THE GREAT ACROBUNCH REWATCH 5 – The Hidden Treasure of the Great Congo Forest

ACROBUNCH – THE QUEST FOR TREASURE
EPISODE 5: The Hidden Treasure of the Great Congo Forest

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 30, 1982

And, as always, this episode aired exactly forty years ago today!

Now, we find the Acrobunch gang in the Congo Basin. No real leads for the hidden treasure of Quaschika here, although they think they may have found one when they rescue a guy who talks about a nearby treasure that that he knows of.

The guy dies soon after, but not before imploring the Rando Family to please save his brother, Alphonse.

That subplot ends up going nowhere. Alphonse has been taken by the Goblins and tortured into telling where the treasure is, and they end up vaporizing him.

The REAL plot is about Miki getting kidnapped by the natives.

Now, as I’ve said before, Acrobunch seems the be mostly based on “unsolved mysteries” style silliness, but I think this episode takes a different (but somewhat related) source of inspiration — pulp fiction from the ‘20s and ‘30s. Stories for teenage boys of the time, written at a time when Africa was mostly unknown to the average European or American (or Japanese, for that matter), and so they could project onto it pretty much anything they wanted to. Certainly, there’s not a lot of realism here, and NO “cultural sensitivity” whatsoever. The natives here don’t have any lines of dialogue, they’re pure savages of the “ooga booga” type who dress Miki up in a ceremonial dress and immediately try to sacrifice her to a volcano.

Kind of outdated for 1982, even (and a STARK contrast to how the show presented the Incan villagers in Episode 3), but oh well…

As long as we’re on the topic of offensiveness, I might as well bring up David Merrill’s point that Goblin King Delos looks like medieval portraits of Moses, since artists (including Michelangelo here) often depicted him as having horns.

Not sure what to make of that, but… there it is.

Back to the episode, the characters look kinda wonky here. Not off-model, exactly, just… a little goofy.

And Groizy, the Goblin Black General, never takes his helmet off at any point in this episode, presumably so that they don’t have to animate his mouth movements.

Overall, the story itself turns out to be a wild goose chase, in that no treasure is discovered, and the Rando Family don’t even save the guy they were tasked with saving. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

REAL PLACES FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE: There are a couple. First, there’s the Tassili n’Ajjer cave paintings…

And a place that is identified in the show as “Manikongo Hill,” which doesn’t exist. (“Manikongo,” though, was the title for the kings of the Kingdom of Kongo from the 14th Century and into the 19th). HOWEVER, I noticed that it looked a heck of a lot like the Madara Mountains, which are volcanic plugs in Cameroon. It especially looks like Kapsiki Peak.

IS RYO USEFUL? No.
AND TOTAL: Twice.

Oh… and I really don’t want to keep throwing the translator under the bus, but I have to comment about this line…

Tatsuya explains that N’zambianbrug is the god of creation in Bantu mythology. However, if you Google it, you’ll find nothing. So I’m pretty sure that the name was meant to be transliterated as Nzambi a Mpungu, who IS the creation god of Bantu mythology. Again, I don’t blame the translator. Except for a few missed real-world names, the translation is excellent.

THE GREAT BRAIGER REWATCH 39 – SEE YA (Part Three)

GALAXY CYCLONE BRAIGER
EPISODE 39: SEE YA (Part Three)

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 29, 1982

And here we are, the final episode of Braiger, which aired exactly 40 years ago today!

About that title… “Abayo” is a somewhat slangy way for someone to say “goodbye” or “farewell,” with the added implied meaning that they will never see you again. There’s no exact English equivalent, but it gets translated as “See Ya” on the Discotek set, and that works.

And for the final episode, Braiger gets deliberately mythic. Khamen drowns himself and is reborn with godlike powers, Jupiter finally explodes, creating dozens of new planets in the Solar System, and the Cosmo Rangers leave the Solar System for good, effectively flying into legend.

And yeah, that giant robot from an episode or two ago DOES reappear here, just a spacesuit.

And they fly off into the sunset to the tune of “ABAYO FLY BYE,” yet another fun rock song composed by Masayuki Yamamoto, and performed by Yukio Yamagata and his band, Revolver.

And grand and cosmic way to end a series that, again, was for most of its run just about wise-cracking private detectives taking on mafia cases.

We also get a roulette wheel at the beginning… hang on to that symbol!

An interesting plot point is that the J9 team never actually defeat Khamen Khamen, who just self-immolates when Jupiter explodes.

But that seems appropriate, really. Throughout the series, Isaac was always presented as the smartest guy in the series, but Khamen is smarter. There really was no way for them to defeat him.

The Cosmo Rangers don’t come out COMPLETELY unscathed, either. Bowie gets wounded (though not badly)…

…and the J9 asteroid base gets destroyed as well.

And the battle gets so fierce that the Braiger has to wield TWO Brai-swords!

So I think it’s a great final episode, with a few big twists, and an ending that’s happy, but not without its losses as well.

Also, here’s your reminder than Pancho Poncho FUCKS.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, the show was very popular at the time, but now, it’s really only remembered by a small cult following. Looking at it as a whole, it’s easy to see why it was well-loved during its run as well as why the popularity waned soon afterwards.

I don’t like making a distinction between “super robot” and “real robot,” since when you get down to it, there are too many shows that blur or outright erase the line between the two made-up categories, but it’s obvious that robot anime began to change after Gundam became popular in 1981, with the start of the movie trilogy. From superheroic robots in bright primary colors fighting off an endless stream of monsters, things were beginning to change to more muted colors, more sophisticated storylines, and (soon) the robots as mass-produced weapons of war rather than unique technological marvels.

For 1981, Braiger had a couple of things going for it: a more mature storyline that didn’t follow the common robot show formula (compare, for example to Acrobunch, which features that classic robot show villain, a race of human-like creatures from deep underground), and, especially, main characters who were definitely adults. And it had one thing that wasn’t a detriment when it debuted, but soon would become one: a brightly-colored robot that was clearly designed as a toy first rather than something that would find organically in Braiger’s world. Indeed, two weeks after Braiger’s premiere, Fang of the Sun Dougram would debut, with its more-mechanical and less-human looking robots. And, for a while at least, that would become the fashion: robots with more realistic detail and no magically-materializing swords, robots for slightly older kids, who built model kits rather than played with toys.

So, the show, as I’ve said, was a big hit with an audience of mostly high school and college girls, and the Braiger toy was a big hit with the kids, but by the time the show ended, just nine months after it began, the robot itself was beginning to look a little dated, and would look positively ancient in just a year’s time, with both Macross and Votoms on the air. There was still enough good will behind the series that three VHS compilation tapes came out (Best of Braiger, containing Episodes 1 and 6, I Love Isaac, and Sound in Braiger). I can’t find any reference to when exactly they came out, though (my guess would be sometime in 1983), and they’re difficult to find these days (though not very expensive if you do).

To put it simply, Braiger was the victim of changing tastes and trends. It also didn’t help that soon after Braiger, as Japan entered the full globe of its bubble years, more expensive animation that looked visually stunning started coming out, and even for 1981, Braiger looked pretty mediocre.

Looming over this is what I think is the biggest reason Braiger never experienced a strong comeback, but I’ll talk about that further down the road.

All that said, it never completely went away. In the ‘90s, the series came out on laser disk and VHS, in the ‘00s, a DVD set was released, and in 2017, the company Best Field released the series in two blu-ray sets, as Vol. 82 of its “Anime Memories” series. Then, about a year ago, Discotek released the first US release of the series ever.

Here’s my collection!

Heck, this isn’t even the last time we’ll see the Braiger crew in new adventures… but again, I’ll talk about that further down the road.

And, of course, it’s appeared in some of the Super Robot Wars games, which is probably how most younger fans get introduced to the series.

Ultimately, I think it’s fun, interesting show that’s enjoyable for its own sake as well as being a glimpse into how anime was changing in the early ‘80s, just as the “Anime Generation” (the people who grew up with anime who were now working in the field) were beginning to take over. It’s probably not in anyone’s “TOP 10 ’80s ANIME YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE” list, but I think it’s still highly watchable and highly worth watching. And although I can’t confirm this, I’m 95% sure that Cowboy Bebop is a deliberate homage to it. And it also has (it seems) the first use of the word “otaku” in anime ever, as well as the first-ever sex scene in a TV anime. So that’s pretty significant.

Anyway, as one series ends, another begins. After we say goodbye to the J9 Cosmo Rangers, we see this:

And if you’ve seen the DVD version of the series, there’s even a “next episode preview” for J9-II Galactic Gale Baxingar. It’s included with the Baxingar blu-rays, both Japanese and US versions, rather than appearing at the end of Braiger.

But that, we’ll talk about next week. For now, it’s your (final?)…

KHAMEN KHAMEN PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

NUMBER OF TIMES “YAY” IS SAID IN THIS EPISODE: 20
AND FINAL TALLY: 181

Oh… and I’d be remiss without posting this AWESOME drum cover of the OP, recorded a bit over a year ago. See? People DO still like this show! Yay!👍

THE GREAT BRAIGER REWATCH 38 – Battle in the ASTEROID Belt (Part Two)

GALAXY CYCLONE BRAIGER
EPISODE 38: Battle in the Asteroid Belt (Part Two)

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 22, 1982

And, as always, this episode aired exactly 40 years ago today!

And no filler here! This one’s pure action and plot, start to finish. It’s also pretty straightforward: once the goal is set, it’s just a matter of achieving it, and there aren’t many of Braiger’s usual twists.

As such, there’s a lot to SEE and EXPERIENCE in the episode, but not a whole lot to DISCUSS.

But yeah, at the beginning of this episode, things are getting dire, and pretty apocalyptic. We learn quickly that it’s too late to save Jupiter — it WILL blow up. Khamen Khamen’s plan is nearly complete.

Pictured – Jupiter

Again, Braiger in many ways is a very smart show, and especially here: having come up with a totally bonkers plan to wipe out most life in the Solar System, the writers realize they need an equally bonkers plan to save it… and BOY, do they deliver!

So here it is — the Earth forces and the Mercury Weapons Guild will detonate enough hydrogen bombs on one part of the surface of Mercury to propel the planet out of its orbit. Then they will “drive” the planet to the vicinity of Jupiter, and blow it up, along with some of Jupiter moons and some moons of Saturn that have also been moved. From that raw material, they will create a massive hollow ring (with Jupiter inside it)…

…which will act as a barrier that will contain the blast from the explosion of Jupiter, thus protecting the rest of the Solar System from the debris and the radiation.

A ridiculous idea, of course, mostly because it would take years to get Mercury all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit, and a ring that size seems like it would probably take decade or two to build, but no matter! In Braiger’s Solar System, interplanetary travel always seems to take a few hours, tops.

The J9 Cosmo Rangers themselves aren’t much a part of this construction job, their primary job is to keep the Connection armies busy so that all the workers (and, uh, Mercury itself) can get to where they need to be without hassle. Which, in execution, means a lot of robot fights.

And the other Connections have joined with Khamen, which means we get to see a bunch of cool spaceship designs.

But along with the derring-do and implausible scientific wonders, one of my favorite aspects of the ending of Braiger really comes to the fore here. Again, this series started with a team of four misfits protecting ordinary people from mafia gangs. And now they’re working to save humanity from being rendered nearly extinct as a mafia boss/wannabe god destroys the largest planet in the Solar System. And in this episode, you can see very clearly that the vast size of the plot they’re up against is… a little daunting. Each member of the J9 team has his or her own talents, of course, but they’re still only human, and they’re fighting what seems like a hopeless fight (except for Isaac, of course).

In other news, the day before this episode aired, so exactly 40 years ago YESTERDAY, the second Braiger soundtrack…

…which this blog is named after, was released. It include the four songs created for the show (one of which won’t show up until the final episode), as well as more of Masayuki Yamamoto’s excellent rock/jazz background music. Like with the first album, the BGM is arranged in long-ish suites rather than separate short tracks. The only problem is that there really isn’t enough music here for a full album, so to stretch it out as much as they could, they have the Blaster Kid (voiced of course by Kaneto Shiozawa) spend a minute or so introducing each track. This pushes the album up to thirty-six minutes or so. It’s still short for an LP, but not embarrassingly so. Conversely, it could’ve just been a way to make sure that J9 fanatics bought the 7” singles of the songs as well (which had been released a couple of months earlier), since those had the “clean” versions of the tracks. The clean versions would also be used for all the J9 song collections that came out over the intervening decades, although the oft-used-by-me “Khamen Khamen Theme” is usually not included.

And speaking of that, here’s your…

KHAMEN KHAMEN PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

But for the rest of the story, here’s your final “TO BE CONTINUED”…

NUMBER OF TIMES “YAY” IS SAID IN THIS EPISODE: 6
AND TOTAL: 161

THE GREAT BRAIGER REWATCH 37 – The Imminent Destruction of Jupiter (Part One)

GALAXY CYCLONE BRAIGER
EPISODE 37: The Imminent Destruction of Jupiter (Part One)

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 15, 1982

And, as always, this episode aired exactly 40 years ago today!

It’s funny… the last time I watched Braiger, I didn’t notice it, but this time, it’s inescapable: this is a filler episode. It’s not a clip show, although there’s a lot of recycled footage, and it’s not that NOTHING happens, since it does move the plot forward. It’s just that the plot doesn’t move forward all that much, and the animation itself is lower-quality than Braiger’s already fairly low standard.

That said, we do get not one but TWO robot battles this week, one at the beginning and one at the end.

But yeah, the first half of the episode is primarily a recap of Khamen Khamen’s plan and how far along it is. Which is fine, honestly. I think people forget that in 1982 (and this holds true for US TV as well), most people did not have VCRs, and so once a TV show aired, it was gone. Perhaps forever. And this plot is a complicated one, played out over five weeks of the series, so a refresher course halfway through is… not unwelcome.

The second half of the episode is where everything happens, Things are proceeding and Jupiter is definitely in danger of being blown-up. The leaders of the remaining mafia Connections come to Khamen, wanting assurances that they will be spared when Jupiter is destroyed.

Khamen tells them they need to give all of their wealth and assets to him and become his obedient followers, which doesn’t seem to sit well with them.

As the J9 crew ponders the potential extinction of most life in the Solar System, Kid has a flashback to some time before, when his mother was getting remarried.

He shows up late and can’t stay long, but he and his mother share a touching reunion before he speeds off. It’s a touching scene, but it also seems quite out of left field, and doesn’t really tie into anything.

Then they try to infiltrate the nuclear fusion superweapon and shut it down, and… they almost make it before being driven out.

In retreat, the Bry-Star is set upon by a swarm of Nubian robots (who really just look like guys in spacesuits… again, this episode cuts even more corners than usual), and things look bleak…

…until Rasputin shows up with a crowd of armed space truckers!

They all shout, “Yay!” which is why the “yay” counter is so high for this episode. I tried to play it conservatively, though, by only counting the people we SEE, even though there are probably more who are off-camera.

Oh, and some of the trucks look suspiciously like parts for the Ideon (I note that both Ideon movies would come out the following month)…

So the Braiger crew survives, but have been defeated yet again. And the “To Be Continued” sign pops up as we see Jupiter roiling with explosions…

So, again, we end the episode not very far from where we started. Jupiter was in danger at the beginning, and it’s still in danger at the end. So think of this as a slight breather before we plunge into the finale.

And once again, it’s time for your…

KHAMEN KHAMEN PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

NUMBER OF TIMES “YAY” IS SAID IN THIS EPISODE: 18 (Again, a conservative estimate)
AND TOTAL: 155

THE GREAT ACROBUNCH REWATCH 4 – The Mystery of the Undersea Idol

ACROBUNCH – THE QUEST FOR TREASURE
EPISODE 4: The Mystery of the Undersea Idol

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 9, 1982

And as always, this episode aired exactly 40 years ago today!

It seems like it’s a little early in the series to be visiting Atlantis, doesn’t it? Like, that’s the sort of place where you’d expect the climax to happen, not someplace they discover really early on in the series. But, here we are. Atlantis. At least according to the characters.

First, we start off with some tomfoolery about Ryo’s snoring keeping Jun awake., for which Jun attempts to smother him.

Then RC and DB discover a newly-risen volcanic island, and everyone decides to check it out.

They find some bizarre lizards living there, which Tatsuya says are iguanas, although they sure don’t look like any iguana I’ve ever seen…

And Ryo, jumping out of the Acrobunch, accidentally lands on one.

Looking around the island, Jun finds a Greek-looking artifact that is made some unknown metal.

They decide to check the seafloor for more relics, and find a cavern/tunnel that leads them to… the ruins of Atlantis!

Acrobunch is too large to get through the rubble, so they switch to diving gear and continue that way. Ryo is left behind to look after the robot.

Tatsuya and Jun get sucked through a strong current and separated from Hiro and the twins.

Well, of course, the Goblins also get a premonition about this area, and Bluzom, the Blue General, is sent to investigate.

Ryo, for his part, not only warns the others about the approaching Goblins, but punches through the rubble to bring Acrobunch to Hiro, Miki, and Reika.

Now, when Atlantis is presented in fiction, there are roughly two ways it gets done. Either way, it’s usually presented as an advanced society, but either it’s advanced supernaturally (as in Theosophy and other occult sources) or technologically (as in a number of science fiction works). Acrobunch kinda tries to play it both ways: much of it looks like ancient Greek ruins, including the mysterious statue they find, but there’s also a large, apparently sealed area with a ceiling made of Atlantean super-alloy (the unidentified metal found earlier).

And as you might expect, a fight breaks out between Acrobunch and the Goblins, which leads to the Atlantean temple collapsing. But not before the Goblins manage to get the glowing, spear-shaped crystal out of the statue’s head and run off with it. They’re mystified by it, but call it an “energy pole,” and that name will stick.

So again, the Acrobunch plot formula is pretty clear – the Rando Family go someplace new, find mystical places, fight the Goblins, and the mystical places are destroyed in the process. Looking at this episode more closely, though, the seams are showing a bit. We know from the previous episodes that the Rando Family is guided by the relics they have, which glow when they’re near something connected to the great treasure of Quaschika. The Goblins are led by astrological forecasts. But here, although the Goblin King Delos does look to the stars for information, the Acrobunch crew find the island entirely by chance, no relics involved. And yet, it seems like it’s exactly where they’re meant to be, which seems a little too convenient.

Still, a fun episode, and the underwater ruins are an evocative backdrop for the story.

REAL PLACES FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE: None, although it looks like the artists may have drawn inspiration from the sunken city of Pavlopetri for their conception of Atlantis here.

IS RYO USEFUL? Yes! Although I’m tempted not to count it, because of all the buffoonery that happens with him in the first part of the episode.
AND TOTAL: Twice now.

THE GREAT BRAIGER REWATCH 36 – The Great Mercury War (Part Two)

GALAXY CYCLONE BRAIGER
EPISODE 36: The Great Mercury War (Part Two)

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 8, 1982

And, as always, this episode aired exactly 40 years ago today!

Again, at the end of the previous episode, the J9 had split up into pairs to find and assassinate Anthony Volonte of the Omega Connection and Khamen Khamen of the Nubia Connection.

One of these is successful. The other isn’t.

There really isn’t a whole lot of say about this episode… all of the set-up was in Part One, so this one is primarily action. The Cosmo Rangers run down a lot of corridors, shooting a seemingly endless number of goons.

There is a subplot (which started in the last episode, but which I didn’t mention) where Anthony Volonte’s father, head of the Omega Connection, decides to wipe out the Nubia Connection on Earth while Khamen is busy on Mercury. But Khamen is too clever for him and turns the tables, effectively eliminating the Omega Connection. This also leads to some of the biggest (and best) robot battles in the entire series.

Isaac and Bowie manage to track down and assassinate Anthony Volonte…

…then they go to meet Kid and Omachi to help them take down Khamen. They first shoot two of Khamen’s servants, which seems a little cruel since they don’t appear to be there, uh, voluntarily.

It also affords the show an odd cheesecake moment as the female servant is gunned down. Weird and pretty out-of-place…

Khamen tries to stop them but they quickly shoot him dead. Kid opines that it feels a little anti-climactic.

And that’s because it is… the man they killed wasn’t Khamen Khamen, but a double!

Khamen himself has managed to escape and steal the superweapon built for him that’s capable of destroying Jupiter.

Oh yeah, Edmon Banarus, the creator of Braiger, appears again.

So even though this says in the title that it’s the final part of of a two-part story, it ends with a big “To be continued…” on screen.

And again, despite the thinness of the plot here, this is Braiger at its best, both fun and serious at the same time.

And once again, it’s now time for your…

KHAMEN KHAMEN PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

NUMBER OF TIMES “YAY” IS SAID IN THIS EPISODE: 9
AND TOTAL: 137

THE GREAT ACROBUNCH REWATCH 3 – The Curse of the Hidden Underground Treasure

ACROBUNCH – THE QUEST FOR TREASURE
EPISODE 3: The Curse of the Hidden Underground Treasure

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 2, 1982

As always, this episode aired 40 years ago today!

A few weeks ago, when I talked about Episode 1, I said, “I don’t know if it was a troubled production, but it’s a puzzling one…” and here we get the first inkling of that. You may have noticed that it’s been three weeks since Episode 2 was broadcast. Now, it’s not uncommon for anime series (even fairly short series like Acrobunch) to take a week or so off occasionally during their first run. But Acrobunch has what is easily the spottiest broadcast schedule of any TV anime I’ve ever seen, taking at least one week off every month (for a while, at least). I can’t seem to find out why, though, and it’s not for lack of trying. No one seems to have the answer, or if they do, they ain’t talkin’.

Anyway, the show is back, and this time, the Rando Family and the Goblins are being drawn to the ruins of the Incan Empire, specifically Atacama Desert. The Randos meet up with a Professor D’Alembert, who’s been studying Incan ruins and has discovered something mysterious involving some ancient Incan whistles and a piece of music called, “the Prayer of the Stars.” Apparently, only a tribal Elder named Pachacuti knows the song now, but it’s supposedly a key to finding the lost treasure of Quaschika.

Jun and Ryo get sent out to find the village, but Ryo’s Buncher Hornet breaks down, so he’s stuck trying to repair it for most of the episode.

Jun finds the village, but the only villager who’s willing to talk to him is a little girls, Atawa. Elder Pachacuti is her grandfather, and he’s been kidnapped by the Goblins, who hope to ply the location of Quaschika out of him.

Jun and Atawa get captured by Groizy, the Black General, and in a really shocking scene, they actually whip Atawa in an effort to get her grandfather to talk.

Eventually, everyone ends up in a long cavern tunnel that leads to a golden temple. They think it’s the treasure of Quaschika at first, but it isn’t.

Predictably, the Goblins try to take it by force, and Atawa plays the “Prayer of the Stars” song on her whistle, which causes the cave to collapse. Everyone gets out except some unlucky Goblin soldiers.

And with this, the basic Acrobunch formula is pretty well established: the Rando Family and the Goblins are called to someplace new, where the fight over an artifact, and the artifact gets buried or destroyed. The interest, of course, comes from the variety of locations that they travel to. And as far as “ancient mysterious sites” go, the ruins of the Incas are a classic. However, when most people think of the Incas, they think of Machu Picchu. And although the episode begins with a shot of the citadel, it spends the rest of episode completely avoiding it in favor of the Atacama Desert and the city of Cusco.

And while, like Braiger and, indeed, all of the shows produced by Kokusai Eigasha, Acrobunch is clearly low-budget, with a lot of cut corners, there is definitely a lot of care and talent put into the nature shots, especially on the ones that are clearly based on real places.

Speaking of which…

REAL PLACES FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE: Several, but let’s stick with the Atacama Desert.

IS RYO USEFUL? HELL no. As I said, his car breaks down early on, and he does almost nothing in this episode.
AND TOTAL: Still just once.

THE GREAT BRAIGER REWATCH 35 – The Great Mercury War (Part One)

GALAXY CYCLONE BRAIGER
EPISODE 35: The Great Mercury War (Part One)

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: June 1, 1982

As always, this episode aired exactly 40 years ago today!

Things start to go wild in this episode, as the Nubia and Omega Connections have a stand-off over the weapons factories of Mercury. This has kind of been prepared for, since it was mentioned back in Episode 11 that war between the Connections would be disastrous because the Connections are all better armed than most countries. But, as I said last week, Braiger has essentially been a private detective series, so it’s surprising to see it escalate into a potential war drama.

Isaac even underlines this after the Mercury Weapons Guild comes to him for help, saying that until now, J9 has struck from the shadows to help suffering individuals, but now, they have a different mission… assassinate Khamen Khamen.

I think this is supposed to say “Mercury Weapons Guild”…

Okay… again, Khamen’s big plot was revealed in the last episode, and I really don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who wants to see the series. So if that’s you, you should stop reading right now, and head on over to Right Stuf and buy the blu-ray.

Lots of nice spaceship detail in this episode. Not ALL the art in Braiger is bad.

Still here? So, the Mercury Weapons Guild hires J9 because they’ve built “Weapon X” for Khamen, powerful enough to destroy Jupiter. The Omega Connection has caught wind of this, and demands that they hand the weapon over to them. And Khamen demands, of course, that the Guild ignore Omega. Either way, it seems, ONE of the Connections is going to destroy the Guild.

Strangely, although Sin and Mei are against J9 helping out Mercury, they don’t bring up that the Guild killed their parents just a few years ago.

Oh, and we also find out that if Khamen did blow up Jupiter, it would bombard the rest of the Solar System with radiation, killing pretty much everyone except him and his followers, who would be protected. I have no idea if that’s actual science or not, especially since I discovered a month or so ago that this has actually been proposed as a way to create a Dyson Sphere.

Yes, in constructing his vision of the future, series creator Yuu Yamamoto cribbed heavily from the speculative 1974 book, The Next Ten Thousand Years, by Adrian Berry. Everything from blowing up Jupiter to create more habitable to worlds to launching algae at Venus to terraform it comes from that book.

I haven’t read it, and apparently it’s pretty outdated these days, but I did find it interesting that a lot of the most fanciful-seeming scientific elements of the show have a fairly solid basis.

Anyway, we’ve got both the Nubia Fleet and the Omega Fleet parked in space above the Mercury Weapons Guild, each waiting for the Guild to make a decision. Isaac’s plan is audacious: first, he and Bowie will sneak aboard the Omega mothership while Kid and Omachi sneak aboard the Nubian. Second, each duo will take over the respective control rooms and start launching missiles against the opposite fleet. This will cause chaos throughout each fleet, and finally, the Cosmo Rangers will take advantage of the confusion to assassinate both Anthony Volante and Khamen Khamen. And with the bosses dead, the conflict will collapse.

The first and second parts of the plan are successful…

…and as the episode ends, the Braiger crew is off to complete the assassinations. Will they pull it off?

That’s a question to be answered next episode. For now, I’ll just leave you with the…

KHAMEN KHAMEN PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

NUMBER OF TIMES “YAY” IS SAID IN THIS EPISODE: 12
AND TOTAL: 128

THE GREAT BRAIGER REWATCH 34 – The Name Is KHAMEN

GALAXY CYCLONE BRAIGER
EPISODE 34: The Name is KHAMEN

WRITTEN BY: Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: May 25, 1982

As always, this episode aired exactly 40 years ago today!

And NOW, we are really entering the finale. From here to the end, there’s just an astonishing escalation of events, with a ton of twists and turns, as the show switches from being a science-fiction-tinged cop drama into a grand epic, with the fate of the entire solar system at stake.

A lot of my friends (not unreasonably) have asked me why it’s THIS show, with its sloppy, low-budget animation, that I love so much. Part of it, I’ll get into later, but a HUGE portion of it is these last few episodes.

This ones definitely starts off feeling like “just another episode.” The director of the Jupiter Terraforming Project is having issues with the local Galileo Connection tangling with Khamen Khamen’s Nubia Connection, and proposes a talk with Khamen.

The guy introduces himself as “Director Valencia,” and that may ring some bells or it may not, considering that Angel Omachi’s full name, Machiko Valencia, hasn’t been mentioned since Episode 10. Anyway, yes, we soon find out that he’s Omachi’s estranged father.

We get a flashback that explains, unlike Episode 10, exactly WHY Omachi left home — she was disgusted that her father was in the pay of the Galileo Connection. So she left and, uh… joined the Galileo Connection herself… Oh, and her old boyfriend Adolf (also from Episode 10) even gets a mention.

But Director Valencia wants J9 to be his bodyguards. Omachi only goes along with it if she can keep her identity hidden from her father, so to that end, they all dress up in “Arabian Nights” outfits (Omachi, as you can see, is veiled).

When Director Valencia gets Khamen to himself, he whips off his fake arm (!!!) with a gun underneath (!!!!!) and tries to assassinate the Nubian mafia boss.

It fails, of course, and Khamen leaves him to die in the fiery wreckage of their meeting spot. There’s just enough time for Omachi to reveal her identity to him before he passes on.

So, a fairly average Braiger episode, right? A little more “personal” than most, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

Ah, but you see, that’s not the REAL story of this episode at all. Early on, while taking a bath (which, yes, is where I got the pic for my upload of his theme song), Khamen Khamen summons everyone involved with the “Great Atum Project,” although we don’t see the meeting.

Later, during the meeting between Khamen and Director Valencia, the Cosmo Rangers break off to pursue a messenger than Khamen has sent off, and they find… a cassette.

At the end of the episode, Isaac analyzes it and finds out Khamen Khamen’s ultimate plan…

(And I have to interject here that if you HAVEN’T seen Braiger, I absolutely don’t want to spoil this for you. Read on if you wish, but if this blog has made you curious about seeing Braiger, I advise you to not to read any further. It’s honestly a little frustrating… when I started this blog, I was POSITIVE that Braiger would be streaming, probably on RetroCrush, well before I got to this point. All I can say is that the Discotek blu-ray is under forty bucks at Right Stuf, and is, I believe, well worth purchasing.)

Anyway, Khamen Khamen’s ultimate plan is…

…to blow up Jupiter and make a Dyson Sphere of dozens of Earth-style worlds!

As you can read on Wikipedia, it’s a real theoretical idea. There’s a very specific place that Yuu Yamamoto picked it up, but I’ll get into it next time.

Finally in the episode, Khamen undergoes an apparent drug-influenced out-of-body experience. He sees a vision of Jupiter exploding and the Earth apparently getting bombarded by flaming debris…

…and speaks to “the Great God Atum” (who has the same voice as the show’s narrator, just with more echo… hmmm… does that mean that Atum is the actual narrator of the show…?) who tells him that he will live for eons to come… which brings us to our…

KHAMEN KHAMEN PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

NUMBER OF TIMES “YAY” IS SAID IN THIS EPISODE: None.
AND TOTAL: 116

THE GREAT BRAIGER REWATCH 33 – Farewell Song of the Solar Eclipse

GALAXY CYCLONE BRAIGER
EPISODE 33: Farewell Song of the Solar Eclipse

WRITTEN BY: Takao Yotsuji & Yuu Yamamoto

BROADCAST DATE: May 18, 1982

And, as always, this episode aired exactly 40 years ago today!

First, some news — although the release date was listed as June 28th, my Discotek Galactic Whirlwind Sasuraiger blu-ray just arrived today! Be happy, good luck!

On to the episode itself… First, it’s the only one co-written by creator Yuu Yamamoto and director Takao Yotsuji. Second… man, you know things are getting down to the wire when a show kills off its comic relief characters.

One of the things that I like about Braiger (and the Yuu Yamamoto ‘80s shows from MIC in general) is that although it presents itself as being set in a dark and gritty world where justice is rare and only achieved at great cost, it’s overall pretty light-hearted, good-natured, and fun. But THIS… this is pretty dark and gritty.

I haven’t talked all that much about Police Chief Macarone Spaghettino and his deputy, Gratano, primarily because most of his scenes in the show are what the Braiger Roman Album calls “J9 Free Time,” the comedic bits at the beginning of each episode that just show the Cosmo Rangers hanging out and don’t really have anything to do with the plot.

The plot here in this episode seems cribbed from both The Warriors and Assault on Precinct 13. A biker gang leader named Vernon Ali calls all of the asteroid gangs to earth, where he convinces them to work together to take down all the police stations in the asteroid belt.

Lots of great crowd scenes in this episode.

First, Gratano is mortally wounded, but he gets to J9 before he dies, and begs them to save Macarone.

So they go off and try… but do not succeed.

However, afterwards, they attack Vernon Ali’s victory celebration, and assassinate him and his men, then send out a call, nominally from him, to gather all the bikers together again at a space station, which they blow up with the Brai-Cannon.

And, of course, behind the whole plot in the first place is, you guessed it…

Which brings us to our…

KHAMEN KHAMEN PORTRAIT OF THE WEEK

So yeah, overall, this one is genuinely shocking. And really, it’s the first sign that the series is entering its final phase, and characters who we assumed were unkillable, by the nature of the story, are no longer safe.

NUMBER OF TIMES “YAY” IS SAID IN THIS EPISODE: 6
AND TOTAL: 116