The movie version of Space Adventure Cobra comes right out of the center of anime's intrepid Space Age. The same year publishing began for the manga versions of Akira and Naussicaa of the Valley of the wind, Buichi Terasawa's name-making series had been serialized for several years, and founded the basis for its continuing popularity with the release of this movie (which was shortly followed by the more manga-accurate version of the TV series.
The plot is something of a conundrum, mostly due to confusion as to whether the movie represented a separate part or a "retelling" of the
events of the series. In brief, Cobra and his android partner Lady must assist bounty hunter Jane Flower in preventing the Pirate Guild from controlling an artificial, wandering planet. Jane is part of a set of triplets (the daughters of the last Queen), and the planet's course can only be changed if only one sister is alive or if they "all love the same man." Yes, that's right. I'm not making this up.
I'll leave additional details for you to see for yourself. As a consequence of the plot (and due to the nature of the old school Sci-Fi genre) various instances of cheese occur. In fact, Cobra is one of the cheesiest Sci-Fi flicks I know of from the 80s. Mix touching romantic moments in with loss, the fate of the galaxy, and gun-toting action makes for that kind of a flick. Oh, did I mention the classic psychedelic disco scene on the snow planet? Inevitably--as a movie version of a much longer story--the plot is not only changed but also compressed. Occasionally this is obvious, and this may serve as a turn-off for some viewers.
For some this may come as a surprise, but as I see it on every other count Cobra is a shining star in the Sci-Fi library. Early 80s Sci-Fi anime is not reputed for the attention to detail and (dare I say?) beautiful art designs that come as part of this movie. Terasawa's style gives clear indications of his work's intent. Scantly clad (or where weather dictates full wear, jumpsuits that hide little work too) women, storm trooper esque bad guys, and the manly man of all space cowboys: Cobra.
(NOTE: incorporating both Jap and English versions here) Another surprise for me when I first watched it was the soundtrack. The music of the Japanese version is excellent. It plays a great part in setting the mood where required, and can even distract your mind from the hugely cheesy scenes that often creep up. The characters in Cobra's original dub are all voiced well. The voice of Cobra especially. The English version, unfortunately (though not unexpected) doesn't match-up. It's the more common version available in the states; and while some of the cast actually fits as far as sound goes, much of the dialogue comes off insincere and thus tends to put the movie down. The English soundtrack isn't half bad (done by a group called Yello), but this is one of those instances where I absolutely prefer the Japanese version of things.
The characters in Cobra are some of the best one can find in the genre. It is unfortunate that their full potential can't be realized in the movie-length format, but the makings of greatness for them is very clear. The obvious plus is our hero Cobra. After changing everything about himself (appearance, voice, etc) to hide from the Pirate Guild, Cobra reveals his identity effectively to get some tail. He has a playboy demeanor, mixed with a Han Solo/Captain Harlock occupation and an attitude about life most would love to have. Cobra really presents himself as the perfectly balanced character by the end of the movie. He is not so over-the-top that he can't descend to take things seriously; nor does he fall into the dark, brooding persona often associated with lone male characters. Uniquely armed with a revolver and his powerful, mind-controlled "psychogun," Cobra may actually be the best protagonist of any Pop Sci-Fi anime movie ever.
The other major character of note is the antagonist: Crystal Boy. One of the leading figures in the Pirate Guild, Crystal Boy has a personal vendetta to kill Cobra in the process of fulfilling the operation. He isn't your average villain. Not only is he a massive figure, his body consists of liquid glass, making him virtually unharmable. If that wasn't enough, he can pull his ribs out to use as weapons. HIS RIBS FOR GOD'S SAKE! This guy is a walking death machine. If he isn't the best original idea for a villain ever, he only takes second seat to Joseph Kucan's enigmatic "Kane."
What can I say about Cobra? I love it to death. I'm a sucker for the cheesy Pop Sci-Fi movie that represents a different time. Back when the James Bond model of manliness was king, and disco mattered, and women were the center of the universe. Sure, Cobra borrows from a lot of mainstream stuff. James Bond (never more clear than during the opening song sequence), Star Wars, even the short story "We Can Remember it for you Wholesale." Unlike many Sci-Fi works though, Cobra possesses a special spirit all its own, and creates original content within itself that more than compensates for any resemblances to other works. It's not for everyone. Non-oldies and Non-Sci-Fi fans should avoid Cobra like the plague (one notable exception, see the comments on the blog index). For we old fogies that still dream of seeing the days of riding faster-than-sound cars, using jetpacks, and zooming along at lightspeed Cobra is one hell of a trip.
And if I must close this review with a last thought to encourage you to watch Cobra, I will steal a line from the "bad sub" version of the movie to which I was first introduced (again, see comments on blog).
"The passion is the bullet of his magic gun!"
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Well it finally happened. After years of searching, I finally found an Osamu Dezaki anime I liked more than the one with the angsty boy who never does anything and the sweet girl who sings about dangos and ended up dying in the last third because it’s not a touching drama until someone is dead. Now I admit to never seeing any of Dezaki’s non-Key films, let alone finishing any one of his f*cking long series that drag so much that they make me want to throw my hands in the air, turn off the screen, and go hang around on Twitter like an anti-social
nerd. I did notice that almost all of them are franchise films though. Golgo 13? Hamtaro? Black Jack? The only two films he directed that are attached to series he also did are Aim for the Ace and Space Adventure Cobra.
The latter is what I’m looking at for in this review and apparently it’s a different interpretation of what happens in the series, but I’m not going to be doing any comparisons as I won’t be finishing the series until the second part gets released in a few weeks and it wouldn’t affect the quality of the film in any way. In other words, it wouldn’t increase nor decrease just how fucking AWESOME it was.
I’m no stranger to the Cobra franchise due to watching that revival from a few years back, but in case you guys haven’t seen it (and not many of you jackasses did because you’re awful people who would rather watch a shitty Nodame sequel during that cold dark Winter of 2010) I’ll fill you in. Cobra is a wanted man with the highest bounty in the universe who is handsome, strong, and all-around perfect to the fact that Jesus Christ worships him. He has a female assistant named Lady who dresses in some metallic suit and does fuck all, and together they go adventuring across the stars, helping out women dressed in clothing so skimpy you’d probably mistake them for the cast of Highschool DxD - except with blond hair – and fighting bad guys who you know Cobra is going to beat the crap out of, but they’re so varied and entertaining that you don’t give a shit.
Most notable of the bad guys is Crystal Boy, who’s basically the Joker to Cobra in that whilst you know he’ll never be able to win, he’s the archenemy of the show that provides a great contrast to our hero due to Cobra’s most powerful weapon not affecting him, having legions of henchmen to do his bidding, and being much more interesting than our main…okay he doesn’t quite reach that level of Joker-dom. But he kicks ass nevertheless.
It’s basically pulpy space opera at its best and if you have something against that, then obviously you were born with genes so recessive that it’s a miracle you can operate an electronic device to read this review.
Cobra’s adventures pretty much rely on whatever substance is given to him and whether he can chew on it harder than that oversized cigar he always carries in his mouth, and in this particular adventure, the substance given to him is how he deals with “love”. That’s right. Love. A weapon so powerful that Ma-Ti from Captain Planet could use it to cause more damage than all the Smash Ball attacks from Super Smash Bros Brawl combined if the show had been written by someone who knew what AIDs actually was. And not with just one lady. But three. Sisters. It’s the harem anime movie we’ve always wanted, and it was made years before that blasted genre existed.
The actual story details elude me, partly because I was too busy admiring Cobra’s muscles and charisma and practically everything that I’d want to be if I was space-travelling - let alone be in real life – and partly because I don’t get what the actual importance of the grand plan was. Apparently those three sisters I mentioned above are the only ones left of some doomed planet and when two of them die or all three fall in love with the same person, that planet gets revived. Whilst I can understand reviving a civilization, I don’t really get what Crystal Boy gets out of it. He becomes ruler or something? He gets enough cash to make Scrooge McDuck weep? He makes his gold metallic body shiny to the point that he’ll have the power to blind his enemies when light refracts off of him? I’ve seen plotlines in Legend of the Galactic Heroes that were easier to understand than this.
Also, the whole bounty-hunter sister just disappearing into the other sister because she fell in love with him? Yeah, how does that make sense?
The only part I really understood, besides Cobra being the invincible hero who wins in the end obviously, was the way the film deals with the whole romance angle. Cobra and the first sister fall in love. They eventually get separated because of that disappearance mumbo-jumbo I mentioned earlier. The second sister falls in love with Cobra, but he’s not ready to move on so soon and resists. The third sister is brainwashed by Crystal Boy to love him and when she eventually gets free (not a spoiler because that plot point is more predictable than Barney the Dinosaur singing “I Love You” at the end of every fucking episode of that fucking show), she (actual spoiler) rejects the whole love thing and basically dooms her planet so that its power – whatever the fuck that was - can’t be used for evil.
Considering that Dezaki is known for directing dramas, I don’t think this was all an accident. I think he purposefully wanted this particular Cobra story to be a metaphor for what Seo Kouji tries and fails to do in every single thing he writes. You see Mr. Kouji, you don’t have to have the most unlikeable people on the planet go through angry misunderstanding after angry misunderstanding for over two-hundred f*cking chapters (which is the equivalent of like a three to four-cour series) to show the pains of first love, moving on, and the final inevitable conclusion. Sometimes, all you need is a flawless guy with a gun for his arm sailing through space on his ship with his lady cyborg fighting men made out of crystal and aliens that would give the one in Star Wars a run for their money. It surprisingly works a lot better than trying to emulate real life. Or not so surprisingly because experience has shown that anything that tries to emulate real life is almost always less realistic than Dragonball F*cking Z.
Being a guy who has a soft spot for romance at heart and more love for the whole space western thing than Justin Bieber has for being a massive douchebag, it was pretty much guaranteed I would love this movie. But the icing on the cake that really complements how awesome it is is the animation/art direction. Maybe it’s because I’m used to the shit production of Magic Bus’s revival, but the visuals in this thing blew me away. It doesn’t exactly make you feel like you’re in space, Gravity-style, or anything, but it does a great job of adding atmosphere to the whole shebang beyond just moving pictures. It’s kind of like how we thought the N64′s polygon graphics looked impressive at the time, but when the Gamecube came into town, not only was the eye candy causing us to need glasses 3x faster, but suddenly the opening to Mario 64 causes more nightmares than learning that someone on this godforsaken planet thought it’d be a good idea to make another Garbage Pail Kids film.
In other words, go see this movie unless you hate awesome things. You monster!
This is not your everyday anime movie to watch these days, especially one thats oldskool and special as this one, andhonestly i was inpressed that the traditional anime was left out and a more mature animation was given througout the movie.The story is quite nice and because it was 1982 it was´nt influenced by the macross big spacefights that later anime woud get, but then again it is some sort of space opera, and one worth seeing again, good music there as well.
Serves best as an introduction to the Space Cobra series. A 1982 movie with great visuals that holds up today. Note this movie is a retelling of episodes 1-12 & there are two English dubs to this film: Manga UK & Streamline Pictures. The UK version has a soundtrack done by Yello & various changes in its script. This review covers the Discotek release which should be the Streamline dub.
Premiering a few months before its television anime, Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie delivers what you expect in anything Cobra related being; sexy women, stylish visuals, great soundtrack, science fiction & manly action. That being said,
the movie's plot is an alternative form of Cobra's 1st manga story arc which was adapted in the anime version of that same year.
To quickly summarize the story, Cobra is a space pirate with a bounty on his head who comes in contact with a bounty hunter named Jane who then asks for Cobra to rescue her sisters Catherine & Dominique. Along the way, they encounter "The Guild" a mafia group filled with space pirates. The movie version has various differences from its manga storyline which in some cases seems almost better than its source material.
The main difference is Jane being Cobra's main love interest while in the anime it was Dominique, however this is presented better through the newly made up mythology. While the triplet sisters were human in the anime, the film decided for them to be part of this ancient alien civilization who hold the secret to the most dangerous weapon in the galaxy. Their unique traits as a species are lot more explored in the film as it presents this theme of passionate love which at the time was a recurring trend among 80's shonens such as City Hunter, Fist Of The North Star & Saint Seiya.
Cobra's villain, Crystal Boy, also makes an appearance yet he is presented a bit different from his anime counterpart. Crystal Boy is portrayed a bit more sadistic in this film as he tends to make these facial expressions & often having close ups of his read bulging eyes. Another key difference is Crystal Boy not using his signature hook but instead uses his ribs like a spear. Aside from those changes he still remains as threatening & stylish as ever.
In terms of visuals, this is a great film as it was directed by Osamu Dezaki who knows how to make eye pleasing scenes. The character designs are improved in this film such as Jane having blue hair to contrast Cobra's blonde hair & red jumpsuit. The same goes for Crystal Boy as he looks his best in this film giving a more "pop art style". As for Cobra, the only significant change in his design are his boots being black instead of red.
Space Adventure Cobra is set in a "Star Wars like" world where various aliens & robots inhabit different planets. Cobra himself is a mix of James Bond & Han Solo, although his comedic side isn't shown in the film. The movie is a good starting point to get into Cobra & its English dub is good enough, especially in its 90's release date. However, I've only seen the Discotek release which contains the Streamline Pictures dub. I've heard its Manga UK release had several changes including dialogue, names, & even soundtrack which too many viewers came off as an odd movie experience.
Essentially, it's a good movie but serves as a taste for the 1982 anime series "Space Cobra" which explores more of its universe & Cobra's character.