Space Adventure Cobra
Space Adventure Cobra
Genre: Sci-fi, Adventure
What’s in it?: Gunfights, Dogfights, Fistfights, Shag-rug Swimming (literally), Mass Destruction, Transparent Bad Guys (again, literally), Snow Guerrillas, Super Technology, Space Ships, Chases Galore, Tragedy (a surprising amount), Just Plain Weird
A hundred years ago, a planet that wandered through the galaxy with no star to call its home entered an unpleasant area of space and was purged of life. The only survivors of the civilization that called the strange world home were its three future queens, Jane, Dominique, and Catherine, who are identical triplets. To revive the planet, the three queens must unite with the man they love (if one falls in love, they all do) and return home together. Jane, now a bounty hunter, is searching for the most nefarious space pirate in the known universe, Cobra; you see, Cobra happens to be the only guy who’s ever escaped the wrath of the Mafia Guild, headed by the mysterious and very powerful being known as “Crystal Boy” (seriously… but he’s cooler than he sounds). Anyway, she immediately falls for the rather sleazy Cobra (who’s been laying low with his shapely robotic co-pilot Lady for the past few years) and proceeds to enlist his help in rescuing her sister Dominique, who’s been captured by Crystal Boy. But does she want to be rescued? And then there’s the third sister, who’s been hanging out with a bunch of Snow Guerrillas (no, not primates, they’re all good looking women) on a sort of ski-resort planet. The guerrillas have made the Mafia Guild unhappy, and it’s about to do something about the annoyance. On top of all this, Crystal Boy is searching for that rogue planet, intending to use its power for his own nefarious purposes. Cobra isn’t exactly sure what to make of this whole mess, but he’s never been one to turn a pretty girl (or three) down (even if they are being followed around by a weird guy in a floating bubble called Dr. Topolov), and he’s got a bone to pick with old Crystal Boy anyway.
This is classic, cheesy 70’s sci-fi at its best. Let’s establish right out that this movie is loaded with really bad science, bizarre (and sometimes random) plot twists, lots of action, and even more… “action” (that is, shall we say, loose behaviour). Don’t come looking for intellectual science fiction (not that you would with a title like Space Adventure Cobra), and don’t even expect typical anime characters. Think a sillier, dumber James Bond in space, with Barbarella mixed in (actually, Cobra would have loved the shag-carpeted space ship from that movie). The whole retro/sleaze theme is pretty much embodied by Cobra (as you might expect): He wears red spandex, has funny hair, a fast spaceship, a robotic partner, lots of women, and never goes into a fight without his stogie. He can also tear up the dance floor at the local space-disco.
All that said (which you could have figured out just by looking at the box), Space Adventure Cobra is actually not that unoriginal. First, though the plot is by and large nonsensical and involves hefty amounts of truly awful science and quasi-philosophy, there are a fair number of twists and turns, and enough story to keep you (or at least me) interested. Second, the bad guy (even if he sounds like a complete weenie) is actually pretty cool, and has very original look (kind of like a big, mean, studly jell-o mould with a visible skeleton). Third, Cobra is sillier and a bit less competent than your usual too-cool-for-outer-space hero, and keeps his wise cracking and not so slick manner up throughout the movie. That was probably the most endearing point to me; I hate heroes that are just too cool for their own good, and Cobra went ahead and made sure he wasn’t one. Finally, although this may be a down side to some, the plot is considerably more tragic than you’d expect from a movie this cheesy. Although this raises the seriousness bar, it also takes out some of the guilty fun of a really bad 70s sci-fi action flick. Cobra’s doofus demeanour helped take a bit of the sting out, but even he bowed to the pressure.
Technically speaking, Space Adventure Cobra is pretty well done for a movie of its age. The art is quite detailed, although the character designs barely look like anime at all (not necessarily bad, but definitely different). The action is also relatively well animated (very well done for its era, but a tad rough at times by modern standards). Fans of the 70’s or retro style will no doubt enjoy the neon-coloured near-abstract backgrounds that grace many scenes, and keep your eyes out for a downright surreal alien-filled disco scene. I’ll again mention that the bad guy is a real standout; he’s got a cool look to him, and is quite original, at least by comparison.
I can’t speak for the original dialogue, but the American acting is fine, and most of the voices have a cheesy edge to them that goes quite well with the theme of the movie. No particularly noteworthy performances, but no bad ones, either. Oh, and as you might expect, the soundtrack features some funky space-disco.
In summation, Space Adventure Cobra was very cheesy, pretty sleazy, action filled, and by turns sillier and more serious than you’d expect. Overall, though, it’s worth a look for fans of low minded 70’s sci-fi, or cheesy action movies. Other anime fans aren’t so likely to enjoy it.