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Even these tapes cost something

  The Adventures of Captain Future Vol 1 & 2
 
1980 | ZIV International, Inc.
The Adventures of Captain Future Vol1 & 2

A cult American space-hero gets a 70's Toei make over. Hanging out on the moon with an android, a robot and a talking brain in a box.

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With the box office success of Star Wars in the late 70's Science Fiction became popular all over the world. It's influence wasn't limited to the English speaking territories; Captain Future debuted on NHK in 1978 it's creation prompted by reports of the originating novels inspiration on George Lucas' hit.

The first Captain Future tale was published by Standard publications in 1940. The characters were invented by Mort Weisinger, one of Standard's editors, and penned by Sci-fi author Edmond Hamilton.

Curtis Newton, an exceptional scientist with impressive athletic ability, was raised from a young age by his brilliant father's robotic creations Grag and Otho. He owes his great intellect to the schooling of Simon Wright an old family friend whose brilliance has been preserved by an incredible mechanical invention that allows his brain to live on past his body's death. Under the pseudonym Captain Future he and his crew of Futuremen venture throughout the galaxy helping those in need.

Toei's anime is, to date, the only screen adaptation of the popular pulp novels and the series stays very close to the source material adding only a single character, a young boy named Ken Scott to cater for the younger viewers.

Captain Future ran for 52 half hour episodes plus an hour long TV special. Tomoharu Katsumata acted as director for the series, a regular within Toei TV animation with credits on Mazinger Z, Gaiking and later Fist of the North Star. Music for the series was composed by Japanese Jazz musician Yuji Ohno, now famous for his Lupin III score.

As is quite often the case, the Captain Future TV series was shown in Germany, France, Spain and throughout Europe, Arab countries and South America, quite often in full without edits. In France and Italy the re-recorded theme tunes even entered the pop charts.

However, in English there have only ever been three releases. The first, in 1980, was titled The Adventures of Captain Future and was dubbed by Bargain Bin regulars Ziv International (Tales of La Mancha, Candy Candy). Ziv was founded by Mark Mercury as a way of licensing, localising and distributing foreign animation to TV and video in the English speaking world. As Mercury is also the man behind Bullets, his music replaces that of Yuji Ohno.

Ziv only produced four episodes, numbers 5 - 8 of the original Japanese run which covered the Prometheus story arc. These episodes were released in two VHS volumes; by Family Home Entertainment in USA and Home Video Productions in UK in 1982, interestingly both companies use identical packaging. These were also shown on cable in America.

Many of the voices heard in Adventures of Captain Future would go on to appear in many Kid Pix and 3B Productions features.

Five years later Harmony Gold produced a feature length movie for TV and video editing together episodes 1 - 4. This production was completely separate to the earlier release and simply titled Captain Future.

 
Galaxy Express 999 Poster Galaxy Express USA poster  
Toei's Captain Future
 
A Captain Future Novel
 
A Japanese released novel
 
Krag in toy form
 

"It has long been believed that our Solar System was made up of the sun and ten planets rather than the nine that we see in our heavens. Astronomers have speculated that the asteroid belt of rocks and debris that circles the sun in orbit near Mars may indeed be the remains of an ancient planet. Legend says this world was part of our own solar system and was a neighbouring planet of Mars and Earth.

The Planet was called Prometheus named after the Greek god who stole fire from King Zeus and gave it to mankind. It is said that a great civilisation once flourished on Prometheus. As Captain Future and his crew are coming to the conclusion of a routine training mission they would not have thought that fate was to lead them to learn the truth about the tenth planet, Prometheus."

Welcome to your fast paced, action packed sci-fi kids! Don't switch off now, we have algebra questions for you at the end. Get low scores and you have to watch volume 2...

Nothing like a long sermon regarding Astrological theory to open a kids cartoon. By this point Macron 1 had at least one laser battle and two cover songs. Not to mention a spinning cube transition.

This being four episodes into the series we are given no introduction to the characters, their pets or their special abilities. Just try to keep up. One thing you soon pick up watching Ziv's Captain Future is that there's a lot of padding. The show's just begun yet it'll be another 20 or so mins before they get to the beginnings of the plot.

The gang is comprised of Captain Future - red hair, black eyebrows sounds like he's constantly pissed off, Otho - greyish supposed android-man where's a sailors cap at a jaunty angle (make of that what you will) and Krag - robot in native indian dress. Who came up with these costume choices? Was the costume department cleared out by several junior high musical productions and all they had left was an indian tunic and a captain's hat and vest?

Also there is Simon - man's name woman's voice. A gender confused glowing brain in a floating box. Yet another heroic team that met at the YMCA.

Episode 1...

While flying their spaceship, the Comet, on a routine training mission (is there any other kind?) the Futuremen pass over a strange green asteroid and are visited by a ghost that demands they use time travel, if they have such and ability, to save his race. Luckily for him Captain Future does have a machine that can send them through time, it's just that he hasn't used it yet.

The team head back to their base on the moon and install the time drive. Future says his goodbyes to Joan and the gang head off into space to perform the time warp. Be sure to stand well back of the Earth just in case the drive was installed upside down and it goes critical.

The intergalactic DeLorean works as hoped and Captain Future and his crew find themselves many millions of years in the past. And are immediately hit by an asteroid. I guess they won't be returning to 1985 until they fix that hole in the ship.

At this point in the story the clock stands at 22 minutes out of the 25 for episode one. It has taken nearly the length of one show to see a ghost, install a time drive and crash into a prehistoric planet. The time warp alone was four minutes long! Four minutes of the same pulsing lights and flashing blobs. Toei sure saved a lot of money the day they animated that sequence!

The comet crash lands on a prehistoric planet, assumed to be Earth and the misfit crew wander out for a look around. Like a sequence out of the Time Gal coin-op, the Futuremen discover a cave girl being chased down by a pre-Jurassic Park T-rex. They run to her aid, their running is animated so stiffly it looks like they are dragging someone behind them on one ankle.

The Captain zaps T-rex and the girl is saved and the future is altered, who knows what the affects will be. Cave-girl rests inside Comet as incoming spaceships are detected approaching.

 

Captain Future
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1

Episode 2...

So, after the breakneck excitement of episode 1 what does episode 2 have in store? The Futuremen try to communicate with Cave-girl but the language barrier gets in the way. The more they talk to her, she might pick up some English words and phrases but that could take minutes!

Even though they are from different eras, speak different languages and he is a android Otho falls in love with Cave-girl. "Her eyes are like deep quiet pools..." Did people really used to say stuff like that?

Back at the caveman village Captain Future witnesses the primitives worshipping a distant planet, calling it Coome. Wait a minute, what happened to the approaching spaceships from the climax of episode one?

As part of the ritual the elder takes El Capitan and the tribe to visit their broken down old caveman-spaceship. Captain Future gazes at the sacred scrap pile and theorizes how the cavemen must have been passing Earth and crash landed in prehistory. They were forced to live stranded with the dinosaurs until they evolved into humans. His views aren't countered with a creationist version of the proto-spacemen's journey. How unbalanced.

Learning that the rusted ship is made from the materials they need to repair the Comet, Captain Future and his gang pay lip service to the ceremony in hopes that they can swipe some sacrilegious scrap metal. As devious as this is, it works and soon they are plundering this sanctified relic for spare parts.

More than ten minutes since their announced arrival at the end of part one, the aliens finally arrive... again. Otho runs up to greet the landers and offers his assistance to their leader. They thank him for his kindness and then beat the crap out of him. Cave-girl Roo winds up being blasted by the S&M Gimp squad too prompting the Future-goons to speed into action. Well, maybe speed-walk into action. They track the bad guys to their base on Mars where Cornel Gimp-mask has thrown Otho and Roo in jail with Julen the son of the Luthen the ghost that prompted this whole low-pace adventure.

Junior explains the plot, stop me if you have heard this before. His home planet of Prometheus is doomed. A good scientist (his father) formed a peaceful plan for the survival of their race. The evil ruler chose the more action packed solution of taking over a nearby planet. For once this wasn't Earth but Mars. The people of Mars don't like that idea and want to wipe out the would-be immigrants. Bored of his stories, and possibly fearing "prison love", Otho forces himself through a gap in the bars and escapes. He is picked up by Captain Future and Krug and leads them back to Luthen and Roo. Reunited, they make their escape back to Prometheus.

The Comet passes at such high speeds that it causes the deaths of several military personnel who had yet to declare attack on the futuremen. Callous!

And so the unbelievable, edge-of-your-seat excitement of volume one comes to a close. How will this deep and twisting, multi layered tale end? And, more importantly, who cares? Well, you'd better care because I forced myself to watch both tapes so I could tell you.

 

The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 1

Episode 3...

The narrator brings us up to speed with the epic story so far. It takes less than the length of this sentence.

After a bit more yak from the heroes we get to meet the bad guy of Prometheus the curiously named General Cuban Fax, apparently he is the brother of Starcom's villain Emperor Dark. He is keen to get this war started and his spies tell him of the arrival of Captain Future and the others.

Future visits the pre-ghost Dr Luthen who explains his wimpy, non-violent survival plan; they move everyone to Coome. He has even converted their planet Prometheus' moon into a large, granite based, greyhound bus for this purpose. Stop laughing, it could happen. General Fax doesn't like the Doctor to have guests so he sends his Spy Rats and Spy Bats to go interfere. This causes an outbreak of slapstick as the future-pets chase the Spies around to a strangely primitive Manic Miner-style soundtrack.

Finally Cuban Fax appears within a cloud of smoke and he confronts the Doctor in a debate as to the viability of his proposed exodus plan. Dr Luthen explains that all but two people from their planet will be frozen and packed into his rocket-moon and they will undertake a twenty year journey to Coome using the Iridium engine. Fax queries the validity of the Doc's claims but the numbers are solid, all the calculations have been made. He even has a flash forward to how his eventual death of old age might look aboard the ship. He really has it all planned out, to the final detail. There is not one thing he has overlooked in this miracle solution to their pending housing crisis.

Well, except one. The General points out that they don't have anything like enough Iridium fuel to make the journey. "That is a problem we have not yet solved." states the Doctor's son defiantly. I'd say it was an extremely key problem, now I'm backing the invasion plan with the full weight of my influence, sorry Captain. You took sides a little too quickly, should have checked if the old boy on the side of good was a quack or not first. General Fax laughs in their face and then disappears. He may be evil but he has a point.

In order to save public face, Captain Future elects to go even further back in time to an era when Iridium was more plentiful and bring it back to them just so this fatally flawed plan might stand a chance of working. Personally I would have washed my hands of this whole sorry affaire and returned to my own time. They'll all be dead by the future anyways...

There is a slight snag while passing back through time: a Fax planted bomb detonates aboard the Comet, knocking the Futuremen unconscious and sending them much farther through time than they planned. This also gives the Toei animators another excuse to kill six more minutes with crazy psychedelic colours and trippy shapes.

The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2

Episode 4...

Get ready for the heart stopping conclusion! The team wake up just in time to witness the Big Bang first hand. They burn out the last of their time-travel fuel heading as far into the future as it will take them. As they speed through time they watch out of the window as the Solar System is born, only millions of years before God created it all over again.

With all the planets formed the Futuremen mine Iridium out of the nearest one and then head into the future once more to deliver the excess to the Promethens. They quantum leap directly into the middle of the inevitable Star War between General Fax's Promethens and Mars. At last! Action is on its way!

Captain Future opens a three-way space-conference call between him and the warring races. It is time for him to take action. He explains that they are all really brothers, castaways from planet Coome stranded on separate planets from millions of years. Fighting is useless since they are all the same people.

Fax sees his plan to become Emperor of Mars unraveling and orders his fleet attack the Comet. They open fire. Here it comes, the space battle we've been waiting an hour and thirty five minutes for. They shots miss and Captain Future counters - by accelerating straight at the General's flag ship then stopping suddenly! The enemy crew fall out of their seats with terror. Future then indicates the space debris above them and, with General Cuban Fax and all his men watching, blasts it to pieces!! All of it!!!

Fax's men know better than to mess with this crazy guy and surrender unequivocally. Yeah, take that space rocks! No one messes with the Captain!

As foretold Prometheus is destroyed by Jupiter and the reunited inhabitants head off on their long journey in a rocket powered moon rock. Captain Future could have at least offered to tow them half way.

The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
The adventures of Captain Future Vol 2
 
Missing videos

Captain Future: A Bullets Production
2 tapes, 2 different intros, 1 funky theme tune from the Bargain Bin favourites.

Sci-fi Snooze-fest
Two typically plodding sequences from Vol 1 & Vol 2.

 
An OK dub
 
Good music
 
The animation is a bit stiff
 
Dull as hell!
  All talk, no action
  Really, very dull

It is said that the original novels inspired George Lucas to make the original Star Wars trilogy. Well, maybe this dull, long, plodding and dialogue laden cartoon adaptation was the inspiration for his second trilogy.

Out of all the 52 episodes, is this really the best plot arc that Ziv could have chosen to translate? I can't imagine many kids were transfixed by heavy scientific theory and astrological history when there was so much to choose from on the video shelves of the early 80's. Maybe, when seen as a full series Captain Future is more enjoyable but as an introduction to the show, these two volumes are a real turn off.

I realise the books emphasised intelligent solutions over needless aggression and the anime is reflecting that, but such an ideology works better in print than a four part kid's show I feel.

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