Friday, August 9, 2013

G-Force! Transmute!

The original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
1972 was an epic year. Pink Floyd was in the middle of recording their magnum opus, Dark Side of the Moon,  Nixon began U.S. diplomatic relations with China and signed the ABMT just two years before his infamous ousting, and man would set foot on the moon for the last time in history. Plus I was born, so, you know, pretty epic.

At the same time, however, far off in the exotic and mysterious land of Japan, a self-taught manga artist named Tatsuo Yoshida, who had already experienced success with his auto racing series, Mach Go Go Go (a.k.a. Speed Racer), was busy creating a new animated science fiction show called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. The premise of this series was that an ancient, super-advanced alien race from another world was hell-bent on harvesting the Earth for its natural resources and, of course, only a specially-trained team of five teenaged science-ninjas dressed as space-birds could protect the planet from the evil menace known as Galactor. If that wasn't weird enough, the series' main antagonist, and ever-present pain in the ninja-team's ass, was a shape-shifting mutant hermaphrodite named Berg Katse, who could change genders at will in order to fool his/her/its enemies. Each member of the five-man ninja-team had a unique hero-identity, weapon, costume and skills and could join together with the others to further increase their super-powers. For the inevitable giant mecha battles that would end almost every episode, the youngsters had at their disposal a huge space/air/water ship, called the Phoenix, which not only boasted an impressive arsenal of weaponry, but also housed each team member's personal transport as well. The space-bird show was a huge success in Japan, spawning two sequels and effectively setting the template for future Japanese action series like Voltron and Super Sentai (a.k.a. the Power Rangers). But that was just the beginning.

In 1978, American producer Sandy Frank, who fans of MST3000 may recognize as the importer of many Japanese B-films, saw the potential of re-marketing the science fiction series to a U.S. audience in the wake of the massive Star Wars space-renaissance happening at the time. After stripping the show of whatever violence, profanity and sexual references would have been deemed inappropriate in the States, Frank's production company re-edited and re-dubbed the show to be more kid-friendly eventually creating what every American boy born between 1968 and 1974 would come to know as Battle of the Planets, which became a veritable primer on Japanese anime style for an entire generation of geeks-to-be. Frank's concept of re-editing Science Ninja Team Gatchaman into a wholly new show was so successful, that it was repeated two more times resulting in G-Force: Guardians of Space in 1986 and Eagle Riders in 1996.

Each of these adaptations had their merits, but none of them held true to Tatsuo Yoshida's original vision, and eventually, the American grown-ups who had cut their teeth on the watered-down children's versions were clamoring for a return to the classic tale that had spawned the "five-man superhero team" genre so many years ago.  Eventually, the entire uncut series (of 105 episodes) was released on DVD while a moderately successful Japanese-produced 3-episode animated reboot of the series went direct-to-video in 1994. The fans ate all of this up, and the buzz for more Gatchaman kept building while the first rumors of a live action version began to surface. Several years (and at least one unsuccessful attempt) later, I am ecstatic to announce that the first trailers for the first live-action Gatchaman film have arrived. The movie is to be released in Japan on August 24th, but we will have to wait and see what its availability will be outside of the country. For now, you can at least watch the trailer here on RetroGeeker and/or check out the official site by clicking the link below. Enjoy!

Gatchaman 2013



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