From the Archives: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman Review

 84371 Title Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
Episodes  105
Released  October, 1972
Genre(s)  Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Studio  Tatsunoko Production
Reviewer  Danny

NB: This is a review that has been ported over from the old blog for posterity purposes. The original publish date of this review was 7th April, 2013. The writing style and depth of detail may have changed a lot since this time, and a revisit is always possible.

Alright, here’s the first of my old school anime reviews! I grew up enjoying the Americanised edit of this show (known as Battle of the Planets) on ABC in the mornings before school. While I really enjoyed it, I later came to know of the original Japanese version which blew it away. As sometimes happens the English edit removed much of the fighting, violence and general darker themes of the show. The good news is that in more recent years subs and a good English dub of the original have become available and that original show is what I a reviewing here.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (translates to ‘birdman’ but that sounds ridiculous in English) centers around a group of 5 highly trained youths working for the International Science Organisation. Trained in a unique style of martial arts and employing a variety of technological weaponry and vehicles, the are tasked with opposing a group of technologically advanced terrorists known as Galactor from capturing or controlling Earth’s natural resources. While this show has some environmentalist concepts it is far from the tree hugging of later shows such as Captain Planet and these resources are mostly used for energy or manipulation of an area and are important plot points rather than trying to tell you to recycle.


Each of the 5 team members has a particular bird motif that they can transmute into a super hero style outfit from their civilian ‘disguise’ as well their own preferred weapon. Additionally they each have a vehicle that also has a more mundane mode and can enter a more powerful battle mode. Four of these vehicles are able to dock with the fifth much larger air craft known as the God Phoenix which the team use to get around in most of the time. This craft is quite powerful with a large supply of missiles and is able to enter a ‘fire bird’ mode where it resembles the mythological phoenix, losing any resemblance  of a vehicle and becoming a mass of fire, at a cost to the occupants though.


Their enemy, Galactor, is lead by Bergu Kattse who wears a mask resembling a lynx (a good enemy of birds I guess) and seems to have a few psychological issues at times. Kattse receives his orders from Sosai X, a disembodied head from another planet that appears mostly on a view screen. The bulk of Galactor consists of the masked and uniformed troops who fight on foot as well as manning a variety of massive and sometime improbably mecha such as a giant robotic terrapin that they terrorise the world with. While these mecha prove to be quite a formidable challenge for the team to overcome the troops generally don’t fare that well on foot and prove a good target for the Gatchaman team to demonstrate their fighting skills on.
The big draw for most people who watch Gatchaman is the fairly violent fighting, great variety of giant mecha, as well as many darker adult themes that include depression, suicide and death. Many of these subjects were deemed to ‘adult’ and didn’t make it into the 80s English re-edit and that’s why I feel that the original is much better. In fact so much content (including much of the fighting) was removed that they had to add in new (poorly animated scenes) involving a robot helper known as 7-Zark-7 (a rip-off of R2D2 from Star Wars).

Now a lot of this may remind you of a show called Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and for good reason. Power Rangers is a re-edit of the Japanese series Super Sentai (starting from it’s 16th season) which was heavily influenced by Gatchaman.

I rank this as one of my all time favourite animes and not only because I grew up with it. In fact it is often ranked among the best in opinion polls. So if you are looking for something which plenty of action that is a bit different from more recent offerings then this show should entertain you as well as introduce you to an important bit of anime history.