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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... "

Ulysses 31 (French: Ulysse 31; Japanese: 宇宙伝説ユリシーズ31, Space Legend Ulysses 31) is a 1981 French-Japanese anime series conceptualized by Jean Chalopin (who went on to create The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Inspector Gadget in the following years) and Nina Wolmark, and co-produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha studios and DiC Entertainmentnote  under the supervision of Bernard Deyriès. 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 (hence "31" in the title), spaceship commander Ulysses flies home from a galactic conflict he helped end peacefully on the planet Troy. On the way back to Earth, he rescues his son Telemachus and two young Zotrians, Yumi and Numinor, from a Human Sacrifice by destroying the Cyclops, but doing so angers Poseidon and the other gods who rule the universe of Olympus, from which it came. Zeus curses Ulysses by dragging Ulysses' ship, the Odysseus, through into Olympus, putting his crew and Numinor in suspended animation, and erasing the ship's memory files that contain Earth's location.

Ulysses will now have to wander throughout unknown worlds in the galaxy of Olympus and face various threats and dangerous traps set by the gods until he finds the Kingdom 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 journey by the only two persons who were not put in suspended animation, his teenage son Telemachus and Yumi, a blue-skinned alien little girl with telepathic powers. Nono, the small red toy robot Ulysses offered to Telemachus, also accompanies them.

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 Odysseus 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.

Characters tropes go on the character sheet.


Ulysses 31 provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Myths Are True: And they're happening again, in space!
  • Ancient Grome:
    • Think of the trope but Recycled In Space, with Latin names such as Ulysses and the Parcae being used alongside Greek ones such as Odysseus (Ulysses and his ship thus have the same name).
    • Add to that soldiers from the actual Ancient Greece episode looking more like Roman soldiers than Greek hoplites.
  • 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.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Circe turns Ulysses' crew, Yumi/Themis and Telemachus into zombified humanoid pig slaves.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: "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.
  • 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' laser-saber (blatantly inspired by the lightsabers of 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 this, to variable degrees.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Ulysses is very literal example, being played with by the gods.
  • Crapsack World: Crapsack universe. The Olympus is full of hostile entities and dangers at every corner for Ulysses, the children accompanying him and the Odysseus itself.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas
  • Cult: The Cyclop's monks are a cult worshipping it, offering it children in sacrifice.
  • 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.
  • 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 or aliens endlessly. Not to mention giant fire and ice storms in space, a gigantic magnetized ships cemetery and various asteroid fields the gods enjoy putting in the way of the Odysseus.
  • Derelict Graveyard: One that has both its own name ("The Graveyard of Wrecks and Hulks") and an infamous reputation.
  • 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 Lives: By the last episode, no one in the Odysseus has died.
  • 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. Once they reach their episode allotment, though...
  • First-Run Syndication: Although created in 1981, it didn't air in the U.S. until 1986 when it aired as part of the syndicated Kideo TV block.note 
  • 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.
  • Hellevator / Space Elevator: There is a giant elevator in the kingdom of Hades, and it drives dead souls to his inner kingdom.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Leitmotif: The haunting theme of the gods, among others.
  • A Load of Bull: The Minotaur appears in "Lost in the Labyrinth".
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • No Ontological Inertia: In one episode Ulysses meets a wizard who frees his companions from the gods' curse. When the wizard is killed by a treacherous servant his spell is broken and the companions go back to sleep.
  • 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.
  • Perplexing Pearl Production: "Temple of the Lestrigones" has the Odysseus shrunk by the baddie du jour. Ulysses sets out in a small spherical scout ship, which is caught in an oyster and covered in nacre within hours.
  • 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.
  • Protagonist Title: Ulysses is the show's protagonist. "31" means "31st century" meanwhile.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Space Is Cold: There are asteroid-size icebergs in space, most notably at the entrance of Hades' Kingdom.
  • Stock Footage: Those shots where Ulysses and Telemachus are reunited after winning the day and fall into each other's arms? It appeared in the pilot, and it was shamelessly reused in several other episodes.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Many sounds (especially the activation of the Laser Blades and the Tridents' laser shots) were taken directly from Star Wars.
  • Taken for Granite:
    • The witch turned all the adult Zotrians living on her moon into stone in the episode "The Lost Planet".
    • The treasure of the Sirens is guarded by a giant metal tentacle that turns all the beings it touches into metal statues.
  • 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.
  • Tower of Babel: Circe never stops building a giant tower to house all the knowledge in the universe.
  • 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".
  • Wheel of Pain: A bunch of these are shown powering the loom of fate.
  • 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

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