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Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie 4K Ultra HD Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read
The crew behind this conversion did an outstanding job.

What They Say:
Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie is an anime film directed by Osamu Dezaki and is presented in 4K Ultra HD on Blu-ray disc.

In a universe swarming with inhabited planets and bizarre aliens, corrupt governments operate 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 with the 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 Bowie 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:

There are two audio tracks present here. The Japanese audio is presented in 5.1 surround and the English track done by Streamline pictures in the early 90s is presented in Dolby 2.0 stereo. Both playback well with no distortions whatsoever.

This is honestly the biggest reason for owning the movie. I’m still new to learning the technical ins-and-out of 4K Ultra HD but man are these visuals move gorgeous than any time I’ve seen this film released in the U.S. The colors are so incredibly bold and crisp. I’ll talk more about this aspect int eh ‘content’ section because I find my feelings are are so incredibly intertwined between these two aspects. But definitely believe, this is a gorgeous piece of work.

We get a slipcover of a bit of concept art with the title character Cobra in the center with the movie masthead just beneath him as he’s facing the larger imposing villain Crystal Boy dominating the upper half of the picture and a beautiful blonde woman dominating the lower half. The back has visuals from the movie in the top and lower thirds and dominating the right 1/3, with descriptive test taking up the other 2/3. Credits and technical information take up the lowest parts of the page.

The opening music sequence of the film plays in the background, both audio and visually. There is a grey box in the lower right with playback options and red text to highlight each one. Generally easy to navigate.

This is one of the most interesting aspects. We get 2 TV spots and two trailers. The initial trailer contains footage that isn’t seen in the movie but shown in the pilot for the aborted English series that was created for American audiences. The 2nd trailer shows this footage mixed in with the actual movie bits. There’s also a comparison clip of the film before and after HDR conversion.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I had a chance this year to get a 4KUHD TV and a player for it to future-proof myself for the coming upgrades in the video world. It’s been interesting to make this transition. I wasn’t certain when I would try to do so. But then the announcement was made that Discotek Media would bring Space Adventure Cobra to this format as the first ever anime released in the U.S. as such. As a fan of classic anime, I was seriously stoked to hear the news. So flash forward to now when I get to have my first 4KUHD experience and … heaven.

Space Adventure Cobra is a male fantasy sci-fi of the highest order. If recent anime fans were to take a casual look at it, they might compare it to Space Dandy or similar fare. Or they might recall the footage having been used in Matthew Sweet’s music video “Girlfriend” from the early 90s. The title character here was created by Buichi Terasawa (Goku Midnight Eye) to be ‘James Bond in space.’ In a universe full of intergalactic trade like Star Wars, Cobra is a hero who can bed beauties and take on bad guys and monsters with the Psychogun attached to his arm and his robotic partner Armoroid Lady. The movie here is adapted from the initial arc of Terasawa’s manga but differs from that significantly.

We begin the movie with Jane Flower, a beautiful bounty hunter designed in tribute to Jane Fonda’s Barbarella. We see her catch a criminal and hit the bar where this goofy guy can’t stop looking at her, so much so that he decides to pursue her across a barren landscape to get with her. Jane refuses so the guy says he knows how to find a bounty worth 7 million credits. Jane instantly knows who this is but the guy claims to be the bounty himself, Cobra. Jane takes one look at him and decides he can’t be for real so she just gives him a lift to the next town.

Later, the goofball guy tries to talk with Jane again abut before anything can happen, Deacon (the criminal she caught) attacks her and they both dispatch him. Jane says she’s wanted by the Pirate Guild, a large space mafia who’s been trying to kill her… just as they show up to do just that. As they drive off to escape the Guild’s ship, the goofball tells Jane to open the car roof. He stands and his arm changes into a barrel-shaped weapon while the hapless Guild pilot can only utter his final word: “Psychogun!”

The film here is directed by Osamu Dezaki (Golgo 13, Blackjack) who had become a top director in this period working on a ton of Japanese and American projects. He had certain traits that became signature to his productions. One of them was a tendency to place a glare in the upper corner to simulate lighting a darkened or heavily shadowed scene. He also enjoyed doing greatly detailed landscapes based on incredibly beautiful paintings, as well as interesting abstracts to depict space travel. Any one of these would be centerpiece in an art museum. He was also known largely for doing split screens, as well as his postcard method (aka a dramatic pause on a painted piece) though this isn’t used in the film. There was some excellent key animation at the time to simulate high-velocity travel sequences and crazy psychedelic crowd scenes.

When I spoke in the video section about the high-quality visuals, these were what benefited best from 4K UHD treatment. From the opening sequence to various dramatic moments highlighted by the characters giving exposition, seeing these pieces on display is truly a treat for the eyes. It’s interesting though in that with this higher definition, the visuals scroll by more smoothly than before and the cel separation is more noticeable than in previous formats.

Dezaki frequently collaborated with animation director and character designer Akio Sugino to define people for the audience. He did a great job bringing Cobra and Jane to realistic life, even in some of the most exaggerated sequences where Cobra shows off crazy abilities. The most interesting design though is that of Cobra’s enemy Crystal Boy, a cold-blooded killer whose body is made of specially polarized glass so lasers don’t affect it and can’t reach the metal endo-skeleton. Crystal Boy also has simulated ribs which he can pull out to throw as spears or use as a melee weapon. He truly proves to be a deadly foe throughout the film and honestly one of my favorite villains in anime.

The story plays out with a lot of dramatic overtones and somber music mixed in with fun bits as Cobra works on saving Jane (and her sisters) from The Pirate Guild. Naturally, some romance takes place to make this move a full-fledged space opera fitting with many anime works of the time. If you check your brain at the door and just settle in for the fantasy, ambience and animation appreciation, you should have a good time watching this movie. I’d suggest watching it in Japanese though. There’s an English dub done by many actors of the Harmony Gold & Streamline Pictures stable. Dan Worel (Roy Fokker in Robotech) does a decent job as our hero. In fact, everyone actually sounds ok, even with Crystal Boy’s weird reverb at times, but it doesn’t mix entirely well with the original Japanese effects and music.

In Summary:
If you’ve enjoyed the traditional cels & paints techniques of animation past, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy adding the Space Adventure Cobra movie to your collection. The crew behind this conversion did an outstanding job and it’s great to see the classics preserved this way. I can’t wait to see how Discotek Media and other anime importers follow suit on future projects.

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

Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date:  November 26th, 2019
Year Created: 1982
MSRP:  $34.95
Running Time: 99 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 
Review Equipment: Samsung 4K UHD TV, Sony 4K Player

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