"We're off to Outer Space"! Star Blazers turns 40!
If you happen to be a Gen Xer or animation enthusiast like me, you may have heard of this little obscure Cartoon that aired in the afterschool time slot via syndicated networks, called Star Blazers!
However, if you're unfamiliar with the title, allow me to give a brief RETROspective. You see, back in the year 1979, where Star Wars was all the pop culture craze, both Movies and Television tried to capitalize off this sensation as seen in Battlestar Galactica and Battle of the Planets.
The latter was originally an animated Japanese import under the name "Gatchaman” yet bastardized for North American release via Sandy Frank. Battle of the Planets, despite its futuristic designs and aesthetics, compiled with great voice acting, was dumbed down for the children's demographic. Meaning, the removal of scenes depicting violence, death and other mature themes in order to comply with the FCC's regulations of "Standards and Practices".
In a sense, it's understandable to make these edits when marketing the show for a prepubescent audience, but even as a kid, I was insulted whenever the added segments featuring R2 D2 wannabe, "7 Zark 7" lying to the viewers that some Man and Woman, lived happily ever after, when you can tell that they were killed off in the original version or how the kidnapped Astronauts were safe, was bullshit!
Enter Star Blazers, who went against the norm by actually showing as much adult themed content as they can get away with! Originally based on the Japanese counterpart, called Space Battleship Yamato, Blazers' was a smarter Science fiction cartoon than the usual Saturday Morning offerings in the United States, if not very brazen and it wouldn't have came to fruition, had it not been for Griffin-Bacal who was solely responsible for both dubbing and editing, while its production and syndication was handled by Claster Television. Now if these two names ring a bell, then congratulations!
Griffin-Bacal and Claster Productions, with the latter being a subsidiary for toy giant Hasbro, were responsible for the animated G.I.Joe and Transfomers series many years after Star Blazers had made its mark on American television.
Now you know and knowing is half the battle!
The debut of Star Blazers premiered on the date of September 17th 1979, that takes place within the year of 2199 where a warlike alien humanoid race of beings called the Gamilon, pollutes the earth with radioactive like planet bombs, depleting human civilization and the world's natural resources.
In order to prevent the remaining survivors and humanity fall prey to the toxic bombs, underground cities were developed 5000 ft below the poisonous planet's surface and just when all hope is lost, Queen Starsha from the planet Iscandar offers a cure to the dying planet and in order for the human race to utilize this "cure" under the name, Cosmo DNA, they would have to travel over 140,000 light years away!
However, the researchers acquired Starsha's generous gift via Wave Motion technology and with that fuel source and coordinates in hand, the Space Military branch called the Star Force, heads off into a journey thousands of light years away, courtesy of the Argo, a long deserted Battleship, now retrofitted with the powerful wave motion drive, making it more than capable of reaching its destination!
However, the voyage to Iscandar is not some weekend cruise, for the Space Force led by Captain Avatar and Derrick Wildstar has to contend with the consistent attacks from Desslok and the Gamilons! Can the Star Force make it to Iscandar and back before Mankind faces total extinction?
Star Blazers was a true pioneer of syndicated animated television because of its nuance and not having to completely deviate itself from the original source material.In fact, many of the adult themes were left intact, be it pathos, grieving, high tension drama, an honorable enemy or even brief nudity!! All this while "complying" with broadcast regulations!
I remember being completely invested in the series throughout the entire storyline as it consisted of a Soap Opera continuity, meaning, that there were no one shot episodes, or different narratives.
The further appeal of Star Blazers, was its dramatic opening, that began with the Argo firing cannons at a Gamellion ship, with the iconic theme song that followed:
We’re off to outer space
We’re leaving Mother Earth
To save the human race
Our Star Blazers!
This series was Space Opera in the truest sense of the word! And in various ways, influenced George Lucas' blockbuster Star Wars!
Yes, I know many are quick to point out that Star Wars premiered during 1977, while Star Blazers debuted two years afterwards.True and false.
While Star Blazers arrived on the American television markets in 1979, its original Japanese version, Yamato came out in 1974, three years before Star Wars and its evident that Lucas cribbed certain elements from the series.
1.Giant menacing ships capable of annihilating planets and its inhabitants.
2. Dogfights in deep space
3. The tragic passing of an senior mentor figure.
4.IQ9 looks oddly familiar..
5. Dramatic Space Opera scenes
These facts alone, demonstrate how influential Yamato/Star Blazers is as a whole! Hell, Star Blazers/Yamato introduced Space Marines long before James Cameron's Aliens!
Despite being the only daring children's program at the time, Star Blazers had paved the way for not only syndicated series that raised the bar, G.I.Joe and Transformers but proved that you can tailor Anime series for the American viewers without sacrificing powerful content as seen in Harmony Gold's Robotech series!
Star Blazers was restricted to only three seasons, but that was more than enough to leave an important footnote, not only in animated Television, but Pop Culture in general.