypersuit, and only unite into the Gatchaspartan then.

GATCHA-1: Ken's personal vehicle, shaped roughly like a plane. Japanese sources call it a "delta-shape". Has two 30mm Vulcan cannons and four Sidewinder missiles. It is capable of Mach 5 speed in the air, and can climb to 300 kilometers. With the assistance of a large booster rocket, it is even spaceworthy. Made of a titanium alloy, it can tolerate extreme levels of heat. It has VTOL capacity.

GATCHA-2: Joe's personal vehicle, called a "speed car" It's shaped roughly like a racecar, but is capable of flight. It has two 20mm Vulcan cannons and one "Condor Fever" cruise missile. Its top speed is 600 kph.

GATCHA-3: Jun's personal vehicle, called a "hovercraft", is shaped a little like a stubby-nosed plane, or a spacecraft. Has a 10mm machine gun and six land-and-sea missiles. Can travel on water, in the air or on the ground. Its top speed is 300 kph.

GATCHA-4: Jinpei's personal vehicle, shaped a little like a tank. It's called a "submarine buggy car". It can travel underwater, on land or in the air, but its specialty is the ocean bottom. Its top speed is 500 kph, and it's equipped with two 10mm machine guns, two mini-rockets, and four missiles.

GATCHA-5: Ryu's personal vehicle, shaped like a bulldozer (or forklift, or snowplow)... It's called a "medium-sized tank". It has two 30mm Vulcan cannons and two "anti-monstermech" (I am not making this up) missile launchers. It's also got four "laser machine guns", which can only be used when the five vehicles are united. Like the others, it is capable of land, air or undersea travel, with a top speed of 300 kph.

HYPERSUIT: When the Gatchaspartan has been united and the "delta power" is increased to its top limit, a forcefield activates around the Gatchaspartan. It concentrates onto the Gatcha-1, which separates from the other vehicles, and the top slides down, permitting Ken to stand up and draw the Gatchaman Fencer. At this point, the Gatcha-1 operates by remote control (or possibly in response to mental commands?), as Ken is not actively piloting it. The Gatchaman Fencer, Ken and the Gatcha-1 all glow intensely, and Ken can wield the Gatchaman Fencer to cut through anything whatsoever, causing damage comparable to the damage the Phoenix Effect used to cause. In the later episodes, Ken has activated a mini-Hypersuit simply through the force of violent emotion, causing the energy field around the Gatchaman Fencer to flare up and the Fencer to be capable of cutting through bulkheads, *without* the power of the Gatchaspartan behind it.

GATCHAMAN BASE: The new secret base for the Science Ninja Team. Unlike the others, it is immobile and built into a mountain, not under water. With Nambu now Director of the ISO, and spending all his time at ISO Headquarters, Ken has been left in command of Gatchaman Base.

CASTLE EGOBOSSLER: Galactor headquarters for the first 14 episodes of the series. Egobossler's family estate.

GALATOWN: Galactor headquarters between episodes 15-43.

Special Galactor Squads:

WRESTLER COMMANDOS: Giant, possibly cyborg fighters whose specialties are sword-fighting, firebombs, and ramming attacks. They don't talk.

IRON COMMANDOS: An attack squad who wear special armored battlesuits. The Gatchaman Fencer cannot cut through these suits without the delta power of the Hypersuit behind it.

RIDER COMMANDOS: These are an incredibly fast elite corps, specialists in speed and agility, but their hand-to-hand combat ability is rather poor. Usually they act as spies. One corps of them uses hang gliders and is referred to as the Sky Commandos.

Storyline

Dr. Nambu of the ISO has known about Galactor for some time before they burst onto the world scene, and when the giant monstermech Turtle King makes its dramatic entrance, Nambu is the only member of ISO who knows who sent it, why, and how to stop it. Who sent it was Galactor; why, because they want to rule the world; and the Science Ninja Team have been specially trained to stop it, and any other Galactor attacks. In the next several episodes, the Science Ninja Team meet up with Berg Katse, the leader of Galactor, who likes to dress up in various costumes just to confuse people; and the Red Impulse squad, a group of three fighter planes piloted by men in identical costumes, who keep showing up to save them. Early missions are mostly successful, and frequently feature Ken a great deal. However, two major things are unknown: where Galactor headquarters is, and where Galactor is getting their superscience from. To answer both questions, the team have been instructed to take Berg Katse alive and unmask him, mainly since he so obviously doesn't want to be unmasked.

In the episodes in the 20's and 30's, Joe is seriously injured in the head-- an injury that seems healed by the end of the episode, but which will come back to haunt him later. A mysterious woman Galactor makes her first appearance, and to those who are watching carefully, it's obvious she has *some* connection to Katse... but what? There is also the first mention of Overlord X, but nobody really understands at first what they heard.

During the 40's, Ken comes to be friends with the Captain of Red Impulse, who reminds him of his dead father, also a superb fighter pilot. Then at the midpoint of the series, episodes #51-#53, Galactor hatches a plot they've had in the making for fourteen years, a plot that could destroy the Earth or force its surrender to Galactor once and for all. Neither the Science Ninja Team nor Red Impulse are able to stop the initiation of the plan, due to Ken being lured away by the promise of meeting his father. Finally, he does meet him-- the Captain of Red Impulse is his father. But no sooner have they been united than Red Impulse must blow himself up to save the Earth. Ken berserks after this, and spends most of the 50's trying to obliterate Galactor for vengeance on his father. None of the team, not even Joe, can stand to see him that way, and they are all relieved when eventually he decides that as Gatchaman, he cannot afford a grudge.

The 60's don't, for the most part, show us anything new in the general storyline, although the team gets new weaponry toward their end. In the 70's things pick up again; Katse is captured and unmasked, but nothing can be seen, because the mysterious Overlord X appears and saves Katse... What *is* Overlord X? Meanwhile, Galactor makes inroads on figuring out how the Bird Styles work, to the point where they devise a mecha that can knock the Ninja Team out of Bird Style. It's in this same episode (#76) that we discover that the remaining two members of Red Impulse are no less active for the death of their captain. We also learn their names, Masake and Oniishi, for the first time, and discover that Oniishi is mute, having had his tongue cut out in infancy by Galactors. But the biggest discovery in the 70's is made when Joe discovers the reason his parents were executed by Galactor... it's because they *were* Galactors, and tried to betray the organization. An attempt by Joe to pay respects to them in the early 80's leads to him getting even more seriously injured.

The 80's also see a big push on Galactor's part to find Crescent Coral and blow it up, as well as giving us our first clue into Katse's true nature since the 30's-- documents are found that possibly link him to the woman captain. Is Berg Katse a woman? The evidence is contradictory, and attempts to clarify it result in a lot of dead bodies. In the 90's, the Katse question is mostly dropped, as the Science Ninja Team have other things to worry about-- the destruction of Crescent Coral, for one, which means no more bird missiles; and Joe develops a mysterious illness. His paralysis reaction to bright light, that he and Ken got rid of in #78, is back, and it's bringing friends with it, like double vision and numbness.

Finally, the last six episodes of the 100's show us the tying-off of all the loose ends. Joe goes to an unauthorized doctor, precipitating a chain reaction that leads to him and Berg Katse both being unmasked. Katse gets a lot more mileage out of knowing Joe's secret than the team does out of Katse's, though-- Joe is captured in civilian identity and tortured. In the process, Joe learns the location of Galactor headquarters-- Cross Karakoram, in the Himalayas-- and that he himself has at best ten days to live. Figuring to make the most of the time he's got left, he goes there, and gets captured and tortured again. Katse brags to him about the latest plan, the Black Hole Operation, which will result in the total destruction of the Earth. Joe tries to kill Katse with a feather shuriken, but Katse dodges, and it goes into the equipment. Katse has Joe shot and left for dead, but a little thing like death never stopped Joe-- he heads for the surface. Meanwhile, the two members of the Red Impulse squad get hold of Joe's bracelet and use it to call the Science Ninja Team to Cross Karakoram. They are killed, and the team ends up having to search for the actual entrance. They find Joe, who tells them where the entrance is, gives his final dying speech to each of them, and-- apparently-- dies.

Ken confronts Katse, beating him to a pulp to get him to stop the Black Hole Operation. But Katse hasn't got the power to do that-- only Overlord X can stop the plan, and Overlord X, revealing himself to the Ninja Team, tells them that he intends to destroy the Earth. At Katse's despairing protest, he replies that his homeworld, Selectro, has vanished. Without Selectro, he has no need for Earth-- he'll just destroy it and go home. Then he takes off, revealing his true shape as a golden pillar-shaped spaceship. Katse, weeping, asks what the point to his existence was if everything's going to be destroyed anyway, and then throws himself into a lava pit and commits suicide. Ken, desperate for a way to stop the plan, tries to climb inside, but Jun begs him to stop-- he'll just be uselessly killed, and she can't bear that he would die alone. When they die, she wants them to die together. They embrace, and the four of them wait for the destruction--

--which doesn't come. Joe's shuriken had jammed the mechanism, and the whole thing blows up, 2 minutes from Earth's destruction. 2-- Joe's number. Joe's body is nowhere to be found, and Nambu, in a press conference, tells humanity that while Galactor may be destroyed, as long as humanity is capable of Galactor's evil, the danger can never be truly past...

About two years pass. The general technology level of the Earth appears to have gone up a good deal, with numerous experimental cities underwater and underground. Earth is peaceful, but the Science Ninja Team are still keeping themselves in shape, sporting all-new vehicles and weapons, for the possibility of X's return. And X does return. A pleasure cruiser is split in half by the incoming Overlord X, and a small girl is thrown into the water, screaming for her mother. Unconscious, she is captured by a mecha, brought to X's underwater base, and there grown into an adult woman-- Gel Sadra, the new ruler of Galactor. The general populace doesn't know this happened, but they do know that scientists and military men have been vanishing, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind that Galactor is back.

A new G-2 is placed in the team, much to their displeasure-- "We all agreed that G-2 would be our missing number forever!" Jinpei protests. The new man, Getz, is vouched for by Nambu, but all the same he reeks of Galactor, and sure enough he turns out to be one, leading the Ninja Team into a trap. They meet Gel Sadra for the first time, and escape the trap, to discover that *someone* has left a feather shuriken in Getz's neck. It turns out, according to Nambu, that this Getz was an impostor, who killed the real Getz and took his place. Later, Ken is nearly killed in a crashlanding, and hallucinates Joe's voice, telling him to hang on. When he comes to, a man named Dr. Rafael is claiming he saved Ken, but the team is not convinced-- especially since the evidence begins to mount up over the next few days that Joe might indeed be alive.

Finally, Joe shows himself for real, and has an emotional reunion with the team, including a slug in the jaw from Ken for not telling them he was alive before. But somehow he seems reserved. He tells them that Dr. Rafael saved his life, but not exactly how...

In the teens, we learn that Dr. Rafael called X to Earth in the first place-- probably thinking the extraterrestrial he was in contact with was a great guy-- and that now, Rafael will stop at nothing to destroy X. We also learn that Rafael saved Joe by making him a cyborg, and that Joe is an integral part of Rafael's plan to eliminate X. The rest of the team doesn't find any of this stuff out. They develop a few suspicions when a weapon that screws up machinery screws up Joe as well, and Ryu notes that Joe keeps going off by himself. His attempt to follow his teammate ends up with him getting captured, so nothing comes of it.

Suspicion of Joe intensifies in the twenties, and Gel Sadra becomes more of a threat, demonstrating advanced psi powers that-- in conjunction with a booster-- prove to be a perfect weapon for assassination. Standing between her and Dr. Nambu is Dr. Sylvie Pandora, the newest addition to the cast. Pandora had been chosen as Nambu's assistant, a scientist specializing in cybernetics and robotics (a fact which upsets Joe not a little). She is also psychic, predicting when Galactor is about to attack them. Joe combines the two and gets "Galactor", especially since Pandora doesn't bother to explain that she's psychic, and when Dr. Nambu turns up dead he decides Pandora did it, and heads off to do the same to her. Ken, desperate to believe in the woman Nambu picked, carries out Pandora's orders to infiltrate a Galactor base, where they find Gel Sadra. Meanwhile, Joe discovers that the real enemy is Gel Sadra, and that Nambu isn't dead, but will be if someone doesn't stop Gel Sadra's imagination creature. He does, with his cybernetically enhanced brain. It turns out that Pandora had acted to save Nambu's life, not take it, and from then on she is accepted by the team. She also gives away that Joe is a cyborg, not realizing that this is supposed to be a secret, but they accept him too. In the next episode, we discover how Joe had known where to go to save the team in the second episode-- he had found the real Getz, dying. The real Getz looked just as much like a Galactor, but wasn't one, and warned Joe about what would happen to the team. We also learn that the team are not about to take "Joe's a cyborg so he should do the mission all by himself" for an answer.

All along, Gel Sadra and X have been working toward the "Solar Shift Plan"-- gathering materials for it, collecting super sources of energy, building bases for it, and so forth. The pace picks up slightly in the 30's, with a good deal of Gel Sadra's effort focused on the Solar Shift Plan. Gel Sadra and Pandora also meet face-to-face for the first time in the 30's, and each proves to give the other a weird feeling of deja vu...

In the 40's, things really pick up. A test of the Solar Shift Plan is actually carried out, and has vast repercussions for the Earth's climate. It is especially difficult to stop this plan, because it's carried out by Mars Tora, a Galactor captain in charge of a base on Mars, who's got his own supermechs, his own private army, and answers directly to X-- *not* Gel Sadra, much to her chagrin. Ken's identity is found out. Pandora and Gel Sadra meet a few times more, and experience "that feeling" even when Gel Sadra is in disguise (apparently she has learned by now how to duplicate Berg Katse's feats of disguise.) Gel Sadra also demonstrates clairvoyance, picking up visual images of Pandora's location twice in one episode, and ISO HQ is destroyed. Finally, Dr. Rafael is killed, and Joe is drained of most of his energy. Rafael leaves Ken with a clue to X's location-- "the meteor mountains--" and also says, "You need Joe to destroy X. Without him, you can't succeed."

Finally, in the 50's, Gel Sadra remembers her childhood, and learns from X why she can't remember anything beyond the age of 3-- she's only 4. She learns her mother is Pandora, and tells X, upset. X, misunderstanding people as usual, figures that Pandora will join Galactor if told that Gel Sadra is her daughter Sammie, and captures Pandora. Pandora not only refuses to acknowledge Gel Sadra, but starts trying to tell her what they know about the Solar Shift Plan-- it will destroy the Earth, Mars, Venus, and the Sun, at *least*. Although attempts were made in the past to tell Gel Sadra this, she never listened. This time, she listens-- so X cuts Pandora off, chases Gel Sadra out, and kills Pandora. By itself, this just plunges Gel Sadra into grief-- she doesn't immediately turn on X. But remembering Pandora's words, she does question the Solar Shift Plan-- and discovers that it's a plan to move the sun out of orbit and crash it into another solar system, destroying our system and the other one. Shocked at the magnitude of the destruction, Gel Sadra finally turns on X, destroying the Main Beam Cannon of the Plan and fleeing Galactor.

In the meantime, Joe has been steadily losing energy. Nambu and the team say he's too weak to go into battle, but what he knows and they don't is that he has an antimatter bomb in his heart, programmed to go off when he comes in contact with X. According to Rafael, this is the only way to kill X. And so when he comes upon Ken and Gel Sadra-- Gel Sadra having persuaded Ken to take her into battle against X-- Joe knocks Ken out and takes Gel Sadra instead. Gel Sadra is gravely injured in the battle that ensues, but her information leads him to X.

By the time the rest of the team get there, X has also taken out Joe. Gel Sadra evens the odds by exposing X's weak point, for which X shoots her and drops her to the bottom of a pit, and Ken and Joe, working independently, manage to destroy X, who tells them while dying that he intended to use the Sun to destroy the world that destroyed his. Ken and Joe are both hurt, but survive. Gel Sadra survives as well, but not for long. She reaches the top of a hill and sees the beautiful flowers there, and makes a touching dying speech. Then the spirit of her mother appears to her. She dies, and her body returns to a child's form. Sammie Pandora's spirit leaves her body and walks with her mother up a sunbeam, as the Gatchamen watch. Gel Sadra's costume blows away in the wind...

The Science Ninja Team return to G-Town, hopeful of being able to restore Joe's energy, and happy that the threat has been defeated. But a small piece of the wreckage of X starts to glow... The third series, Gatchaman Fighter, opens up with that piece rising and pulling objects toward itself, to build a new body. It visits a shipyard, where it demolishes most of the ships-- and fries a security guard-- in the process of building the massive form of Overlord Z.

Joe is still sick, and the inaction is driving him crazy. He tells Ken that his only reason for living was the destruction of Galactor, and he doesn't really need to be alive anymore. Ken tells him he must live to enjoy the peace he has worked so hard to earn. Meanwhile, Count Egobossler has launched a worldwide assault, using conventional weaponry, with world conquest as its aim. He has stepped into the power vacuum left by the deaths of Gel Sadra and X, taking over what's left of Galactor. On the day that Dr. Nambu takes up the mantle of the dead Anderson and becomes Director of the ISO, Egobossler calls and challenges him. Nambu is at first reluctant to send the Science Ninja Team, claiming that the Science Ninjas were made to fight those who abuse science, and that Egobossler should be opposed by the international armed forces. But Ken is not listening-- he will end the threat to the peace no matter what. Leaving Nambu to take care of Joe, he and the team take the New God Phoenix out against the Egobossler Family's conventional armies, and clean their clocks. But then a mysterious mecha appears and defeats the New God Phoenix. The team are only saved by the timely intervention of a small mole-shaped mecha that carries them to safety.

At this point, the gigantic pyramidal shape of Overlord Z appears, and pulls Egobossler inside itself by a tractor beam. It offers a deal with Egobossler-- they will work together to conquer the world and defeat Gatchaman. Egobossler thinks it's a great idea, and thus the Egobossler Family accedes fully to the name of Galactor. Meanwhile, the Science Ninja Team wake up at a new base. The man who rescued them introduces himself as Chief Engineer Saburo Kamo. He had been asked by Nambu to prepare for the possibility of a reemergence of a threat like Galactor, and so he has built them new personal weapons and new, powerful mecha. They now have a truly uniting mech, the Gatchaspartan, in which five vehicles come together to form their battleplane. Ken immediately prepares to take off in his. Kamo tells them that they don't have full power with only four members-- the most powerful weapon, the Hypersuit, can only be summoned when all five mecha are united. Ken doesn't care-- they must stop the menace no matter what. And, of course, when Joe hears of his teammates' predicament, he takes the G-2 and goes to unite with them. Then Ken destroys the giant mecha with the Hypersuit, a forcefield that surrounds him, his personal lightsaber the Gatchaman Fencer, and the Gatchaspartan or G-1 mecha. (Note: phonetically, the hypersuit is pronounced "haipaashuuto", or "Hyper-shoot." However, as it does not shoot anything, and as it manifests around his body rather like an energy suit, I prefer to use Hypersuit to describe it.)

The series is mostly episodic from then on, usually ending with Ken having to put on the Hypersuit to destroy a giant mecha in the last five minutes. Unlike series 2, Egobossler has a definite headquarters, but unlike series 1, the Ninja Team keep finding it and destroying it. The story doesn't really develop a strong continuity until the 30's, when first we learn the secret of Egobossler's past, and that he has been keeping his half-brother, the rightful heir, imprisoned for years. Next we begin to get some information on the Cosmic Pulse AQ-3, a secret whose solution becomes an overriding theme over the next ten episodes. Ken develops an illness similar to cancer, brought on by the Hypersuit, but without the Hypersuit they can't defeat Galactor. Joe can't use the suit because it would fry his cybernetics after just one use, and since the suit is powered in part by emotion, the other three-- who are all more laid-back than Ken and Joe-- simply haven't got enough passion to fire it up. Ken's illness is staved off in the 30's, but not cured. Toward the end of the 30's, a power struggle develops in Galactor as Kempeler-- who's sick of being pushed around by Egobossler-- finds the real Cassary Egobossler and brings him out to confront his brother. Helm is arrested, but enough of his men-- including Mechandor-- are personally loyal to him that Galactor is split in two. In the 40's Egobossler destroys first Cassary and next Gatchaman Base, the Science Ninja Team's headquarters. Director Nambu gets himself captured in order to find out the secret of Cosmic Pulse AQ-3, and after enduring torture, finally manages to drug Egobossler with truth serum and force the secret out of him. AQ-3 is an antimatter asteroid, being pulled to Earth by Overlord Z. Nambu is killed in front of the team's eyes, but manages to impart this information to them as he is dying. Then Egobossler blows up Nambu's tomb at his funeral, the day of Kempeler's execution, so the Science Ninja Team go and demolish Egobossler's headquarters Galatown.

Eventually both parties realize what is going on-- Z's Cosmic Pulse Plan is intended to destroy the Earth by slamming an antimatter asteroid into it. The Science Ninja Team try various plans to destroy the asteroid or knock it off course, all ending in failure, until finally they must infiltrate Z's body itself. Meanwhile, Egobossler, discovering that Z has betrayed him the same way X betrayed his predecessors, takes Mechandor and a crack squad of men into Z. They all die, but they weaken Z enough to permit the Science Ninja Team to destroy it eventually.

Inside Z's body, all the team have lost consciousness. Ken sees Director Nambu, speaking to him-- "Defeating Z is not the only thing you must do. You must live! Live, and walk this Earth again! You are immortal!" Ken appears to die after this, but the pendant Nambu had left him glows, the scattered vehicles lift up and form into the Gatchaspartan, and Ken opens his eyes once more to the radiant light... The next thing we see is that Z is exploding. A Phoenix aflame flies free of the wreckage, heading toward Earth. And when on the ground, the UN liaison expresses to Kamo his belief that Gatchaman is dead, he replies, "Gatchaman can never die. They are the immortal phoenix!"

 

BOTP and Gatchaman In Europe:

"Battle of the Planets" was translated into several other languages, among them French and Italian. This is of interest because episodes of Gatchaman other than the 85 BOTP episodes were also translated into these two languages. For British fans without NTSC capability or who speak either French or Italian, these episodes might well be more accessible than the original Gatchaman.

The French "La Bataille des Planetes" was a fairly straight translation of BOTP. There were some minor name changes-- Mark to Marc, 1-Rover-1 to Nonoss-- but mostly they stayed close to the BOTP storyline. Gatchaman II, however, was translated under the name "Gatchaman: Le Combat des Galaxies", and this was apparently done as Gatchaman, not BOTP. Ken, Joe and Jinpei's names remained the same, while Jun became Jeanne, Ryu became Roland, and Dr. Nambu became Dr. Dombere. Gel Sadra's name was pronounced with a soft "g", and X's title was translated as "Generalissime." Gel Sadra herself was supposed to have been a boy, who in the process of being forcegrown became "neither a man nor a woman." According to Jay Felton, a British Gatchaman fan who first told me about the French and Italian versions, the translation is very accurate-- they even have Ken's speech about being "the white shadow that slips in unseen."

The Italian translation is a bit weirder. While the 85 BOTP episodes were translated as straight BOTP, as far as I know, the remaining 20 episodes of Gatchaman I were also translated, and *they* were done as Gatchaman episodes. In these 20 episodes, Galactor remained Spectra, Katse remained Zoltar, and Sosai X remained "The Spirit of Light" (i.e., the Luminous One), but the team's names, for the most part, turned into Gatchaman names. The Spirit of Light was established as a native of the planet Selectro, and the translation and storyline followed the Gatchaman universe, rather than the BOTP one. That must have been confusing for Italian fans... Apparently, the Italians translated Gatchaman II also, using a female voice for Gel Sadra, but I don't know very much about that one.

 

Credits:

Gatchaman I:

 

Executive Producer:

Tatsuo Yoshida

 

TATSUNOKO PRO.

Creator:

Tatsuo Yoshida

Director:

Hisayuki Toriumi

Plotting:

Jinzo Toriumi, Satoru Sueyama

Overseer:

Ippei Kuri

Character Design:

Tatsuo Yoshida, Ippei Kuri, Yoshitaka Amano

Mechanical Design:

Mitsutake Nakamura, Kunio Ogawara

Animation Director:

Sadao Miyamoto

Music:

Bob Sakuma

SF Consultant:

Akira Kosumi

Executive Producer:

Tatsuo Yoshida

 

TATSUNOKO PRO

Voices:

 

Ken:

Katsuji Mori

Jun:

Kazuko Sugiyama

Joe:

Isao Sasaki

Jinpei:

Yoku Shioya

Ryu:

Shingo Kanemoto

Dr. Nambu:

Toru Ohhira

Berg Katse:

Mikio Terajima

(woman captain)

Toshiko Sawada

 

Aiko Konoshima

 

Hiroko Mori

Red Impulse:

Hisayoshi Yoshizawa

Overlord X:

Nobuo Tanaka

Director Anderson:

Teiji Ohmiya

Narrator:

Hideo Kinoshita

 

 

Gatchaman II:

 

Creator:

Tatsuo Yoshida

Director:

Hiroshi Sasagawa

Asst. Director:

Seitaro Haru

Plotting:

Kenji Yoshida, Jinzo Toriumi

Overseer:

Ippei Kuri, Katsu Shida, Masanori Nakano

Character Design:

Ippei Kuri, Yoshitaka Amano, Akemi Takada

Mechanical Design:

Kunio Ogawara

Art Design:

Mitsutake Nakamura

Animation Director:

Sadao Miyamoto

Music:

Hiroshi Tsutsui, Bob Sakuma

SF Consultant:

Akira Kosumi

Producer:

Kenji Yoshida

 

TATSUNOKO PRO

Voices:

 

Gel Sadra:

Masaru Ikeda

Dr. Rafael:

Koichi Chiba

Dr. Pandora:

Miyuki Ueno

Narrator:

Hideo Nakamura

 

 

Gatchaman Fighter:

 

Creator:

Tatsuo Yoshida

Director:

Seitaro Haru

Plotting:

Ippei Kuri, Jinzo Toriumi,

 

Satoru Sueyama, Shigeru Masuz_

Overseer:

Ippei Kuri, Tomoyuki Miyata

Character Design:

Akemi Takada, Yoshitaka Amano

Mechanical Design:

Kunio Ogawara

Art Design:

Mitsutake Nakamura

Animation Director:

Sadao Miyamoto

Music:

Hiroshi Tsutsui

SF Consultant:

Akira Kosumi

Producer:

Kenji Yoshida

 

TATSUNOKO PRO

Voices:

 

Egobossler:

Koji Nakada

Mechandor:

Taruhito Miyamura

Kempeler:

Yokuichi Zenigata

Overlord Z:

Seizo Kato

Kamo:

Hiro Oyokawa

Narrator:

Rokuro Koya

 

Episode List:

Gatchaman I and BOTP Titles

 

1. Gatchaman Vs. Turtle King

Attack of the Space Terrapin

2. A Demonic Aircraft Carrier

Rescue of the Astronauts

3. A Giant Mummy Calls The Storms

The Space Mummy

4. For Revenge On the Monster Mechadegon

The Space Serpent

5. The Ghost Fleet from Hell

Ghost Ship of Planet Mir

6. The Mini-Robot Manuever

Big Robot Gold Grab

7. Galactor's Big Flight Show

Ace from Outer Space

8. The Secret of the Crescent Coral Reef

Fearful Sea Anemone

9. The Demon from the Moon

The Jupiter Moon Menace

10. Battle of the Underground Monsters

A Swarm of Robot Ants

11. The Mysterious Red Impulse

Space Rocket Escort

12. Ibukuron, the Monster that Eats Everything

Beast With a Sweet Tooth

13. Mystery of the Red Sand

N/A

14. The Terrifying Icecander

Perilous Pleasure Cruise

15. The Frightening Jellyfish Lens

Thing with 1000 Eyes

16. Mechanica, the Invincible Machine

Microfilm Mystery

17. Bug Operations

The Alien Beetles

18. The Whale's Revenge

A Whale Joins G-Force

19. Race Through Hell

N/A

20. Science Ninja Team Emergency!

N/A

21. Who is Overlord X?

Mad New Ruler of Spectra

22. The Firebird Vs. A Fire-Eating Dragon

The Sea Dragon

23. The Big Bad Mecha Ball

Magnetic Attraction

24. A Neon Giant Laughs in the Dark

The Musical Mummy

25. Magma Giant, The Emperor of Hell

The Fiery Lava Giant

26. God Phoenix, Be Reborn!

The Bat Ray Bombers

27. Galactor's Witch Racer

Race Against Disaster

28. Invisible Demons

N/A

29. Galack X, The Devil-Man

N/A

30. Kamisoral, the Guillotine Monstermech

The Ghostly Grasshopper

31. Plan: Assassinate Dr. Nambu

The Galaxy Girls

32. The Gezora Operation (1)

Curse of the Cuttlefish (1)

33. The Gezora Operation (2)

Curse of the Cuttlefish (2)

34. The Devil's Aurora

N/A

35. Burn, Desert Flame!

Demons of the Desert

36. Kiddie Gatchaman

Siege of the Squids

37. Lenjira, the Electric Monster

Orion, the Wonder Dog of Space

38. The Mysterious Mechanical Jungle

N/A

39. Jigokiller, the People-Eating Plant (1)

The Fierce Flowers (1)

40. Jigokiller, the People-Eating Plant (2)

The Fierce Flowers (2)

41. Murder Music

The Space Rock Concert

42. The Great Escape Trick

Prisoners in Space

43. A Romance Destroyed By Evil

Victims of the Hawk

44. A Challenge From Galactor

Raid on Riga

45. The Night Fog Sea Lion Ninja Team

Seals of Syrton

46. Gatchaman in Death Valley

Giant Gila Monster

47. The Devil's Airline

Capture of the Galaxy Code

48. Shutterkiller, the Camera Monstermech

Raid on a Nearby Planet

49. The Terrifying Mechadokuga

Keyop Does It All

50. Tracodon, the Dinosaur Skeleton

N/A

51. Cataroller, the Rolling Monster

Peaks of Planet Odin

52. Red Impulse's Secret

The Sky is Falling! (1)

53. Farewell, Red Impulse

The Sky is Falling! (2)

54. Gatchaman Burns With Rage

Raid of the Red Scorpion

55. The Desperate Mini-Submarine

Mammoth Shark Menace

56. Bitter Bird Missile

N/A

57. The Evil White Sea

Fastest Gun in the Galaxy

58. Hell's Mecha-Buddha

Giant from Planet Zyr

59. Secret of the Monster Mecha Factory

Secret Island

60. Science Ninja Team G-6

Giant Space Bat

61. The Ghost of Red Impulse

Attack of the Alien Wasp

62. Blizzarder, the Snow Devil

Decoys of Doom

63. The Murderous Mecha Curve Ball

Zoltar Strikes Out

64. A Deadly Christmas Present

N/A

65. Super Bem, A Synthetic Monstermech

The Great Brain Robbery

66. The Devil's Fashion Show

N/A

67. Deadly Gatchaman Fire

Attack of the Space Octopus

68. Micro-Saturn, the Particle Monstermech

Silent City

69. The Moonlit Tombs

Peril in the Pyramids

70. Uniting Goddesses of Death

Rage of the Robotoids

71. The Immortal Overlord X

The Alien Bigfoot

72. The Swarm! Attack of the Mini Monstermechs

Invasion of the Locusts

73. Get Katse!

The Space Safari

74. The Secret of the Bird Styles

Museum of Mystery

75. Jumbo Shakora, the Sea Devil

Peril of the Praying Mantis

76. The Bracelet Is Exposed

The Awesome Ray Force

77. Berg Katse Wins

The Duplicate King

78. A Deadly Battle 10,000 Meters Beneath the Sea

N/A

79. Gatchaman Secrets Stolen

Defector to Spectra

80. Return to Life, Boomerang!

Panic of the Peacock

81. Duel on Galactor Island

N/A

82. Go Get the Crescent Coral Reef!

N/A

83. Desperate Circle of Flame

Mission to Inner Space

84. Smoke Fiber, the Spiderweb Monstermech

Spectra Space Spider

85. He's G-4!

N/A

86. Galactor Corners the Market

Super Space Spies

87. Tri-Shaped Patogiller

Cupid Does It To Keyop

88. The Monstermech Snake 828

Tentacles from Space

89. Set Up a Trap for the Crescent Base

Island of Fear

90. Matangar, the Armored Monstermech

The Awesome Armadillo

91. The Plan to Blow Up the Crescent Base: Completed

Invasion of Space Center (1)

92. The End of the Crescent Base

Invasion of Space Center (2)

93. Counterattack! The Underground Torpedo Plan

Save the Space Colony

94. Angler, the Electric Monster

N/A

95. The Uniting Ninja Magicians

Chariots of Chang-ku

96. Charge into Galactor Headquarters

Vacation on Venus

97. Leona 3, the Spaceship With No Tomorrow

Rockets out of Control

98. Grape Bomber, the Globular Monstermech

G-Force Defector

99. Wounded G-2

Strike at Spectra

100. Gatchaman, 20 Years Later

G-Force in the Future

101. Hebi-Cobra, the Sniper Group

The Conway Tape Tap

102. Checkmate Reversal X

N/A

103. G-2 Risks Death

N/A

104. The Evil Black Hole Operation

N/A

105. Earth's Destruction 0002

N/A

 

Gatchaman II

1. Overlord X's Counterattack

2. The Mysterious Feather Shuriken

3. The Black Knights from Hell

4. Has Joe Returned?!

5. Mystery of the Caveman Attack

6. The Impact of Pyramid Power

7. Terrifying Mutation Plot

8. Firebird on the Moon

9. The Fallen Berg Katse

10. Snowstorm at the Equator

11. The Hypernium 600 Contest!

12. Dr. Rafael's Secret

13. Youthful G-2

14. Red Impulse From Space

15. The Pure Heart of G-5

16. Blackout Joe

17. The Devil's Equation

18. The Spaceship Isn't Responding...

19. The Trap in Extradimensional Space

20. Crisis at G-Town!

21. Broken Wings of Youth

22. The Enigma of Stonehenge

23. The Love that Vanished at the North Pole

24. G-2 Under Suspicion

25. The Cyborg's Lament

26. Pandora, The Mysterious Private Secretary

27. Dr. Nambu Dies!

28. Love Stolen by a Feather Shuriken

29. Life or Death: The Evil North Wall

30. Ryu Returns Home

31. The Eagle, Shot Down

32. G-1's Andes Love

33. G-1's Rage

34. Demon Monstermech of the Amazon

35. Berg Katse's Legacy

36. Lament of the Underground City

37. Burn, Steel Wings!

38. The Electromagnetic Dragon Monstermech

39. The Crimson Condor

40. Violent Battle: The Evil Animal Maneuver!

41. Gatchaman vs. Gel Sadra

42. The Observatory in the Darkness

43. Invaders From Mars

44. Fight the Evil Mars Base!

45. The Demonic Solar Shift Plan

46. Gatchaman Exposed

47. The Two Firebirds' Fatal Blow!

48. The Greatest Tidal Wave in History

49. Burn, Condor!

50. Mystery! Mystery? Gel Sadra's Mother

51. Gel Sadra's Lament

52. The Destruction of Overlord X

 

Gatchaman Fighter

1. A New Dark Cloud

2. Introducing the Gatchaspartan

3. The Polluted Oasis

4. Challenge of the Iron Commandos

5. Charge of the Mischievous Soldiers

6. Burn, G-Fencer!

7. Steal the Giant Monstermech!

8. The Do-Or-Die Squadron of Rogues

9. The Fear of the Disintegration Laser Cannon

10. Danger at Gatchaman Base!

11. Z-press, the Satan Express

12. The Order to Blow Up the Mantle Base

13. Violence: Decisive Battle In Africa

14. Egobossler's Palace in Flames!

15. Ambitions That Burn In Hell

16. Murderous Butterflies Flitting in Darkness

17. The Horrifying City of the Demon Smoke

18. G-1's Crash in Glory

19. Don't Touch the Super Stuff!

20. Terror of the Triple Monstermechs

21. Joe's Fury! The Horrifying Bird of Flame

22. The Order to Blow Up the Artificial Satellite

23. Evil Mechaland

24. The Proud Warrior

25. Sky Riders from Hell

26. G-1 Enraged: A New Way To Kill

27. The Mystery of Egobossler's Birth

28. Deadly Battle in the Valley of Treachery

29. It's Inhuman! A Brother and Sister Torn From Each Other

30. The Alien Has Snuck In

31. A Wild Train Chase!

32. Mystery of the Cosmic Pulse

33. A Promise Fulfilled

34. Egobossler's Plot

35. G-1 In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

36. Hypersuit Crisis

37. Gatchaman, Be Reborn!

38. The Bracelet of Friendship

39. The Fall of Count Egobossler!

40. Whirlwind Mecha Attack!

41. The Collapse of Gatchaman Base

42. The Last Hours of Director Nambu

43. The Obliteration of Galatown

44. The Demon From Space Is Coming

45. Deadly Wonder: The Antimatter Asteroid

46. G-1's Desperate High Power

47. Earth's Destruction! 3, 2, 1

48. Eternal Gatchaman

 

Review:

I am of the personal opinion that this show may be among the best to come out of Japan. The art style is very different, and in some respects more realistic, than standard anime art. Characters have strong, distinctive features, and even two characters who are very similar in appearance have enough distinction to their features that they can be told apart in the absence of external cues. Gatchaman has American superheroes at its root, and it shows in the heroes' morality (*not* preachiness, mind you) and in the somewhat Americanized design of the characters. At the same time, it has the fluidity, excellence of animation and consistency of design that characterizes Japanese animation. There are no pretty boys in Gatchaman. Ken, Jun, Joe and Nambu are widely considered to be attractive by the fans, but none of them are ethereally gorgeous. I have nothing against ethereal gorgeousness, mind you, but even for a bishonen fan like myself, it's a welcome change to see men who look like men. Jun does not impress me much-- I think all the really attractive women turn up in Gatchaman II--but male fans are by and large of the opposite opinion. Maybe it's her short skirt... Most of the villains are pretty ugly, but-- especially in the second and third series-- they're *distinctively* ugly. The three main villains all have their ugly moments, but both Berg Katse and Gel Sadra can look very attractive outside of their costumes, and Katse can convey a sinister, controlled grace that has nothing to do with the languid attractiveness of scores of pretty villains. Egobossler has numerous female fans as well, and probably qualifies as the most attractive of the three villains (mainly because he appears out of costume a lot more often; Gel Sadra has been known to look beautiful and tragic out of costume, but she's also looked like a fool, and I won't even discuss the deformed looking creature Katse appears as in some episodes...)

Character development is very strong in this series, especially for Ken, Joe and Jinpei. These three have a very great deal to do in the series, and we get to see more of their thoughts and internal processes than we do for Jun and Ryu, who are sadly underused, especially in series II and III. In series I, and to a lesser extent in series II, there are dozens of little characterization bits that make them seem like real people. We see Jinpei and Jun busting each other's chops, Ken ducking out on his bills, Ryu and Joe betting on baseball games, etc. Their dialogue is very strong, and-- when they're not doing the standard melodramatic hero shtick, and when it's well-translated-- it comes across as very natural-sounding. Even Katse and Gel Sadra get good personal dialogue that makes them sound like real people, not just cardboard villains.

There are some unfortunate exceptions to this. Series II is a feast for Joe fans, and Ken fans don't make out too badly, either, and the team members do get to wear new and interesting clothes. However, outside of three episodes Jun gets little to do. The new character, Dr. Pandora, is beautiful, smart, psychic, and cool, but we don't learn anything about her past until the episode when she dies, and we never learn why she kept the fact that she was a widow and a bereaved mother secret. She always has an aura of mystery about her, and while we see her fight superbly more than once, we see very few little characterization bits on her. Dr. Nambu is another sadly neglected character-- we never see him do anything except what the plot absolutely requires, and while he gets occasional lines that make him seem human, in general he is played strictly as a stern parental/mentor figure and has no life of his own.

Finally, in series III most of this good stuff gets thrown out the window. We see far more characterization of Egobossler and his men than of the Science Ninja Team, and while Egobossler's Galactor is fascinating, it's not what most of us want to watch it for.

Plotting and the scientific rationale have both good and bad points. Regarding the science, I like the *way* it's portrayed-- science is a tool for good or ill, not intrinsically good or bad in itself, and scientists are both the biggest heroes and the greatest villains of various episodes. However, aside from Pandora and a woman who appeared in a flashback in one episode of Gatchaman II, there are *no* women scientists. Most of the scientists are unattractive old men who don't look like they were terribly appealing even in their younger days, and while this view has some truth to it, it's also a stereotype. Scientists can't be *too* young, but they can certainly be in their 30's and 40's and they can certainly be attractive. Nambu and Pandora, unfortunately, are about the only ones that are. And the actual science used is the worst kind of comic-book science-- the writers have absolutely no idea what the laws of the physical and biological universes permit, and they don't seem to care. As for plotting, the series does have an overall continuity, which is good. At the same time, it's not as tightly connected as the modern shows, where you need to have seen the whole series to understand what's going on, which is also good. And there are few genuine continuity glitches. There are, however, a few things that should have been explicated a bit more. For instance, they spend the entire first series trying to discover what Katse truly is, for no given reason, and then when they find out they don't do anything about it. One would think a fact like that would be of a bit more importance. Also, many stories, especially in the first season, and almost all the stories in the third season, partake of the nature of Monster of the Week. Galactor's overall goal is well-defined in Gatchaman II, but haphazard in Gatchaman I and almost nonexistent in Gatchaman F. No explanation is ever given why Galactor wants to smash the Mantle Project in Gatchaman I. G-Town ceases to be used for no good reason-- nothing ever happened to it-- and likewise with the old God Phoenix.

The first series tends to be most people's favorite, because it's the longest and it has the most character development. It has its problems, though, among them: a. lousy animation for the first 20 episodes or so b. Jun's hairdo is UGLY! c. the team wear the same clothes *constantly* d. Berg Katse survives certain death two or three times, with no explanation given. Little kids are invariably drawn to be ugly, and few truly attractive women turn up. Almost all of the women guest characters are Galactors or former Galactors. The characterization of Berg Katse is uneven-- half the time he is a sinister, cruel genius, the other half a sadistic clown played for comedy relief, and it weakens him considerably. I personally think that the color scheme is muted and usually clashes with itself, as well, though there are many who like it.

The second series' biggest problem is probably Gel Sadra. Her mask is generally considered to be the stupidest Galactor mask ever (this is after some genuinely idiotic ones in the first season), and this, coupled with her masculine voice and tendency to act like a buffoon, weakens her far more than Berg Katse. Few people take her seriously as a villain, although she is very effective in some of the episodes-- she's more there for comedic effect, or for the tragic power of the last three episodes. I like the pastel colors, but many people don't. There is little consistency to Joe's abilities-- he can face down bullets smiling, but Ken can fell him with a punch to the jaw. There is also little characterization for Jun, and overall less characterization for everybody but Ken and Joe. On the other hand, little kids and women are both drawn better in this series, as are the Galactors. There are some hunks of Galactor captains in this series. Also, the plotting is tighter, with all of Galactor's plans revolving around the focal Solar Shift Plan.

The third series is most people's least favorite, including mine. The absence of characterization hurts it, as does the reliance on the Hypersuit as a weapon. It's far too powerful, so much so that the outcome is never in doubt as soon as Ken whips it out. What's worse is the personality reversal between Ken and Joe. Joe mellows out considerably, while Ken becomes murderous and vicious, and much colder to his team. Egobossler is a much more effective villain than Katse and Gel Sadra, and Z is far more frightening and capable than X, with the result that the battle is much tougher, and the overall tone is very dark, especially after Director Nambu's death. Nearly *all* the episodes are Monster of the Week, with Ken whipping out the Hypersuit and dicing the latest monstermech in the last five minutes. Nobody but Ken gets much of anything to do. On the other hand, many people think Egobossler is a more interesting villain (note: this is a general consensus, not my point of view-- I like my villains to be tragic and separated from humanity, and so I prefer the other two, but most prefer Egobossler), and Ken and Jun finally get a hint of romance. Nambu is played as much tougher, much more capable of holding his own in a fight. Some have called Ken's illness too much a repetition of Joe's illness in the first series, but I personally like it better-- it shows more team togetherness, more caring and concern, since Joe refused to tell anyone about his illness, but everyone knows about Ken's. Finally, the last two episodes especially are stunning in their impact. A lot of the mystical ideas in these episodes are poorly brought out-- what *is* Nambu's pendant? Why are the team all of a sudden communicating telepathically? What the hell happened at the end?-- but they are no less fascinating for all that.

All in all, I think Gatchaman is far superior to most other Japanese series-- I've watched series from the last four years, the last ten years, and the last fifteen years, but none have made the kind of impact on me that this 20-year-old show has. And I don't appear to be alone-- here in America, Gatchaman has an entire APA dedicated to it, and several people have written in to Eternity Comics (publishers of the Captain Harlock comic) asking if they will do a Gatchaman comic, while in Japan there's been a novel and the release of the entire first series on laser disk. I think the fact that Gatchaman's popularity is still as high as it is after 20 years says something about its power to affect people.

 

Originally appeared in Animenominous #5.