First airing in Japan in 1972, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman is surprisingly American in some aspects. The costumes are closer to typical American superheroes of the time, they’re more protective of their secret identities from what I can tell. Maybe it’s just the shows I’ve looked into but outside of Ultraman most Japanese superheroes don’t really bother hiding their superhero identities so much as not really broadcast they are superheroes. Meanwhile until recently American superheroes guarded their secret identities to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their ability to live among the people they protect and retain their humanity…and pay the bills. Not everyone has a cave fortress hideaway after all.

I just found out that “Gatchaman” is actually supposed identify Ken, the team leader, while the others are the Science Ninja Team part, at least according to Tatsunoko, the animation studio behind the series and its various sequels and remakes. Tonight we are going to look at this series…and it’s various US versions. No, not Eagle Riders. That was an adaptation of one of the sequel series. We’re sticking with the original stories about teens given special training and gadgets to battle the usual Japanese terror group Galactor, to see how the American version changed things from the original. That means comparing the first episodes of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Battle Of The Planets, G-Force: Guardians Of Space, and then the ADV dub of Gatchaman. You can watch your favorite version (for as long I can access it anyway), compare the versions until you’re sick of the same episode plot, or see an interpretation you never caught before. Let’s get started.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman

The original, and I found a subtitled version. The evil organization Galactor has made its first move towards world conquest by attacking a lighthouse. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. At any rate, the titular robotic machine from “Gatchaman Versus The Turtle King” would also be the go-to introduction for the 1990s OVA remake and the Top Cow Battle Of The Planets comic.

Gatchaman would continue with two sequel series, Gatchaman II and Gatchaman F, which would be used to create Saban’s Eagle Riders in 1997 for syndication. A 1990s original video animation miniseries would be released in three episodes with a redesigned look for the costumes that was cool and the vehicles that looked terrible, the God Phoenix being the worst of that. There was also a live-action movie and some other spin-off called Gatchaman Crowds that I know little about.

Battle Of The Planets

Sandy Frank Productions would bring the show over to create their own series, though as was typical before the 1990s animation craze changes were made. Some were made to cash in on the success of Star Wars. The enemy now came from planet Spectra and given some of Galactor’s outfits and technology it wasn’t too much of a leap to make really. The rechristened team G-Force would occasionally leave Earth for other Earth colonies and allies also being attacked by Spectra. Other changes however were made out of concern for the level of violence on the show, though some critics have stated that between production and launch syndicated kids action shows were around the same level as the original version. Anything that couldn’t be explained away by the new narrator, robotic coordinator for G-Force 7-Zark-7, was removed and replaced with new segments involving Phoenix traveling to another world, Zark’s antics with his dog and long distance love interest, and even shots of Mark and Princess, the US names for Ken and June, dropping in to sell the audience on how special Zark is. Yeah, I can see that last part bothering some people.

Actually, I understand all the changes upsetting today’s anime fans, even and especially because of certain translation shenanigans going on as of this writing. My counterpoint is that young me didn’t know about any of this and didn’t care in the slightest. As mentioned in my video review of Clash Of The Bionoids I used to sneak down early in the morning, keep the TV as low as I could because it was right against the wall opposite my parents’ bedroom, watch two episodes of Battle Of The Planets, and sneak off back to bed to get a bit more rest before coming down for breakfast and Saturday morning shows proper. This was in the pre-VCR days so I couldn’t just record it to watch later. The idea of superheroes traveling the galaxy to stop an invading alien force from destroying Earth and it’s colonies was right in my wheelhouse and I will always hold a special place in my heart for it. When that theme song comes on, I’m that little boy too close to the television because of how low the volume is watching one of my favorite shows. So let’s check out “Attack Of The Space Terrapin”!

Yep, they made June’s little brother into a kid made in the lab. I guess they thought having a kid along on these missions was too much…because apparently nobody told them about Robin The Boy Wonder. I do like the addition of explaining their transformations and abilities not as “secret ninja powers” but “cerebonic implants”, something explained in the Top Cow comics…though that was more like a fusion of both incarnation of the show, so while I really enjoyed the comics and wish they could have finished they should have just called it Gatchaman since it was missing those elements added to Battle Of The Planets like space travel and Zark (who does make an easter egg cameo in one of the special issues at least…and was still treated better than WildStorm’s ThunderCats crossover).

One complaint I’ll grant you is why Keyop, who shares voice actor Alan Young with 7-Zark-7 AND Scrooge McDuck, being given that odd way of speaking is kind of dumb. They were playing up the test tube baby thing but even as a kid I didn’t like it…and as one of the people who is a bit less bothered by some voices given characters, that’s saying a lot. That’s also Casey Kasem as Mark Keye Luke as Zoltar. Ronnie Schell and Janet Waldo round out the team as Jason and Princess respectively, though the Gatchaman fandom wiki notes that the pilot’s version of Jason was David Joffe, with Tiny’s VA Alan Dinehart, who also played Chief Anderson (missing from this episode as Zark replaced the science council meeting), being replaced by Schell. Yeah, I’m confused, and it means you aren’t hearing the proper voices from the full series. Sorry.

There was also a “movie” released combining episodes, replacing Young as Zark with David Bret Egen, and would have been a trial run for a new BOTP dub reusing older Gatchaman episodes and ones not given the BOTP treatment before. Zark would be redone in CG for some reason, but this never made it past the test model as Sandy Frank wasn’t convinced it was worth the money.

G-Force: Guardians Of Space

In 1986 Ted Turner’s people decided to do their own adaptation. Keeping Sandy Frank’s name for the team, G-Force: Guardians Of Space removed the space travel elements and even restored some of the violence level as times had changed a bit in the intervening years. They snagged Fred Ladd, a producer with a history of Japanese animation dubs like Gigantor and Astro Boy, to work on the new incarnation. While this seems like a good idea in theory, they opted to come up with all new names for the characters. Ken went from Mark to…Ace Goodheart. Doctor Nabu was no longer Chief Anderson but…Dr. Brighthead. Probably getting it the worst was poor Ryu. “Tiny” is an old joke nickname for someone who is actually quite large, but to then get stuck with “Hoot Owl” for a name, Hootie to his friends”, is just kind of bad. Galactor was now the name of the chief henchman and Computor the disembodied leader.

The attempts to shoehorn in a new soundtrack doesn’t do it any favors. Battle Of The Planets had a few original tracks but for the most part stuck with the same background music. G-Force went for a disco soundtrack…in 1986. As for the voice acting…well, just watch “The Robot Stegosaurus”. So we went from a turtle to a terrapin to a stegosaurus? This one I couldn’t find on YouTube but the Internet Archive had a rip from it’s Cartoon Network airing so that’s why the player looks different as of this writing and why I had to reformat the @#$%#$%$# page so I didn’t waste my entire Saturday trying to embed one lousy video, and I probably still ended up posting late! I have a sidebar for a reason! Also, they left the ads in, so have fun with that.

I’ll try to keep my issues with WordPress’ embedding system versus Internet Archive’s embedding system out of my thoughts on the final work despite being rather annoyed at the moment and the deadline looming. I don’t think they got a single bird right in that intro. Ken/Mark/Ace is supposed to be the Eagle, Joe/Jason/Dirk Daring is the condor, and nobody is a hawk or falcon. Was no research done so you could throw bird puns into the intro? Also interesting that this is the version not accusing the girl of wanting some alone time with the team leader wink wink nudge nudge.

The two soundtracks compete with each other and I see Ladd still isn’t getting the original script to know what was happening. I wouldn’t be surprised if going back to uranium wasn’t a coincidence. G-Force may not be space travellers but it’s still an alien invasion. The dialog is hit or miss, as is the acting but that’s more hit than miss. It always amuses me that the first councilor speaking is named Anderson, making me wonder if Frank got Nambu’s name confused with the other guy. Still better than Brighthead. And it’s one of those shows that doesn’t let silence take hold. Not unusual for Ladd, either. Look, I know that someone out there is as nostalgic for this incarnation as I am for Battle Of The Planets and I don’t blame you. It isn’t terrible, and it is interesting to hear some well known voice actors in early roles. In some ways it’s a better adaptation but not as good in others.

The ADV Dub

If you prefer dubs over subs but still want a proper translation, ADV Films had you covered. After the 1990s original video animation remake, they created a proper dub of the show. There’s not really much else to say so let’s watch “Gatchaman Versus The Turtle King” one last time. Really, we’re done after this.

If you’re not going to dub the songs, especially the theme songs, then at least subtitle them. EDIT: Also the credits. Both are a pet peeve of mine.

Nostalgia aside, and if the subtitles in the first video are to be believed (I’m thinking that was also ADV Films), this is the superior dub. I question the voices for some of the counselors who aren’t Nambu…the old man just made me laugh…but everyone else were given good voices, the soundtrack was worked in well, and overall a good product. I’m still going to be partial to my childhood but critically and if you’re an anime fan this is probably the version to start with.

So what was your favorite version?


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