I was recently asked about classic animation, and my favorite old-school anime is Gatchaman, also known as G-Force or Battle of the Planets on U.S. television. It came before Voltron, Transformers, and the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers but influenced them all.
The 1970s “science ninja team” was partly inspired by western superheroes and featured the first “super sentai” group, establishing the archetypes of the fearless leader, annoying kid, big guy techie, spunky girl, and reckless loner. Their costumes, acrobatic maneuvers, and individual vehicles have been copied many times since then.
Gatchaman‘s “god bird Phoenix” was one of the first fictional spacecraft to allow its crew to pilot separately and then come together to transform. Plus, viewers of the bastardized American version may not be aware of the franchise‘s darker themes, including teenagers who have been genetically modified, cross-dressing villains, and a future where humanity faces self-destruction and alien invasion.
I have action figures, DVDs, reference books, and a rare die-cast Phoenix model imported from Japan! A computer-animated movie was in the works, but the studio unfortunately went under after the poor box-office returns of Astro Boy and TMNT. I still hope that Gatchaman will be revived and updated someday! (I’m also a Macross/Robotech fan.)