For Americans the early 80s was a golden age of sci fi with films like Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Blade Runner and of course Tron — and most of this was the wonderful geeky aftermath owed a great deal to the financial success of Star Wars. But what many fans today don’t realize is that this was also a golden age of sci fi anime that was going on at the same time. Sadly while some shows like Macross made it to America (as Robotech) there were still quite a few other series from that era that never came over here in a big way. So here’s a quick tour of some of the more obscure gems from that era:
Super Dimension Century Orguss
超時空世紀オーガス | 1983
Orguss was created by the same folks who came up with Macross, which would later become Robotech in the United States. However the series never was included as part of Robotech which is ashamed because it’s one of the best shows from that era. The series starts in the year 2065 as two superpowers fight over a space elevator. To win the epic battle a dimensional bomb is set off which destroys the space time continuum. What follows is one of most complicated space operas that I’ve ever seen.
うる星やつら | 1981
Many American anime fans discovered Rumiko Takahashi thanks to Ramna 1/2 — but it was Urusei Yatsura that really put her on the map. This sci fi themed comedy features the adventures of Lum who is a very cute alien lady who wears a tiger striped bikini. The anime series which went on the air in 1981 lasted until 1986 and ran for 195 episodes and also inspired several feature length films.
Armored Trooper Votoms
装甲騎兵ボトムズ | 1983
Votoms is a military focused series that follows a character named Chirico Cuvie who is a special forces robot pilot. While the series was designed to sell toys (and man they were amazing toys!) the show had a very decent story to back up the wide assortment of armored robots.
Combat Mecha Xabungle
戦闘メカ ザブングル | 1982
Xabungle was an unusual show because it featured some amazing giant robots, yet in its heart of hearts it had a great deal of comedy. The series is set of the planet Zola which is really a future version of today’s earth that looks like old wild west. The show featured over twenty different characters and lasted for 50 episodes. Some of the toys from Xabungle actually found their way to the United States in the 80s, but sadly the anime series did not.
Dr. スランプ | 1981
I may be stretching my luck a bit by calling Dr. Slump a real science fiction show, although the series is set in a world where humans co-exist with a wide range of anthropomorphic animals. The series included quite a few parodies of Japanese and American culture. Sadly American programmers at the time didn’t think that the Japanese humor would translate so the series which ran for over 200 episodes in Japan never made it to America. Although in recent years Viz has brought over the manga that the series was based on.
Aura Battler Dunbine
聖戦士ダンバイン | 1983
While Aura Battler Dunbine featured a giant robot, the show has quite a few fantasy elements to it. The series is set in a world that looks like medieval Europe — and in the show we get to see everything from unicorn-riding cavalry to castles. The series ran up to 49 episodes but didn’t get stateside until some twenty years later in 2003.
Six God Combination Godmars
六神合体ゴッドマーズ | 1981
The plot of Godmars reminded me a great deal of Superman — the show centers around an alien child called Mars who is sent to Earth to live along with the humans. However unlike Superman our child comes with his very own giant robot! And taking things a step further the main character named Takeru also has ESP. 64 episodes of the show were made, but the series has never seen an official American release.
Future Police Urashiman
未来警察ウラシマン | 1983
Urashiman was a short lived comedy sci fi series from 1983 which was one of the first animated series to make use of some very limited computer animation. The series takes place in a future version of Tokyo and featured a police force that was in hot pursuit of a super secret criminal organization.