Space Adventure Cobra Anime Review
Space Adventure Cobra
/ Theatrical Movie / Action / 16-up
Objectively pretty bad bad, but relatively original and plenty of campy retro fun.
...Golgo 13 meets City Hunter meets Barbarella on a massive '70s overdose.
SPACE ADVENTURE コブラ
Space Adventure Kobura
Space Adventure Cobra
US Release By
What's In It
- Shag Carpet Swimming (literally)
- Transparent Bad Guys (also literally)
- Snow Guerillas
- Awful Science
- Camp n' Cheese Galore
- Chases Galore
- Unexpected Tragedy
- Violence: 3 (significant)
- Nudity: 3 (significant)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 1 (mild)
A hundred years ago, a planet that wandered through the galaxy with no star to call its home entered an unpleasant area of space and was purged of life. The only survivors of the civilization that called the strange world home were the identical triplets born to be its three future queens: Jane, Dominique, and Catherine. To revive the planet, the three queens must unite with the man they love (if one falls in love, they all do) and return home together. Jane, now a bounty hunter, is searching for the most nefarious space pirate in the known universe, Cobra; you see, Cobra happens to be the only guy who's ever escaped the wrath of the Mafia Guild, headed by the mysterious and very powerful being known as Crystal Boy.
She immediately falls for the rather sleazy Cobra (who's been laying low with his shapely robotic co-pilot Lady for the past few years) and proceeds to enlist his help in rescuing her sister Dominique, who's been captured by Crystal Boy. But does she want to be rescued? And then there's the third sister, who's been hanging out with a bunch of Snow Guerrillas. On top of all this, Crystal Boy is searching for that rogue planet, intending to use its power for his own nefarious purposes. Cobra isn't exactly sure what to make of this whole mess, but he's never been one to turn a pretty girl (or three) down (even if they are being followed around by a weird guy in a floating bubble called Dr. Topolov), and he's got a bone to pick with old Crystal Boy anyway.
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Based on the Buichi Terasawa manga series, Space Adventure Cobra is classic, cheesed-up, chauvinistic, camp-laden '70s sci-fi at its best. Loaded with bad science, bizarre (and random) plot twists, lots of action, and even more "action," don't come looking for intellectual science fiction, and don't even expect typical anime characters. Think a sillier, dumber James Bond in space, with some Barbarella mixed in. It distinguishes itself for a wild but surprisingly interesting plot and a hero that isn't quite as cool as he should be, making the willful cheese and sleaze of the movie that much more fun. It's not even bad looking for the era, and it's loaded with neon-colored retro style. The only real problem it has is that it gets rather more serious than the campy premise can handle toward the end, draining some of the guilty fun.
Very cheesy, pretty sleazy, action filled, and by turns sillier and more serious than you'd expect, Space Adventure Cobra is worth a look if you enjoy low-minded '70s sci-fi and cheesy action movies. It's also prime late-night material for Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Based on the Buichi Terasawa manga series, Space Adventure Cobra is classic, cheesed-up, chauvinistic, camp-laden '70s sci-fi at its finest.
Make no mistake: This movie is loaded with bad science, bizarre (and random) plot twists, lots of action, and even more "action" (that is, shall we say, loose behavior). Don't come looking for intellectual science fiction (not that you would with a title like Space Adventure Cobra), and don't even expect typical anime characters. Think a sillier, dumber James Bond in space, with some Barbarella mixed in.
In fact, the hero would have loved the shag-carpeted space ship from Barbarella. Cobra himself embodies the whole retro/sleaze theme: He wears red spandex, has funny hair, a fast spaceship, a robotic partner, lots of women, and never goes into a fight without his stogie. Plus, he knows how to tear up the dance floor at the local space-disco.
You could have pretty much figured all that out just by looking at the box, but what's surprising is that Space Adventure Cobra is actually not that unoriginal. For one thing, though the plot is by and large nonsensical and involves hefty amounts of truly awful science and quasi-philosophy, there are a fair number of twists and turns, and enough story to keep you (or at least me) interested.
Crystal Boy is another highlight; despite the ridiculous name, he's actually a fairly cool villain. If nothing else, he certainly has an original look--kind of like a big, mean, studly jell-o mold with a visible skeleton.
The best part, however, is Cobra himself--the movie is a huge ball of cheese and it's not afraid to have fun with it. He's sillier and a bit less competent than your usual too-cool-for-outer-space hero, and keeps his wise cracking and not-so-slick manner up throughout the movie. I hate heroes that are just too cool for their own good, and Cobra went ahead and made sure he wasn't one--an endearing trait.
One other thing that caught me a little off guard is that the plot is considerably more tragic than you'd expect from a movie this cheesy. This is both a plus and minus; it raises the seriousness bar, but also bleeds off some of the guilty fun. Cobra's doofus demeanor takes a bit of the sting out, but even he bows to the pressure eventually.
Technically speaking, Space Adventure Cobra is quite good for a movie of its age. The art is detailed, and the action is relatively well animated--very well done for its era, but a tad rough by modern standards. The character designs stand out as being barely anime-style at all. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and they'll be familiar to to Buichi Terasawa aficionados. Fans of retro style will no doubt enjoy the neon-colored, near-abstract backgrounds that grace many scenes, and keep your eyes peeled for a downright surreal alien-filled disco sequence. I'll again mention that the bad guy is a real standout; he's got a cool look to him, and is quite original, at least by comparison. Incidentally, the film was billed as having a "3D" look, which amounts to a few depth-adding camera tricks that are common in anime today.
I can't speak for the original dialogue, but the English dub is acted acceptably, and most of the voices have a cheesy edge to them that goes quite well with the theme of the movie. No particularly noteworthy performances, but no bad ones, either. As you might expect, the highlight of the soundtrack is some funky space-disco.
In summary, Space Adventure Cobra is very cheesy, pretty sleazy, action-filled, and by turns sillier and more serious than you'd expect. Overall, it may not be of interest to the average anime fan, but it's worth a look if you enjoy low-minded '70s sci-fi and cheesy action movies. Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans take note: Space Adventure Cobra is prime late-night material.
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Relatively unique in anime, but familiar territory for fans of '70s sci-fi or action movies. Closest in general theme and style is the old-school space opera movie and OVAs of Crusher Joe. The Professional: Golgo 13 has a heavy '80s retro thing going on and an even cooler protagonist, although that movie takes itself much more seriously than this one, and looks better. You'll also find some of the old fashioned, cheesy sci-fi thing in the classic Dirty Pair movies and TV series (not Dirty Pair Flash, though). Finally, the straightforward Lensman has a lot less cheese but is also old-school sci fi, and Midnight Eye Goku, due to its shared creator, has some similarities.
Notes and Trivia
Space Adventure Cobra is an old theatrical movie based on a manga series by Buichi Terasawa (creator of Midnight Eye Goku). There was also a TV series that aired later in the same year the movie hit theaters, which didn't make it to North America until three decades later when Nozomi finally picked up the rights. More recently, a sort of "video comic book" was released for the PlayStation in the mid-'90s, though that also never made it to the US. The franchise is considerably more popular in France--both the manga and the TV series have been available there for some time.
The music video of Matthew Sweet's 1991 "Girlfriend" (from the album of the same name) features a lot of animation from the movie, and is included as a bonus on Urban Vision's VHS release. This wasn't a random choice--Sweet was big in Japan (literally), and in fact even released a Japan-only tribute album.
US DVD Review
In 2012 this finally made it to DVD thanks to Eastern Star's series of resurrected classics. Their release boasts Japanese and English audio, English subtitles, and nothing else.
Morally pretty loose, but not particularly graphic. Probably a 16-up, mainly on account of rather abstract nudity.
Violence: 3 - Not wild or gory, but a fair amount of violence.
Nudity: 3 - A couple of rather arty nude scenes.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Mostly implied.
Language: 1 - Not so bad.
Staff & Cast
Engilsh Dub Cast
Cobra: Dan Woren
Jane: Barbara Goodson
Dominique: Wendee Lee
Lady: Joan Carol O'Conner
Crystal Boy: Jeff Winkless
Catherine: Mari Devon
Sandra: Catherine Battistone
Topolov: Kirk Thornton
With: Steve Bulen, Melora Harte, Brianne Siddall
Producer: Tatsuo Ikeuchi
Director: Osamu Dezaki
Assistant DIrector: Yoshio Takeuchi
Photography Director: Hirokata Takahashi
Art Director: Shichiro Kobayashi
Animation Director: Akio Sugino
Script: Buichi Terasawa, Haruya Yamazaki
Based on Comic Books by Buichi Terasawa
Vocals: Shigeru Matsuzaki
Lyrics: Tetsuya Chiaki
Music: Kisaburo Suzuki
Produced by: Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co.
Available in North America from Eastern Star on bilingual DVD. Previously available from Urban Vision on subtitled and dubbed VHS.
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