Old japanese cartoons – ep 1

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.

12 Responses to “Old japanese cartoons – ep 1”

  1. jeremy Says:


    How awesome of you to make a post about these fabulous oddities. I myself am American, but i spent time growing up in Europe so i was exposed to a lot of these shows through the international video store near where we lived on the Air Force Base. from what i understand, Mazinger was first, followed by Getter Robo, and then the rest is a blur i have never really tried to hash out the order of. Nagai i believe is quoted saying that he was stuck in traffic one day and wished he could be in a giant robot and just walk over all the traffic, hence the Mazinger story of a guy piloting a giant robot.

    Anyway i hate to make this into some lesson on Giant Robot history and steal your thunder here. Also i might get started jawing on about the theme songs… i am pretty addicted to those as well. i have started collecting a lot of them recently to make some kind of comp CD. We will see how far i get with it.

    oh p.s. i totally have an unfinished Getter Robo tattoo…

  2. davidbernal Says:

    oooh, so Awesome!!! I didn’t know this was on youtube!! thaaaanks for the links!! and loved to hear about your childhood! I can so relate to personifying a robot!! hahahha
    I saw these years after on reruns, shows with which I grew up are around The Grimms Tales times:

    the intro song is the perfect sinesthetic formula to feel like a kid!:

    oh, and Happy Christmas to you and your family!!!! and all the best for the new year!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Gerald Says:

    Thanks a bunch for listing names and links to all these shows!!! I grew up with Voltron and Robotech so those other titles were a bit difficult to find as a child.

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen one episode of the titles you just mentioned. However, I ended up picking up the more current Mazinkaiser OVA series (2003)
    I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the original.

    It will surely be fun to watch all these episodes on youtube over the holidays. And I’m sure I’ll be sketching some of these robots afterwards! Cheers!

  4. Régis Says:


    Oh man, Grendizer… ah so many memories. In my case, it was when I lived in France, where it was called Goldorak, and to me the rocket drill punch was the attack of that show. I think I caught just the end of the 1970′s giant robot generation you talk about, though I really grew up in Brazil, where we got tons of anime . Voltron was perhaps my first giant robot series, but Starblazers and Macross and the very unknown Zillion were perhaps the ones I watched the most. In the last five years or so I’ve pretty much caught up with all the 1970′s anime goodness that I missed or was too young to understand, and Mobile Suit Gundam clearly stands the test of time… sooooo good! My favorite opening though is Getter Robo – the music and Isao Sasaki’s voice are amazing. Coincidentally, I also touched upon some of that late 1970′s early 1980′s nostalgia on a recent post on my blog, where I actually talk about an Italian singer of that time, Angelo Branduardi. You can check it out on the link on my name.

    So, Happy Giant Robot Holidays!

  5. innocentgirl Says:

    Dr. Slump, have you seen it? Do you remember I got you to sign Arare-chans butt (relax folks she is a doll;-)

  6. Enrico Says:

    Jeremy- ah great to hear about your experience … you’re right about Mazinger being the first one Go Nagai created, but for some reason in Italy it all started with Ufo Robot Goldrake (Grandizer) in 1978 (30 years now). I think it got to Italy because of its success in France. Goldrake become such a huge hit (the media used the word “GoldrakeMania) that it opened the floodgates for all japanese animation to be shown on several italian stations, especially in the following decade.
    Eh eh … that is some commitment to Getter Robot !!! :)
    Cool …

    DanBernal- Thanks for sharing, I hadn’t seen that show … looks pretty nice!

    Gerald- Hope you enjoyed some of the youtube videos …
    That Mazinkaiser OVA is pretty fun … thanks for the link … yeah I think they’ve tried to revive some of these old properties in the last few years … no one seems to be as successful as Gundam though, they just keep on making new takes on that every year …

    Regis- Great to hear about your experience watching Goldorak in France … in Italy the name turned into Goldrake … I was reading they made 74 episodes of it! Pretty amazing … I sure don’t remember that many …
    I remember Angelo Branduardi quite well … does he still make music?

    innocentgirl- Ah yes! Arale Chan was a hit in Italy too … I’ll have to make a post about the “comedy genre” … :)


  7. patrick Says:

    hi enrico if you want any informations about Goldorak,actarus alcor mizar..ask to Jean claude tran…he is an animator at Pixar…he is the most popular french geek about this robot…

  8. Cartoon and Manga articles news. » Archive » Old japanese cartoons - ep 1 | Enrico's blog Says:

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  9. Gianluca Franzese Says:

    Manzinga!!!! Does that bring me back. I use to spend my summers in Calabria at my Grandmothers house and would watch the cartoons at 2pm while everyone slept. I wanted the toy robot so bad. Thanks for sharing that, great childhood memories. By the way I heard about you from my wife who belongs to the mothers group Marit and Fio go to. Beautiful watercolors with lots of soul. Nice to know there is another Italian artist in the neighborhood. Keep it up.


  10. Enrico Says:

    Patric- he’s a Goldorak nut? cool … I’ll talk to JC …

    GianLuca- Ah grazie per il tuo commento … great to meet you, kind of (hope to meet you in person soon) … good to hear about your “mazinga summers in calabria” … ;)
    thanks for the compliments … look forward to see your work …


  11. elsia Says:

    Incredible ! I just stumble there for…you know.. some kind of doodling reasons, and here he is, the “Goldorak” of our childhoods, french one too my childhood, like Regis, and under tons of japanese cartoons too, Goldorak (our spelling of it) and Saint Seiya (“Les chevaliers du zodiaque”, for us) mostly won over every other one and the discussions on violence and such went as far as the parliament with some sort of a ban, and then for a couple of years less japanese cartoons on screen, til today and an impressive comeback with oldies and new ones…
    The fact is I’ve got that part-time quite benevolent job in a webzine and i had to make a full article over Go Nagai (he came in France last summer) to help, so don’t know if you read french but still here’s the link : http://orient-extreme.net/index.php?menu=mangas_animation&sub=artistes&article=392 I did a huuuuge amount of research for it (the footnotes are my pride…but no one reads them!!), took me more than i thought it would for a side-job ! Was really impressed by how cool the guy is in real life, not the father-god of so many historical cartoons !
    Anyway, I enjoyed very much reading this piece of cartoonesque childhood by chance ! I look forwards your next episodes now !

  12. Pamela Says:

    Does anyone know of a 1980s anime about a little boy and his Big White dog looking for the boy’s mom? I thought it was called Belle And Sebastian, but I can’t find any info.