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Battle of the Planets (1978) - or why revisting your past can shatter your childhood


I remember being 7 years old and rushing home from school to watch an episode of the cool-outfitted bird-theme uniformed team that flew in a ship that could transform into a fiery Phoenix. Oh... my... GOD. It was the coolest thing in the world and no cartoon could compare. Not "Jem", not "He-Man", not "Thundercats", and certainly not the "Smurfs" or "The Mighty Hercules"... as if. Only "Transformers" did anything to hold a flame to my favourite show, but no siree, Bob, it wasn't anywhere better.

"Battle of the Planets" we called it.

Looking back in this easy-access DVD re-issue world, I'm surprised I didn't get on this sooner, but after being so perfectly moved by a very tributary Interstella 5555, I jumped right on it.

I mentioned to a few friends how surprised I was that there was actually three different versions of this show in production. The first, the original, the 1972 Japanese show was called "Science Ninja Team Gatchaman", or plain old "Gatchaman" for short. "G-Force: Guardians of Space" was also reissued after "Battle of the Planets" in the 80s.

Everyone I enlightened explained to me that I was wrong, regardless of the fact that on each DVD there is an episode of all three versions. So, rather than merely telling you why "Battle of the Planets" shattered my childhood memories, I thought I'd include some history too.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974) 78%

A team of five young science ninjas (nice), led by Professor Nambu of the International Science Organization, fight the forces (and endless droves of minions) of Galactor and his subordinate, Berg Katse.

The team's theme is birds, as reflected in their uniforms. Their leader is Ken Washio (Eagle), aka Gatchaman! The second is Asakura (Condor). Jun (Swan) is the female on the team, and the youngest is Jinpei (Swallow). The God Phoenix they fly around in is piloted by Ryû Nakanishi (Owl).

The dynamic they share is very familial, with many of the members related. On occasion there is some dissent in the ranks, but generally they are a solid strong team. What sets this apart from the other permutations of this show is the following: an overall theme of environmentalism and the action took place on Earth. The enemy routinely destroyed factories, airports, cities and bases, including the people in them. As for the Gatchaman team, there was much (awesome) person-on-person violence. Minions were routinely knocked unconscious and beaten down, not to mention being in vehicles, rooms and bases that were exploding. There's even smatterings of the words 'shit' and 'bastard'.

Also, it was in Japanese.

near decent...ish

Battle of the Planets (1978) 62%

A team of five young people, led by Chief Anderson, fight the forces (and endless droves of minions) from Planet Spectra as headed by Zoltar.

Their leader is Mark. The second is Jason. Princess is the female on the team, and the youngest is Keyop, who for some damned reason started every sentence with bleeps and boops as though he were a robot... don't get me started. Their ship is The Phoenix, their pilot is Tiny Harper... he's chubby.

The dynamic they share is not familial. In fact, it's downright unprofessional. Routine insubordination and hissy-fit fighting as they reach their critical mission destinations makes me wonder how they ever saved the universe day after day. Environmentalism is thrown out the window in favour of ridiculous sci-fi premises, and there's no violence on people unless it's implied. They even edit out lasers. They were hardly ever on Earth, always on other planets... that LOOKED like Earth. Instead of all the awesome action and swearing there was 7-Zark-7, an R2D2 rip-off who tried to be comic relief in all his pre-school-drawn cheap 8-cels of animation.

This was our childhood, oh ye my demographic, and it is unfortunately... lame. Did I mention the voice of Mark was Cassey Cassem? Ugh.

G-Force: Guardians of Space (1986) 62%

Now America reissued this again with a storyline closer to the original, and let through a little more of the violence, yet ended up outright molesting the show with the voice acting and these atrocious names:

The team leader is Ace Goodheart. The second is Dirk Daring. Agatha June is the female on the team, and the youngest is PeeWee, the pilot is Hoot Owl. Seriously. Wait, they were led by Dr. Benjamin Brighthead. Ouch.

The point I'm trying to make here is that now, today, at your age, you can feel guiltless at watching the darker, harder, better of these shows, "Gatchaman", which is a series that just so happens to be available on DVD. With over 100 episodes, your childhood reconstruction can begin the way it was supposed to, with swearing and violence and all in Japanese.

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crazy... I've had mashed up memories with this show it seems... I always remembered it as "G-Force", yet the characters were definitely Mark, Jason, Tiny and the like, so i guess it was Battle I always watched, though I could swear it was "G-Force". Either way, I remember liking Jason's vehicle that was like an F1 racecar, and poor Tiny always left on the ship and missing out on the action. Thanks for clearing it all up Squish.

all of my childhood friends will tell you that i also ran home to watch Battle of the Planets. i even named one of my childhood cats keyop. simply put it was my favourite show. when i happened to pick up a couple of the dvds at futureshop a while back, out of pure nostalgia, i put them in and laughed at the simplicity of it all. it still held a little flame for me (i'm a collector of old things) so i felt kinda warm and fuzzy, the same way i get when watching an episode of the littlest hobo (forgive me). ah well.



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