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  Defenders of the Vortex
1988 | Celebrity Home Entertainment Inc.
Defenders of the Vortex Celebrity just for kids

# "Defenders of the Vortex! Defenders!" # Wait, isn't that the one with Flash Gordon and that fruity magician?

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First appearing in 1964 in the pages of Weekly Shonen King, Shotaro Ishinomori drew inspiration from Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy and Ian Fleming's James Bond to create the manga serial Cyborg 009.

A team of Nationally diverse and cybernetically enhanced Super spies take on their former creators the sinister Black Ghost Organisation. The organisation's evil leader, Black Ghost, abducted each of the nine innocents for his 00 Cyborg program. Given super-human abilities against their will they were eventually set free by Prof Isaac Gilmore one of the scientists working on the project.

Fighting against their former masters, the team is led by Joe Shinamura, formally a delinquent youth turned racing driver, now know by the code name 009. His mechanical enhancements allow him to run at incredible speed.

Under his leadership are 002 - Jet Link a former New York gang member altered to be given the power of flight, 003, Francoise Arnoul, a French Ballet dancer given the power of enhanced vision and hearing. From Germany - 004 Albert Heinrich. The most troubled of the team, he resents his enhancements, numerous weapons built into his body, and longs to be human once more. 005 - a Native Indian known as Geronimo Jnr given armoured skin and incredible strength. Chinese chef Chang Changku, 006, with the ability to breath fire, 007 a British actor named "Great Britain" who can change into any human form and 008, Pyunma an escaped slave from Africa who can now survive under water for long periods thanks to his mechanical lungs.

The final member of the group is 001, Ivan Whisky, the baby son of a brain surgeon, born with a terrible illness. His father was driven insane by his quest to cure him and unwittingly gave him psychic powers in the process.

The manga has been serialised in numerous publications and ran until 1985. It was first adapted into anime in the 1966 movie titled simply "Cyborg 009". This was followed a year later by a second feature "Kaiju Sensou" (Monster Wars). Both of these features were directed by Yugo Serikawa (Frankenstein, Star Zinger, Mazinger Z).

NET TV broadcast a 26 episode black and white TV series in 1968. Eleven years later a brand new colour show premiered on TV Asahi and ran for 50 episodes. This new retelling lead to a spin off movie. Released 20th December 1980, Cyborg 009 Cho Ginga Densetsu (Legend of the Super Galaxy) featured the same voice cast as the new TV show as well as many of the same crew.

The Cyborgs, having spent many years apart, are reunited by Saba, an alien boy who arrives on Earth with a warning of a terrible danger. Zoa, a power hungry military leader, intends to use Dr Koizumi latest discovery - the Super Galaxy, a galactic vortex of unlimited power, to take over the universe.

The movie, which also celebrated Shotaro Ishinomori's 25th year in the Manga industry, ran for 130mins and would be the last animated outing for Joe and his team until a third TV series in 2001.

The movie Legend of the Super Galaxy was released, at various times in Italy, Germany and Spain where the seventies TV series had also been shown. This european release was the full 130 min version redubbed into the local language.

In 1988 Celebrity Home Entertainment released Defenders of the Vortex on their Just for Kids label. The animated feature was an English dub of Legend of the Super Galaxy although it was shortened by 40 minutes to make a more kiddy friendly runtime of 90 mins. The cuts also removed references to the heroes previous adventures and small amounts of violence.

Defenders of the Vortex shared the same cast and crew as many of the other Just for Kids acquisitions including Revenge of the Ninja Warrior and Space Warriors: Battle for Earth Station S-1. The Japanese title song is replaced by "Light of Love", written by Brian Haverty who also wrote Space Warrior's theme "So Long Ago". This is the only substitution, the rest of the soundtrack remained the same.

As with all of the Just for Kids range, after Celebrity's demise in the early nineties, Defenders of the Vortex was re-released by Best Film and Video. As with Ninja Warrior this version is the original dub before Celebrity's edits.

As of writing this still remains the only part of Cyborg 009's anime history that has been released in the English language.


Various movie posters

I know all you really want to know is "What characterises this animated adventure?" Well, turning once more to the cardboard sleeve; "Non-stop action and high-tech space weaponry"! That's what!

Against a backdrop of colourful swirls and a soundtrack of sci-fi sirens and bleeps, the narrator explains the origins of the universe. "It was born several hundred-billion years ago... by the explosion of a substance with unlimited mass!" Nothing like a science lecture to hook the under-sevens into your story. He goes on to explain how the universe continues to expand and grow - even now - to make the following story seem plausible. It is, of course, insensitive and unbalanced of our narrator to have only addressed one theory on the birth of the universe. For the SuperBook lovers amongst you I give an alternate explanation. God did it. He did all of it. And then lied about dinosaurs just to test you.

The narrator finishes up by explaining that the "Mother Source" of the universe never actually disappeared. It still exists, hidden somewhere in the centre of the galaxy...

...and on Earth Dr Cosmo has found it! He tells his old chum Dr Gilmore but he's not interested. He is retired after all. But Dr Cosmo is too excited to keep quiet, explaining that this tremendous discovery could be harnessed for the good of mankind to be used as a limitless power source! He gives his new discovery a fittingly exciting name. He calls it... "The Vortex"... Isn't that a brand of bathroom bleach?

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

Suddenly, little baby 001 levitates above their heads warning of a "Strange Enemy" approaching Earth. I was expecting an update on what activities my mother is up to in hell! Still, am I the only one who finds a one year old baby talking with an emotionless female voice creepy? This strange enemy is "... a devil named Zoa!". And, as if to prove the toddler's claims, the scientists instantly receive a transmission from the photo developing room of Space Defence Command warning of a large object heading our way. It must be Zoa, right?

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009

On the strength of a baby's premonition and a weather report Gilmore is urged to reunite his 'Galaxy Legion' Cyborgs again. Considering he is giving this serious thought on such limited intel I'm surprised the team have managed to spend this much time apart.

So what have the guys been up to since they've gone off-line, so-to-speak? A quick slide show has 002 as a Pro-Bull Fighter, 003 is in the castle-ballet business, 004 skis, 005 - the native indian - is now a cowboy, 006 (not doing as well as the others) seems to be slaughtering pigs, 007 is a Chippendale, 008 is a Beniton model and 009 is back as racing driver. Can Dr Gilmore convince them to return to a life of action and danger?

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy
Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy
Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Cyborg 009

But just then things start to ge- hey, wait a minute! Bull Fighter?! All the others went back to what they did originally or something related to their homeland, at least (in 008's case). What part of ex-New York Hoodlum or 'possesses flying ability' leads to 'Bull Fighter'? What New Yorker dreams of becoming a Bull Fighter? Rudy Giuliani would be spinning in his [presidential candidacy] grave.

Any way... but just then things start to freak out. A guy gets splashed in the face by his beer! A clock turns backwards!! Some woman's hair stands on end!!! With all this crazy stuff going down, and with the ominous glowing in the sky, the nine cyborgs can't refuse to help out.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009

They meet up to investigate the strange object that fell from the whacked-out-glow. Before they can realise it's a spaceship there is a - in 006's racially dubious words - "vely blight light" and a non-hostile alien lifeform appears. Sadly it is not Alf, but Saba from planet gabada. He explains the plot: an evil space-emperor called Zoa has also discovered The Vortex(TM) and plans to use it for evil; unlimited evil! Saba keeps, unsubtly complementing the planet Earth calling our civilisation "advanced" and civilised. He could be laying it on too thick when he claims that he feels our homes are like "brother planets" but that, and the sob story about evil Emperor Zoa laying waste to his planet, killing his mother and kidnapping papa Saba seem to help his cause. The Cyborgs agree to assist. It seems that their mechanical enhancements didn't override their human ability to be suckered in by a sorrowful tale, leaving them vulnerable to strangers baring tales of harsh (almost rapper standard) childhoods or their intergalactic telethon appeals.

"We can never tell just when Earth will be invaded by Zoa!" warns Dr Gilmore. A second later a message comes through from Earth Defence Command warning that Zoa is invading Earth. Then the lights go out and 001 issues a blood chilling statement... the enemy is in the room!

The lights come on and Goro, the commander of Zoa's military, towers over our heroes, remotely at least as this is a 3D projection. He delivers the usual stern warning that his army is more than a match for the galactic Legion and there is nothing they can do to stop their plans etc etc. Then he laughs manically and vanishes.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

That evening, at a dramatically lit beach, Joe meets Francis in hopes of encouraging her to stay out of the action ('cause, y'know, she's, like, a lady). He's not forthcoming with his feelings at first prompting this snappy exchange:

Francis "A penny for your thoughts."
Joe: "Francis, can't you guess?"
Francis: "You know I can't. I don't have 001's gift of telepathy, I just have the power to hear distant sounds or to detect the existence of things."

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

But while they are out someone breaks into the lab and steals 001 and Dr Cosmo. This is the final straw, and Joe agrees to help Saba stop/destroy Zoa and his army and rescue his father. Using the alien child's spaceship the Galaxy Legion set a course for planet Gadats, the enemy homeworld.

A handy Star Gate is put to use to ensure our heroes reach their destination before the video runs out. Seconds after passing through this interstellar short cut the Galactic Legion come under attack from Zoa's fleet. although They were able to see off their opponents easily, by typing a meaningless series of numbers into the computer using unlabeled keys, Francis learns that the ship is rapidly loosing power. It is decided to make a run-time-bulking stop over on nearby Planet Subplot.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

Fortunately Planet Subplot, ok, ok, Planet Fontarian has basically the same atmosphere as Earth (what are the chances?) so breathing won't be a problem. Landing on a Peruvian Condor carved into the ground doesn't seem like such a good idea when it begins to sink below the surface. The roof closes above, leaving them in darkness. Unsure if this is some kind of a trap or just some old spaceship hanger the team find a way out onto the planet's surface. Joe gives the order to split up and search for inhabitants/energy crystals. 006 manages to discover several giant sea monsters which attempt to eat him, not realising he is 85% metal. 008 dives in to rescue him, revealing that laser guns do work under water! 002 and 005 also try attempt to assist in fighting the giant tapeworms.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

Elsewhere, group two (comprising 004 and 009 - 003 had to stay behind because she is a woman and 007 had to look after her: because she is a woman) locate an ancient Aztec-looking city and it's less than welcoming primitive inhabitants. Spears are thrown but before 004 can retaliate he vanishes - seemingly teleported. The same happens to 009 and the rest of the gang. They were relocated by Princess Tomarra the ruler of Planet Timewaste - sorry, Fontarian. She appears before the Galaxy Legion as a projection to appeal for their help freeing her from Rodaks's crystal. If she is freed the Princess will help her people rebuild their civilisation (Zoa visited many years ago and shot the place up).

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

The Cyborgs follow Tomarra's pet to Rodak who turns out to be a giant cyclops. A giant ROBOT cyclops so his violent death will still be suitable for this video. The battle is short and the Princess soon regains her freedom much to delight of her primitive people.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

Later that evening, by the romantic glow of the sinking sun, Princess Tomarra begs 009 to stay behind and be her King. Her people need a strong leader to rebuild their planet and god knows she can't be that leader - she's only a woman. What a time for 003 to rejoin the group. Having sat out all the violence and danger she walks right in when it looks likely that Joe is gonna score behind her back. With a Princess! ... Just like a woman!

But it wouldn't have mattered since Zoa's fleet arrives to shoot up the few bits they missed all those years ago and Tomarra ends up killed (mostly off screen). Still, it wasn't a complete waste; they got the fuel they needed. And it did kill twenty minutes!

Back out in space the ship's Super-Garmin picks up a new planet. Saba explains it is Zoa's fortress planet Gadats. Zoa foolishly had it constructed right next to a neutron star which, Saba reveals, emits an electronic pulse which shows up on the enemy's radar. If the cyborgs can position their ship to move a the same speed as the star's pulse wave they can slip inside undetected.

The rescue shuttle can only seat six, and since they are retrieving two adults, Joe uses this as another excuse to keep Francis from coming along. This time she is having none of it, citing her psychic powers as a reason for inclusion. 009 finally gives in and allows her to join. With 003 replacing 002 the final lineup for Operation: Final Reel now looks like this; 009, 007, 003 & 004. Joe makes a promise to Saba to bring back his father, and then the team depart.

To some funky disco grooves, the gang slip aboard undetected. 007 uses his shape-shifting skills to trick a guard into revealing the prisoner's location (basically, by changing into a baddie and then asking him "Where are the prisoners?"). There is a brief scuffle (even briefer in this 'kids' version) and their lost friends are found. Dr Cosmo and 001 are fine but it's a little too late for Saba Sr. By now he is so dead he can't even give one of those stuttering final messages as characters generally do in these circumstances. No, he is so dead he's probably beginning to smell. Nice work 009, maybe if you hadn't spent that 20 mins on planet Sidetrack...

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

Zoa finally makes his first appearance but blink and you may miss it. He gives a brief de-motivational speech then departs on a small shuttle with a 'Vortex Control Device' which he made with the contents of Dr Cosmo and Saba's Dad's brains. While escaping the fortress 004 makes the sudden decision to stay behind on a suicide mission to destroy Zoa's base. Joe tries to convince the clinically depressed cyborg to return but he refuses. He will remain and detonate a neutron bomb hidden in his body when the others are a safe distance away. There are now two spare seats on the shuttle; one less than they left with... nice work again Joe.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

Commander Goro, making a brief re-appearance, shoots 004 triggering the explosion which destroys the planet. Back aboard the ship 009 has the difficult and unenviable task of explaining to the others that 004 was that explosion. But one piece of bad news is enough so he doesn't let Saba know about his dad. 009 then tells them all that he had always intended this to be a Suicide Mission; he never planned on returning to Earth. That's news to the other cyborgs but they agree with him, as does Saba though no one was asking him. With that decided the Galaxy Legion set a course for Zoa and the Vortex, a distance they can never recover.

The Cyborgs follow Zoa through a trippy looking 'Star Maze' and onto the edge of the vortex. Joe follows him in...

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

Moments later Joe re-materialises on the bridge of the Spaceship, but now he's sort of different - more sparkly than usual. He explains that the Vortex was a living mass of unimaginable power. It was far beyond what mere mortals could hope to control yet for a split second he was given the Vortex's power. Zoa too became as one with the Vortex but his lust for power led him to absorb way more of its energy than he could possibly control and it destroyed him.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009 Legend of the Super Galaxy

With the power lent to him by the Vortex Joe wished to return home (maybe he even clicked his heels together) and sure enough outside the familiar blue globe of home is looming.

Once more in the golden glow of sunset, the Galaxy Legion hold a low-key funeral for their fallen comrade 004. His yellow scarf blows gently in the breeze from a wooden cross set on a cliff edge. Everyone is in attendance, Saba, Dr Gilmore, Dr Cosmo, The Cyborgs, even 004. What?! How is that possible? Well, y'see, while Joe was inside the Vortex for the brief moment that he was in control of its immense power he wished 004 back to life! At least that's how 001 puts it, although how would he know? He didn't, however, wish for Tomarro to be resurrected. Or Saba's father. Only the one of the three that wanted to be dead.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009

Later that evening, Joe and Francis are alone by the shore. Now that the adventure is over Joe pledges to join Francis in France. After all, what with his Grand Prix and her Ballet, they both have business there. 003 grabs this glimmer of hope with both hands and they walk of into the sunset.

Defenders of the Vortex Cyborg 009

But wait! Wasn't this whole mission pointless? Please, think this over with me;

The main objective of their assignment was to destroy Zoa and stop him from taking control of the Vortex. Despite the Galaxy League's involvement Zoa reached the Vortex but ultimately he was destroyed by his own greed.

Side quest: save Saba's father from Zoa's scientists. An outright failure. 009 located Dr Corbin but it was too late as he was already dead and the bad guys had all the information from him that they needed.

So, to sum up, the efforts of 009, 004, 003 et al had absolutely no effect on the outcome - save for 004 blowing up the Zoa Death Star (although faulty wiring would've probably done the job sooner or later). In reality Joe and his chums could have simply turned down the invitation to reform (like any good 80's group) and carried on with their retirement and everything would have straightened itself out.

Like Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park; "Nature finds a way"... I think that works?

(Ok, ok, I am intentionally leaving out the part where, as part of his Vortex-Genie phase, 009 wished for Zoa's death and Heinrich's resurrection, but you've only got 001's word for that and he still craps in his clothes).

Missing videos Missing videos

The Light of Love
Written by Brian Haverty who also wrote the Space Warriors theme.

Wonky Accents!
Mild racism and unidentifiable nationalities. Watch out for 007 forgetting his own accent!

Reasonable dub
Fairy "meh"
Not overly involved or engrossing

Having watched Defenders of the Vortex I'd like to see the original Japanese version for comparison. For me it is hard to tell where the 30 mins have been cut from 'cause, plot wise at least, it still kind of works. It is undoubtedly shallow and almost unnecessary but the story is still watchable, it still makes sense. But it is quite clear that there is a beginning and an end but no middle. The good guys set out on their quest and then, 90 mins later, finish it but nothing that eventful happens in between. What's missing?

With the shorter running length Joe, Francis and Heinrich do well out of the screen time but the others hardly get a look in. I don't think 005 even had any lines! Saba is the most erratic spending most of the running time MIA only to appear when something needs to be explained for the plot to move on.

As for the rest of the production; the dubbing is good, with the exception of those dodgy accents and the script is fairly cringe-free making this watchable for a non-junior audience but rarely unintentionally funny.

All in all, thin and flimsy yet watchable if you like Cyborg 009. But not if you prefer guilty laughs.