"As one of Weekly Shonen Jump’s best-selling Manga series of all time, Cobra has earned its place as one of Japan’s most notable classics."
Cobra’s Japanese origins aren’t immediately apparent. In fact, Cobra can easily pass as a traditional eighties American cartoon. Inspired by classic spaghetti westerns, James Bond, Disney and most notably Barbarella, Buichi Terasawa’s passion for American cinema is evident with every frame and line of dialogue. As one of Weekly Shonen Jump’s best-selling Manga series of all time, Cobra has earned its place as one of Japan’s most notable classics, spawning various sequels, a Sega CD video game by Hudson Soft, a feature-length film, and of course the fan-favorite 31-episode TV series originally released in 1982. Space Adventure Cobra is for serious animation lovers. It probably won’t appeal to your typical Anime fan, but animation aficionados with an affinity for niche cinema will fall in love with Buichi Terasawa’s quirky sci-fi saga. Combined with his profound love for Osamu Tezuka’s work, Buichi delivers a psychedelic science fiction adventure brimming with colorful characters, explosive action sequences and everything that made the eighties awesome.
Johnson is an office worker who leads an uneventful and dull life. His oversized robotic servant Ben suggests a visit to Trip Movie Corporation, an organization that lets customers experience lifelike dreams in order to escape everyday monotony. Within minutes of connecting to the dream server, Johnson finds himself venturing through galaxies and fighting off space-pirates with an attractive robot companion by his side. He is equipped with a super arm cannon, the Psychogun, that’s powerful enough to destroy entire ship fleets. The catch is that Johnson never signed up for this particular dream. All he wanted is to be surrounded by beautiful women and command a battlestar.
"The series quickly turns into a chaotic spectacle. Flashy explosions, bizarre space aliens, robotic space babes, a futuristic landscape soaked in neon and two incredible leads with great chemistry."
Writing off the dream as a probable (yet exciting) computer error, Johnson leaves Trip Movie Corporation with a renewed sense of excitement. After a sudden car crash, he finds himself face to face with a man who suspiciously resembles Captain Vaiken, one of the space-pirates from his dream. It is then that Johnson starts putting the pieces together. After being confronted by Vaiken, Johnson instinctively pulls out the Psychogun and starts blasting. Once back home, Johnson starts realizing that the dream was in fact a memory. After meddling in the Pirate Guild’s criminal enterprises, Cobra altered his face and erased his memory in order to have a fresh start in life. His robotic servant also turns out to be someone else, namely the attractive robot companion Lady Armaroid.
The series quickly turns into a chaotic spectacle. Flashy explosions, bizarre space aliens, robotic space babes, a futuristic landscape soaked in neon and two incredible leads with great chemistry. Star Wars and Blade Runner fans will relish in Cobra’s constant references to sci-fi classics. Despite its age, Cobra’s humor feels witty and sharp. The hilarious dialogue fits the satirical sci-fi setting perfectly and Cobra is a very likeable protagonist despite his occasionally snarky attitude. While an undoubtedly skilled fighter, his recklessness and ego tend to get him into trouble repeatedly. Luckily, Lady Armaroid (Cobra’s serious-half) is always at arm’s length during sticky situations. Their charming back and forth banter is absolutely delightful and Yoshiko Sakakibara does an impressive job of giving Armaroid a very human-like persona.
"Cobra is an Anime gold mine. It’s a stylistically rare blend of Western and Eastern craft and deserves a special place on any collector’s shelf."
The show’s episodic nature is perfect for sporadic viewing. Each adventure introduces new compelling villains and the frantic pacing never lets up, giving Cobra a sense of grandiose epicness. While the core narrative never escalates beyond rudimentary sci-fi clichés, it’s how the episodes are executed that makes the plot immersive. The artists have done a spectacular job of making every setting feel believable and alive, giving Cobra’s simplistic story a much-needed coat of authenticity. It may seem like Cobra is all about style over substance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The quality is in the details. It’s a nerd-fest extravaganza, for lack of a better term, which offers genre fans a plate of delicious sci-fi bites wrapped in aesthetic delicacy.
Cobra is an Anime gold mine. It’s a stylistically rare blend of Western and Eastern craft and deserves a special place on any collector’s shelf. The newly remastered DVD set is by far the best way to experience Cobra’s colorful space ventures and would be a crime to miss out on. My only issue with the set is that it’s been split into two volumes. Considering the show’s short running time, it would have been nicer to have every episode included in one giant combo release. But even with two separate releases, Space Adventure Cobra is a steal at only $37.49 per set. If you’re looking for something drastically different from current Anime offerings, Cobra is an enjoyable look back at the golden age of Japanese animation.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Review Format: DVD | Running Time: 375 Minutes