A case where the original format is better than the “localization”

by Avi Green

June 21, 2020

Warring Demon-God Destroyer (Sengoku Majin) GoShogun – 1981
Writer: Takeshi Shudo
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama

Years ago, I vaguely recall watching the US “adaptation” of this anime series, which was dubbed into English (and also into Hebrew) as Macron 1. It was all the doing of one Haim Saban, at the time early in his career as a producer of children's TV entertainment, doing production and music compositions for various cartoons. But his political record and contempt for the Israeli populace makes me feel alienated from his past work in hindsight, and in all due honesty, I don't think his work at the time was very good in adapting anime from Japan for a global audience. (Besides, he took too much credit for stuff he didn't create, like the Genie Family.) But, let's get to the main focus, that being this interesting item from the early 80s.

Set in the early 21st century, at a time when a sinister covert organization called Dokuga, overlorded by Neo-Neros, holds near complete domination of the world's economy, politics and military, there arises some bold challengers to this dire situation, sparked off by the kidnapping of Japanese professor Sanada, who commits suicide rather than allow Dokuga to acquire his research secrets. Sanada's young son, Kenta, is threatened by the forces of Dokuga, who look like skeleton-shaped cyborgs, and is rescued by Captain Sabarath (it's possible the character was inspired by the late Telly Savalas), who oversees the Good Thunder, an experimental teleporting airship fortress, and joins the crew recruited on the ship, Shingo Hojo, a pilot who lost his fiancee in a terrorist attack by Dokuga, Remy Shimada, lady pilot who formerly worked as a spy in France, and Killy Gagley, a former gangster once known as the “Bronx Wolf”, not to mention the female robot OVA, Kenta's tutor and mother-like figure. The 3 pilot figures join their battleships together to form the titular giant mech called GoShogun, which battles the enemy airships of Dokuga during their adventures.

Watching the original format and footage after so many years, I was able to connect with it far better than the Saban-oriented format, which even combined some footage from another anime series called Akū Dai Sakusen (Great Military Operation in Subspace) Srungle, just to meet a quota of episodes required for some broadcasts in the US, and desecrated the original theme scores for the sake of an alleged “Miami Vice formula” which stuffed contemporary pop music into the action scenes, yet only amounted to making the localization truly awful. Here, in the original format, I was able to enjoy it much better without all that watering down. We get a feeling for what the characters are made of, and a far better sense of suspense. The main villain, Neo-Neros, is kept in the shadows till the end. His deputies are 3 generals by the names of Leonardo Medici Bundle, who looks like a long-haired prince carrying a rose, and judges everything based on beauty or lack thereof, Suegni Cuttnal, a scientist who develops tranquilizers and such which he himself consumes constantly in the ways of a pill popper, and Yatta-La Kernagul, a brutish humanoid with bluish skin who runs a network of fried chicken restaurants. They all make for some most interestingly portrayed adversaries, though by the end, they're turning against Neo-Neros.

The upside: while there isn't much in questionable taste here, it's considerably better than the overseas editions that are heavily edited. And the animation is colorful, with very good care given to the contours and motions. Also, apart from the repeated use of stock scenes where GoShogun is combined together from the 3 heroic pilots' airships, the action is excellent, and not made to look like the heroes are lacking flaws, as the US/European editions certainly came off looking like. You also get OVA as what she was originally written as – a female robot, rather than a more male robot, as seemed to be the case in the US/European editions. That's something for which I give Saban and company serious demerits, because they took what made the original work, and changed it into something less challenging. Here, in the original, where OVA is portrayed as the female-minded robot she was originally, it's far more impressive and better written.

The downside: what little footage there is to be found here that's questionable is one point where OVA spanks Kenta after he causes her problems again, and you can see his exposed backside.

The verdict: it's an enjoyable adventure, with very engaging action and plenty of good character moments that give it plenty of energy, all in good ways. The dialogue has very clever moments, especially Remy's. It even serves as a good metaphor for how corrupt corporations can be when they have too much control over everything and anything, seeing how many today are just buying stuff out and then letting it all fall into decay. Which, now that I think of it, is just what Saban's studio was doing to boot.

GoShogun: The Time Stranger – 1985
Writer: Takeshi Shudo
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama

Set forty years after events of the GoShogun series, this tells what is happening to some of the main characters who starred there, mainly Remy, years after they all disbanded. She's been injured in a car crash, and Killy, Shingo, Bundle, Cuttnall and Kernagul come to her bedside to lend her strength. They'd all received letters warning of brutal deaths, with Remy the first who's been menaced by this. The sequel film focuses on dream sequences she's having, which may harken back to her childhood, and show how, even in dreamland, she's fighting back, albeit with simpler firearms as opposed to what was in the first series.

The upside: it makes for a pretty good followup.

The downside: very little.

The verdict: it's a worthy sequel to the mecha series, even though it doesn't focus any longer on that aspect (GoShogun itself only appears as a model in a museum). This time is action-adventure on foot. But, it is definitely well done, making it an impressive shift in focus. And, like the original series, here too, it works far better than the awful localization machinations by the pretentious Saban company.

Copyright 2020 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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