New on DVD

Rhino Video, packager of subcultural phenomena, a few months ago released Battle of the Planets / Gatchaman DVDs that include episodes of Asian anime series Gatchaman and corresponding episodes of its surreal American knockoff, Battle of the Planets.

New on DVD


Rhino Video ($19.95 each) Forget the X-Men and its new animated incarnation X-Men: 90210. For kids who grew up in the late Seventies and early Eighties, there was but one super-team that kept us tuning in. We were stuck on Gatchaman, an innovative anime that managed to crystallize every major "team" cliché of the action genre. But we didn't call it Gatchaman. This was the Seventies. We called it Battle of the Planets -- one of the most bizarre experiments ever in a producer's attempt to repackage one animated show as another. When producer Sandy Frank brought the original series to American TV as Battle of the Planets, he stripped out all the violence, unpleasantness, in-fighting among team members, even references to nuclear power (!), and filled in the gaping holes with long, dull explanations from a poorly (and American-) animated robot and his robot dog. After the initial run, Battle of the Planets disappeared without a trace. For years anime fans searched out episodes, paying high dollar at conventions for bootleg videos just to see for themselves how bad Frank's ruin of the Japanese precursor really was. But now Rhino Video, packager of subcultural phenomena like this, has released Battle of the Planets/Gatchaman DVDs that include episodes of BOTP with their corresponding, subtitled Gatchaman episodes. (Rhino released its sixth volume of the series last month.) The experience of watching the American vs. Japanese versions is a perverse micro-education in culture clash, TV censorship, pandering, and the apparent ubiquity of Kasey Kasem, who shows up as the voice of Mark, the BOTP version of the original's Ken. (What, "Ken" wasn't believable as an American name?) Watch, for instance, as a little girl's quest for revenge in the Asian episode becomes her rejection of the idea of revenge itself in the American version. Watch as terrorists from over the sea become terrorists from outer space. And while you're at it, watch a lot of really spiffy giant robots. Battle of the Planets was -- and, thanks to Rhino, still is -- Grade-A cheese.

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Sandy Frank, Battle of the Planets, Gatchaman, Kasey Kasem

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