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Anime / The Mysterious Cities of Gold

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It is the 16th century. From all over Europe, great ships sail west to conquer the New World, the Americas. The men eager to seek their fortune, to find new adventures in new lands. They long to cross uncharted seas and discover unknown countries... to find secret gold on a mountain trail high in the Andes... They dream of following the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado, and the Mysterious Cities of Gold.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold (Japanese: 太陽の子エステバン Taiyou no Ko Esuteban, "Child of the Sun, Esteban"; French: Les Mystérieuses Cités d'or), is a Franco-Japanese co-production between DIC and Studio Pierrot, originally airing on Japan's State Broadcaster, NHK, from 1982 to 1983. In North America, the series aired in English on Nickelodeon from 1986 to 1990 and in French on Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec, where it ran in reruns for several decades and was a staple of the channel. The English version has also been broadcast in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and some southern African nations. Back in Japan, NHK reran the series in 1998 with a new Japanese dub (actually a redub from the French version, as the original Japanese dialogue track had been lost), with only Masako Nozawa (Esteban) reprising her role from 1982.

Unlike other DIC collaborations with Japanese studios, the '80s series is considered anime due to having premiered in Japan first, although it was an international coproduction from the start. The result was a series that became a cult classic in the West despite quickly falling into obscurity in Japan.

After the conclusion of the first season, thirty years passed before it was announced that the series would be returning to air. Three new seasons were announced, with the first of these airing in 2012, and the second airing in the fall of 2016. These latter seasons picked up the plot from where the end of the first season left off, and continued the story instead of rebooting it. The original series still retains a large fan following, although reception of the later seasons has been mixed. The later seasons are French/Belgian/Canadian co-productions with no Japanese involvement and are thus not considered anime, although they do use the original Toshiyasu Okada character designs and another Asian studio, Wang Film Productions, participated in series two.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold is notable in its disregard of Never Say "Die" and Gosh Dang It to Heck!, two tropes which have dogged American cartoons well into the present day. Uniquely, each episode was followed by a short documentary exploring subjects related to the episode, although this segment was not always broadcast (especially in the United States-aired version).

The story begins in the year 1532, and initially focuses on the legends of El Dorado and the conquest of the New World by the Conquistadores. These events are seen through the eyes of Esteban, a boy raised by the monks of the Cathedral in Barcelona who posseses two unusual things: An amulet shaped like a crescent moon, and the ability to summon the sun. Following the death of his caretaker, Esteban departs for the New World in search of his family. Along the way, he meets Zia, Tao, Mendoza, Sancho, Pedro, and Kokapetl. Together, this unlikely band sets out to find the cities of gold.

Halfway through the first season, the tone of the story begins to change from a mostly-historical narrative to a more fantastic one with the discovery of advanced Precursor Mayincatec technology. First the solar powered ship Solaris, and later the Golden Condor, who would become one of the show's icons. The first season culminates in a battle with the mysterious Olmecs, and the discovery that the Cities of Gold were built by Tao's ancestors, the people of Mu. This tone continues into seasons two and three, focussing primarily on the search for the Cities of Gold and the technology of Mu. Season Two introduces a new villain in Zares, a mysterious hooded figure who seeks the cities for his own purposes. It also reveals a startling fact about Esteban's history: he is an Atlantean, the ancient enemies of Mu.

For many years, it was thought that the English dub of the series had been lost, however in 2008 an English DVD was released in the UK, with a North American release in 2009. Two games have also been released: Flight of the Condor, a mobile/iOS game, and Secret Paths, A PC game that was later released on the iOS, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS.

Compare to Future Boy Conan and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, two other anime with similar themes, both also aired on NHK. Many of the production team had previously worked on The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, which had also aired on NHK and on Radio-Canada.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold provides examples of:

Season 1

  • The Ace: Mendoza. However, he clearly has no clue on how to use a cannon. When he gets his hands on it, he fires everywhere but the spots where it'll help.
  • Adaptation Title Change: The Mysterious Cities of Gold is a very loose adaptation of the novel The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell.
  • Adults Are Useless: The adults in this show are either incompetent or, in the case of the longer lasting antagonists (Gomez, the Doctor and Malinche, the Olmec leaders), outsmarted. Mendoza's probably the only one who isn't really outsmarted.
  • After the End: Atlantis and Mu/Heva fought a war that ended with the use of the "weapons of the sun", which are implied to be akin to nuclear weapons in terms of destructive power.
  • The Alleged Car: Or, The Alleged Ship — the Esperanza is a rotten, leaky old wreck that somehow hasn't been scrapped yet. How they expect her to survive the Straits of Magellan is anyone's guess. Amazingly, they do survive the straits. The storm they encounter afterward, however...
  • Alternate History: Although most of it takes place long before recorded history or in places not well-known to Europeans at the time, so it likely doesn't influence the setting's known history much.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The theme songs in the French and English versions of the '80s series use the same Haim Saban/Shuki Levy-composed melody, and are used for both the opening and closing. By contrast, the Japanese version had completely different opening and ending themes. The English and French opening and closing sequences are also slightly edited from the Japanese.
  • Amazon Brigade: Complete with an entire tribe of female warriors.
  • Ancient Tradition: The Guardians of the Mysterious Cities.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: The mini-documentaries shown after the episodes are possibly the greatest example of this trope (very long, accurate, an actual budget)... but are also subversions.
    • The one about human sacrifices is nothing but traumatizing. It ends with a first-person shot of a victim tied up on a sacrificial altar. You see the priest, on top of you, lifting up his knife and stabbing you. The screen suddenly fades to black. Then the narrator says "see you next week on another episode."
    • And one where they show the chicken's head being hacked off with a machete, then the headless corpse flapping and bouncing around madly in the dirt.
    • One of the documentaries, on the native tribes of the Amazon, actually contains full-blown National Geographic Nudity!
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with Esteban, Tao and Zia setting off on the Golden Condor to find the remaining six Cities of Gold. From the preview for the long-awaited second season, they're heading to China in search of the next one.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: When Zia makes Gomez and Garpard believe that Mendoza was killed, the two Spaniards are visibly saddened.
  • Art Shift: When the story of the Esteban's parents is told, it's done in a completely different art style.
  • Atlantis: The ancient civilization of Heva/Mu fits this trope, although it also fought the literal Atlantis in a war thousands of years ago, which both sides lost.
  • Badass Cape: Mendoza's, of course.
  • Beneath the Earth: Where the Morlock-like Olmecs dwell.
  • Bloodless Carnage: A LOT of people die left and right, from mooks and red shirts to many important non-protagonist characters, from things like cannons, fire, guns, arrows, spears, swords, the kind of wounds you'd expect to be nasty and bloody...
  • Bold Explorer: Mendoza is a charismatic explorer who claims to be the one who brought Esteban to Spain as a child, and now wants him to return and use the power of the locket to help find the title cities.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Gaspard (and thoroughly deservedly).
    • Sancho and Pedro get their share of it, too.
    • Tao isn't totally exempt from this, either.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Commander Gomez promises to spare his hostages (including Tao and Esteban) should Zia decipher the quipu supposed to lead to the Cities of Gold. She complies, and he moves to execution.
    Zia: You gave me your word!
    Gomez: Well, I'm taking it back.
  • Cartoonish Companions: Sancho, and Pedro are drawn in such a way that they don't quite fit the "normal" art style of the show.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: Which leads to Macchu Picchu.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Wynacocha and the gang goes to the outlining Mayan villages to unite against the Olmecs. They all turn him down. By the end of the episode, they'd all changed their mind and sent their warriors to back him up.
  • Chasing a Butterfly: Used to illustrate Esteban's innocence, he has a fascination with butterflies that begins during the sea crossing from Spain. This later nearly gets him killed when he starts trying to catch butterflies while on the way to the Fort of the Black Eagle, and is shot at by Gomez's soldiers.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Painfully averted aboard the Solaris. When Mendoza, and later Tao and Esteban explore the large gold cube in the Solaris' engine room, it is very clearly featureless. It is so featureless, in fact, that if it did have any features whatsoever, they would easily stand out amidst the rest of the smooth gold surface. Yet convieniently, just when the heroes need the Solaris' special ability, the handle needed to get it going suddenly appears upon the front of the cube.
  • City of Gold: What the characters are searching for. Duh!
  • Competence Zone: Subverted; the considerably older Mendoza is the most competent member of the group, as befitting of a seasoned explorer with years of experience. The children often look to him for guidance and leadership. There's a strict division of competence, however. Mendoza is competent in almost all aspects fitting his role as Team Dad and protector (combat, navigation, survival, combat, asskicking, geography, combat and asskicking), however he's strictly useless for understanding the ancient technology of Mu, or solving the various ancient puzzles and riddles the group comes across — in this area, the kids are strictly the only competent ones.
  • Cryo Sickness: Olmecs preserved themselves for thousands of years through cryonic hibernation, but in the fourth and final season, one of them explains that this prolonged stasis caused them to mutate into alien-esque beings, with pale and rotting skin.
  • Cue the Sun: Esteban has the ability to call forth the sun. Particularly striking when this power is the only thing that might get them spared by the Amazons: the sun appears shining on the blade that was about to kill Esteban.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Despite chasing after the treasures of the Mysterious Cities of Gold, not a single one of them ever considers that a fast automated ship armed with a frigging laser, or a frigging flying machine might actually be worth more! Played With: Sancho and Pedro do believe that the Golden Condor is worth millions... but because it's made of gold, not because it's a goddamn plane in the sixteeth century.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Lana, from the floating Totola village, who had been abducted by the Urubus in order to be sacrificed to Pachamama.
    • Myeena, Papacamayo's adoptive daughter, who is abducted by the Olmecs.
    • Zia spends a good part of the plot as this. Heck, the entire reason she joins the plot is her being kidnapped. First brought to Spain, then kidnapped back from Spain to South America.
  • Dramatic Wind: Mendoza and his cape.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • Heva was originally called "Mu" in French.
    • Tao's avian companion, named Guin in Japanese and Pichu in French, was given the more indigenous-American-sounding name of Kokapetl in English.
    • The series title basically changed from "Esteban, Child of the Sun" to "The Mysterious Cities of Gold". Not a straight example since the later is the literal translation of the French title, and the writers were French so it is as much an intended title as the Japanese one.
    • The Golden Condor, known by that name in Japanese (Ogon no kondoru) and in English, is called Le Grand Condor in French. The change was most likely done because "Condor d'Or" in French sounds like a stutter.
  • Dumb Muscle: Tetiola, the Doctor and Malinche's henchman. Gaspard isn't exactly the brains between him and Gomez either.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Traps in the ruined temples.
  • Dying Race: The Olmecs, which they're trying to stave off by whatever means are necessary.
  • Engrish: The classic "L and R" form. The villain "Marinche" in the English version is clearly intended to be the historical Malinche, but is called the former in the English and Japanese version. In the French version (and remember the series authors and producers were all French) she is correctly called "Malinche".
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Although the exact nature of their relationship is never clarified, Malinche is visibly concerned for Tetiola's welfare when he's briefly enslaved by the Olmecs and is very relieved when he's released, and the big guy is very protective of her.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Malinche suggests poisoning a village to get at the gold in the lake as well as to keep the kids from being sacrificed. The doctor's response to this suggestion is an apalled "What?!". He says he hates doing it this way, but all it takes for him to get over it is Malinche reminding him of all the gold.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Esteban's father, who is just referred to as "The Traveling Prophet".
  • Evil Chancellor: Omoro, great priestess of the Amazons.
  • Expository Theme Tune: At least, the English dub describes exactly what they're doing, even mentioning the Condor which doesn't show up until midway through the series.
  • Fat and Skinny: Sancho and Pedro, and to a lesser extent, Gaspard and Gomez, as well as Tetiola and the Doctor.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The ultimate purpose of the Cities of Gold themselves; the Emperor of Hiva/Mu forsaw the probability that they and Atlantis might get into a no-holds bared nuclear war and had the cities built to ensure their knowedlge and technology could be recovered afterwads. Although this is only explained at the end of the first series; to everoyne else they are just filled with Gold.
  • Foil: Gaspard and especially Gomez to Mendoza. All of them are greedy Spaniards, Only in It for the Money, and start off believing that the end justifies the means. However, Mendoza does not have the power position of being in Pizarro's direct service, meaning he has to be more resourceful. He immediately places himself as a protector for the children (despite not being motivated by charity), where Gaspard just wants to throw them overboard and Gomez essentially enslave them. His caring for them becomes more genuine over the course of the series, and he eventually finds peace with the Mayans, where Gaspard and Gomez go MIA during the attack on the City of Gold because they wanted to escape with some of it.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Tao's jar.
  • Foreshadowing: When Esteban first awakes in the presence of the High Priest, he gently tells Esteban, "Don't be afraid, my child." While this initially seems merely like a friendly greeting between a man and a boy, it turns out to be quite literal. The priest is Esteban's long-lost father; Esteban really is his child!
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Tao
  • God Guise:
    • Esteban is believed to have divine-granted powers both by the Spanish and the New World populations. He's not too keen on it himself, though.
    • Menator tries this on the children for a minute or so, until he is able to subdue them.
  • Gold Fever: Pretty much every Spaniard character save Esteban has it to a degree.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: The entirety of episode 33, "The Reunion", is this trope played out as the various villages are convinced to help the Village of the New Sun fight the Olmecs.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: During the last episode, during his Heroic Sacrifice, Esteban's father is thrust backwards by the flames, causing his golden mask to fall and melt. Since flames were already consuming his clothes, his fate is certain.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Averted with lines like, "Damn your eyes, FIRE!" and "Straits of Hell". Although it is worth mentioning that in the right context, you can get away with "Hell" in a kid's work. Heck, Sleeping Beauty has a "G" rating despite that word.
  • Gratuitous English: "Try my best!" in the Japanese opening song, and "Friend, oh my friend" in the ending song.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: In the Japanese version, the narrator ends each of the live-action documentaries with "Adiós, hasta luego!" ("Goodbye, see you next time!").
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Tao's encyclopedia of plot exposition.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Mayan sentries are supposed to guard the house where the gang is staying. Instead, they sleep on the job, giving Pedro and Sancho a chance to sneak out.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Esteban's father, who dies in his attempt to prevent a Phlebotinum Overload that could threaten the entire world. According to Word of God, he somehow survives and meets Esteban again. We'll count it: onscreen he's (literally) toast.
    • Though in actuality the villain, no doubt this was what Menator believed he was doing, using his final breaths to guide Kalmek on installing the Hivans' Great Treasure into their own power crystal, in order to save his dying race. Which, of course, he botched.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mendoza, while not really evil or greedy, does eventually warm up to the kids.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Francisco Pizarro, the Greater-Scope Villain of the first third of the series.
    • Assuming that she is supposed to be the historical character, Malinche, who gets a serious Historical Villain Upgrade.
    • Queen Isabella of Portugal has a very short but lampshaded cameo in the first episode, as Zia was initially brought to Spain to serve in her household.
  • Humongous Mecha:
    • The Olmec War Machine.
    • The Golden Condor qualifies too.
  • I Lied: Gomez demands that Zia surrender to them and gives his word the Inca's village will be spared. After she's in their grasp, Gomez immediately orders the ship to fire at the village, saying he's taking his word back.
  • In Name Only : The TV show was theoretically adapted from a novel (The King's Fifth, by Scott O'Dell) which actually has very little in common with it; it especially lacks the Speculative Fiction elements. There are characters named Zia, Esteban, and Mendoza, and they are looking for the Cities of Gold; that is more or less where the similarities end. Esteban is not the child of the sun, Zia is not an Inca.
  • International Coproduction: The original series began as a wholly Japanese conception, with DiC joining NHK, MK and Pierrot as a production partner starting with episode 7.
  • Knight Templar: Master Menator, the Olmec ruler.
  • Landmark of Lore: Machu Picchu, although it was never directly stated as such in the show. Also the Nazca lines, which in this universe are the pre-determined autopilot routes for the Golden Condor.
  • Last of His Kind: Tao is the last of the Hevans.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Esteban is the only one that got a costume change and that was early in the show. His seafaring clothes just got torn up after the Esperanza's wrecking, and by the time he got to Tao's island he simply discarded his red vest to end up in the damaged outfit he'd wear for the remainder of the show. One would think that trekking through the mountains, jungles, deserts, and seas, would those clothes be reeking of gunk by the end of the show. Gaspar and Gomez still have one costume each but at least theirs show a little wear and tear. Mendoza somehow manages to maintain his cloak.
  • Lovable Traitor: Mendoza, though he gets better later on.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Pichu/Kokapetl
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Both Esteban and Zia get to meet their fathers later on in the series; both die soon after, and in Esteban's case he never learns that the Guardian of the City was his dad, as Mendoza chooses not to tell him to spare him the pain.
    • Incidentally, Esteban's father wears a mask that gives him more than a passing resemblance to Darth Vader.
  • Magic Skirt: Zia and Tao. Some manner of white undergarments can be glimpsed on Tao at one point, though.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: The back of Myeena's dress gets lifted up to her calves whenever she's near the Golden Condor in flight and it gives the updraft.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Esteban's alleged sun summoning powers are brought into effect three times: once when he's a baby, once in Barcelona early in the show, and once amongst the Amazons. The Spanish populace is amazed by it, as are the Native Americans who witness it, but Esteban himself, Mendoza, Sancho and Pedro aren't quite convinced. During the third occurence, Mendoza points out that the storm clouds above them were moving extremely fast, meaning that a sunny respite could occur at any time.
  • Mayincatec: This series is a classic example of Mesoamerican Hollywood History.
  • Mutants: Many viewers think the Olmec are aliens but the way the Olmecs describe themselves makes them being mutants much more likely.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The group of native girls who came upon Tao and Esteban Skinny Dipping certainly seem to think so, especially when Esteban gets out and waves hello to them before remembering where he is.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The Urubus tribe.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Disappeared Father: It's the reason why Esteban accepts Mendoza's offer. Later when Zia finds out her father left on a journey, she searches for him.
    • Missing Mom: Esteban's mother does get mentioned in one episode. Tao and Zia's mothers never get mentioned at all.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: The Golden Condor uses solar energy to fly. Which is great, except when it's nighttime or the sky is overcast.
  • Prophecy Twist: It was prophesied that one of the Cities of Gold would be destroyed by "white men". It turns out these white men were the Olmecs not the Spaniards.
  • Puppy Love: Although their relationship isn't overtly romantic, Esteban and Zia are an adorably inseparable couple. They're always holding hands, Esteban is always protecting her and whenever something scary happens they always cling together.
  • The Quest: Which is to find the Cities of Gold.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The heroes have two sets of these following them around, Commander Gomez and Gaspar, and Malinche and The Doctor (and their Dumb Muscle Teteola), trying to beat them to the treasure.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Not knowing what a pistol is, Tao points one at Esteban, who's obliviously startled. Tao then suspects it might some sort of weapon, and the shot goes off, almost hitting Esteban.
  • Running on All Fours: Olmecs.
  • Schizo Tech: The Olmecs have fantastically advanced technology, including a massive flying machine armed with a devastating Death Ray. Their soldiers fight with swords and longbows.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • In the episodes leading up to the group's discovery of the "false" City of Gold, the children hear numerous legends from the locals that their medallions must be placed within the arms of the Earth goddess (at the time, the children don't understand what these messages mean). However, once the group actually reach the earth goddess statue they've been searching for, Esteban recounts the instructions he's heard as "the medallions must be placed upon the breasts of the goddess"! No doubt this discrepancy was done deliberately during the translation to English, to minimize the usage of the word "breasts" in the production.note  However, when it came to the actual scene where the children place their medallions upon the statue's breasts, the dialogue, by necessity, had to be translated to accurately reference what they are about to do.
    • A major one in the climactic episodes of the series. The High Priest of The City of Gold grudgingly escorts Kalmek and his men to the doors of The City of Gold and delivers a stern warning about the dangers secured within the city, before Kalmek forces Esteban and Zia to open the doors anyway. Kalmek and his troops rush in to the city. When they reach the main temple, somehow the High Priest is already there, and more bizarrely, he asks Kalmek who he is, as if they've never met before! This, coupled with the unexplained question of how the priest beat the Olmecs to the temple, led many fans to wonder if this High Priest was even the same character as the one that was introduced in the previous episode.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • How well the mini-documentaries tie into some of the episodes shows just how much care was put into trying to make the show fit into the time period and the location.
    • The Spanish soldiers attacking the Fort of the Black Eagle are shown using muskets rather than arquebuses, which is historically correct, as the first muskets were used precisely by the Spanish infantry during the siege of Parma in 1521.
  • Skinny Dipping: In one episode, Esteban takes a bath naked in the river, since swimsuits haven't been invented yet. He forcefully drags a reluctant Tao to come along, but didn't invite Zia.
  • The Smart Guy: Tao
  • Speedy Techno Remake: "Golden Condor vs. The Olmec Machine"
  • Spoiler Opening: The opening spoils the appearance of Zia, Tao, the Solaris and the Golden Condor when they only show up later in the series.
  • Spoiler Title: The series is full of them.
  • Sticky Fingers: Mendoza, on the occasion. Notably, he stole part of Esteban's medalion when he saved him from the shipwreck.
  • Supporting Leader: Mendoza
  • Team Pet: Kokapetl (called Pichu in French)
  • Temple of Doom: a lot of them are spread out in South and Central America it seems.
  • That's All, Folks!: At the end of the documentary segments, "Goodbye... till next time." For the final episode, it was simply "Goodbye."
  • The Load: Sancho and Pedro are idiots and a danger to themselves. Their love and obsession for gold repeatedly get the group in trouble and the mere mention of the word gold makes them spaz out and act even dumber than they usually are (which is saying a lot), and they contribute nothing to the plot except for being an extra set of arms and legs when Mendoza needs heavy things moved.The team's parrot outdoes the both of them in both action, skills and intelligence.
    • Zia in season 1 is a lesser example: Her skill at deciphering kipus early in the series is essential to the plot, but after this, she's prone to being kidnapped and needing rescuing a lot while contributing very little to the plot, especially when the story moves away from her people towards the tribes of the Amazon.
  • Those Two Guys: Sancho and Pedro
  • Threatening Shark: It wasn't enough that Esteban, Zia, Mendoza, Sancho and Pedro were stranded on a flimsy raft in the middle of the ocean. They had to be attacked by sharks as well.
  • Title Theme Tune: An eponymous Expository Theme Tune (except in Japan, where totally different opening and ending songs were used, with lyrics having little if anything to do with the series itself).
  • Took a Level in Badass: Esteban starts out as a pretty helpless kid, but as the series proceeds he gets more independant and even combatative when necessary. Perhaps most notably, in episode 26 "The Swamp" the heroes confiscate Tetiola's bow and arrows when they capture the Doctor's party. When they get attacked by alligators Esteban uses the bow (which, let us remind you, was made for a man literally more than twice his height) to kick serious reptile ass! And in the second season (set in China), he gets to meet Shaolin monks and learn a trick or two...
  • Translation Convention: A WMG entry suggests Zia taught Inca to Spanish-speaking Esteban during the trip to the New World. Fair enough. Then the gang meets Last of His Kind Tao, who presumably would only speak Hevan/Mu. And they chat along without any issues at all. And Mendoza and the other adults can understand Tao, despite never being taught Incan, let alone whatever Tao's native language would be.
  • Tripod Terror: The Olmecs' three-legged flying machine, which is also capable of walking.
  • Ultraterrestrials: The Olmecs actually are a remnant of the time of Mu and Atlantis, likely humans mutated by accident or on purpose.
  • Undignified Death: Zigzagged. Although Papa Camayo's death scene is easily one of the most poignant and significant deaths in the entire series, the moment shortly earlier when he is mortally wounded is practically played for a cheap laugh. The random Olmec soldier who shoots him seems to have the voice and personality of Jokey Smurf, and he is comically pummelled with a tree trunk by Pedro and Sancho after dealing the fateful shot.
  • Unexplained Recovery: No-one is even surprised that Gomez and Gaspar survived the destruction of the San Miguel even though it was literally blown to splinters with them aboard when Tao overloaded the Solaris' solar heat ray, causing the ship to self-destruct right next to the Saint Miguel.
  • Walking the Earth
  • Walking Disaster Area: All the temples visited by the heroes end up destroyed. Usually because the Plucky Comic Relief try to ham-fistedly steal something valuable, activating a solar-powered trap in the process, which sort of qualifies as Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Rainbow light cause the Golden Condor to malfunction and crash on the ground. It's then inoperative for a few days.
  • Wham Line: "That man is not our High Priest." The real High Priest of the City of Gold died years earlier and the man in the golden mask is Esteban's father, who took the High Priest's place.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Waina, Ketcha and a group of Inca soldiers were assigned to escort our heroes. After an attack from the Urubus, they become separated and we never hear from them ever again.
  • Wish Upon a Shooting Star: Zia does this after the Esperanza breaks apart, praying that she and her friends will be delivered safely from their predicament. They are, but not before they're almost devoured by sharks.
  • Wolverine Publicity: A weird example where the subject is an item, not a character. Ask any fan of the show what they remember of this series, they'll mention the Golden Condor almost immediately. It appears on most promotional art, is seen in the intro, is mentioned in the lyrics of the theme song in both French and English. Yet it doesn't actually appear until half way into original series!

Season 2 and beyond

  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: The gang come across Shaolin monks and they are were seen practicing kung-fu.
  • Animesque: Some of the animation is clearly anime-inspired, although this sequel was made with no Japanese involvement.
  • Art Shift: From the traditional cel animation of the original series to cel-shaded animation.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • Season 2 finale. Ambrosius holds Athanaos hostage and forces the gang to find the 3rd City of Gold in exchange for his safety.
    • Season 3 finale. Ambrosius has found two medallions in the 4th City of Gold, meaning he no longer needs the kids alive and it's now a race to find the remaining three. Worse, Ambrosius seem to know where the next City of Gold is and our heroes can only follow him.
  • Batman Gambit: Ambrosius blackmails Esteban into retrieving and handing the third City of Gold's artifact over to him, in exchange for his father's freedom. Esteban fulfills his part of the bargain, but Ambrosius refuses to release Esteban's father and demands more artifacts before leaving... just as Esteban expected. Since the artifact -a pearl- can actually be used as a homing beacon, the gang track an unsuspecting Ambrosius back to India.
  • Big Bad: Zares.
  • Big "NO!": Zares will yell this loudly when things aren't going his way.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tian Li saving Tao from taking a dive in an icy lake.
  • Bigger Stick: Played for laughs with Sancho and Pedro who holding a silly contest with the guy carrying the biggest stick. This cumulates with Sancho struggling to lift a tree trunk to out-gun Pedro's stick.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Mendoza spots a local being chased by soldiers right when he's about to board a ship. The ship's captain advises him against getting involved because Mendoza is a wanted man. Mendoza is willing to follow his advice until he realizes the man whom the soldiers are chasing is a friend of his, so he goes to his rescue. The captain remains unfazed, though, and orders to set sail as scheduled.
  • Callback: Several.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: The reason Ambrosius want the children safe is because they are the only ones who can open the cities of gold. To avoid relying on them, he tried to craft his own sun medallions, but he hasn't been successful so far. However, in the season 2 finale, he get his hands on two lost sun medallions and no longer need the kids alive.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: When Esteban remove a sword jammed into the Golden Condor's wing, the sword fell and its blade landed first on the ground.
  • The Cameo: Several. Gomez, Gaspard, and Pizzaro are briefly visible in the recap for season one, Mayuca gets a small but important scene introducing the new villain, and Papacamayo appears in two of Zia's flashbacks to her childhood.
  • Cel Shading: All the new seasons are in cel shading CGI.
  • Chasing a Butterfly: In a callback to Season One, Esteban follows a butterfly into a Buddist Temple. Thankfully, no danger befalls him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Season 2 has its own example of a bad use of this trope (see above for the season 1 example), although this time it is wasted rather than averted : Ambrosius opens the compartment containing the Hevan Pyramid but delibarately obfuscates one of the two buttons that need to be pushed in order to deactivate the traps he has set up to protect it. One would suspect that someone will try to open it, push the first button but not the second one and thus knock themselves out when the traps activate... but when Mendoza goes to steal the pyramid later on, he just pushes on the opening button without trying to deactivate the traps, thus making the setup in the earlier scene pointless.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Mendoza, Pedro and Sancho rescue some helpless children and lose their chance to escape from the Daimyo. This prompt the lord to spare their lives and keep them prisoners rather than executing them.
  • Comet of Doom: A meteorite in the final season, drawn in when the nuclear war between Mu and Atlantis somehow changed its orbit. After finding the 6th city of gold, the heroes' final goal is to destroy this by building the 7th city.
  • Cool Airship: Ambrosius' flying ship, the Nef.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: While the gang is traveling inside an active volcano, the scorching heat has no effect on them.
  • Crush Blush: Zia is smitten by Zhi and blushes when she sees him for the first time, complete with stammering. Esteban and Tao are annoyed.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Zares versus Pedro and Sancho. The two latter finally put aside their cowardice and stand up to Mendoza. Too bad Zares kicked their asses in less than a second.
  • Disney Villain Death: How the captain of the guard meets his end.
  • Distress Ball: Just about everyone except maybe Mendoza carry the Distress Ball and need rescuing. Tao even lamented that they were captured three times in the span of the same week.
  • Downer Ending: Season 2 end with the Prophet Traveler being revealed to be alive, but contaminated with radiation. Before he could be reunited with Esteban, Zares captures him.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Zia and Mendoza each have one on two separate episodes when they realized what and where the key to the third City of Gold is.
  • Evil Chancellor: Dan Shi, the advisor the to the Emperor of China. While he doesn't conspire against him, he makes several immoral actions to gain his favor.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Long Chow, a very large dog, dislike Ambrosius and growl a him. For good reason because he's Zares, the Big Bad of the series.
  • Evil Overlooker: Zares is a frequent offender.
  • Faceless Goons: The Order of the Hourglass is made of men wearing robes and hoods that concealed their faces.
  • Fight Unscene: There's a lot more action in these seasons. However, no shot or no blood are shown. When Pedro got his by an arrow in the arm, you only see his reaction from getting hit.
  • Food Porn: The Chinese and Tibetan food being cooked along with the appropriate cooking sound. It will make you hungry for sure just by watching.
  • Foreshadowing: You could teach a university writing course with just examples from this season. One notable example is one episode which contains a seemingly stupid and pointless scene where Sancho and Pedro dance and sing a sea-shanty for the amusement of the children. The song and dance actually end up getting Esteban out of trouble later in the episode.
    • A more subtle one occurs in the flashback of the first episode, when Zares captures the Inca man Mayuca who helped the kids out in season one. If one rewatches the season, they will note that Gomez and Gaspard ended up blocking all ground routes into the City of the High Peak, where Mayuca lives. This foreshadows the fact that Zares has some way to fly.
  • Gentle Giant: Mu-Chun stand out as he is the tallest and largest of the Shaolin monks. He's peaceful enough.
  • Given Name Reveal: Mendoza's first name is revealed to be Juan Carlos.
  • The Good King: According to the villagers, the Raja is said to be a good and benevolent ruler.
  • Hammerspace: After landing the condor amidst a herd of goats (so they can harvest their milk for dinner), Tao pulls a wooden bucket out of his bindle that is clearly larger then the bindle itself. Lampshaded by the fact that he actually has to rummage around in the bindle in order to find it.
  • He Knows Too Much: After Ambrosius got information regarding the fourth City of Gold, he orders LaGuerra to execute his knowledge broker, even though they were once friends. LaGuerra is clearly distressed by this.
  • Idiot Ball: Happens quite a lot and leads to a handful of Distress Ball in season 2. Special mention goes to Tian Li who read a prophecy stating the children are in danger because of a traitor. He discover Ambrosius is the said traitor and truly is Zares, but keeps the information to himself. Tian Li confront Zares alone (despite keeping a large dog for a companion) and gets beaten. By the time he comes around, everyone has move out of his reach. Things improve in season 3 however.
  • I Lied: Ambrosius demand that the children deliver artifacts from the 3rd City of Gold or Esteban will never see his father again. He did just that and Ambrosius refuse to hand over Esteban's father and wants more artifacts from the other cities. Fortunately, Esteban saw that coming and had a backup plan to turn things around.
  • Imperial China: The setting for season 2.
  • Instant Expert:
    • Zia found out she manipulate blocks of orichalcum while wearing a Heva crown. She effortlessly start making geometric shapes with hundred of cubes. Meanwhile, Pedro and Sancho focus all their might and they can't even levitate a single block.
    • Ambrosius is almost as quick a study as Zia, as he moves his Orichalcum compass with ease once he figures out the power of the crown and later perfectly controls two Black Suns at the same time.
    • Mendoza is amazed he's piloting a submarine. When he pilot it a second time to make a narrow escape, he make superb stunts that will put the best modern pilots to shame.
  • Man Bites Man: Zia once bit Gaspard in the arm to save Tao.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: Zia in "Back To Barcelona Part 2". See Parachute Petticoat below.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong:
    • Ichiro is very loyal to the the Daimyo. While he does help our heroes, he will not outwardly betray his lord.
    • Similarly, the Indian guards are loyal to the Raja and will not disobey any of his orders, even if its shown they are uncomfortable with them. Unfortunately, they haven't noticed that the Raja has been drugged and became a puppet ruler.
  • No Flow in CGI: Averted. From Menzoda's cape to Zia's hair, everything flow beautifully.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Cities of Gold are not made of gold, but orichalcum. In fact, all of Heva's technology and objects are made of orichalcum.
  • On the Next: Every episode has one, including the very last. Since the third season hadn't been greenlighted at that point, the preview is made entirely of concept art.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: A mechanical one, built with Heva technology.
  • Parachute Petticoat: Zia in "Back To Barcelona Part 2". Her dress spreads out briefly when she drops down from a tree.
  • Pet the Dog: The Daimyo is a cruel, harsh and ambitious overlord who want to overthrow his rivals. When he learns of the cities of gold, he dream of conquering Japan. However, when Mendoza and his crew saved helpless children rather than escaping, he show a more different side. Rather than executing them for being outsiders, he had them imprisoned, but well treated. He propose them to join him in conquering Japan because Mendoza is an honorable man, unlike his current advisor Gaspard.
  • Projected Man: From the second season onward, the Sages of Mu and Atlantis, as well as Princess Rana'Ori appear as "lumino-projections" within the Cities of Gold. In the fourth season, Ambrosius also leaves a holographic message as part of a trap.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Mendoza, Sancho,Pedro, and Zares all appear in the season 3 opening.
  • Puppet King: The Raja has been drugged by Ambrosius, turning him into his servant so he can order the Indian guards and dominate the populace.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": Esteban does this when Zia says that they have to cross a wide and deep chasm on an invisible bridge.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Li Shuang makes sure his workers and soldiers alike are well treated. He harbors no animosity against Gurban, a Mongul kid who wander too close to the Great Wall.
  • Red Herring: Two of them in season 2. Zares was seen snooping around Ambrosius's airship. Another instance, Zares captured Mendoza and enlisted him to steal an artifact from Ambrosius. This led people to think Mendoza became a traitor. In reality, it wasn't Zares, but the Prophet Traveler. He just happened to wear similar clothes as Zares' and needed the artifact to cure his radiation poisoning.
  • Retcon:
    • The Golden Condor technical design has changed. Its landing gears are completely different. Exhaust ports are visible in the tail. It also has a ladder hidden in its beak that the children "discovered" during the Time Skip.
    • Zia and Esteban's medallions corrode when separated from them in season 2 on. This is an ability they never displayed before.
  • Royal Brat: Prince Zhu, at least at first. After he left the Imperial Palace for first time, he saw how his father the Emperor ruled brutally over his people. He then vow to be a better ruler when he'll succeed his father.
  • Say My Name: All over the place.
  • Scenery Porn: The Golden Condor factory. Seeing all the condor's components hovering in the air and assembling itself is truly stunning.
  • Sequel Hook: Not that there is any sequel in the works, but the final episode of season 4 sets up a lot of stuff that could be used later on :
    • Esteban and Zia are off exploring a strange dimension that is containing the Cities of Gold after they close.
    • Tao is setting up a new secret society in Patala to study the Hevan artifacts, with the help of Mendoza, Laguerra and Gaspard.
    • Ambrosius has achieved eternal life and is still out there with a flying machine.
  • Ship Tease: The series have been teasing about Esteban and Zia as far as season 1. This is amplified in season 2 and we see them holding hands and hugging one another a lot more. In season 3, Tao is also has hots for Zia. Later, Tao seem to have fallen for Indali and spend a good amount of screentime with her company.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skewed Priorities: During season 3's Finale, Mendoza desperatly tries to hold on the kids who are inches away from being swept away in a landslide. LaGuerra comes to the rescue, but Mendoza has lost trust in her. She then kisses him to convince she's on their side and Mendoza kisses her back. The kids are less than thrilled by the poor timing.
  • Skinny Dipping: It's Zia's turn to take a bath naked in a lake (probably a callback to season 1). She undressed while the boys were arguing.
  • Slave Liberation: Esteban and the others free the enslaved Indian villagers from the Order of the Hourglass.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Ambrosius put Gaspard to sleep by giving some tempered wine.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Mayuka, a one-off character from the original series who gave the children some helpful information, is apparently entombed alive within an incan shrine at the start of the series. Though it is possible that the shrine had some secret escape tunnel that he knew about and simply didn't tell Zares about. Such things were common among the architecture we saw in the original series.
  • Tempting Fate: Mendoza goad Ambrosius into fighting him face to face. Cue Ambrosius donning his Power Armor.
  • Time Skip: Season 2 take place six months after the end of season 1.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Or, in this case, Recaps always spoil. In one episode, the recap of the previous episode refers to the nomads that Mendoza has been camping with as the Childeans. This is before the name of the tribe is disclosed within the actual story. It's a major spoiler because Esteban & co. are looking for the Childeans, who possess a major clue to finding the next city of gold. They are unaware that they have already befriended members of this tribe, because they were never told the tribe's name.
  • True Companions: Season 2 ride with this as all the seven companions have become as close as a family. Solidified even more in season 3.
  • Uncancelled: One of the most extreme cases ever. It took very nearly 30 years, but the new material is a continuation of the original show, not a remake or reboot.
  • Underwater City: The third City of Gold rest underwater.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: While sneaking into a village, the children's presence don't seem to provoke any reaction from the villagers as outsiders are uncommon and not welcome in Japan.
  • Wham Line: Li Shuang delivers one to Esteban in "The Oasis".
    "Esteban, your ancestors were the Atlanteans."
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Pedro and Sancho boasted that they mastered kung fu by watching the Shaolin monks train. No one were impressed.
  • The Worf Effect: In comparison to the original series (where he was all but unstoppable), Mendoza very rarely proves a match for the arc villain. He always puts up a good fight though.
    • Not so much in the third series, where he once again becomes a champion swordsman who can only be bested by overwhelming numbers or Ambrosius in his bionic armor. Even the incredibly nimble La Guerra is nothing more than his equal in combat.



A swarm of locusts attacks and brings down the airship.

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Main / TheSwarm

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