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Space Adventure Cobra The Movie Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Remember when there was a period in anime where male protagonists looked and acted like…. typical guys? Seriously, when did it become an absolute must that so many male characters had to be emotionally screwed and awkward around women? Aren’t there any bad-ass dudes who like to kick butt, forget names, and enjoy the riches with the women afterwards?

What They Say:
In a universe swarming with inhabited planets and bizarre aliens, corrupt governments in the pay of star-spanning criminal syndicates and the Justice Federation of United Galaxies places a price on the heads of hardened criminals. The highest bounty of all rests without he infamous space pirate Cobra, an unstoppable rogue whose left arm conceals a devastating psycho-gun. Presumed dead for two years, Cobra comes out of retirement after an encounter with the beautiful bounty-hunter Jane – a decision which leads him into direct conflict with the sinister Galaxy Pirates, a vast criminal organization led by Crystal Boy; the personification of death itself. Together with his female android companion Lady, Cobra sets out with Jane to rescue the bounty hunter’s two lost sisters, and save the wandering planet Miras. But Crystal Boy is never far behind, and deception and betrayal wait around every corner. A fast-moving, stylish and furiously inventive film from the pen of classic Manga writer Buichi Terasawa, Space Adventure Cobra mixes humor and drama in a pulse-pounding hymn to the power of love, death and heavy weaponry!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release comes with the Japanese mix in 5.1 which sounded decent from what I could tell. There are also Japanese 2.0 and English 2.0 Dolby tracks present and both sounded fine on my system.

The movie was originally released theatrically in 1982, and the video converted here from the Japanese blu-ray release looks gorgeous. It’s very nice for animation fans to appreciate the detail that went into the artwork as well as the various techniques used at the time. The subtitles are colored and detailed appropriately, which makes them easy to read as needed.

The front contains the movie poster utilized for Japanese theaters at the time and I’ve no problems with this at all. The back has a lot of text about the contents of the film and feels a bit like overkill, but still conveys information and has some decent artwork.

The menu is rather simple with Cobra and folks on a bright green-ish background. The controls are easy to navigate with a little Psychogun pointing as needed.

This was a bit disappointing as the only extras present are trailers for Discotek Media’s other old-school anime releases. I was kind of hoping for at least a trailer or maybe the Matthew Sweet music video ‘Girlfriend’ (which was on the Cobra VHS release by Urban Vision since it used the film’s footage), or even the substantially different UK dub from Manga Entertainment I keep hearing about on fansites. Alas, it appears the rights for these items were unavailable.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Remember when there was a period in anime where male protagonists looked and acted like…. typical guys? Seriously, when did it become an absolute must that so many male characters had to be emotionally screwed and awkward around women? Aren’t there any bad-ass dudes who like to kick butt, forget names, and enjoy the riches with the women afterwards?

Thirty years ago, manga creator Buichi Terasawa (Midnight Eye Goku, Raven Tengu Kabuto) thought up just such a character: a space pirate with a heart of gold who takes what he wants, fights bad guys, beds the beauties and has fun the whole time. Such is the world of Space Adventure Cobra. Originally published in Weekly Shonen Jump during the late 70s, Terasawa patterned this world somewhat after campy sci-fi elements found in the film Barbarella which had lead actress Jane Fonda shooting galactic villains in a skimpy outfit. This influenced Terasawa so much he created a lead character named Jane the first story for our hero to interact with. Cobra finds even more lovely ladies and crazy adventures in later story arcs and manga series so there’s never a shortage of fun stuff for him to try and steal and deal with.

This movie begins with a focus on the Jane Flower character, who has made a very successful life as a bounty hunter. As she takes down another criminal and heads to a local bar, she notices some blonde haired guy in red who can’t stop looking at her. Jane eventually leaves the bar with the stranger in hot pursuit, who declares to her ‘I love you.’ She continues to spurn his advances until he tells her he knows where she can find the most expensive bounty in the galaxy. She turns and realizes there’s only one person the stranger could be talking about, and the man in red says he is Cobra, the man with the biggest prize on his head.

Later as Jane turns her prisoner in, she shows the man in red a wanted poster of Cobra, who has long blue hair, different facial features and a fearsome weapon known as The Psychogun mounted on his left arm. She says the goofy stranger couldn’t possibly be Cobra and leaves him at the bounty station.

Jane rests at a nearby hotel, and notices the persistent stranger is sitting on the roof of a nearby building. She finally invites him in but they’re rudely interrupted by the criminal she’d just turned in, who attacks them in a rather bizarre manner. They eventually take him down (permanently this time) but are again attacked by a ship full of robotic soldiers. The pair drive off from the hotel but are pursued by the ship, carrying the official from the bounty station. The stranger tells Jane to open the car roof for a second and he stands up, with his left arm starting to glow, and the hapless pursuer utters his final shock-filled word… “Psychogun!”

Elsewhere in the galaxy, a glass-&-metal figure known as Crystal Boy is informed his presumed-dead enemy Cobra is in fact alive. Jane meanwhile thanks her hero, and tells him she needs his help to fight the Pirate Guild who is pursuing her, her two identical sisters, and a special treasure. After Cobra retrieves his ship and introduces Jane to his robotic partner, Armoroid Lady, the group heads off for adventure on the prison planet Cido.

Tokyo Movie Shinisha produced this first adaptation of Cobra, which had director Osamu Dezaki and character designer Akio Sugino (Rose of Versailles, Golgo 13) take the initial Jane Flower / Crystal Boy arc and give it a very dramatic slant and different direction, with Terasawa adapting the screenplay for much less humor than his manga (and subsequently, his television) series. The result is a largely serious space opera film with some funny moments. Seiyuu Shigeru Matzusaki voiced Cobra with a vulnerable goofiness not typically seen in the manga. These elements might be a bit influenced by the other dramatic space pirate movie released in 1982, Arcadia of My Youth. The story plays out in solid fashion though and the clashes between Cobra and Crystal Boy build anticipation with each encounter until the end of the film. My only complaint largely is the fact we don’t see enough of Armoroid Lady in action, as she’s relegated mostly to getting from one rough spot to the next while patching him up.

The film was advertised as having 3-D animation quality for which special glasses weren’t necessary. Although incorporating incredibly detailed paintings for backgrounds, Dezaki chose to forego his signature ‘postcard method’ for this movie where he’d typically pause the action on sketch-lined drawings for dramatic effect. He still utilized split screens and multi-angle images of his characters though, with many moving objects on screen at times. As a result, the movie’s overall look is very slick and fluid, similar to the techniques this team used for the American cartoon Mighty Orbots. At times though, the artwork gets a bit trippy and psychedelic like a Ralph Bakshi movie (American Pop, Fire & Ice), particularly in a couple of disco music scenes as well as the opening sequence (which was restored for this particular American release with song subtitles as opposed to having the masthead from the rare English TV pilot stuffed in the wrong aspect ratio like previous versions had done).

Cobra himself is intentioned to be Terasawa’s “James Bond in space”, as the author likes to put it (though being so over the top with parodying misogyny, the plots play out more like the Derek Flint films (Our Man Flint, In Like Flint) where James Coburn portrays more of a bad-mofo than Bond at times). In the case of this particular movie, we see Cobra work to save three beautiful women (for whom love is an actual power) and travel through the galaxy without a care in the world. The crazy adventures space offers could be comparable to worlds depicted in Outlaw Star and Bodacious Space Pirates, and they’re a bit more fun oriented in the Cobra TV show than in the movie.

That show may have been on the minds of the actors in the English dub here directed by Carl Macek of Robotech /Streamline Pictures fame. Dan Woren (who portrayed Roy Fokker in Robotech) gives Cobra an over-the top enthusiasm and far less subtlety than his Japanese counterpart. His performance isn’t bad per se, but it takes a bit of getting used to, especially when he plays off Barbara Goodson (Nandaba Naota in FLCL) who throws a lot of snarkiness into the Jane Flower character. A couple other things are harder to get used to such as Jeff Winkless (Count Lee in Vampire Hunter D) going gruff and uber sadistic with an almost comical megalomania at times instead of cold & calculating like Crystal Boy tends to be. Also, there were times it seems the actors weren’t mixed totally with the Japanese background and it seems at times the characters aren’t really part of the locations they’re standing in. Occasionally though, the audio mixer or director choose silence instead of vocals / noise compared to their Japanese counterparts and the scenes in question still work.

In Summary:
Despite some of the grumbles I have here, it’s really nice to own this DVD. I’d have liked a few more features, but the movie is the most important element of discussion. The presentation is very nice to watch for the first time in its entirety so I’m willing to overlook a couple things that a fanboy (such as myself) might want. All in all I’m hoping the release of this disc leads to more Cobra related materials such as the 80s TV show or the recent animated works to be made available for purchase. Until then I’ll simply recommend fans of old school anime or folks who wish to learn about what’s come before to purchase Space adventure Cobra when it’s released.

Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese Language 2.0 Dolby, English 2.0 Dolby

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: August 21st, 2012
MSRP: $19.95
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Panasonic 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Marantz stereo receiver

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