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"Ulysse(s) 31" is a brilliant animated series from the early 1980's, a
brilliant French-Japanese co-production. It is basically a science
fiction re-telling of Homer's famous epic, with the noble & heroic
titular character now lost in space, after having offended the Greek
Gods, and looking for a way home.
Of course, adapting and updating such an old story would not work without some changes here and there, and so new characters and situations and setting were added. Even so, the series was, and is, a great way to introduce people to the great stories of ancient mythology.
The quality of animation is very good (for a product of its time, anyway) with a good musical score, catchy theme song included.
Highly recommended for fans of animation, SF fans, and anyone who is interested in mythology.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Created in 1981, this 26-part DIC - Tokyo Movie Shinsha animated series
brought a new spin on Homer's The "Odyssey", setting the adventures of
Ulysses not in the past, but in the future universe of the 31st
Century. The cartoon has obtained cult status in Western Europe, and
due to its recent release on some cable channels recently, after a long
hiatus, is finally being released on DVD.
The story lines, just as they were with Homer's original story, are engaging and thought provoking. Through their journey, our heroes make many friends and enemies and losses. And when losses are made the cartoon never pulled any punches, a realistic approach that was lost on many cartoons for the next two decades. This unique style and presentation of the story make it difficult to sum up in a paragraph. Most of the episodes borrow ideas from Homer's book, but the concepts used to execute them in most cases radically differ from the original.
The series itself kick's off with Ulysses indeed blinding and going as far as destroying the Cyclops, a huge one-eyed metal monster. However this is in an attempt to rescue his own son Telemachus and two alien sibling children, Numinor, and Umi, the female lead in the cartoon (who have been abducted by the followers of the Cyclops as sacrifices). As with Homer's original story, the god Poseidon, still active even in the 31st Century, condemns Ulysses, family and friends to wander the dimension of Olympus. Their only way back home is to find the equally mythical Kingdom of Hades, but a further twist is added when Ulysses' shipmates, or "Companions" as they are called in the series, are made as "lifeless as stone". That is, they look and are as good as dead for most of the journey.
At 23 years old on writing, the series still contains a wealth of high concept imagery. "The Odyssey", the name of our heroes ship resembles a giant eye (the power source, referred to as "The Iris" actually looks like an iris with its own metallic lids), but the detail is staggering. Its central computer, Shurka, is an almost maternal figure, female in voice and often considered to be one of the main protagonists in the story. Character animation is first rate, with some impressive action sequences strewn throughout. The technology will stick in most people's minds, as Ulysses himself epitomised childhood cool with his gun that was also a laser sword, his thruster belt that enables him to fly of sorts, and his energy shield that just simply has to be seen in action to show what it does.
Robots, THE toy of the 80's, have a strong recurring theme throughout the cartoon - with the Companions as good as dead a plethora of different robots have to help run the ship, whether its catering, cleaning or fire-fighting. And of course there's the trusty robot side-kick, No-No, another main character considered by many to be the token comedy-relief character - an unavoidable sign of the times but done with enough gravitas as to not suffer the same fate of other side-kicks. That is, being remembered as 'the annoying one'.
One criticism that could be levelled at the series is a result of that age old problem dubbing. The voices were originally cast in Japanese, and whereas the English voice cast do a more than sterling job, dialogue can sometimes come across as wooden. At the same time however, it is so infrequent it's barely noticeable.
Ulysses 31 tackled serious issues in a time when cartoons could be serious. It showed that cartoons could be intelligent and entertaining, which has endeared it both to children and adults. And lets not forget the rocking theme tune! Contemporary animation is starting to capture this mood again, and after the super-politically correct offerings that have dominated the airwaves until recent years, I feel privileged to have seen such a work of art.
This French cartoon series is a wonderful modern take on the ancient Greek
legends about Ulysses.
Having rescued his children from being a sacrifice to the Gods of Mount Olympus, the futuristic Ulysses, sees the crew of his space ship frozen and his ship cast off into deep space at the mercy of the Gods. What follows is a series of adventures, based on the legends, that Ulysses, his children, and one of comic my hero's, NoNo have to pass in order to reach the Kingdom of Hades and the way back to earth.
A wonderful series to introduce todays young children to the lessons of the Greek legends, as it did me ten years ago.
I found this on IMDB but mistake - I didn't realise that they would list
This has to be one of the best animated shows ever - made in France and developed in Japan, it's Homer's Odyssey, set in the 31st Century.
Ulysses upsets the Gods and has to fly his ship to the Kingdom of Hades to unfreeze his crew and return to Earth. On the way, all manner of obstacles get in the way as he flies across the Universe desperately seeking the Kingdom.
Top stuff - just such a shame it's not available on DVD (hint)!
But, well, France is known for its interesting artistic production. Ulysse
31 offered a very interesting futuristic take on Homer's Odyssey and was
immensely successful and utterly enjoyable.
They did some excellent work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ulysses 31. Take a legendary story from homer and give it a totally
futuristic look set in the 31st century and you have Ulysses 31! An
animated diamond of a cartoon. Spaceships, futuristic weapons and space
adventure with the spirit of Homers Oddessey carrying the story onward
and upward. Of the sci-fi cartoons that are made for TV audiences this
could well be worthy of the top accolade and a high ranker in overall
cartoon ratings. Top marks for a splendid story line and depth by the
French. First rate quality animation and artwork from the Japanese
masters of anime. With the English language and a superb pulsating,
thumpin' 80s theme tune (think high concept electronic rock) makes this
a timeless masterpiece. Each episode began with the theme tune rolling
as an introduction sequence (handy if you'd not watched the first
episode!) played. (In 1986 Philip Schofield, a UK Children's TV
presenter for BBC 1 got so carried away by the catchy lyrics that he
sang the entire theme tune while on air!)
Whats even more staggering is that its well over 25 years old now and I've just watched it and it still rocks! For me as a kid of 8 yrs this kind of cartoon was serious stuff for kids to watch and had a lot of importance, you had death, hard choices, self sacrifice, mistakes people can make in their life. It actually set itself as a good role model for those watching.
Each episode alone was a mini film in its own right. Some don't even class Ulysses 31 as a cartoon but as an animated series!
Despite most of the other lead characters being children they come across not as childish nor skulking adolescents but as responsible members of the 'Iris' crew. Its possibly one reason that this cartoon still has an appeal to both adults and children.
The Ulysses character in it is heroic, brave, skillful, defiant and fearless in the face of the Gods yet still feels responsible for his crew (who he indirectly caused to be frozen). Kitted out with all the futuristic gadgets and weapons a cartoon character could wish for, a combined laser pistol and sword along with a jet pack and energy shield! Through the 26 episodes a whole range of stories and adventures are quested upon as he searches, much like in Homers Oddessey for the way home, the episodes themselves tend to quite accurate in the retelling, even though there's over 31 centuries difference! I never saw all the final episode so I still don't know if he made it or not.
Inspector Gadget, Thundercats, Battle of the Planets, Ghostbusters and He-Man all came close but they didn't quite make the grade of Ulysses 31.
For anyone who lambasts the 1980s for whatever reason, just retort that at the very least it had the coolest cartoons going! In fact for me cartoons went downhill after the 80s with very tame and lackluster examples coming from the 1990s onwards. But then I guess its hard to top Ulysses 31 and its kin!
This was one of the great cartoons of the 1980's. Ulysse 31 introduced kids to the world of greek mithology in an exciting and fantastic adventure. This cartoon was a futuristic version of the classic tale "The Odyssey" writen by Homer, set in outer space instead of the Mediterranean Sea. Of course to make it a bit more interesting the cartoon had some things added. Without a doubt a great cartoon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This has to be one of my favorite animated series of all times. In this
series, Ulysses (or Odysseus, if you prefer the original Greek
version)is taking his son out for a trip through space when the boy is
kidnapped by a cult of cyclops-worshipers. When Ulysses rescues him,
and two Zotrian children Yumi and Numenor (actually, it's hard to call
Numenor a child since he appears to be anywhere between 18 and 20 or
so)the cyclops, the cult who worships it, and the very planet itself go
up in a big fireball. Needless to say, Poseidon and the other gods
aren't to happy about this and Ulysses and the children (plus a robot
named NoNo)have to go through a series of trials in order to finally go
The characters are the most memorable thing about this series. They move with great fluidity and are drawn in a fairly realistic style, yet their ability to emote is not limited by this, unlike the characters in Filmation works, for example. My favorite character, by far, has to be Yumi, a blue-skinned little girl of about 8 years of age (little alien girls had never been seen before on animated TV). She was an alien, but she was also perhaps the most human character in the show whose sole motivation was love, for her brother and for the family to whom she desperately wanted to return. Another Zotrian character who appears early in the series is Atina,a young woman of about 20-25 whose love for a elderly blind human man is so deeply touching that you feel sorry that she only appears in one episode.
All in all, Ulysses 31, with its warm characters and moments of breakneck action, is by far one of the best animated programs of the 80s. By the way, unlike most animation of its era, the animation has actually aged quite well. There are a couple of episodes which seem a bit corny or nearly hallucinogenic in their weirdness, plus the dialog can occasionally be a bit groan-inducing due to language differences, but these minor quirks shouldn't turn anyone off. A classic in every sense...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not the fat yellow inhabitant of Springfield, but Greek writer.
The Odessy moved in time to the 31st century starts with Ulysses leaving for what should be a relatively easy journey back to Earyh along with his son Telemachus.
Then Telemachus is taken prisoner by the cyclops and Ulysses goes to the rescue.
He kills the Cyclops, rescues Telemachus and two blue skinned aliens, Numinor and his sister Yumi from the planet Zotra.
As punishment Poseidon sentences Ulysses to wander the realm of Olymous and turns his crew ("Comapnions") into stone. Only Telemachus and Yumi are saved due to them being in a healing chamber at the time.
Their only other companion on this journey is Telemachu's birthday present - the robot No-No, almost there for comedy relief but he does come into his own in one episode.
Through 26 episodes each of 25 minutes we journey with Ulysses as he travels through the Olympus searching for the way home - which Poseidon told him would only be found by going through the Kingdom of Hades.
Each episode is virtually self contained - no time period is specified between each episode so it is impossible to calculate how long they have travelled or indeed in which direction.
They have many strange encounters, most of them are of the problem-solving and overcoming obstacles type. Each episode has a message but it is not plainly laid before the viewer.
Often we are left wondering what happens to the people Ulysses leaves behind.
A great series but the after watching the last episode you are left with the unanswered question - what happens next? The animation is superb and the designs for star ships, and other objects are great.
Watch, enjoy and relive your youth.
I'm a kid from the 80's and one of the things and there have been many
things that have always had a place in my heart. Two of them I treasure
the most are mythology and animation, this show has both. This is
another one of my favorite cartoon from the 80's that I feel as time
went on became a forgotten gem.
The premise I think is awesome, retelling Greek mythology in a space opera fashion was a great idea. Both the sci-fi and fantasy genre have always been a beautiful combination because the sci-fi element I feel broadens the fantasy universe more. There is magic but there is also science, swords but also laser guns. But most importantly just demonstrates how timeless the stories of myth are as they have successfully translated to the 80's era.
I really love the animation, it's true it might seem a little dated now but for it's time it was revolution. Character animation is good but what impresses me the most is in it's background animation and the rich universe it has created, which is surreal but fascinating at the same time. From the space station which looks almost similar to the space station in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine", from it's circular shape to the all seeing eye. But what impresses me the most is the worlds they visit, my favorite one is no doubt the planet with the games, I'll talk about latter. Even some of the hidden metaphors and philosophy is intact.
The music score I think is great, the theme song is great and I think is a bit underrated, it's on my list of favorite theme songs; it's exciting really fits the sci-fi premise with a few of it's techno beats.
The protagonists Ulysses (whom looks like Jesus), Telemicus, and Yuli are decent, their not deep protagonists their all two dimensional. But then again so are the protagonists in myth, like them their mainly just doers, severe whatever purpose the story delivers to them. All three have a genuine motive which is simply to get back home and awaken their friends; which by it's nature is the typical motivation device just to take the protagonists on the adventures we want them to go. The only weak factor no doubt is that stupid robot Nono. That character I always felt was out of place and practically useless.
But like in all mythology stories, were really in it for the adventures. I really love how not just is the show retelling Greek Myth but also other myths from around the world. Which is great because it introduces kids to ones we've never heard about and shows how broad mythology truly goes. Two of my favorite episode are one the retelling of the Maze and the Minator, loved the design of that maze it was cool. Though my favorite has been the one in the planet of games, which was pretty much "The Most Dangerous Game" premise where Ulysess had to play and survive each challenge, the most notable is the giant chessboard with robots representing the Chess figures, it's awesome.
There's not much else for me to say, it would be awesome if there was some sort of revival to this show, with today's tech it should at least be considered, I'd personally like to see some sci-fi versions of other myths as well as figures in them like Hercules and Jason. Overall, Ulysses 31 is a great odyssey you wouldn't want to end.
Rating: 4 stars
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