I grew up in the 80’s and it seems to me that cartoons back then were more “EPIC”, with stories about real heroes and their struggles. Today most of the cartoons my kids watch are just short blurts of farts and shots of butt cracks, nothing that requires an attention span of more than one minute. Don’t get me wrong there have been some great cartoons in recent years, one of which is my all-time favorite: “Avatar the Last Airbender”. That being said I still believe the cartoons of the 80’s, as a whole, were far more heroic. Because of this I have been compelled to revisit my childhood favorites with my sons.
First on our agenda was the first cartoon I really got into or could even remember as a kid – the 1979 cartoon “Star Blazers”, which is basically the English dubbed version of the Japanese anime: “Space Battleship Yamato”. I was six when this came out, so much of my memory of this show was small bits and pieces and just the emotions I had for it. I did not remember names or a lot about the plot but I do remember a kick ass World War 2 style battleship flying thru space destroying its enemies with battleship canons and a giant canon that took up the whole front of the ship. What more could a six year old boy ask for… other than a larger punch bowl to put all my Count Chocula into.
Episode 1 and 2 (Because the DVD does not do a good job of letting you know when one episode ends and the other one begins – though going forward I will try to review each episode separately.)
The first episode is your typical introduction show. It starts off telling you why there is a struggle, who the struggle is against, and who the characters are in this struggle:
It’s the year 2199 (at least they picked a time in which none of us will be alive, unlike “Buck Rogers”). An evil alien force called the Gamillons (which I think may be a name of one on the characters from “Yo-Gaba-Gaba”) has attacked Al Gore’s beloved planet earth.
Here is the twist, they are not attacking with space ships but they are launching radiated meteors at us. This of course has devastated the planet and the opening dialog sounds like one of those old “save the rain forest” ads. They then take you to space and introduce you to one of the main characters, Captain Avatar. This old school captain looks and sounds like he has seen a lot of action. So you would expect some words of encouragement in the face of certain disaster, but what you get are things like “if we don’t move, we’re sitting ducks” or “Idiots” or my favorite inspirational suggestion “Let’s give up”, which I use with my kids all the time.
So you have Captain Avatar out in space fighting a fleet of the Gamillons, they of course are giving it to the old Cap. He then sounds the retreat, but one ship stays behind to fight off the evil force. This ship is commanded by a young commander named Wildstar (this is important in a second, you may already know why).
Commander Wildstar sacrifices himself to save the remaining fleet.
Important note: this was the first time I ever saw someone that had a name die in a cartoon (unlike Bambi’s mom – I mean seriously, how hard would it have been for Disney to give her a name, something simple like Madge, or Gladys would have been fine).
From there we cut to a scene of an alien ship that crash lands on the planet Mars. We (the earthlings) have a base on Mars!! We did it!! we made it to Mars folks!! (This was obviously written before our current President cut all of the important NASA funding and decided that it was a big outreach program to the middle east.)
Two young soldiers are sent out to investigate the crash. One is a handsome man with the last name (are you ready?) Wildstar. The other is named Venture and looks like a cartoon version of Liev Schreiber, you know the guy who played Saber Tooth in that awful, painful Wolverine origin movie. They both go out to the crash site to investigate the alien space ship and find what every dude who is stuck on Mars is looking for: a hot chick. They take her back to the base, report what they have found and are sent back to Earth.
Back on earth we see how mankind has adapted to the attacks from space – everyone just basically moved underground (so if you bought one of those doom’s day bunkers you were ahead of the game). Down here we learn that the hot blonde is an Alien sent to help us. She gives us directions to a planet called Iscandar. This will take one year to travel to.
We also discover while we are down here that the city was built under a sunken Battleship called Yamato. Captain Avatar decides to have this battleship turned into a space ship. A little paint and some elbow grease and we are ready for the dramatic launch with dirt flying off, loud noises, and fire from the rockets.
Now with one of the most iconic spaceships in cartoon history cruising thru space we: cut to credits and get ready for Episode three.
Jamie Maxfield is a stand-up comic living in Salt Lake City Utah, father of six and fan of all things 80’s. Check him out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Jamie.maxfield), Youtube (www.youtube.com/user/jmaxfield73), Twitter (www.twitter.com/JamieMaxfield), Myspace (www.myspace.com/comedianjamie) and coming soon his new website www.jamiemaxfieldcomedy.com