Weekly Jump Anime - Their First Episodes is my attempt to look at various Weekly Shonen Jump manga and the first episode of their animated adaptations.

For the first of this series I take a look at the sci-fi/action title Space Adventure Cobra!

Cobra~ (leaving me blue)

Space Adventure Cobra can summed up as a mash-up of other fiction: Star Wars meets James Bond with a dash of Phillip K. Dick and Heavy Metal for good measure. The world the series takes place in is very much a product of late 70's sci-fi: neon lights, fancy technology based on now outdated tech by modern day standards and a penchant for big hair. I love it.

What makes Cobra such a fun title to watch, though, is its main character. Despite the cover art for the manga and anime making Cobra seem like an ultra cool badass (which he is) he has a lovable personality thanks to Nachi Nozawa's goofy yet suave performance and the varied facial expressions and actions Cobra does. If I were to compare him to another Japanese character from the 70's it would most definitely be Lupin the Third.

Speaking of comparing characters... Am I the only one who thinks Cobra resembles Ray Stantz from The Real Ghostbusters if he were blonde?

No? Okay... (I wonder how Frank Welker would've fared as the English voice of Cobra...?)

"Damn, I can't read Atari-nese!"

Space Adventure Cobra EP1 - "Resurrection! The Psychogun!"

It starts off with Johnson being awakened by his low-grade robot-servant (with monotone "here's your damn breakfast.") for work... only to realize its Sunday. Johnson then remembers that today he gets a bonus check from work (and true to life, it isn't much.) and decides to go have some fun. As suggested by his robot, Johnson goes to the Trip Movie Corporation and partakes in a dream-simulation (This definitely brings back memories of Total Recall...!) where he is a dashing adventurer named Cobra who has a sexy robot sidekick named Lady Armaroid and a laser gun for his left arm called the Psycho-Gun. He defeats an ugly villain and wakes up... The odd thing is that the dream he had was not what he asked for. (Which was to have a harem and be a captain of a battleship... a humble request as he put it.)

Confused, Johnson heads to the casino and actually starts to win big money and catches the eye of a familiar man...

"Here's your gum back!"

Before he can leave, Johnson is summoned by the casino's owner... who turns out to be the man who Cobra defeated in Johnson's dream: Vaiken, a member of the villainous Pirate Guild! Vaiken orders his men to take Johnson to the basement and kill him. In the ensuing fight, Johnson's left arm lets out a terrific laser blast that kills his attackers, revealing that he has the Psycho-Gun Cobra had! Panicked by the night's events, Johnson retreats home and is again attacked by Vaiken and his men. It is here that Johnson's POS robot is revealed to be Lady Armaroid in disguise and that Johnson is actually Cobra. He had changed his face and voice and erased his memories after being tired of life on the run from the Pirate Guild. The Trip Movie triggered the resurfacing of his previous life.

In one last confrontation, Cobra finally kills Vaiken and leaves his old (or would it be new?) life behind and continues his adventures and thus the first episode ends.

"So uh... You wanna..."

"I'm not an Onahole, Cobra."

What a great first episode. It highlights everything the series is about quite well and actually manages to be a fun mystery though many of the twists can be seen a mile away.

The music by Kentarō Haneda (fans might know him for his music from Super Dimensional Fortress Macross!) is a jazzy soundtrack that is very reminiscent of Lupin the Third and James Bond 007 (hell, the opening itself "Cobra" wouldn't feel out of place in a 007 flick!) and fits the show quite well.

TMS Entertainment (the same folks behind shows like Lupin the Third and Detective Conan) do quite a good job with the animation (by the standards of the time) and the picture quality on the discs put out by Nozomi Entertainment is actually surprisingly very good with bright, bold colors and minimal film damage. (Though, as seen in the second screenshot, there seems to be this sort of odd creative decision to blur certain parts of the frame...?) As I said before, Cobra does get plenty of wonderful facial expressions and reactions that make him quite lovable outside of his suave-badass moments and I commemorate Osamu Dezaki and crew for pulling that off along with Nachi Nozawa's fun performance.

The show gets even better when more intimidating villains show up (Like the instantly memorable Crystal Bowie) and the situations become crazier. It's a show I definitely recommend to those who enjoy the more lighthearted episodes of Cowboy Bebop and show likes Lupin the Third or Dirty Pair.

The series, lasting 31 episodes, can be bought in two separate sub-only DVD sets from Nozomi Entertainment. There is also the Space Adventure Cobra movie which is currently being sold on DVD by Discotek and two additional sequel series being streamed sub-only on Crunchyroll. As for the original manga, it has not seen publication in the US since Viz released part of it in the early 90's and it doesn't seem like it'll be published here anytime soon... a fate that sadly befalls many older Jump titles that aren't by Akira Toriyama.

And that's my first shot at this. I'm probably not very good at it but I had fun.

Next time I'll be taking a look at the first episode of Toei's 1984 TV adaptation of Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken)!