Anime / Ulysses 31

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From left to right - Nono, Telemachus, Yumi and Ulysses

"It is the 31st century. Ulysses killed the giant Cyclops when he rescued the children and his son Telemachus. But the ancient Gods of Olympus are angry and threaten a terrible revenge... "
—Opening narration

Ulysses 31 (French: Ulysse 31; Japanese: 宇宙伝説ユリシーズ31, Space Legend Ulysses 31) is an anime series co-produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha studios and DiC Entertainmentnote . As the name implies, it is based on Homer's The Odyssey and heavily borrows plot elements from it, as well as various plot elements and characters from other famous Greek myths.

In the 31st century, spaceship commander Ulysses flies home from the Trojan War. On the way back to Earth, he rescues his son Telemachus and two young Zotrians (Yumi and Numinor in Japanese; Themis and Numios in French) from a Human Sacrifice and destroys the Cyclops, angering Poseidon and the other gods who rule the universe of Olympus, from which it came. Zeus curses Ulysses by dragging Ulysses' ship, the Odyssey, through into Olympus, putting his crew and Numinor/Numios in suspended animation, and erasing the ship's memory files that contain Earth's location. Ulysses will now have to wander throughout unknown galaxies in the Olympus and face various threats and dangerous traps set by the gods until he finds the realm of Hades, at which point his crew will be revived and he will be allowed to travel back to Earth.

He is accompanied in his quest by his teenage son Telemachus; Yumi/Themis in French, a blue-skinned alien little girl with telepathic powers; and a small toy robot named Nono.

The series is an unusual product of international collaboration, that is still right now rather unique in its quality (there was a two-week delay for episode production, instead of the standard one-week; the French team was almost entirely made of professional illustrators, which forced the Japanese animation team to actually simplify the graphics, but also gave them enough inspiration to go much farther than what they were used to). A second season was planned but ultimately cancelled.

The Odyssey was originally planned to be animated by computer, but the single wireframe model generated was still too complex to render for the machines of the times. So, the only computer animation left is the opening credits.

Ulysses 31 provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ace Pilot: Ulysses is a damn good pilot with the Odysseus' small vessels.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The malevolent A.I. Cortex.
  • All Myths Are True: And they're happening again, in space!
  • Ambadassador: Ulysses is implied to have been ambassador or peace treaty-maker during the Trojan War, yet he never hesitates to face down the assorted monsters the gods throw in his path.
  • Animal Eyes: Zodrians have cat-like slanted eyes with a vertical slit for a pupil.
  • Attack Reflector: In the first episode, Ulysses finds out that the parabolic antenna carried by Nono can reflect back the Cyclops' Eye Beam, and orders Nono to reflect the beam back into the Cyclops' eye, destroying it in the process.
  • Badass Beard: Ulysses' beard is not as big as his hair.
  • Badass Normal: Ulysses. Especially considering he's basically going up against the gods themselves completely alone with the help of only two children, a small robot and his ship's technologies.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Circe turns Ulysses' crew, Yumi/Themis and Telemachus into zombified humanoid pig slaves.
  • Bishōnen: Telemachus
  • Cat Girl: The Sphinx's daughter has cat ears, Cute Little Fangs and the personality of a spoiled feline.
  • Clock Punk: The realm of Chronos has clocks everywhere.
  • Cool Ship: The Odyssey (based on the space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey), and Ulysses' various small ships.
  • Cool Sword: Ulysses' lightsaber (blatantly inspired by Star Wars). The hilt can be used as a blaster gun.
  • Cosmic Entity: The gods of Olympus, of course. And some of Ulysses' enemies of the week are more or less this.
  • Cosmic Plaything: A very literal example.
  • Crapsack Universe / Death World: The Olympus is full of shipwrecks, empty giant cities and desolate worlds where the gods or other entities enjoy tempting and tormenting unlucky humans endlessly.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas
  • The Cutie: Yumi/Themis
  • Cyber Cyclops: For the obligatory blinding of the cyclops scene, he got revamped this way, in order to fit into the sci-fi setting. Also served by cultists who have put out their eyes and jammed a large crystal into the space between the sockets.
  • Derelict Graveyard: One that has both its own name ("The Graveyard of Wrecks and Hulks") and an infamous reputation.
  • Determinator: Ulysses. He's going up against the gods themselves with no help except for a computer, two preteens and a small robot. He'd kind of have to be.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Cyclops' planet explodes after its death.
  • Elemental Embodiment: The two perpetually colliding space storms, Charybd (fire) and Scylla (ice).
  • Enthralling Sirens
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Mostly averted. Hades takes part to Ulysses' final trial in the last episode and his role is more or less faithful to his mythical one.
  • Everybody Lives: By the last episode, no one in the Odysseus has died.
  • Evil Laugh: Zeus regularly has one.
  • Expository Theme Tune: UlysSEEEeeeEEEeeeEEES, no-one else can do the things you dooooo!! To French ears, the dub heard at the beginning is hilariously hammy. Compare with the original version.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Many episodes offer a map of Olympus or a shortcut back to Earth to Ulysses, only to have it snatched away by the end.
  • The Fettered: Ulysses, since he's an Ideal Hero, Martial Pacifist and so on.
  • Follow the Leader: In the 90's Marvel Comics had a team called the Pantheon, and rather noticeably it had a member named Ulysses whose powers were having an energy sword and shield.
  • Genre Blindness: Ulysses and everyone else haven't wised up to the fact that they are reliving Homer's epic in a SF context, despite meeting the original Ulysses at one point (near the very end of the series). 31st century Ulysses does remark the gods treating the both of them rather similarly, however since the future cast gets a reboot to the beginning of the episode, he can't remember it.
    • Most episodes are based on Ancient Greece myths, however only half of them do allude to The Odyssey — and those that do, due to Adaptation Distillation, only bear a vague resemblance to the original. This actually appears very well when the cast is sent to the past, as although similar-looking and a good warrior, 31st century Ulysses is far from being as eager for revenge as his ancestor. Let's not forget that Odysseus was more well-known for his trickery than his courage in battle (though the guy was hailed as one of the best warriors of his time, he was also known to avoid direct confrontation whenever he could help it and/or didn't feel like bathing in the blood of his enemies).
  • A God Am I: Circe wants to achieve godhood through omniscience.
  • God Is Evil: The gods persecute Ulysses in particularly petty and underhanded ways. This is normal for Classical Mythology, which is practically defined by its Jerkass Gods, but the gods of Ulysses 31 manage to be even crueller.
    • Punishing Ulysses for slaying the Cyclops here is arguably worse than in the original Odyssey, because here it's not Poseidon's son but a robot he created, and which is being used by a bunch of lunatics to drain the lives of children so they can see, as it implies that either Poseidon didn't care what they were using it for... or actually created it for that purpose!
    • The episode "Flowers of Fear" features killer robo-plants that can hide themselves away perfectly when dormant, but react to the presence of life by growing into huge monstrous plants that seek to blast the living creature with lasers. The gods sowed these things across the entirety of a planet devoted solely to medicine... because they were too good at curing sick people for the gods' liking (Mind you, they were so good at curing sick people they could cure death).
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Ulysses might be naive at times, but he's smart enough to always overcome the odds in his favor.
  • Greek Mythology: A Space Opera take on it.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Telemachus is made of this trope.
  • Hellevator / Space Elevator: There is a giant elevator in the kingdom of Hades, and it drives dead souls to his inner kingdom.
  • Hero Protagonist: Ulysses, naturally.
  • The Homeward Journey: The whole premise is about Ulysses going through many perils in the Olympus galaxy to get back home (Earth replaces Ithaca in this setting).
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game / Deadly Game:
    • The episode "Guardian of the Cosmic Winds". Aeolus, King of the Cosmic Winds, kidnaps Ulysses to provide entertainment for his daughter's birthday party.
    • The episode "The Magician in Black," too. A powerful wizard breaks the gods' curse over Ulysses's crew...but as payment demands to hunt the three best among them.
  • Ideal Hero: Ulysses, definitely. Good luck finding a single moral flaw in his character.
  • Identical Grandson: Played with. 31st century Ulysses and original Ulysses (and both Telemachus) are confused for each other, but their loved ones can tell the difference fairly easily.
  • Impossible Task: Finding Hades' kingdom, for starters. Ulysses is then pitted against several seemingly impossible tasks by the gods over the course of the series, but always triumphs.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Ulysses is tempted many times into choosing an easier way to get back to Earth (usually by having to let his companions behind) by the gods throughout the series, yet he always chooses to stay and never abandons his companions.
  • Jet Pack: Ulysses' Utility Belt allows him short flights and hovering.
  • Killer Robot: In the episode "Trapped Between Fire and Ice".
  • Kill Sat: Cerberus. A satellite that guards the entrance of Hades' kingdom and destroys the ships of the living who dare to approach with a trident-shaped beam.
  • Laser Blade: Ulysses's weapon is a laser gun that doubles as a lightsaber.
  • Leitmotif: The haunting theme of the gods, among others.
  • A Load of Bull: The Minotaur appears in "Lost in the Labyrinth".
  • Looks Like Jesus: Ulysses. Justified in that in this version, Ulysses is a Messianic figure of sorts.
  • Long Neck: Nono is able to stretch his neck to great lengths.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: In, get this, "The Lotus Eaters". Although, with this being an adaptation of the original legend, it doesn't quite fit the usual definition.
  • Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: Ulysses' energy shield.
  • Magic Mirror / The Mirror Shows Your True Self: The Sphinx is in possession of a mirror showing the true personality of people reflected in it. He is Genre Savvy enough to keep his daughter away from it.
  • Magitek
  • Manly Tears: In the episode "Calypso", Ulysses almost shed a tear.
  • Martial Pacifist: Ulysses only resorts to using violence to defend himself.
  • Master Computer:
    • Shirka, the Odysseus' A.I.
    • Cortex
  • Mind Control: "Mutiny on Board". The gods control Ulysses' crew, reviving the companions as crazed zombies who take over the ship and try to crash it into space glaciers.
  • Mook Mobile: The Tridents. They exist solely to harrass the Odysseus and to be shot down by Ulysses.
  • Mother Ship:
    • The Odysseus.
    • The Tridents carriers.
  • Mystical White Hair: Yumi/Themis is a telepath and she's got white hair.
  • Nemean Skinning: Referenced in the design of Ulysses' spacesuit.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Ulysses against the Tridents emulates the dogfights from Star Wars, which were based on World War II dogfights.
  • Ominous Opera Cape: The personifications of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades during Ulysses' final trial in the last episode.
  • Orphean Rescue: In the last episode, Ulysses meets the 31st century Orpheus, who wants to find his wife in Hades' kingdom. Ulysses' entrance into Hades' kingdom can be considered as one too, as Hades wants to turn his crew into his own citizens.
  • Papa Wolf: Ulysses will do anything to protect or save Telemachus. And Yumi as well, since she has become an adoptive daughter of sorts.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Nono is basically there to provide humor with his clumsiness to counterbalance the otherwise deadly serious tone of the cosmic threat the gods put upon Ulysses.
  • Pointy Ears: The Zodrians (like Yumi) have pointy ears.
  • Powers That Be: The gods intervene overtly but also like to pull the strings unnoticed.
  • Prongs of Poseidon: In this universe, the trident symbolizes the Olympus gods' power, not only that of Poseidon.
    • The Tridents, naturally.
    • The Cerberus satellite's weapon has the shape of a trident and fires trident-like beams.
    • The Minotaur wields a trident.
  • Rapid Aging: Chronos' curse on Ulysses' crew, Yumi/Themis and Telemachus.
  • Recycled In Space: The show is literally The Odyssey IN SPACE!
  • Reset Button: The giant clock in "Chronos, Father of Time" can turn back time.
  • Riddle of the Sphinx: Ulysses is naturally submitted to one, and wins.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Nono's antics make him ridiculously human. He packs a wide range of human emotions like shyness, anger, sadness or even love.
  • Robot Buddy: Nono, a small red robot Ulysses offers to Telemachus for his birthday.
  • Secret Test of Character: Upon finally reaching the Kingdom of Hades, Hades allows Ulysses to return to Earth... provided he leaves all his companions behind. Ulysses refuses. Just as it seems that all is lost, it turns out this was the final trial of the gods and he is now free to return to Earth with all his revived crew.
  • Self-Duplication: The power of Hercrone, the Sphinx's daughter.
  • Shark Man: The foot soldiers of the gods are shark-like humanoids.
  • Shout-Out: To a good bunch of Space Operas: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Star Trek...
  • Shrink Ray: Antipathes' prism in "Temple of the Lestrigones" can shrink anything, from humans to spaceships. The effect can be reversed with the other faces of the prism.
  • Small Annoying Creature: Nono's antics make him one.
  • Space Is Cold: The entrance to Hades' Kingdom.
  • The Stoic: Ulysses never says a word during a fight.
  • Taken for Granite: The Zotrians in the episode "The Lost Planet".
  • Time Travel: At one point Ulysses travels back in time to ancient Greece and actually meets the original Ulysses.
  • To Hell and Back: The last episode involves Ulysses going to Hades' kingdom.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Nono loves snacking small nails.
  • Tower of Babel: Circe never stops building a giant tower to house all the knowledge in the universe.
  • Two-Faced: Chronos has a face on the back of his head.
  • The Underworld: Hades' kingdom is this for the whole Olympus galaxy.
  • Unicorn: With Pegasus-like wings and a freezing ray, in the episode "The lost Planet".
  • Variant Chess / Human Chess: Ulysses must fight giant chess pieces in "Guardian of the Cosmic Winds".
  • Wicked Witch: In the episode "The lost Planet". She is actually a nice person, especially towards children. It turns out she just became crazy when the Zotrians evacuated their children from the moon once it started to move away from the orbit of Zotra, and turned them to stone because she thought they hated her.

Alternative Title(s): Ulysse 31

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Anime/Ulysses31?from=Main.Ulysses31