Meek salaryman Johnson discovers that he is in fact the notorious (and reportedly dead) space pirate Cobra, with a new face and altered memories. Embedded in his left arm is Cobra's unique Psychogun, a famous weapon powered by his own will. Having recovered his past, his partner-in-crime Armaroid Lady, and his spaceship, he journeys across the galaxy seeking adventure.
On his travels he will hunt for the galaxy's ultimate weapon, rob museums, break into and out of maximum-security prison, infiltrate a drug ring in the brutal and deadly sport of Rugball, engineer a coup on an alien world, confront the Pirate Guild's most fearsome leaders, and do much else besides—smoking cigars, chasing women and cracking jokes all the while.
This, the 1982–83 Cobra TV anime, adapts the Cobra manga from the beginning, covering the first three major stories and building to a grand conclusion with some shorter one-off tales interspersed along the way. (The 1982 Cobra film has only a loose connection to the TV series—though it involved the same director and some of the same animators.)
I am putting the conclusion first for those who do not care about details: this is a typically solid '80s series, one more focused on fun and action than fleshing out deep character qualities. It has a lot of foibles, but nothing that should keep you from skipping the series if you like action and adventure focused anime.
This series is kind of like what you would get if you took Space Captain Harlock, but if instead of going the route of incredibly self-serious and subdued it went for of goofy and flamboyant. You can see the difference really starkly comparing the flashbacks, where Cobra has
long hair, talks much more seriously, and the music becomes more dramatic, with the less serious present where Cobra looks goofy.
I first became excited by this series when Cobra was thinking really hard about his past, and then suddenly the art zoomed into a box like 1/12th the size of the screen with his face, resembling a mirror I guess, and then this randomly propagated five times in a diagonal line. I became even more excited when the first climactic battle scene had soft jazz playing, which was surreal and hilarious. It is the little details like this that make the series great if you watch out for them, and it is refreshing to have a series where the humor relies on wit instead of events like random school chase scenes (Code Geass) or how much food someone eats (too many anime to even try to single one out).
As you can see from the summary, the series has three really nice arcs, with some shorter one shots and the like at times too, which gives you three different thoughtful stories. Fans of anime that really ramp up just how incredibly evil and malicious the enemy empire is might be disappointed here, since the main foe (The Guild) is, for the most part, more of an entity that Cobra is constantly annoyed by rather than a big bad that is so evil it must be taken down at any cost.
Regarding character, Cobra is unfortunately a little too much of your typically invincible hero. You never feel any urgency of a possible loss for Cobra, and indeed none ever comes. I do like how this series approaches the morals of the characters. The girls are sexual instead of sexually indignant all but once, taking compliments in stride even if they turn Cobra down. Although Cobra tries to generally save people, he certainly has no qualms about killing them. I think this is the first time I have seen or read anything like this that the hero does not constantly puzzle the moral quandary of whether or not a bad guy should die.
One rather large character problem is that Cobra's sidekick, Lady, basically has no reason to be there. Lady either sits around waiting to rescue him when he finishes kicking ass, or she gets captured, giving Cobra motivation to kick someone's ass. This is probably not a series to watch if you become upset by subtle/overt chauvinism (whichever you would decide this series has).
The voice acting is around the high quality level of any well funded '80s series. The music is never bad, but the main climactic theme is overused. The music is probably most exciting in any club scene, where the anime rather charmingly struggles to futurize '80s club life.
The art is not the best art ever, but it is rather consistent. Rather amusing is that before commercial breaks and at the end of episodes the art becomes bolder and sketchier to try to strike an emphatic capturing of the boldness that the audience should be feeling...when often it is not really there.
Being titled as "Space Adventure Cobra" in the states, this is the best anime of the Cobra franchise as it balances action, comedy, sci-fi, adventure & overall appeals to a male audience. If you like this anime then you should like every other installment to the Cobra series.
Set in a "Star Wars like" world, Space Cobra begins with our main character Johnson (other times Joe Gillian) goes to a club where they offer "Trip Movies" granting people to be in a dream-like state & experiencing pleasure. Johnson's experience however, causes him to regain his lost memories; discovering he used to be a space pirate named
Cobra. With his memories recovered & the aid of his android partner named Lady, Cobra is tired of his peaceful lifestyle so he decides to pick up the pirate life & go on space adventures in a manly style. Armed with his signature "Psycho Gun", Cobra has a big bounty on his head where his enemies include the Galactic Patrol & The Guild, (a mafia consisted of other space pirates.)
The series tends to be episodic but has a story arc every now & then. The first few episodes being 1-12 is the longest arc as it serves as the introduction to Cobra; displaying what can be expected in the series as a whole. Much of the highlight of Cobra is the creativity being put into the universe & science fiction as it features a wide range of aliens, robots, technology & even sports such as the Rug Ball episodes 16-19. Space Cobra excels in giving action & new content in every episode making it highly rewatchable.
Another good aspect is the animation as the director Osamu Dezaki (Black Jack OVAs, Golgo 13 The Professional, Rose of Versailles) once again delivers his signature directing style with interesting angles & dramatic still shots. I believe this anime granted Dezaki more creative freedom due to the sci-fi content of Cobra as it allowed for various color schemes. In short, The Movie for Cobra & this series have the best stylized animation being a very colorful & eye pleasing anime of the early 80's. Too some this may not seem like a big deal but for the animation it had in 1982, this is an accomplishment as it wasn't until the late 80's & early 90's when anime series began to have a consistent look & multi-color approach to their shows. (Examples include Toei's work in Saint Seiya, Sailor Moon, Fist Of The North Star 2, etc.)
As expected in most episodic animes, if you don't like the main character you won't enjoy the series. Cobra as a character is inspired by the French actor Jean-Paul Benmondo, however Cobra also comes off as a mix of James Bond & Han Solo. Usually being depicted as a woman loving badass, Cobra can behave goofy at times but feels natural much like Lupin & Ryo Saeba. While we don't see an in depth look into his character we do understand what kind of person he is as more episode are watched. By the end of the series we see Cobra as a bit of an anti-hero as he tends to steal & kills various enemies of both genders but upholds chivalry towards certain people who ask for his help. He is often seen as selfish & uncaring, but deep down he has a good heart as seen in episode 26.
Cobra is a manly anime that appeals to those who like to see a space adventure where a manly pirate goes up against robots, aliens,& pirates which also delivers plenty of eye candy with its multicolored universe filled with sexy women. If you enjoyed this series then you should have no problem with watching the additional anime series being "The Psycho Gun, Time Drive & Cobra The Animation 2010". Thankfully, the recommendations list for this series is mostly accurate as the other animes that you may enjoy include the following. (Lupin the 3rd, Dirty Pair, Golgo 13, City Hunter, Goku Midnight Eye etc.) As a final note, Space Adventure Cobra has great opening & closing themes which you will occasionally listen to.
Cobra mostly follows our titular hero and his cyborg partner Lady Armaroid in their adventures traveling space as they cross paths with an intergalactic criminal organization called the Pirate Guild, which he was a former member of. In a way, the series has parallels to Lupin III as Cobra is an anti-hero due to his criminal background, a shameless flirt with the "woman of the day" that accompanies him on his adventures, is deceptively smart despite his smug attitude and is not afraid to kill off members of the Pirate Guild that he crosses paths with. The series also mixes around comedy, adventure and the
occasional dark developments to compliment the title's premise.
However, Cobra does have quite a bit to it that allows it to distinguish itself from the famous anime thief. Unlike Lupin, Cobra isn't completely episodic with its story as there are several arcs scattered throughout the series in which Cobra comes at odds with criminal activity linked to the Pirate Guild. The most notable ones that stick out from this consist of a fairly long arc where Cobra tries discovering the whereabouts of an ultimate weapon connected to triplet sisters, the famous Rug Ball competition and Cobra crossing paths with influential Guild leader Salamander. The series also offers up some rather creative implementations of its sci-fi premise such as Cobra's spaceship able to shift its form, his Psycho Gun, a diverse number of alien and robotic threats confronted by Cobra and the mentioned Rug Ball game. The series is also not as slapstick as Lupin as it has a somewhat more realistic bent to it despite its sci-fi setting.
Still, the show isn't without its imperfections. Like Lupin, Cobra does dabble into a few episodes that feel rather out of place with its setting and premise such as an episode where our lead crosses paths with a trouble-making genie. In addition, the series is a bit on the chauvinist side as mostly every relevant woman in this series is dressed in some kind of revealing attire, often get lusted for by Cobra and other men in the series and we usually get nude shots of them. Episodes also suffer from a fairly repetitive plot structure at points with Cobra gawking with attractive women and not being seriously challenged by most enemy Pirate Guild threats, with only Crystal Boy and Salamander being serious threats to our lead.
Visually, Cobra is rather dated as its animation style is a product of its time with the way character and scenery designs are drawn. However, the makers of the series do surprisingly well with concealing its rather limited animation as it was rather hard for me to notice shortcuts. Also, I did not notice many instances of degradation of character detail during distant camera shots or scenes of heavy movement that took place onscreen
Overall, I'd think of Cobra as a somewhat more serious spin of Lupin III having its own unique pros and cons. It is not as episodic as Lupin and features some nice elements of world building from its sci-fi lacking from the gentleman thief's title. However, Cobra is a bit more chauvinist in its treatment of women and suffers from some of the similar issues Lupin has with its episodic storytelling format. Regardless, Cobra still offers enough to give it its own unique feel and is mostly trying to have fun with the adventures and antics of its titular lead. If you're a fan of 80s anime, Space Adventure Cobra is a memorable title of the era that is worth checking out at least once.
As a kid, did you ever dream of having a tv show about some random dude who simply travels through space and picks fights with aliens and other space pirates? Something that doesn't require much thought, but is loads of fun to watch?
If so, you're in luck… since that show exists and it's called Space Cobra.
*Story & Characters*
Space Cobra's story takes place (where else?) in the space! It's never really explained how humanity got there and there isn't much of a sense of world building, it's just random 80's sci-fi that is pretty laughable by today's standards. It contains silly mechanics that make no sense,
loads of improbable physics and even some magic… But!! What's great about it, is that the sci-fi itself doesn't really matter in Cobra's case, since it's all about the action and the adventure while the sci-fi and space setting are just the dressing to make the adventure more epic. It could've easily taken place on earth, but space is cooler. So Unlike 80s titles like Bubblegum Crisis that took their sci-fi a tad too seriously and as a result, didn't really stand the test of time (especially after Ghost in the Shell came along), Space Cobra managed to dodge this bullet (as he always does, lol) and is therefore, far more accessible and could easily be enjoyed to this day.
The story itself is separated in to several arcs and a few stand alone episodes that have little to no relation to each other (meaning it's pretty episodic). They consist of Cobra taking up missions, fighting pirates or other alien creatures. They also end up involving (in one way or another) sexy chicks that wear skimpy outfits that Cobra ends up either having "fun" with, saving or fighting against.
It is fast paced, has tons of action and it does give off a sense of adventure and discovering new and exotic locations. There's even a nice climax arc near the end that was quite fitting and I was thankful that they didn't just insert some random arc there. So at least it leaves you with nice last impressions.
The characters consist of Cobra and his female android called Lady (yep, that's her name). Cobra is supposed to be a real role model for all men out there (I guess). He's overpowered, doesn't take crap from nobody and he's a womanizer through and through. He also doesn't think twice about sending his enemies to their deaths, which is nice. But the downside is that he hardly flinches when innocent people get killed as well.
Lady is an android who's supposed to be the strong waifu figure that takes care of Cobra and attempts to keep him in check. There doesn't seem to be much chemistry between them, since she's not around that often and they behave sort of like a married couple that have been together for 90 years or something.
Aside from them, the characters are either one dimensional villains, sexy women with little variety in personality, or ex-villains who usually end up dead rather quickly.
That's about it for this section, let's move on to this anime's strengths.
*Art & Sound*
The art style is very nice and surprisingly detailed. It actually looks a lot more like a western cartoon and not so much like an anime which means that it is very nice and stylish. It kinda reminds me of the movie 'Heavy Metal'.
The animation is great for its time and there's a ton of action, most of which has nice choreography, decent looking explosions and brutal violence in which people get killed at the drop of a hat (not much blood though).
As for the character designs, the female figures here look ahead of their time in terms of being sexy and a lot of the alien and spaceship designs look pretty cool as well. The only design I didn't like is Cobra himself who looks like a goofy 80s clown, but I can forgive him for that since the rest looks great. In addition, since this is a Space adventure there's also a lot of variety in terms of locations which all look very nice.
Visually, Space Cobra has to be among the best as far tv anime from the 80s go. I was very impressed with it.
In terms of soundtrack, there are some memorable tunes and the opening and ending songs aren't that bad either, but are pretty skipable 80s pop songs. Sound effects and voice acting are pretty dated by today's standards, but nothing really sounds out of place or too awkward, despite the corny script (I think so anyway, I don't speak Japanese).
The overall production values are great.
Space Cobra is the definition of dumb fun. I can’t give it a higher score, since technically it doesn't have much of a story, the characters are very one-note and the whole thing is as simple as it gets. But trust me when I say that it does a great deal with what it has and it's among the most enjoyable anime I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
We all enjoy looking up at the night sky, and watching the stars. And quite often we wonder what exactly is going on...out there in deep space. Fortunately, there's a ton of excellent space anime which will clue us in and make our imaginations run wild!