Battle of the Planets Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: C+
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Rhino
  • MSRP: 19.95
  • Running time: 60
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gatchaman

Battle of the Planets Vol. #1

By Matthew Whiteley     February 12, 2002
Release Date: October 15, 2001



The Review!
Along with "Star Blazers", "Monkey!" and the 1980's remake of "Astroboy", Battle of the Planets planted the seeds in my young impressionable mind for my later obsession with Japanese animation, film, and pop culture. Battle of the Planets has only been available on bootleg VHS for years, only released in the UK on PAL VHS for a short period in the 1990's, then re-released the UK on DVD and VHS in late 2000, only to be deleted again in early 2001. Thank god Rhino has brought this series back, and as an extra bonus they've given us corresponding uncut and subbed Gatchaman episodes (the show that Battle of the Planets was based on).

Audio:
For its age, it's decent. Surprisingly the audio on G-Force sounds the best, then Gatchaman would come a close second, then Battle of the Planets (BOTP). The source material for BOTP is pretty bad, and there are some drop-outs and some distortions on the track. The 5.1 "remix" on BOTP is horrid. It just sounds louder, has too much echo, and is more muffled. The mono track sounds much clearer and fuller.

Video:
On the back of the DVD it says in small writing "This video contains technical anomalies inherent in historic footage". This would suggest it's pretty bad, but not as bad as I expected. G-Force again comes off the best, but looks less sharp than the other two, probably due to the source material. Gatchaman's video again has some very noticeable problems with its master. The video jumps sometimes when the screen turns white, and the occasional line and "glitch" can be seen often. It's like watching a worn out digital VHS tape. I have a couple of the Japanese DVDs of Gatchaman, and obviously they have remastered and restored the picture on those DVDs. I can't see any of the problems of the Rhino release in the Japanese discs. It looks like the Japanese licensor has given Rhino the old worn out LD masters. BOTP has the worst video quality, but is still very watchable. There are plenty of lines, scratches, grain, and dirt on the old film. I think future episodes of BOTP will have
better video and audio, and I'll explain why in the content section of the review.

Packaging:
A very dark looking cover with Mark and Jason and the fiery Phoenix on the front. On the back we have the rest of G-Force and some screenshots, and the synopsis of the two episodes. In a very small box at the bottom we have a list of the special features. I guess this was done at the request of Tatsunoko or Columbia Japan, as they don't want Rhino to advertise too loudly the fact Gatchaman episodes are on the disc (because of importation into Japan I guess). On the inside we have an insert with a scene index for Battle of the Planets with a picture of that lying bastard of a robot 7-Zark-7 and his robot dog. On the other side with have chapter stop listings for Gatchaman and G-Force, and a picture of Mark/Ken/Ace or whatever you want to call him.

Menus:
They aren't too bad. They get the job done, but I found them a tad ugly. Also you can't just play both episodes in a row. It takes you back to the menu and you have to click on the second episode.

Extras:
The main extras here are the Gatchaman and G-Force episodes. I'll talk about them in the content part of this review. The other extra is a Battle of the Planets Collectors Card, which features Mark. On the back is a small bio about him and a number of pictures.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After Star Wars stormed into cinemas in 1977, science fiction came back in a big way. Producers were chucking any old bit of trash up on screen just to cash in on Star Wars. Producer Sandy Frank decided to acquire a 1972 Japanese animated TV series named Gatchaman and redubed it Battle of the Planets in 1978. This disc gives you an opportunity to see how evil Frank was. People complain about bad Cardcaptors was hacked for US television. Frank took to Gatchaman with a meat clever. I'll review the episodes as I think they should be watched, so you can get the full effect of what Frank did.

Gatchaman (Episodes 1 and 2)
A giant mechanical turtle has been attacking military bases and stealing uranium. It is the handiwork of Galactor, an evil organization bent on overtaking the world. The leader of this organization is a strange masked man named Berg Kaste who answers only to an even stranger entity named Leader X. Dr Nambu of the International Science Organization has trained 5 young orphans to fight against this evil. They are called the Science Ninja Team, code named Gatchaman. Making up the team are Ken the leader, Joe the hotheaded second in command, Jun the only female member, Ryu possibly the strongest member, and Jinpei the youngest of the team. They all have their own separate vehicles and weapons that are stored in the God Phoenix, their ship which is piloted by Ryu.

Gatchaman are ordered by Dr Nambu to follow, not attack, the giant mecha turtle in order to find where Galactor's base is. The mecha turtle soon heads for a city and Ken decides that he must take action before lives are lost.

In the second episode Galactor agents kidnap two astronauts and their spacecraft after they splash down to Earth. Their ship was carrying a data cassette, which showed where deposits of uranium and other resources could be mined from the Earth. Gatchaman are sent to save the astronauts and recover the tape, but find a hidden Galactor base on the seabed.

Gatchaman is a classic anime series from the animation studio Tatsunoko (Generator Gawl, Soul Taker). It's a very influential series that set in stone the costumed hero team genre, which in part was adapted from the Thunderbirds, but in this incarnation influenced many Japanese live action children's show such as Power Rangers. This series should be part of any animation fan's collection (not just anime fans) for the Gatchaman episodes alone.

Battle of the Planets (Episodes 1 and 2)
In Sandy Frank's version, most of the violence from Gatchaman is cut. So much was cut that sometimes only 10 or 12 minutes of an episode remained. They hired some of the Hanna Barbara staff to animate some more footage for the series. Enter 7-Zark-7 the R2-D2 rip-off. In this version, Zark guides the team, now called G-Force, from Center Neptune, which is on the bottom of the ocean. The new animation does not blend in with the original Gatchaman animation very well. It's really obvious. Zark also has a robot dog named 1-Rover-1 who does nothing but bark and fly occasionally. Zark's main job is to lie to the kids watching at home and tell them no one has died, even though it's quite obvious that they have.

The names of the team have been Americanized too. Ken becomes Mark (voiced by Casey Kasem), Joe becomes Jason, Jun becomes Princess, Ryu becomes Tiny, and Jinpei becomes Keyop complete with a speech impediment for god knows what reason. The badies names and motives have changed too. Galactor is Spectra, and Berg Kaste is Zoltar. Spectra are an alien race wanting to take over the galaxy.

Watching Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets back to back, some of the changes are really funny and odd. All references to uranium are gone, most of the violence is gone as well as some of the explosions and a scene of Keyop destroying Spectra equipment. One of the funniest changes was in the second episode. In Gatchaman the Galctor agent tricks Ken into surrendering, and shows him the dead bodies of the two astronauts. In Battle of the Planets, not only are the astronauts saved, but are taken to the Phoenix's sick bay. And of course you never see them being rescued or going to sick bay. That's some damned good editing there. I almost believed it had I not seen the original Gatchaman episode.

I think that both episodes on this disc are two of the four pilots that Sandy Frank produced prior to getting the show on air. The first one uses different title cards and opening and ending sequences than the usual ones. Also the Zark animation is different to the usual recycled footage they use. The second episode also has a slightly different end sequence that I don't recall seeing before. These pilot episodes weren't kept in the greatest of shape, so hopefully the remaining episodes have been.

Battle of the Planets is totally stupid, but great fun to watch. The acting is great and it's obvious the cast is having fun with the show. It really shows in their performances. Seeing the show really bought me back to when I was 9, watching it in the afternoons after school.

G-Force (Episode 101)
The second English version of Gatchaman which dates back to 1986. This episode included on this disc uses the first Gatchaman episode. This version is more true to the original with no added animation and most of the violence left intact. The stories and most plot are mostly left intact too. The names are bloody horrible though; Dirk Daring, Ace Goodheart, Hootie etc, and the dialogue and acting are atrocious. The new music added to some scenes is quite bad, and the opening voice over is quite cheesy. It's a fairly horrible production that isn't pleasant to watch.

Overall if you are either a Gatchaman fan or a Battle of the Planets fan, this is a great little disc to get. Since I'm a fan of both I love the disc and will be buying them as they come out. The G-Force episodes I could really do without though. This disc won't appeal to many anime fans who want the next Love Hina, Tenchi or Evangelion clone. The animation would probably be enough to put them off. It's a shame as these old shows are often more original and entertaing than most of the mass produced fluff that's thrown at us today.

One of the problems I see is that Tatsunoko or Columbia Japan won't let Rhino release Gatchaman separately. Because of this some people only think this is a dubbed release, and I've seen it advertised online as a dub only with no mention of the Gatchaman episodes. Also at two episodes per disc, it's going to take quite a while for all 85 episodes of Battle of the Planets to be released. The most disappointing aspect is that all of the Gatchaman will not be released on these discs. Only 85 of the 105 episodes were dubbed to create Battle of the Planets. This means only 85 subbed Gatchaman episodes will appear. That's a damned shame, as this show has an excellent ending (those episode were never dubbed). Luckily all 27 volumes of Gatchaman are available on DVD in Japan (unfortunately without subtitles). I just have to figure out which volumes to buy.



Review Equipment
Toshiba SD-2019Y DVD Player (PAL/NTSC, Region Free), 60cm Panasonic TC-59R62 TV set (PAL/NTSC)

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