Just got through watching the first five episodes of Star Blazers again, courtesy of Netflix. Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that one. The music is varied, evocative, and suitably dramatic. The rich, watercolor-like palette of colors create a dreamy, organic quality. The animation, while spotty at times, is at others breathtaking. The characters are at times caricatures, and at other times they shine with moments of humanity and triumph. The premise is solid, and the story keeps to steady movement. Nothing is allowed to stagnate, and yet the new makes sense and keeps you watching. These artists show talent and devotion, taking chances under the shadow of the clock, and it pays off. I’m impressed at how well it holds up now.

To summarize, an alien empire begins bombing Earth with “planet bombs” that cover the planet in radiation and drive everyone underground. Earth’s spacefleet has been completely defeated, and in 1 year all life on the planet will be extinguished. An ancient battleship wreck, the Yamato, has been secretly turned into a space battleship with the intention of being a “space ark”, which will take a small number of people to some other place they might be able to colonize and thus preserve humanity.

Another alien planet takes pity on Earth and sends them a message of hope: Come to their world and they will give us the “Cosmo DNA”, a means to resurrect the Earth and defeat the evil aliens. With the message are plans for a new form of space engine and an ultimate weapon – the wave motion gun. The Yamato is fitted with this new technology, and the crew’s mission is changed: They will be known as the Star Force, and they will take humanity’s last chance in a go-for-broke-gamble to reach the planet and return with the Cosmo DNA instead of fleeing to another planet.

Every episode covers a step along the way to reach the good alien planet, with the evil aliens attempting to find and destroy them, and ending with a countdown number so you know exactly how many days are left before its too late. As the story progresses, the space battleship faces all manner of obstacles, from gravitational pulls while the engines are being repaired, to hostile, matter-consuming, semi-intelligent gas monsters. There’s usually some kind of attack by the forces of the evil aliens, requiring the Star Force to use their wits and survive long enough to blow the aliens away with the wave motion gun. Meanwhile, the crew members face personal struggles, both private and public. It’s pretty mature for a kids show.

It just got me thinking about the first anime I saw as a kid, one of several manufactured for the American market – Speed Racer, and later on down the line, Marine Boy – truly a lost classic deserving of DVD release! There were other shows, like Ultraman and Johnny Socko and His Flying Robot, that were live action, but they brought over an influence from Japan that is pretty much mainstream and taken for granted today. These shows were like precious secrets you were lucky to be able to see, back in the day when TV stations were more independent and diverse, unlike the monopolies we have today. It was a blast to catch these on television and be able to talk about it with your friends on the block about “the mammoth car” or “oxygum and electric boomerangs”.

Makes me wonder what kind of secret treasures are floating around out there now, mutating the brains of youngsters and creating new fountains of creative expression that take root now, only to flower many decades down the line. The culture broth out there holds uncounted mysteries brewing who-knows-what-is-to-come. The messages of these transmissions are coming to you from the good aliens, giving you the solution and the tools, but you’ve got to do that task yourself to save the planet, be the best racecar driver/human being you can be, protect the oceans, defeat the monsters, you name it – the final task you’ve got to do yourself.