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CYBORG 009: MONSTER WAR Early anime sci-fi adventure
The 60-minute CYBORG 009: MONSTER WAR (aka TRANSFORMER 009: MONSTER WAR, 1967) was the second Cyborg 009 animated movie and was followed by a popular 1968 animated TV series. All were based on the manga (comic book) created by popular manga/anime/TV writer Shotaro Ishinomori (KAMEN RIDER). The film has the brightly colored, simple design of much early Japanese animation, with lots of primary colors, rounded shapes, bold lines, artful backgrounds and streamlined vehicles.
In the film, all nine cyborgs (robot-human hybrids), numbered 001 to 009, reunite after their adventures in the first film (CYBORG 009, 1966) and combine their individual powers to combat a new global menace--a series of dinosaur-shaped robot creatures which use ultra-sound to attack and destroy the world's cities and armies. The cyborgs are led by Joe Shimamura, Cyborg 009, who seems to have the most powers of any of them. Their mentor, Dr. Gilmore, equips the team's land-sea-and-air vehicle with a shield that deflects ultra sound attacks and they begin their search for the perpetrator of this evil, the criminal mastermind Black Ghost. They are joined by a mysterious stowaway, Helena, who claims her parents were killed in the attacks, only to learn there is more to her than meets the eye. Their journey takes them to Black Ghost's undersea cavern base where the climactic battle explodes with destructive fury.
Before that, they fight a relentless array of menaces: electrical jellyfish; robot stingrays; an evil cyborg (011) who splits into deadly positive and negative versions; a giant carnivorous plant with tentacles that encircle Helena; and Achilles, a giant Greek warrior-style robot who recalls the giant Talos from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963).
During the course of the adventure, Joe and Helena share some romantic moments underscored by lyrical choral accompaniments on the soundtrack. Helena is a slender, willowy, attractive blonde with an ethereal quality that puts her in the company of many later anime female characters including Leiji Matsumoto's famous 1970s creations, Maetel and Queen Millennia. Helena also foreshadows Princess Tamara, a character in the later Cyborg 009 movie, LEGEND OF THE SUPER GALAXY (1980).
While the character design is generally crude and quite cartoonish (except for the two romantic leads), the backgrounds are meticulously designed and painted and always beautiful to behold. As is typical of sci-fi adventure-themed anime of the 1960s and '70s, the action is fast and furious, boasting lots of mass destruction, with neatly rendered planes, ships, buildings, and natural landscapes being blasted to bits on a regular basis. This may not appeal to all modern anime fans, who are used to higher-tech effects and greater detail, but is of value to those who wish to explore the roots of anime in little-seen 1960s efforts like this. A revamped and highly polished CYBORG 009 reunion movie (THE LEGEND OF THE SUPER GALAXY) was made in 1980 and has been released in an English-dubbed version in the U.S.
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