CYBORG 009 reunion movie is superior animated sci-fi
CYBORG 009: LEGEND OF THE SUPER GALAXY (1980) is a Japanese animated feature-length motion picture based on the animated TV series, CYBORG 009, which had originally been seen in a b&w version in 1968 and then revived in color in 1979. The movie, seen in its English-dubbed version, tells a sweeping new story and involves the reunion of the `Galaxy Legion,' nine cyborgs (001 through 009) who wear sporty costumes and each boast a super power unique to themselves.
While the earlier series and the two Cyborg 009 movies made in the 1960s focused on the cyborgs' battles with the earth-bound criminal entity, Black Ghost, and his army of robot monsters, tanks, and fighter jets, the 1980 movie deals with a cosmic journey into distant space to save planets jeopardized by intergalactic villain Zoa, whose depredations will soon threaten earth. The earlier movies were designed along the lines of action cartoons while this one is a true work of science fiction, marked by some extraordinary art work depicting galactic scenes, intricate spacehip design, and far-flung planetary landscapes.
The cyborgs' help is solicited by a boy alien, Saba, whose scientist father has been kidnapped by Zoa in hopes of retrieving the secret of the Vortex, the super galaxy of the title, a mysterious energy field in deep space which holds the key to an endless source of power. The cyborgs' team includes a Dr. Cosmo, who is seeking such a source of energy himself. When Zoa's minion, Garo, kidnaps Dr. Cosmo and 001, the baby-sized psychic cyborg, the team decides to go into action, traveling aboard Saba's ship to the outer reaches of the galaxy. En route they have numerous adventures and battles and must pass through the Star Gate, a sort of galactic shortcut to their destination (14 years before STARGATE, the 1994 Hollywood sci-fi movie which bears more than a passing resemblance to this film).
At one point, the heroes stop at a planet ravaged by Zoa and find a once-civilized people reduced to savagery. The team rescues the planet's Princess Tamara from the giant robot which keeps her prisoner, leading to a brief romantic interlude between the beautiful Tamara and the cyborg team leader, the young and dashing Joe Shimamura (009), before Zoa's forces strike again. On a curiously downbeat note, after all the effort made to save Tamara and help her people, the cyborg team proves utterly helpless in the face of this new attack and leaves the planet in defeat. Eventually they make it to Zoa's space station fortress for the eventful final confrontation, but the action continues even further as the cyborgs pursue Zoa into the heart of the Vortex itself where Joe experiences a cosmic revelation that plays out as a sort of mini-replay of the conclusion of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
This is not an anime sci-fi film for all tastes. While it has some spectacular action scenes, it is quieter, gentler, and more thoughtful than its 1960s predecessors and seems far more interested in ideas about the nature of the cosmos than in space battles. It is long (130 minutes) and somewhat demanding, but will reward the patient viewer with scenes of stunning beauty that rank with the best American science fiction art. There is also a lyrical theme song, sung in English, called `Light of Love.'
The two earlier movies, CYBORG 009 (1966) and CYBORG 009: MONSTER WAR (listed on the IMDB as SAIBOGU 009: KAIJU SENSO, 1967) are also reviewed on this site. A later Cyborg 009 series premiered on TV Tokyo in October 2001 and seeks to recapture the retro style of the 1960s versions with digital animation.
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