Big O
Gatchaman Collection
A quintet of warrior teens taps into archetypes
Big O
Bandai Entertainment
Directed by Kazuyoshi Katayama
Japan, 2000

Gatchaman Collection
Urban Vision
Directed by Yasuomi Umetsu
and Hiroyuki Fukushima
Japan, 1994
On the other hand, Urban Vision's Science Ninja Team Gatchaman Collection DVD held me from start to finish, even with its rather conventional storyline. You may remember watching Battle of the Planets, based on the original Gatchaman series, when you were younger. It featured the heroics of G-Force—five teens in bird costumes doling out avian-themed whupass on Zoltar and the alien invasion he fronted; watching benignly from the sidelines was their mentor, Chief Anderson, and 7-Zark-7, the friendly robot who managed their underwater base and whose patter bookended each episode.

You may also remember that Battle of the Planets was quite action-packed, what with its fistfights, kicks to the head, various high-tech weaponry, and a cool all-purpose plane/spaceship/submarine called the Phoenix which, in times of emergency, could ignite to become a near-unstoppable force.

What you may not know is that Gatchaman was even more action-packed than that. Watching some of the early episodes, it's rather startling to see these five kids killing enemy soldiers with such ruthless efficiency. Fan lore states that there was so much footage that had to be cut for Battle of the Planets that 7-Zark-7 was fabricated for American consumption in order to make up for the lost time; given the body count, it's hard to dispute that.

When Tatsunoko remade Gatchaman as a three-episode OAV series in 1994, that disturbing level of violence was not only retained, but raised. It's really no worse than your average summer blockbuster movie, but every so often you get the idea that these kids really enjoy their job. Judging by the carnage in their wake, it's hard to deny they're good at it.

It would almost be horrific if it weren't also a bit corny. While the series' overall aesthetic is very sleek and up to date (with everyone, including Gatchaman studmuffins Ken and Joe, fashionably feminized), the storylines and dialogue are charmingly naïve. A sample: "It seems the tables have turned, Doctor. Now, please quietly surrender." "You dare to give me orders?" The diabolical laughter, of course, follows.

At one point, the highly trained Science Ninja Team find themselves surrounded by Galactor's equally highly trained Jupiter Ninja Corps, just before the secretive and, yes, highly trained Red Impulse reveal themselves and even the odds. At that moment, the cornball dialogue, high stakes, and room full of highly trained good-looking people locked in combat reminded me of another SF classic, also a bit corny by today's standards: E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman. And there lies the key to Gatchaman's immediate appeal: it taps into archetypes in a way that defies its inherent melodrama and makes you smile, no matter what year it is.

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Unpublished; originally intended for Parsec
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