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Looking Back at the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman Trilogy!

Well it's time for a look back at a classic Anime trilogy known as Science Ninja Team Gatchaman or Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman in Japanese. There were three seasons in total for the Gatchaman series namely Gatchaman with 105 episodes, Gatchaman II with 52 episodes and Gatchaman Fighter with 48 episodes. The series was produced by Tatsunoko but would end up inspiring Toei Ltd. in some way.

So what's the deal with Gatchaman? I thought about writing this sort of series review in order to at least share my own insights on the possible inspiration of Super Robot Anime and later, Super Sentai itself including Chojin Sentai Jetman, a series that had some Gatchaman inspiration.

The team of five young people were known as Ken the Eagle, Joe the Condor, Ryu the Owl, Jun the Swan and Jinpei the Swallow. I felt like they did inspire the Jetman team especially Joe the Condor with Gai Yuki. For Jetman, I find it strange that Ryu Tendo's counterpart is Ken the Eagle instead of having a hawk motif or that Raita Ooshis counterpart was named Ryu. A closer look at the team format of leader, rebel, big guy, woman and child genius may also remind you of the team formation for some Super Robot Anime namely Combattler V, Voltes V and Golion (the source for Lion Voltron). 

The team had no super robot back then but only their vehicle known as God Phoenix which housed certain vehicles for specific missions. Yup, there was no giant robot for this series. Instead, you had this vehicle that used the Firebird Technique to finish any mechanical menace that threatened their way. Jetman's Ikarus Haken would also use that technique. In later parts of the series, this vehicle would be replaced with two more powerful vehicles.

Throughout the Gatchaman Trilogy, Dr. Kozaburo Nambu would be the mentor of the team. He would probably remind you of the later Super Robot mentors such as Combattler V's Dr. Yotsuya, Voltes V's Dr. Hamaguchi later to be succeeded by Dr. Sakunji or Raible in Golion. Later, Super Sentai series would have its own list of Dr. Nambus such as Commander Edogawa Gonpachi of Goranger, a series that I believe was inspired by Gatchaman in some way.

The whole mission of the Gatchaman team was to fight the terrorist organization known as Gallactor, an organization led by the mysterious entity known as Sosai X. I always felt this guy would later inspire many Super Sentai villains such as Black Cross Fuehrer in Goranger and Fuehrer Taboo in Goggle V.

Its deputy commander known as Berg Katse, a wimpy freak of nature. He's a product of some freak experiment that fused two fraternal twins both a boy and a girl into a single entity, he was instructed as the chief commander of the Gallactor organization. For the live version of the movie, I always felt the character should have been acted by Jun Yoshida who played as High Priest/Priestess Poe in Shaider. I would later feel sorry for this guy.

Gatchaman II

In the first series, Joe the Condor supposedly died but was brought back as a cyborg. Rumors stated that he was supposed to get replaced but his popularity had him return. In the second season, Sosai X returns with a few tricks on his sleeve with a second Gallactor organization.

The second season featured a new vehicle called the God Phoenix II, which was more birdlike than the first season. I would assume that the Ikarus Haken of Jetman got its look (in part) from this new vehicle.

The second Gallactor commander is known as Gel Sadora, who I consider to be pretty much immature. Granted, she's actually a child in an adult's body. She was taken away when she was two years old and forcibly grown into becoming a Gallactor Commander. She would turn out to be somebody's missing daughter and she's been frustrated all her life, with how she couldn't get a normal childhood.

Midseason of Gatchaman II, Dr. Nambu would get help from a female scientist and mecha expert in Sylvie Pandora. Some people may keep arguing that Commander Aya Odagiri in Jetman is based on Dr. Nambu but I believe she's inspired from this character. Both characters are beautiful but deadly plus they are willing to go into battle when need be. Unlike Chokan in Jetman, she never replaced their commander plus she was also living a mother's nightmare. 

Gatchaman Fighter

Gatchaman Fighter would serve as the final installment for the series. This was also considerably more serious than the first series such as Ken getting cancer or seeing more important people killed. I would think this season influenced the mood of Chojin Sentai Jetman more than the other two seasons.

Well sorry folks, the situation just got worse and prepare all your boos and hisses for this guy. Compared to Berg Katse and Gel Sadora, we welcome Count Egobossler from Europe. Throughout the show, he shows himself to be more cruel than his predecessors, even willing to kill defenseless people at his own hand or extend one's agony than to mercifully end your misery. I would say this guy would somehow inspire other villains such as Prince Sincline in Golion and Count Radiguet in Jetman. Speaking of Count Radiguet, this guy embodies the trope of humans are bastards by his actions, which he also uses to justify all his villainous acts. He would also serve as Ken the Eagle's most frequent antagonist, something we see in Red Hawk and Radiguet.

With the God Phoenix destroyed, a new fighter plane called the Gatchaspartan (which looks very much like it was taken from Star Wars or Star Trek) was created but this time, it was assembled from five separate vehicles. It amazes me to think how Jetman's Ikarus Haken's form was somehow inspired from the God Phoenix II but the Jet Birds assembling into one had its idea from this vehicle. It also utilized the most unusual finishing technique where Ken would use the Gatchafencer, ride on it and use the sword to destroy giant monsters. Fortunately, we don't see Red Hawk doing that in Jetman! At the same time, I also would say that the concept of five vehicles assembling into one was later used in the the combining Super Robot Anime genre such as Combattler V, Voltes V and Golion.

Closing thoughts

Apparently, a lot of shows really have their origins from old shows. I think it would be important to see how shows evolved overtime and learn from them. The Gatchaman Trilogy apparently serves as an inspiration for later shows.

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3 Responses
  1. bzer03 Says:

    Didn't even know about the trilogy

  2. The series that gave me a nightmare when I was a kid. That staring eye during transformation sequence tho.... --"

  3. V Says:

    I am a total Gatcha-fan :P. I remember watching G-Force reruns on Toonami and I have about half of the series on DVD. While I haven't seen Gatchaman II and Gatchaman Fighter, they were used by Haim Saban for the do not watch, avoid at all costs adaptation "Eagle Riders". Would have loved to see Imagi's CG Gatchaman film, and have not yet seen the live-action film - Buy Video Games for Consoles and PC - From Japan, Korea and other Regions
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