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Cobra: The Animation Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

7 min read

Like the slightly above-average love child of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Heavy Metal.

What They Say:
There may be stronger and more ruthless guns for hire in the universe, but when it comes to sneakiness, nobody out-sneaks the space soldier of fortune known as Cobra. Who else would change his face and wipe his own memories to hide from former adversaries, then replace his arm with the ultimate holdout weapon?

Whether he’s running from mechanical pterodactyls or trying to rescue a friend in need, Cobra never forgets the most important thing: scoring with pretty girls. Even though foiling the Pirate Guild, surviving avalanches, swimming with human-head sharks and fighting the crystalline killer Crystal Boy are all likely to take a few years off his life, one can’t argue with the fact that these missions tend to involve damsels in distress in various stages of undress! Get ready to blast off, rip-off, and face-off as the action explodes in COBRA THE ANIMATION!

The Review:
Audio:
The series and the OVAs only have Japanese 2.0 Digital audio tracks. English subtitles are provided for non-native speakers. The sound quality is fine. There’s no directionality or other bells and whistles, but that didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the show at all. Also, the soundtrack switches from jazzy, James Bond-like songs to John Williams-esque adventure music, and that’s cool by me.

Video:
The series and OVAs are presented in 480i / 16×9 Anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is solid with no noticeable defects.

Packaging:
The OVAs and series is spread across five discs housed in a standard DVD case. Four of the discs rest in two center insets and the final is on the back side of the case. The dominant colors for the outside of the case are gold and black. The front cover features Cobra, Lady, and Utopia More standing in some sort of holographic three-dimensional representation of the galaxy. The spine features Lady in her pre-armor phase, and the back follow the standard format with plot description, screenshots from the series, DVD specifications, and cast and crew credits. It’s a fine case that doesn’t take up too much room on the shelf.

Menu:
Each disc follows the same design pattern. Cobra and one or more of the prominent characters from the disc occupy the left side of the screen, standing over the show’s title. The episodes and special features are listed on the right and are easy to read and navigate.

Extras:
You’ve got your standard clean OP/ED for each OVA and the series along with Sentai trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Cobra: The Animation starts off rough, but builds in momentum as it goes along. While it never really rises above averageness, there are parts to it that are fun, silly, and quite enjoyable. In a way, the real drawback to this series is Cobra.

Also known as “The Unkillable Man,” Cobra is a space pirate, bounty hunter, thief, and all-around antihero. The bounty on his head became so great that he had his face surgically altered. It helps, but the dead giveaway is his psychogun, a weapon that replaces his left arm. Luckily, he has a fully-operable prosthetic arm he uses to hide it, but when stuff gets real, that sucker comes off and his cover’s blown.

Like most antiheroes, Cobra doesn’t possess a clear goal. He goes where adventure takes him. It might be stealing a diamond, solving a friend’s murder, saving the universe, or helping a pretty girl in need. Whatever it is, Cobra faces it with a smile, a cigar, and a casual nonchalance.

I’ve seen characters like Cobra countless times in anime: the badass, oversexed, hyper-competent goofball with a heart of gold. It’s a trope that never goes away, but it does sometimes get old. In a way, Cobra’s primary purpose isn’t as a protagonist, but as a thread connecting highly imaginative, fun stories.

Take, for example, the first OVA “The Psychogun.” In it, Cobra meets up with the beautiful scientist Utopia More (every woman in this series is drop-dead gorgeous, but more on that later). He saves her from the Space Pirate Guild—an organization he despises—and they travel to Mars where she works to uncover the secret of these space snails that live in these creatures called sand whales. It turns out that the snails’ shells are covered in Martian writing, chronicling the history of the universe, and laying the map to a power great enough to create a galaxy.

All of that is pretty cool, and there’s a great deal of imagination to the setting and the antagonists. “The Psychogun” features flying, burrowing whales, crystal cyborgs, moving castles, space pirates, and all sorts of far out ideas. The story itself is solidly okay, but the way it runs with these concepts and builds this world is the real treat here. If the characters and story were as fun and imaginative, this set would really be something.

Cobra works better in small doses. While many of the stories ran between two-and-four episodes, the ones that were the most enjoyable were the done-in-ones. They were more focused and allowed for the reader to experience new and different locations and creatures and ideas. Cobra also works better as a protagonist in these single episodes because it’s more about the situation than the character. In a way, it’s highly reminiscent of television shows in the Seventies and Eighties: you’ve got your mysterious stranger who comes to town, gets into an adventure, and leaves the situation changed, while never actually changing himself. That suits Cobra to a “T.”

This is obviously a very fanservice-y anime, and your enjoyment (or at least tolerance) of that will color your reaction. The women are drop-dead gorgeous, and they wear practically nothing. Seriously, I wonder if there isn’t some galactic law that forbids women from wearing pants. The show features plenty of boobs and butt shots and more than a fair share of nudity. If I were thirteen, that would be more than worth the price of admission, but I’m thirty-seven now, so it’s not the end-all-be-all draw it used to be.

Certainly Cobra functions under and propagates a cisgender, heterosexual and heteronormative point of view, and that’s problematic. It also fails to acknowledge that there are women out there who aren’t fair-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde bombshells. I don’t recall seeing a person of color throughout the entire set or a woman who didn’t possess Marilyn Monroe’s measurements. It was so bad that I laughed at a plot point in the first storyline of the series. In the story, Cobra and a Galactic Patrol agent named Secret go to a traveling planet that’s hurtling towards our sun. They have to use a key to open a gate that leads to the planet’s engine, and it turns out that Secret is the key, because she possesses the “golden ratio” of proportions. Now, that’s silly and sexist, but it’s also narratively stupid, because every single woman in the series has her exact same measurements! Cobra could have just grabbed any old woman and used her as a key.

I can’t complain too much about the sexism, because I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for when I requested this set, but it’s an integral part of the entire setup, and needed to be addressed. For some of you, that’s going to be reason to watch this. For others, it’ll be a reason not to watch it. I will say that from a storytelling standpoint, it does serve a purpose. It fits within the larger aesthetic of the franchise and it brings to mind pulp science fiction artists, like Frank Frazetta, and publications like Heavy Metal, which were full of sex and action and far out science fiction ideas.

In Summary:
In a way, Cobra is quite old-fashioned in its approach. It channels Edgar Rice Burroughs, Moebius, Heavy Metal, and Eighties American television, and the enjoyment comes from sitting back and watching all the fantastic creatures, places, and ideas the show throws at you. The stories are competent, and the protagonist two-dimensional, but there are parts to like here. You’re not going to be missing out if you choose not to watch it, but if you’re curious, you’ll find something to enjoy in this set. Dr. J gives this a…

Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: 18 October 2016
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 505 minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i
Aspect Ratio: 16 x 9

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection


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