Crown Jewels of Anime: Blue Meteor SPT Layzner

Posted by Guest Author on May 15, 2008 in Animation |


In this exclusive series our guest author Tim Eldred picks the top ten crown jewels of anime:

As a guy who started watching anime in 1980, I was lucky enough to catch the virus when the medium was in a creative upswing the likes of which simply hasn’t been seen since. Of course, there was great stuff before that, but never in quite so much abundance. The early 80s in particular were chock full of shows that had the power to make me (A) cry like a baby or (B) leap out of my chair like a sports fan. And any show that could do both became a crown jewel in my eyes. They haven’t all been officially exported yet, which means a lot of people still have an opportunity to experience them for the first time. Here’s number 4 on my top ten list:

Blue Meteor SPT Layzner
Sometimes translated as Blue Comet SPT Layzner

If dark, complex, emotional stories are where it’s at for you, this one has it all. Created by Ryosuke Takahashi (who struck gold earlier with Armored Trooper Votoms), it’s a hard-edged SF action series about a robot pilot named Eiji Aska, who gets stuck between a rock and hard place when he breaks with his own army to prevent them from invading the Earth.

The first Earth people he approaches with this story, a group of refugees who narrowly escape an attack on their Mars colony, aren’t sure what to make of this (and neither is anyone else for that matter). As time goes on, Eiji wins the hearts and minds of a select few, but the opposition stacked against him is not only enormous — it’s personal.


Layzner got off the launch pad on Japanese TV in 1985, starting from a Gundam-like scenario and very quickly finding its own voice thanks to Takahashi’s firm hand on the rudder. In keeping with his penchant for stripping away pretense, the animation style is very simple and energetic.

The story unfolds thoughtfully and logically with every layer revealing other layers beneath. The characters think and act like real people, and the blues/jazz/funk musical score adds a fascinating, deceptive allure that beat Cowboy Bebop to the punch by a good 10 years.

Layzner was one of the first anime programs to fully embrace the notion of rebooting the story at the mid-season point, which for my money is the best thing about the show. There’s a huge leap forward in time and without warning you’re thrown into the deep end. Down is up, black is white, and the rug has been pulled out from under you. It’s one of the most heartbreaking episodes ever made, and it sets up one of the most breathtaking changeovers you’ll ever find. It’s been over 20 years since I first saw it, and just typing that sentence brought the entire emotional experience back to me in full force. That’s how good it is.

Unfortunately, Layzner had a tough time of it on the air in Japan. It peaked just as the Real Robot craze ran out of steam and joined the ranks of classic shows that were cancelled before their time. This lead to a several-episode gap between the final two episodes that was partially filled by an OAV followup. The final blow was that no one stepped up to import this show to the US, so you gotta bite the bullet and track down the original if you want to see it. But take my word: Layzner is worth every damn minute of the hunt!



Below: The opening titles for Blue Meteor SPT Layzner.

Tim Eldred is a graphic novelist, TV animation artist, and hopeless fanboy. You can see his work at and

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