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Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie Blu-ray Anime Review

6 min read

Space Adventure CobraWhat 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:
Audio:
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. English performance feels weird though

Video:
The quality here is unbelievably gorgeous here. This movie was released originally to Japanese theaters in 1982. There’s tremendous saturation and resolution here, more so than its DVD counterpart. All color hues are enhanced. Yes, I know that should be a given with the format comparison, but this video quality really is remarkable, better than I’ve ever seen this film presented. Some of the sketch line details seems to vanish as a result of the work here.

Packaging:
The front cover is taken directly from the theatrical poster for the movie. It depicts the main characters up front with their ship above them and title masthead taking up the lower thirds. The rear has a couple screenshots in the top left quarter and descriptive test taking up the middle, all written over a painted piece of Cobra and Crystal Boy. The bottom third is taken up by product information on white background.

Menu:
The artwork from the front packaging& movie poster takes up the left 2/3 of the menu screen. The title masthead takes up a ¼ in the upper right corner. Playback options (Play movie, Chapters, Languages, English Credits) are listed vertically on a stone-looking backdrop with black text in the last 1/3 of the screen, highlighted by purple and red on selected choices. Chapter selection pulls up a small box of numbered screen shots. The film’s closing theme plays continuously in the background.

Extras:
None

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The world of Space Adventure Cobra is full of everything one could want to see in a science fantasy flick. Much like Star Wars, you get to see galactic battles, beautiful planets and constellations, exotic locations, and all kinds of aliens doing whatever they damn well want to. Here we meet manga-ka Buichi Terasawa’s most famous character, created to emulate “James Bond in space” as he puts it. Cobra likes to have crazy encounters, bed the beauties and have fun alongside his robotic feminine partner Armoroid Lady.

Tokyo Movie Shinsha recruited Osamu Dezaki to direct this film adaptation alongside animator and character designer Akio Sugino after they’d done work on sports dramas Aim For the Ace and Tomorrows Joe, among many other projects. The story here is adapted from the introductory arc but with several major changes. The same crew later adapted the Cobra manga as a TV show but much more faithfully than this theatrical film which took a few liberties from the source material.

The movie initially shows a beautiful bounty hunter named Jane Flower (patterned in homage to Jane Fonda’s Barbarella) as she captures an orthodox alien… well, at least in part. Jane’s actions attract a goofy guy in red from the local bar. Jane eventually leaves but the man pursues her and says he knows someone whose bounty is $7 million credits…. which immediately piques her interest. He says the bounty is on him, Cobra, but Jane doesn’t believe this goofball could be the famous space pirate. Still she gives him a lift to the next town where she collects the reward for her charge and leaves the goofy guy behind.

Jane enjoys some alone time until she notes the persistent guy in red outside her window. She tries to invite him in but instead they’re interrupted by the alien she just had put in jail, along with squads of robotic soldiers. The pair escape but a massive ship pursues them, until the goofy guy’s left arm changes into a famous weapon only the space pirate Cobra is known to have: The Psychogun. Having revealed his true identity and dispatched the aggressors, Cobra becomes the object of Jane’s affections, saying she really needs him to help fight off the Pirate Guild who is trying to take her and her two sisters Catherine and Dominique in order to acquire a fearsome weapon. Meanwhile, Guild leader Crystal Boy learns that his old quarry Cobra has come out of hiding, and the chase to capture him as well as Jane’s weapon begins in earnest.

Dezaki was doing experimental work for this stage of his career. He had become famous for his postcard method, in which all action would stop on a painted piece for dramatic effect. For this movie, however, he decided to not use the technique at all, instead opting to employ slickened animation and detailed, nearly interactive galactic backgrounds, planetary landscapes and horizons for an almost 3D effect (as the trailer often advertised). Dezaki di retain his penchant for periodic upper corner flares for the characters to react to and for creating defining shadows sometimes for Sugino to shape his characters through for realistic contrast.

If you’ve seen the pair’s other collaborations such as Black Jack OAV / movie series or (The Professional) Golgo 13, you may be familiar with some of the style they employ. There isn’t as much use of sketch lines for implied motion here as those other works. On the other hand, there are sequences which have many detailed objects moving around at a given time. In addition, there are split screens and rotating continuous dolly shots while zooming much like 60s/70s movies and the 24 TV series. In this respect, the movie is similar to their work on the ’84 cartoon Mighty Orbots. .

The general tone of this film is more somber and dramatic than the TV adaptation or the manga itself. Cobra is a bit playful here but so much of the overall theme of love and drama really hits home the essence of space opera for this film. Cobra and Crystal Boy are designed differently than their TV / manga counterparts, which actually works more to Crystal boy’s advantage, giving him deadly projectile weaponry. This makes it a bit more satisfying when he and Cobra have their final battle.

The American dub from Harmony Gold (not to be confused with the British dub) is serviceable, with Dan Woren of Lupin III: Jigen’s Gravestone voicing the lead here. Barbara Goodson is all right as Jane and Jeff Winkles give decent menace as Crystal Boy. The cadence from the direction and dialogue comes across as cheesy some times but then again as this is a movie emulating 60s style sci fi, this is to be expected a bit.

In Summary:
Space Adventure Cobra the movie is great if you wish to learn about the best animation techniques of years past and aren’t just into the flash technology of modern anime. If you go in with in open mind, you may find yourself enjoying this Blu Ray and wanting to learn about other work from Dezaki and Sugino. As it stands, it’s great science fantasy and worth watching to get a sample of what the world of Cobra is truly like.

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

Released By: Discotek Media / Eastern Star
Release Date: December 15th, 2015
MSRP: $29.95
Running Time: 99 minutes
Video Encoding: H.264/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 16 x 9 HD
Review Equipment: Panasonic 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3

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