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Anime: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman was one of the earliest anime to which American audiences were exposed in the late 1970s (but not the first anime that American audiences were ever exposed to — that honor most likely goes to Astro Boy in the early '60s). The original series appeared on Japanese television in 1972, produced by Tatsunoko Production; 105 episodes were originally produced, but the English translations used only 85 of those episodes.

The show revolves around five heroic teenagers in bird suits who use ninja-type weapons. Each hero drives a special vehicle which combines with the God Phoenix mothership, which is then able to fire missiles and convert to the Kagaku Ninpo Hinotori ("Science Ninja Art: Firebird", or "Fiery Phoenix" in Battle of the Planets). Gatchaman was, in fact, the very first place the concepts of Five-Man Band (hero, cool guy, token female, precocious kid and big guy with a hick accent) and Combining Mecha intersected. The heroes mostly waged battles against the Monster of the Week built by the evil Galactor crime syndicate/terrorist army, which was ultimately led by Sosai ("Leader") X, an alien supervillain who wanted to rule the Earth, and Berg Katse, a mutant who could shift genders at will.note 

Gatchaman first appeared on American television in 1978, syndicated as Battle of the Planets, which has its own page.

In the mid-80s, after the popularity of BOTP waned and Sandy Frank was trying to find a new way to market the series, Turner Broadcasting Services became interested and acquired the rights to produce a new adaptation. In 1986, Turner hired Fred Ladd to reissue Science Ninja Team Gatchaman as G Force Guardians Of Space, and it briefly aired in the summer of the following year. Although the stories were much truer to the original, the budget was much lower than that of Battle of the Planets, while the voice acting, dub names, and horribly, horribly repetitive background music were considered by a lot of fans to be very inferior. After its initial run and a brief revival on the Cartoon Network in 1995, G-Force fell back into obscurity.

The second and third series were then localized by Saban Entertainment in 1996 as Eagle Riders. As bad as Gatchaman was edited for consumption, the later two series were downright butchered into one series, with some episodes even merged with others and a plot twist manufactured to tie both series together. Only 13 episodes of Eagle Riders saw the light of day in America, as the rest of the series would be aired only overseas.

For years, the first series was not available in the US uncut, with the last twenty episodes (including the series finale) note  unseen until 2005, when ADV Films announced the ambitious project to dub ALL 105 episodes into English for release on DVD. Which they did, finishing up the series in five box sets. However, the rights for all of the English-language adaptations expired after Sandy Frank's license lapsed in 2007, which included this version as ADV had sub-licensed the title, leaving fans to Keep Circulating the Tapes for it and the older dubs.

A lot of older American anime fans saw it as kids from one or another syndicator, and have a nostalgic soft spot for it. Many critics do consider it to be a historically important anime. Considering its competition in its time in the realm of Super Hero animated television series was Super Friends, then the superior animation and writing of Gatchaman easily made this series the best in the genre until the Diniverse franchise began in the 1990s.

The series was revived in 1994 as a 3-episode OVA with character designs by Yasuomi "Mezzo Forte, Kite" Umetsu and a soundtrack by Maurice White of the band "Earth, Wind, and Fire". A CGI Revival film animated by Imagi Animation Studios (who rose to fame with the fourth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film) was scheduled for release in 2010, but the project entered Development Hell and never came out. More recently, Ken, Joe, and Jun have appeared as playable characters in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom alongside some of Tatsunoko's other greatest hits. A Continuity Reboot anime series titled Gatchaman Crowds premiered in July 2013, though it's largely In Name Only. A live-action movie adaptation was released in August of 2013 and features Tori Matsuzaka (Takeru Shiba/Shinken Red) as Ken.

At Anime Boston, ADV Films' successor Sentai Filmworks announced that they have acquired the license for Gatchaman and will release both the entire 1972 anime series and the 1994 OVA on both DVD and Blu-Ray.

Check the Character Sheet for character-specific tropes.


Gatchaman provides examples of:

  • The Abridged Series: Well, there's ONE episode but it would be great if someone decided to continue.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Jun has long green hair in the original series and sequels (although some argue it may be a stylized black in the case of the original), but was given short, light brown hair in the '90s OVA remake. The live action adaptation also depicts her as brunette, to provide more realism.
    • Ryu has dark brown hair in the original three series, but blond and violet hair in the aforementioned OVA, and dyed red hair in the live action.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Joe's backstory has him born as George Asakura. His parents were Galactor operatives who were killed trying to escape the organization; Dr. Namba rescued the young boy, renamed him Joe to hide him from Galactor, and raised him as his own. Through all the animated series, he is referred to and addressed as Joe, but in the 2013 live-action adaptation, he is again George Asakura.
  • Age Lift: Ryu is 17 in the original series, but becomes 25 (and the oldest member) in the OVA.
  • All There in the Manual: Some of the mecha and design changes to Gatchaman II were given an in-story reasoning, but only in an obscure 16-episode radio drama series that aired in 1978, as a way to lead into the sequel.
    • While applying to the dub, ADV's scripts gave the name of the female Galactor commander as "Madam X". In the original, she was simply known by terms such as "Female Commander" (onna-taicho).
    • Berg Katse's profile from Tatsunoko's planning sheets describes him as being 29 years old, and liking to tame ferocious animals. The latter detail did not quite make it into the series, and his age was slightly raised to 30 in the compilation film.
    • The magazine Fantastic Graphics TV Anime had an article staged as an interview with the characters, where various bits of origin info were revealed note  However, as the original planning sheets made no note of these facts, their canon status is questionable.
  • Alternate History: The first series takes place in 2001, an indeterminate amount of time after a war between two neighboring countriesnote . Many countries shown in the series have names suspiciously similar to real ones or are hybrids of a few different countries, save for some like Japan. There at least THREE different countries based off of America in the series, all meant as separate entities yet with similar naming scheme (Ameria, Ameris, and Amerishima).
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Episode 60 involves Ken saving an amnesiac pilot who ends up becoming an unofficial sixth member of the team. When he recovers his memories during a mission and remembers that he was a member of Gallactor, he must decide between his loyalty to Gallactor or his new-found friends at the Gatchaman team.
  • Anchored Ship: Ken and Jun. Jun clearly has feelings for Ken, and he often appears to have some for her despite his utter cluelessness when it comes to romance in general, but because of their duties and the importance of the Science Ninja Team's unity above all else the status of their relationship remains undecided until the end of the third series. Battle of the Planets averted this entirely with Mark and Princess, though.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: While their names don't imply this trope, their costumes and ship do.
  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: The weapons here qualify. Sometimes depicted as lethal, sometimes not. The only two that had definite lethal variations were Jun's yo-yos, which could be turned into bombs; and Jinpei's bolos, which could be loaded with timed explosives.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Joe's only strategy is attacking the enemy until they all are dead. Let's say that that the God Phoenix has a button to activate the missile launcher and Joe has practically worn it down all by himself since he is always pressing it (and if the missile attack fails? He presses the button again until they have run out of missiles). Even in scouting or infiltrating missions where they must be stealth instead of not engaging the enemy, he is always asking why they are NOT blowing them up.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Constantly. Most of times it was Ken and Joe or Ken and Jun who did the back-to-back fight, but it any member of the team could -and did- find in a situation that demanded fighting back-to-back with a teammate.
  • Badass Normal: The entire team sort of since none of them have any latent superhuman abilities and can kick ass even as civilians.
  • Big Red Button: The firing button for the God Phoenix's bird missiles.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!:
    "Bird Go!"
  • Calling Your Attacks: "Kagaku Ninpou (Science Ninja Technique)! Tatsumaki (Tornado) Fighter!"
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: The aforementioned Science Ninja Technique Tornado Fighter.
  • Chest Insignia
  • Clothes Make the Superman - The costumes, called "Bird Styles" enable the team to use a few special techniques (usually involving spinning really fast) and enhance their speed/agility/mobility some by granting them the ability to glide and maneuver in air (by jumping really high, etc.). They are also bulletproof against small arms fire (but they still have to dodge bullets since the impact will hurt them regardless).
  • Combination Attack
  • Combining Mecha: The God Phoenix.
  • Compilation Movie: One was released in Japan in 1978, which compiled key moments from the seriesnote  into a 2-hour theatrical feature meant to reacquaint viewers with the original series before the premiere of the Gatchaman II series a few months later. New footage was also added to the beginning, with Leader X narrating about his purpose and a brief animated sequence showing two fetuses being merged, with an image of Katse superimposed over them
  • Cool Plane: The God Phoenix, again.
  • Cut-and-Paste Translation: The series has to set a minor record for having not only one, but several made of it for the American/English language market, including Battle of the Planets, the slightly more faithful G Force Guardians Of Space, and Eagle Riders, based on the later series. As well as somewhat more faithful dubs in more recent years.
  • Distress Ball: Everyone picks it up every now and then due to stubbornness or overconfidence.
    • Jinpei in episode 8. Bothered by his alter ego The Swallow's lack of popularity, he decides to go off on his own to save their new underwater base from Galactor and to show everyone just how heroic The Swallow really is. Naturally, he gets nabbed by Katse and has to call the rest of the team for help.
  • Disney Death: Joe, but only after the fact.
  • Dub Name Change: Only the ADV Films dub kept everyone's original names.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The fate the Earth would have faced, hadn't Joe used his feather in the earthquake machine in the first season finale.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: The drummer of a rock band captured by Galactor manages to smuggle out a distress signal this way.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Ninja Art: Tornado Fighter!
    • The episode where Joe is put in a spinning cylinder.
  • Fauxtastic Voyage: Used to foil a mass prison breakout launched by Galactor.
  • Five-Man Band: The Trope Maker (or at least the Trope Codifier), there are two Smart Guysnote  on the team.
  • Forgotten Superweapon: Justified in the series concerning the God Phoenix's Fiery Phoenix function as it is very dangerous to use, is hard on the crew regardless and thus is strictly a last resort measure.
  • Fur Bikini: A feather one seen during a carnival style celebration in one episode.
  • Gainax Ending: In the case of Gatchaman Fighter (the second sequel) and the '90s remake OVA, which both end in a rather bizarre fashion. At the end of Fighter, Leader Z explodes with the Science Ninja Team still apparently inside it- but not before the spirit of Dr. Nambu appears to an apparently dying Ken and urges him to "LIVE", and his mysterious pendant glows and causes the team's mechas to merge together. In the end it's insisted that the Gatchaman can never die, for they are the immortal phoenix, as a large flaming phoenix shoots through space to make its way back to Earth. In the OVA, there's a similar case with the team seeing a mysterious spirit in a Gatchaman-esque uniform that tells them to "spread their wings wide". The glowing figure makes its way back to Earth to greet Nambu, and the Phoenix ship flies by once more, before transforming into a similar white Phoenix spirit and flying off to parts unknown.
  • Giant Equals Invincible: Subverted Trope. Yes, Galactor's Robeast were Humongous Mecha that easily whitstood any attack the army threw at them, and destroying them in return, but a Five-Man Band of teenagers with a Cool Airship was all what was needed to take on them.
  • Surprisingly Good English: The live-action film used a lot of American and European extras and background characters in order to invoke an international feel. Of note is one scene where a (very) white security guard at a gala event instructs guests ("Put you hand there. Thank you, next." (motions towards scanner) "Please, alright. Put your hand there. Alright, next..." etc') on the use of an ID scanner. A negative result causes Ken to reply back to him in equally flawless English.
    Ken: Strange, it might be broken.
  • Henshin Hero
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Joe...who is then brought back as a cyborg in the second series...4 years later.
  • Hoist Hero Overhead: Not by a Bad Guy either.
  • Hot-Blooded: Joe was the most hot-blooded by far: a hot-tempered, emotional, impulsive, impatient, arrogant Blood Knight and trigger-happy The Gunslinger whom his own teammates had to hold back from attacking the enemy. His hastiness and impatience caused conflicts in the team and often got them in troubles. And after the first series, when he got turned into a cyborg, he became even more reckless and more violent, since he knew that his cybernetic body could withstand insane amounts of punishment, hence he could get away with even more dangerous stunts.
  • Hot Wings: The God Phoenix's "Firebird" mode.
  • Humongous Mecha
  • Hurting Hero: Ken lost his father when he was a little child. Later he finds out that his father is alive only to see how he was Killed Off for Real shortly after. At the ending of the series, Joe commits a Heroic Sacrifice to save them. At the next series his mentor and surrogate father gets killed. All of that trauma slowly wore his sanity off, and although at the beginning he was the prototypical The Hero and The Leader with Nerves of Steel, for the final series he had become so violent, uncontrollable and impulsive like The Lancer.
  • In the Name of the Moon:
    "Sometimes one, sometimes five; the white shadow that moves unseen..."
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: How do you make more awesome a Five-Man Band of highly-trained spandex-suited teenagers, equipped with Badass Capes, Cool Helmets all kind of weapons, a Cool Ship and combat vehicles? You make them ninjas, of course!
  • Last Note Nightmare: Warera Gatchaman, the opening theme of the first sequel, Gatchaman II. You're listening to a rousing song about how awesome the Gatchaman team is, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, the song ends with a nasty Scare Chord.
  • Lighthouse Point: A moving one appeared in one episode.
  • Limited Animation: In some episodes, it's painfully obvious that columns of identical-looking people are running out of buildings or whatever.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Although this was sort of explained as their civilian clothes are not simply swapped out for their superhero outfits and actually become them. This was a major plot point when Jun lost one of her shoes and Galactor realized that the Gatchaman team had secret indentities when it accidently transformed into the boot of her costume.
  • Literal Change of Heart: Condor's heart is replaced.
  • Local Hangout: The Snack J., a bar/dance club owned by Jun, and operated by her and Jinpei. They also live there as well.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Flesh-and-blood Mooks in the originals became "robot soldiers" in the US edits.
  • The Mockbuster: A South Korean film called "Iron Man 007" was produced in 1976, heavily lifting from the original Gatchaman (as well as Gaiking). Later, after Gatchaman received an actual dub in Korea in 1979 (Dokksori O Hungaie, "Eagle Five Brothers"), a two-part recap movie that recounted Gatchaman II was produced in the following year - but with new South Korean animation that was traced over and recolored from the original Tatsunoko footage, sometimes with some unusual alterationsnote Tatsunoko Productions didn't get wind of the unauthorized copy until sometime in the 2000s.
  • Monogender Monsters: All featured Mooks of Galaktor were male.
  • Monster of the Week: Every episode usually featured a new Mechanical Monster for the team vanquishing.
  • Mooks: The standard Galactor Goon squads.
    • Mascot Mook: Turtle King was the first opponent the team faced. In all adaptations and remakes have been done since, Turtle King always shows up, and usually he is the first Mechanical Monster than The Dragon sends.
  • Ninja
    • Highly-Visible Ninja: They're wearing Technicolor bird suits...
    • Technicolor Ninjas: ...but one could argue that because the enemy bases are really bright in colors, the lighter colors of Ken and Jun should provide stealth. Also, the enemy bases/mecha tend to have varying colors as well.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In early development of the series, Tatsunoko used photos of different actors for the character designers to base the designs off of. Berg Katse was modeled off of the actress Kim Novak, Ken was modeled off of Sonny Chiba, and Joe was based from Steve McQueen.
  • No Ending: The finale was never seen in the US until 2007, when the ADV Films finally released them.
  • Official Couple: Ken/Jun, although it was not until the end of the series when she chose him over Joe.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter
  • Ominous Fog: In an early episode, clouds of Ominous Fog cover an oceanic area where ships are vanishing. At the beginning of the episode a character tells he does not like that eerie fog and it is crepping him out, and another character scoffs that are silly superstitions and there is nothing to be frightened of... right before they disappear.
  • Once per Episode: Once every episode one or all team members would scream: "Bird, Go!" (or, if you watch the Spanish dubbing, "Mutación", that is not an accurate translation -mutación=mutation- but sounds even cooler)" to change their civilian clothes into their super-hero costumes.note 
  • Post Script Season: The second series came 4 years after the original ended, although the third (Gatchaman F) came right after that one.
  • Psycho Rangers: The OVA introduces the "Jupiter Death Squad" (dub name) that. unlike the usual example, just has four guys (Jinpei wasn't important enough to mimic?)
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Gatchaman is able to defeat Galactor once and for all,but not without Joe's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Pre-Explosion Glow
  • Race Lift: Joe is Sicilian in the original series and OVA, but Japanese in the live-action film.
  • Radial Ass Kicking: It nearly happened in a daily basis, with the Spectra commanders sending a legion of Mooks to try to overwhelming the team with sheer numbers. Needless to say, it was not a very effective strategy.
  • Relationship Upgrade: It happened at the end of the third series (Gatchaman Fighter) when Jun finally chose Ken over Joe and they got together.
  • Retcon: Considering that the second series came four years after the original, and considering the original show's ending, Joe being resurrected as a cyborg can't be anything else.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Flying, anyway.
  • Running Gag: A non-comedic example (except when it is comedic): Joe always wanting to use the bird missile. Ken/the rest of the team tries to dissuade him from using it. With various results.
  • Sentai: A Spiritual Ancestor and Ur-example of the trope.
  • Ship Tease: Ken and Jun. Jinpei makes fun of this.
  • Spin Attack: Ninja technique Tornado Fighter, performed by the whole team. They would stand on the each other's shoulders (or depending on the iteration, form a ring) and would spin quickly, spawning a tornado around them that would wipe the entire opposition.
  • Stock Footage: The "Bird, Go!" transformation sequence is the most notable usage of stock footage in the series. So much so that the production notes for the series even specified for the animators to reuse Ken's transformation footage for scenes where the group would transform, to avoid the cost of having to animate five individual sequences.
  • Stock Shout-Out: Tons of anime have had shout outs and references to this show, especially the first episode. Heck, even several western cartoons have referenced this or one of its dub versions.
  • Storming the Castle: In each series' Grand Finale.
  • Super Hero: The producers were big fans of American superhero comics and were eager to try their take on the genre.
  • "Super Sentai" Stance: Lots and lots of posters of this.
  • Tell Me How You Fight: Although they appear to fight the same at a glance, each member of the Science Ninja Team has subtlety different fighting styles. Ken, being The Hero, will often incorporate flashy, elaborate, show-off techniques into his moves, while Joe is usually much more direct and prefers No Holds Barred Beatdowns, incapacitating strikes and killing blows. Jun is a typical She-Fu practitioner and mainly uses highly acrobatic maneuvers combined with kick based attacks and open-palmed strikes. Jinpei takes advantage of his smaller size to be as speedy and agile as possible, and will often sabotage his opponent's attacks before they have a chance to hit him. Ryu uses sumo style techniques which take full advantage of his bulk and raw strength.
  • Three-Point Landing: Lots and lots of these by all hands.
  • Title Confusion: Many viewers referred to Battle of the Planets as "G-Force", even before the version that was actually called G-Force came out (and causing further confusion).
  • Totally Radical: A very unique example as the ADV dub makes no attempt to modernise the show at all and actually makes liberal use of 70's slang such as "groovy" and "solid."
  • Transformation Trinket: Their bracelet/communicators also triggers change into bird style when they say "Bird go!". Most importantly, the bracelets have to stay on while transformed or they change back to civilian form if the bracelets are broken or knocked loose.
  • True Companions: Very much so.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The God Phoenix has rather nonsensical design flaws, the most egregious is how the plane's weapons systems are nonfunctional unless all the sub-vehicles are docked inside.
  • Younger than They Look: Dr. Pandora in Gatchaman II is listed in the notes to be approximately 21-23 years old, although she looks like she could reasonably be in her thirties.


Panda Go PandaAnime of the 1970sAim for the Ace!
The Powerpuff GirlsRecap/ToonamiMobile Suit Gundam Wing
Samurai GunCreator/Section 23 Films s-CRY-ed
Rose of VersaillesThe SeventiesRose of Versailles
Rose of VersaillesThe SeventiesRose of Versailles
Saint SeiyaThe EpicScrapped Princess
School RumbleAnimeSci-Fi HARRY
Samurai FlamencoSuperheroBattle of the Planets

alternative title(s): Gatchaman; Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman; Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
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