In the talk we gave at the Asian Art Museum a couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I grew up in Italy in the 70s on literally tons of Japanese cartoons. During a little research I’ve found, to little surprise, that almost every single one of these cartoons is now available on youtube. I found myself loosing hours watching title scenes and even full episodes of these really old cartoons. Even the really cheesy songs bring huge waves of nostalgia. Most of them don’t hold up to the coated childhood memories but I still find them really amusing to look at. It’s just like unearthing a piece of me from the ground. So familiar.
Anyway, I thought: why not share some of these links here on my blog? Considering also that many of you US readers probably have never heard of most of this stuff … So to start off I’ll tell you about one of the most popular genres: the “giant robot” animation series. Tons of different huge robots all out to save our little planet from some evil invaders. I remember many of these cartoons being debated over by adults as they often had some violence in them (similar discussions to “violence in videogames” from nowadays). But here goes, the first one I remember is Ufo Robot Goldrake (Grandizer in Japanese), the titles are below and here‘s the first episode in original. It’s really a classic in the genre and one of the first giant robot series that mangaka Go Nagai created, and he is really like the big father of giant robots. I think they were all in manga form to begin with (as with most japanese animation). (There seem to be some modern takes on many of these characters, pretty cool too, but I am more interested in the oldies). The basic story of Goldrake: a fugitive prince from an Alien planet, Actarus, lands on earth in bad shape. He’s rescued by a professor and ends up using all his powers and his giant transforming robot to defend his new home against the evil aliens taking over the universe. It’s just the most beloved and remembered series of my generation. The thing we loved as kids was the transformation scene: the robot would shoot out of his flying saucer. Another big hit for us was the “entry into the robot and exit from the cave” scene. He had different options and whether he used a new or old exit could make the subject of lengthy discussion the next school day. The funny thing is that all these cartoons were about reusing animation, but the things that we remember and love most often than not were these repeated scenes. Then second on the list would probably be “Jeeg Robot d’acciaio“. Also from Nagai. This show was terribly popular in my 2nd grade class. It had a slighty darker take on the genre that certainly impressed our young brains. The bad guys were coming from deep down below the earth crust, an re-awaken ancient civilization. Other major focus of 8 years old excitement was the pilot’s transformation. He’d jump off of his bike slam his fists together and turn himself into the head of the robot!!! How cool is that? Where the heck did the bike go every time? And lastly why did he look like a strange humanoid with horns in the middle of that … all unanswered questions … we absolutely loved it. The third most famous robot series from Go Nagai in Italy must’ve been Mazinger. There were two versions, Il Grande Mazinga and Mazinga Z. High point: woman giant robot shooting “missile breasts”. Hard to beat. Another one that really hit the mark was Mobile Suit Gundam and you’d know given they are still making new series almost every year. But when it first got to us it blew us away. It was way more realistic than the other robots. One of the funny things about these cartoons is that every giant robot pilot would theatrically shout his attack move. “Alabarda spaziale!” “Raggi perforanti!” “Attacco Solare!” (Loose translation: Space Scythe, Perforating rays, Solar Attack). It was pretty funny stuff. Well Gundam was one of the first ones to do without that and show that it took skill and ability to drive one of these Mobile Suits. They made it hard and more realistic. We loved it right away.
Now, given the crazy amount of these I’ll leave you with a bunch of links, it might get too much after a couple of these … but here goes. Daitarn III (a mildly naughty one, some sexy characters in it),Ga-keen (weird one), Daltanius, Astroganga (I hated this one because he had a face. Seemed very wrong to me at the time), Danguard, Baldios, Daikengo, Getter Robot(also from Go Nagai), Gaiking, Trider G7, Golion, Zambot 3 and really the list could go on but I’ll spare you.
In good part these cartoons were probably made to sell toys and there sure were plenty of those around for each one of these characters. When we weren’t running around personifying the robots ourselves or drawing them on paper, we’d take our robot toys and duke it out that way. I remember the figurines being really well made as most toys made in Japan are. Well, there’s my post about animation nostalgia for today. OH one last link! Super talented friend Claudio Acciari obviously grew up in the 70s in Italy glued to the tv like I did and he’s been really inspired by those old cartoons and specifically by those old titles’ songs, here’s his take on it. Jack Robot. Don’t miss his blog, amazing stuff.
So next I’ll share some links in different genres … such as the “super mechanical human” or the “girl and sport” series … plenty more cheesy title songs and crazy animation.
One last note – I’d be curious to hear from readers from other countries that also had a lot of these cartoons on TV. Please post a comment if all these are familiar to you too.