Scene by Scene: Watching the awesome Force Five Starvengers cartoon
I just watched the 1980 Japanese anime classic, Force Five: Starvengers. I’ve loved this movie since I watched it in re-runs as a kid. I just recently rewatched it and I thought I’d go over the story and some of my favorite parts with you right now.
I do this from time to time where I step visually through a movie or TV show I loved and playfully make fun of it. Let me show you just how much fun and awesome this cartoon is.
Force Five: Starvengers is a re-edited version of the Japanese show Getter Robo G, which was itself a sequel to another anime series called Getter Robo. Both of those Japanese shows originally aired in the 70s in Japan. The re-edited Starvengers aired in the US in 1980 during an animated programming block called Force Five that featured four other giant robot cartoons; Gaiking, Grandizer, Dangard Ace and Spaceketeers. Each show would air on a different day of the week. The Starvengers robots would become a part of the Shogun Warriors toy line.
We learn that a team at the Copernicus Laboratory have developed three advanced aircraft. The first aircraft (on the left) is code named Star Dragon and flown by the awesomely named Hummer. The second aircraft (in the middle) is code named Star Arrow and flown by the awesomely coiffed Paladin.
I’m not kidding about Paladin’s hair. Check out this better picture of his anime hairdo that defies any sort of man made law be it physics, gravity or awesomeness.
Of course there’s a girl member of the group and of course she is the perfect looking anime hottie. Her name is Series and there’s an implied relationship with Paladin (of course).
Back to the robot ships above. Just looking at them, the aircraft don’t really seem different than any other fighter craft. But these three aircraft can combine together to form three different giant robots. The three different robot formations are based on which aircraft is in control. The three robots formations are Dragon (left), Arrow (middle) and Poseidon (left). Each robot has different weapons, functions and skills that separate it from the other robots.
Here’s an animation I made of the three aircraft combining into Dragon formation. The one they do most often.
As the story begins, the third aircraft, code named Star Poseidon, has no pilot (due to the previous pilot being killed in the first movie Getter Robo, but that’s never mentioned). Then, the head of Copernicus Labs’ son (Or nephew? I’m not sure.) runs into a man, nay, a force of nature, known only as Foul Tip.
Foul Tip, or ‘Tip’, is a simple man. He loves eating and baseball. And we are constantly reminded of both. It’s insinuated that he plays professional baseball, but that’s literally all we know about him. And due to the impending crisis, Tip is drafted into the Starvengers without preamble, without any cursory background checks nor any previously revealed flight experience. “Sure, guy we literally met 5 minutes ago, fly one of our multi-billion dollar advanced robot attack planes. What could go wrong?”
And yes, Foul Tip is wearing a catcher’s uniform as his flight suit. Like that sh*t would work when his body is pulling 4Gs fighting off other giant robots. Oh, and Tip speaks in mostly baseball metaphors during battle. Subtle, Coen-like character work is going on here, my friends.
Let’s talk about the bad guys. The Pandemonium Empire.
The Pandemonium Empire are an alien race currently trying to invade Earth and enslave humans. They are situated on an uncharted island in some unnamed ocean somewhere. Bad guys always have the best hideouts which are never actual “hideouts” but more like giant fortresses that do everything but hide.
The Pandemonium Empire is led by Emporer Ramzorch, seen here. Yes, he has awesome ram horns and his last name begins with ‘ram’. He also has an awesome beard. I think he’s actually a pretty cool character with a really cool design and look. Continuing this “not very subtle” trend is Ramzorch’s second-in-command.
This guy. Military uniform? Check. Nazi salute? Check. Hitler mustache? Check. Devil horns? Double check. You can’t get any less subtle than this, guys. Oh, did I forget to mention that his name is Colonel Fuhrer? Did you hear that? Things just audibly got less subtle.
As you can see from the guys above, the alien race that makes up the Pandemonium Empire has horns. And when they are flying giant death robots these aliens tend to wear a helmet. For safety, I assume. So does the helmet have holes for his horns? I don’t think that’ll work . How would he put the helmet on? The only other option is this guy doesn’t have horns and that makes less sense. And was the cartoonist trying to make it look like he has boobs?
Essentially it seems the Pandemonium Empire has a plan to overthrow the Earth, but it depends on android spies infiltrating governments around the globe. However, these androids have to constantly be replenished with energy each month. The Empire decides it needs the Star Energizer used by the Copernicus Laboratory to power the Starvengers robots. So, they decide to throw giant, deadly robots at the laboratory in order to steal this Star Engergizer.
Here are the first two robots the Empire sends out to attack the laboratory. The Starvengers actually barely survive both encounters. The first one on the left was called Pandokogan and had a giant horn that shot out a death ray. The one on the right didn’t have a name but it awesomely shot laser bullets out of it’s arm stumps and could shoot off its head into a separate, autonomous ship.
During these robot battles, every one of the pilots yells at the top of their lungs what weapon they are currently using. If Star Dragon wants to throw his, admittedly awesome, Hatchet Boomerang, then Hummer yells, “Hatch-et Boom-erang!” right before the robot throws it. The same with Star Arrow and even the evil robots do it. Before Pandokogan fires his horn death ray he yells, “Kogan Horn!” I guess the robots are voice activated. Or, more appropriately, SCREAMING activated.
This is the third and, admittedly, my favorite, of the giant Pandemonium Empire robots. It’s called “Lightning Satan”. Yes, they actually call it that in the movie. He shows up in a burst of light, sucks in a ton of electrical energy and starts throwing bolts of lightning energy at the city below. How awesome is this robot? It looks like something KISS would design for an album cover. And those Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka tiger pants? AWESOME.
Lightning Satan completely destroys the city with lightning for like 10 minutes before the Starvengers eventually show up. It’s like the end of Man of Steel, but without Superman. Unfortunately, as cool as this robot is, he goes out like Boba Fett and Star Dragon destroys him rather quickly with its “Star Fire” energy blast.
And this is it. The final giant robot. His name…”Mecha Satan”. It’s like 5 different giant robots combined into one unholy mass of mechanized death. The Starvengers seemingly defeat it with their Star Fire weapon, but what they didn’t know is that the giant, conjoined robot split into its constituent parts and fled.
Later on, Poseidon would be ambushed by one of the Mecha Satan robots who previously escaped while the other robots stormed the unprotected laboratory. I love this shot of Star Poseidon in a full robot nelson.
I’m glossing over a lot of awesome stuff in the show and in particular the finale, but you really need to watch the movie and I don’t want to ruin it for you. Needless to say. lots of robot battling and explosions happen at the end. One of the team members appears to be dead. It’s pretty great.
So if you get a chance, check out the Force Five: Starvengers. I’d like to watch the original Japanese version, Getter Robo, just to compare. I don’t know if this particular cut is on any digital media. It tends to show up on YouTube from time to time.
Btw, there were updated versions of Getter Robo released on DVD. They aren’t the older 70s-80s versions. They are newer reboots from the 90s and beyond.