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.
On Wednesday, 23 November 2011, Janice and I drove down to my parents’ home in Virginia. We passed through heavy rain, but the traffic wasn’t too bad. We stopped for lunch at Boston Market, and my mother had a good dinner waiting for us. We watched Jeopardy and talked about politics, history, and travel.
On Thanksgiving, my brother Peter, his wife Kelly, their two daughters, and his mother-in-law Maureen joined us for the traditional holiday feast. I’ll to spend the weeks before Christmas trying to work off the turkey, potatoes, and desserts.
In response to one of my nieces, I’m thankful to live in a country where there is still freedom and opportunity, despite political squabbles and economic stress, and to be able to spend time with family and good food.
The weather was warm and pleasant, so we got to play badminton and horseshoes with my energetic nieces. The next day, Peter returned to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and we did some yard work, played volleyball in shirtsleeves, and of course, ate some more.
On Saturday, Janice and I visited her grandmother in Pennsylvania. We ate another all-American meal at Saville’s Diner before returning to the road. Even with heavy traffic, a detour, and stopping for dinner at Cracker Barrel, we made better time than in many other years.
On Thursday, 10 November 2011, Janice and I had dinner at the Acropolisrestaurant in Needham, Massachusetts. The next evening, we settled in for the usual night of animation and genre television. We enjoyed Cartoon Network’s premiere of Green Lantern: the Animated Series, which combines Bruce Timm’s streamlined style from his superb 1990s shows with computer animation similar to that in Star Wars: Clone Wars.
Speaking of Clone Wars, I think the darkening tone befits a war that began with idealism and ended with critically weakened democracies, much like World War I. On a related note, famed comic book creator Frank Miller lobbed a rhetorical grenade into debate around the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. I don’t deny that there have been difficulties with latter’s focus and safety, but I also believe that questioning economic fairness is no less patriotic than fighting terrorism. Science fiction author David Brin posted a strong retort, and I wish that both liberals and conservatives alike would strive harder to stay civil.
After raking leaves on Saturday, we ate at the Texas Road House, whose Dallas filet steak I enjoyed. I also liked Masterpiece: Contemporary’s Page Eight, an all-star musing on British national security and bureaucracy (not unlike Homeland). On Sunday, Janice and I attended a performance of works by Bach, Respighi, Haydn, and Brahms by the Rivers Symphony Orchestra at Christ Church in Needham.
On Saturday, Sept. 3, we had breakfast at Denny’s, and Melinda’s husband Gary T.L. joined us. The diner chain was a mainstay in my undergraduate years at SUNY at Binghamton. We then went to a public park to help prepare for the wedding and reception, the same park where Shelly and Melvin were married. While the weather was hot and humid, we were lucky to avoid thundershowers.
After changing to more casual clothes and helping to clear up, we were glad to return to the air-conditioned hotel. The next morning, Janice’s family and the bride and groom met for breakfast at Denny’s before Becky & Tristan began their long drive back to Oklahoma, where they’re both still in school.
As with G.I. Joe: Renegades, Transformers: Prime, and the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, intellectual properties from the 1980s are being revived, with more modern production values and writing. Although I’m a bit too old to have childhood nostalgia for the originals of these series, I applaud this trend, mainly because of the rare improvement in quality.
The one-hour premiere of Thundercats was faithful enough to the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but it has a lot in common with recent animation as well. Our favorite felines inhabit a more populated Third Earth than their predecessors, and their (over-)reliance on agrarian civilization and royal magic in contrast to the technology of their foes is reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings.
I wish I could say that the other cartoons were as promising as the fantasy Thundercats, Legend of Korra, or Kung-Fu Panda. It was nice to hear Heroes‘ Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia as a smarmy Tony Stark/Iron Man and a youthful Logan/Wolverine in Marvel’s first anime-style series on G4.
As I told Steve M.R., I thought both characters were a good fit for Japanese adventures, with Iron Man‘s technocratic interests and the classic storyline in which Wolverine follows lost love Mariko to Japan. However, I found myself already missing the energy of the computer-animated Iron Man: Armored Adventures and the cleaner lines of X-Men: Evolution, not to mention MTV’s Spider-Man and the fun Spectacular Spider-Man.
On the DC side of Comic-Con and genre TV news, I’m still looking forward to the return of Young Justice, the premiere of Bruce Timm’s Green Lantern: the Animated Series, and the next inevitable Batman series. I’ve already mentioned the Batman: YearOne and Dark Knight Returns releases, and more adaptations are planned, including Justice League: Doom, Superman vs. the Elite, and Batman: the Killing Joke.