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Anime / Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs

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Clockwise from upper left: Saber Rider, Fireball, Colt and April. In the center: Ramrod.

"Together we've made a commitment to the spirit of the frontier freedom fighters. Wherever danger leads us, wherever the people need us, that's where you'll find . . . the Star Sheriffs!"
Saber Rider, "Star Sheriff Round-Up"

Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs is a 1987 Americanization of the anime series Sei Juushi Bismarck.

In the future, humanity has spread out across the galaxy, settling various planets which are known as "frontier outposts." Spaceship travel and high technology are common, but many people live simple lives akin to those of settlers in The Wild West. All is peaceful until the human dimension is invaded by Outriders, the soldiers of a race of aliens known as Vapor Beings who are bent on conquering our dimension. They are driven back, but fifteen years later they return, led by their Galactic Conqueror, Nemesis. They attack using Humongous Mecha called Renegade Units and the only ones who can stop them are Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits consisting of:

Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs is the second attempt made by World Events Productions at dubbing an anime series, done in the same style as their previous (and much more famous) attempt, Voltron. While the general storylines were kept intact, several episodes were removed due to content and American-produced episodes were substituted in (they are notable for their differing character designs and minimal usage of the Transforming Mecha) as well as introducing expanded backstory for one of the main villains, Jesse Blue. The transformation sequences, which differed from episode to episode in the original series, Sei Juushi Bismarck (Space Musketeer Bismarck), were replaced with Stock Footage. The Japanese main character was turned into a secondary character and the British fencer became the titular character in the American version. A love triangle was also introduced with Jesse Blue falling in love with April (and trying to pull both an Attempted Rape and a Murder the Hypotenuse), who was in love with Saber Rider (who was oblivious and embarrassed when she tried to kiss him once) and later with Fireball (who reciprocated her feelings).

Interestingly, the original series was a commercial failure in Japan, but the American version proved VERY popular around the world, especially in Germany, Latin America and Russia where it developed cult status.

This show is also highly notable as one of the first shows a newborn Studio Pierrot did in the early to mid 80s, and Saber Rider was their first major overseas success and the money from that (along with Urusei Yatsura) fueled their later projects. You may have heard of just a few of these.

The series is once again legally available to view on YouTube (why it wasn't for a while, no one knows, though this time around there's only a few episodes to view instead of the whole series) and a long-delayed video game is scheduled for release in 2016. Said game had a successful Kickstarter campaign will be a oldschool style 16-bit shoot-'em-up released on the Nintendo 3DS, Steam (for Windows, Mac, & Linux), the Dreamcast, and PC Engine/TurboGrafix-16. Originally, the game was intended to be a 3D title released by Firehazard Studio for all eighth gen consoles along with iOS and Android, but Firehazard disbanded and their original publisher pulled out, with the current Team Saber Rider eventually ditching the 3D format for the originally intended 2D game. A demo is currently available...for the Dreamcast version.

In 2016, Lion Forge Comics, publisher of titles based on popular 80-90s franchises such as Knight Rider, Miami Vice, Punky Brewster, Airwolf, and Saved by the Bell, announced a new Saber Rider limited comic series written by Mairghread Scott (The Transformers: Windblade) with art by Sendol Arts (artists on Lion Force's original comics Roboy and Trimaxx.)

In January 2023, Discotek Media announced that they would release the series on Blu-ray later in the year.

"Your destiny will lead you to where the tropers need you":

  • The Ace
  • Ace Pilot: Fireball, an ex-top professional racer. Colt is also shown to be very good at piloting his personal craft, the Bronco Buster.
  • Americans Are Cowboys: Colt, one of the four principle characters is a hotshot pilot, and an American. You can tell he's American by his cowboy hat.
  • Amnesia Danger
  • Animesque: The American-produced episodeslist  made to fill in the gaps left by the episodes not brought over from Bismarck look much more like a late 80s anime thanks to the production gap between both sets of episodes. This also doubles as an Art Shift, thanks to the characters' redesigns making them more squared off and realistically proportioned.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Saber Rider unanimously declares he's found a new species of bug after a few minutes' examination with a magnifying glass.
  • Ass Kicking Pose
  • Attempted Rape: Jesse tries to force himself on April in "Cavalry Command", but she uses her martial arts skills to fend him off. The scene is a relatively mild example of the trope, but it's still a surprising thing to see in a family-friendly cartoon from The '80s.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis
  • Badass Crew: The Star Sheriffs, of course. Even without Ramrod and their vehicles, they're skilled enough at hand-to-hand combat to fight the Outriders on equal terms.
  • Beginner's Luck: Fireball and Colt do pretty well the first time they pilot Ramrod.
  • Beach Episode: More like a Beach Scene. Interestingly enough, this is rather subverted when the male character goes in for a kiss and is rewarded with a face full of sand.
  • Big Bad: The appropriately-named Nemesis. Everything bad that happens in the show is because of some plot he's concocted, and every villain of the week ultimately answers to him.
  • Bowdlerise: The site has detailed comparisons of 19 Saber Rider episodes with the Japanese originals. These articles show how Saber Rider was systematically edited and rewritten to eliminate character deaths and otherwise soften the violence (among other reasons).
  • Brain in a Jar: In later episodes, we learn that this has been Nemesis' true form all along.
  • Broken Bird: Trista, Jesse's girlfriend. In one episode she and April meet, become friends and then have their buddying bond trashed by Jesse.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Each Sheriff has his or her quirk - Colt is a bit of a pervert and flirt, April was a pro tennis player before becoming a scientist, Fireball's temper, etc.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Somewhat justified. They're calling their attacks as instructions and to keep the others aware of what Ramrod is doing, since it's a four-person piloting job.
  • Chest Blaster: Ramrod's most powerful weapon. (Also includes kneeblasters. And hip blasters.)
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Colt. Though he *does* become more loyal when he's paired up with the strongwilled Hot Teacher Robin.
  • Circus Brat: One of Saber's girls of the week was a young woman who worked as an acrobat in a circus.
  • Clean Cut: Saber, Fireball, and Colt are all whisker-free.
  • Closer to Earth: April was often portrayed as being more mature than Colt and Fireball, though she's frequently backed up by Saber.
  • Cool Car: Fireball's Weaponized Car, the Red Fury Racer. It's a futuristic race car that's armed with missile launchers and a gatling gun.
  • Cool Horse/Mechanical Horse: Saber's is called Steed. In the American version, April also has a pink one called Nova.
  • Cool Old Guy: April's father, Commander Eagle.
  • Cultural Translation: The team leader was switched from the Japanese guy to the British guy, and the Space Western elements were really played up by dubbing the team "Star Sheriffs" and expanding the setting from the solar system to the galaxy in general.
  • Daddy's Girl: April and her dad.
  • Days of Future Past: As with the other Space Western cartoons, clothing and architecture reminiscent of The Wild West co-exists with futuristic technology.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Jesse Blue was originally in the Star Sheriff training academy. It didn't take him long to start working for the Outriders instead.
  • Determinator: Everyone, but specially Colt.
  • Diagonal Cut
  • Disappeared Dad: April's dad, again. Fireball's dad fits in as well.
  • Dodge the Bullet
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom
  • Easy Amnesia: In the two-part episode "The Challenge", Fireball loses his memory after an encounter with the Outriders. His friends try to tell him of his past and he is completely baffled by all the adventures they had together.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Every single car that crashes blows up.
  • Evil Counterpart: Jesse, to the Sheriffs.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: In "The Highlanders", Saber Rider's parents have a pet Scottish terrier that can distinguish them from two Vapor Beings that kidnap and replace them. The puppy's odd behavior tips Saber and April into revealing the trap.
  • Evil Is Petty: Nemesis and the Outriders are trying to conquer the human dimension because the concept of fun doesn't exist in their own. Seriously.
  • Gag Dub: When you have villains of the week spout off self-improvement cliches like "visualizing success"....
  • Galactic Conqueror: Nemesis, leader of the Outriders, is obsessed with taking over the human dimension.
  • Graceful Loser: Subverted when Vanquo is shot by Saber Rider in his own dimension turning him from an Outrider into a Human Being and magically making him good.
  • Hand Cannon: Ramrod has a size-appropriate pair of pistols.
  • Just a Kid: Fireball's younger age is constantly mentioned by the others.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage
  • Love Makes You Evil: Jesse's Face–Heel Turn is motivated by April's reluctance to get in a relationship with him. His Attempted Rape of her didn't help his case.
  • Love Triangle: More than a Love Triangle, less than a Love Dodecahedron. Interestingly enough, it came about because of the Macekred plot.
  • Monster of the Week/Robeast: Renegade Units.
  • Mr. Exposition: Saber Rider.
  • Multinational Team: Saber Rider is really British and Colt is really American. April and Fireball's nationalities are ignored, but you can still spot the French tricolor and Japanese sun on their respective uniform sleeves and helmets, and April's cousin gets a French accent.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya
  • Mysterious Parent: Fireball's father.
  • Never Say "Die": Part of the Bowdlerization noted above.
    • In the show the Outriders never die; as Vapor Beings, they vaporize and are "sent back to their own dimension". If they are vaporized in their own dimension they turn human instead.
    • It's taken to ridiculous extremes with human characters as well. In one episode, a blatantly dead man is given dialogue. Except his mouth isn't moving. Because he's supposed to be dead.
    • The episode with Trista was edited down from the original, where she was shot to death by Jesse and didn't get any chance to "run".
    • In fact, nobody died in this version of the show. Another example: you know the human settlements the Outriders are constantly attacking? In Saber Rider, the dialogue always assures us that everyone has been safely evacuated. In Bismarck... not so much.
    • Subverted somewhat in "Bad Day at Dry Gulch" in that while the dialogue was altered as usual, the animation for the death of Kiri (who was unnamed in the dub) was mostly unaltered from the Japanese version where she dissipates in a glow of green energy. Making this a more easily justifiable example than most.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jack Nicholson for Jesse Blue; and, of course, Optimus Prime John Wayne for Ramrod.
  • No Fourth Wall: Happens once when Saber Rider addresses the audience during two Eyecatch sequences.
  • Parents in Distress: Commander Eagle, and Saber's parents in "The Highlanders". Fireball's father, who is lost in the Vapor Dimension.
  • Recap Episode: "The Challenge, Part II" is a bunch of flashbacks as the team tries to kickstart Fireball's memory.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: In "Castle of the Mountain Haze", Baron Vong says that a man named Relttag was trying to buy his castle. Saber Rider immediately realizes that "Relttag" is actually Gattler, one of the Outriders' generals.
  • Second Love: April had a crush on Saber Rider but he was oblivious to it. She later falls for Fireball.
  • Shout-Out: Ramrod's transformation sequence begins with him intoning "Head 'em up, move 'em out!"
  • The Smurfette Principle: Poor April is the only girl in the group.
  • Space Western: Not only Colt was a literal Space Cowboy before he joined the Sheriffs, some episodes are set on Wild West-like planets.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Jesse Blue.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Whether it's a Code Name or his real name, Saber Rider is about as blatant a hero moniker as Speed Racer.
  • Stock Footage: The Ramrod transformation sequence, for one, but there are some other instances.
  • Stuff Blowing Up
  • Suave Sabre: The titular Saber Rider, as An Officer And A Gentleman who rides a robotic horse named Steed into battle, is primarily armed with a sabre. He does switch to using his sidearm when necessary, and also has a rifle he uses for long range sniping.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Jesse Blue.
  • Teen Genius: April Eagle built Ramrod when she was around 16. She also was a very talented tennis player; according to Saber, she's pro-level and would've been a tennis star if she had not entered the group.
  • Theme Naming: The planets are all named after Western towns and the characters tend to be named after a distinguishing feature. April's cousin is named June.
  • Totally Radical
  • Transforming Mecha: Ramrod.
  • Tsundere: Robin, a Hot Teacher whom Colt flirts with. They get hitched in the end.
  • Upper-Class Equestrian: Saber Rider is British, and comes from a wealthy family. He also rides a robotic horse into battle.
  • Wave-Motion Gun
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Each of the heroes has their nation's flag on their armor: Saber has the Union Jack on his helmet and sleeves, Colt has a (miscolored) American flag on his helmet and his Bronco Buster is red, white and blue, Fireball has the Japanese Rising Sun on his helmet, and April (who was explicitly French in the Japanese version) has the French tricolor on her sleeves.
  • We Will Meet Again
  • You Can Barely Stand
  • You Guys Killed My Parents: Colt tells Robin that the Vapor Beings murdered both of his parents in front of him, by blowing up the shuttle they had just boarded after visiting their son. Soon, he jumped at the call to avenge them.
  • Young Gun: Colt with regard to Dooley, who was his mentor.