SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA is a 31 episode TV series that ran between 1982 and 1983. The animation is by Tokyo Movie Shinsha (Lupin III) and directed by Osamu Dezaki (Ashita no Joe, Rose of Versailles.) The original comic, penned by Buichi Terasawa ran in Shounen Jump between 1978 and 1984, and has since been collected into 20 volumes. The TV series covers the first 8 volumes.
COBRA came from a time when shounen manga wasn’t about childish ninjas in track suits or angsty teenagers with giant swords. Cobra came from a time when shounen manga taught little kids how to LIVE as MEN when they grew up. They presented invincible badasses who could do no wrong to impressionable young children and Cobra is a perfect example of such a character. He has rugged manly looks, a built physique and never misses a shot. He’s a legendary space pirate who is wanted by everyone worth worrying about in the galaxy and to escape their clutches he goes as far as erasing his own memories and changing his appearance. However, legendary space pirates don’t disappear so easily…
Cobra, now under the name of Johnson, has been living a peaceful but rather boring life as a salary man for the past five years. He dreams of a life of excitement, and one day decides to partake in a Trip Movie; a service that allows one to live out their wildest dreams by projecting exciting images into their brain. Johnson’s Trip Movie experience places him in the boots of Cobra, a pirate who is wanted by the Pirate’s Guild. They’re after him because he refused to join them, insisting that true pirates operate alone. What Johnson slowly comes to realize is that these are his true memories that were sealed away five years ago. What follows is a sequence of events that leads Johnson to regaining his memories of being Cobra. By the end of episode one he’s already blowing up shit with his Psycho Gun, reunited with his android partner, Lady Armaroid, and is ready to set out towards the stars for more ADVENTURE.
Episode one sets the series off to an exciting start, and episode two is a one off which is meant to show Cobra in action before the real story begins. Episodes three through five are a little slower, but are the beginning of a longer story arc about a hidden treasure and three sisters who have the complete map to said treasure tattooed upon their backs. The production values are quite amazing in these first five episodes. The world in which Cobra lives is always fully animated and colourful, with an array of wacky and fun looking aliens. Action is well choreographed and fluid, and episodes are generally exciting making the most of the pulp sci-fi feel that the title evokes. Character designs are really realistic, but don’t look totally ugly like American cartoons from the same era. Cobra is realistically handsome and all the women are realistically beautiful.
The opening is a disco-ish number by Yoko Maeno that talks about how fucking rad Cobra is, while the ending theme is a slower jazzier piece. Background music is serviceable and well done, but nothing has jumped out at me as something I’d listen to on my own.
Space Adventure Cobra is shounen from when boys actually wanted to grow up to be men, and not weepy-eyed treehugging sissies. It has everything I look for in a shounen title along with a great pulpy SF feel, which is icing on the cake. It’s pure fun and anyone who enjoys a good old fashioned adventure will like it. Hopefully that applies to everyone reading.