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Anime has been around for a long time. Though just gaining serious ground in the last 20 years, it’s actually been on American TV for decades in some shape or form. From “Speed Racer” to “Giant Robo” to “Robotech and “Voltron,” we’ve been getting small doses of the cartoons from Japan. “Starzinger” is one such show. Originally airing in 1978 and 1979 and only in a few states, it was part of an Anime Anthology that was shown on TV created by Jim Terry called “Force Five.” Called “Spaceketeers” at the time, it enjoyed a little success, and has become a small cult classic among anime enthusiasts. In 2009, William Winckler Productions produced three all new dubbed films edited together from the original series, and that’s what Shout Factory is releasing later this month.
“Starzinger” is actually a sci-fi retelling of the Chinese classic “Journey to the West,” which is actually the basis of two well known modern anime as well — “DragonBall” and “Saiyuki.” Starzinger tells the story of Aurora, the Moon Princess and her quest to re-balance the Universe’s galaxy energy. Ah classic anime and their silly MacGuffins and energy sources. The imbalance has caused creatures throughout the galaxy to mutate and become violent, and only Aurora can save the day. She is assigned protection by Professor Kitty (yeah that’s her actual name) and Professor Dodge aka Professor Dunce. Dodge is referred to as Dunce because of his crowning achievement going bad — Cyborg warrior Jan Kougo. Kougo is hotheaded and doesn’t always obey orders, hence his apparent failure. Along their journey they come across two other cyborgs that end up joining their party and helping the Princess. Kougo is the equivalent of the Monkey King, even wearing a similar headpiece, while the other cyborgs, Hakka and Jorgo are this story’s versions of Zhu Bajie aka Pigsy and Sha Wujing aka Sandy the water demon.
The movies are all about an hour and some minutes long, and each has an ending of sorts, and all but the last are open ended. You can really tell this was edited together from a series though, as the action comes quickly, things are resolved almost just as quickly, and they’re off to the next part of the journey. As a shortened version of the story, it gets all the points across, but sometimes the editing seems a little choppy. This being an older cartoon, the animation doesn’t really hold up to today’s standards, and the voice acting is unintentionally hilarious, but that’s due to trying to dub something that’s very old. The lip-flap is so slow you end up with very choppy dialogue in some parts. All that being said, I found myself wanting to know how thing ended since I had invested time in the story. There have been a lot of classic anime redone for the modern era, with a similar classic style. “Astro Boy,” “Kikaider,” and “Cyborg 009” are some examples of that were done really well. “Starzinger” has the potential to join the list of rebooted titles.
If you’re a fan of classic anime, this should probably be in your collection for nostalgia’s sake. If you’re just getting into anime, this should be for when you’re ready for the classics. Some of them aren’t as good, but hey it’s good to know the roots of where stuff came from. So if you’re looking for some classic anime that isn’t “Speed Racer” or “Astro Boy” then pick up “Starzinger” from Shout Factory.