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Even these tapes cost something

  Sci-Bots: Vol.1 - Zalo
 
1988 | Krypton Force
sci bots vol 1 zalo krypton force spaceketeers

Is it called 'Zalo'? or 'Krypton Force'? What's the relevance of the word 'ICED'? It's in a yellow star so it must be important! The answers to all these questions will be revealed... except the 'ICED' one...

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To uncover this tape's true title we need to go back to it's source. Well, we don't have to go back to the source, I could just tell you because it's at the start of the video, but I won't. Originally starting out life in 1978 as SF Saiyuki Starzinger, it was created by two of Anime's biggest legends Leiji Matsumoto and Osamu Tezuka. The title 'Science Fiction Saiyuki' refers to the show's plot which is a Sci-fi re-telling of the ancient Chinese Ming Dynasty tale of Saiyuki- "The Journey to the West". Written in 1590 by an unknown author, and inspiring such anime titles as Ranma 1/2 and Dragonball as well as the famous 70's TV show Monkey, the tale tells of a Buddhist monk's divine journey to restore virtue to the East. Along the way he is accompanied by a number of demons, including a Monkey, Pig and Sand demon, who aid his quest in order to atone for their past sins.

In Starzinger the story was thrown into the far distant future where the Buddhist monk is replaced by the Moon's Princess, Princess Aurora, on a quest to the King Planet to restore the universe's energy. She is accompanied on this journey by Kugo, Sir Djurgo and Don Haka, three cyborgs whose resemblance to the characters or the ancient tale are apparent. Kugo is the monkey, Haka the pig and Djurgo is a Sea demon (possibly more exciting than sand).

Several years later an enterprising American TV producer, Jim Terry, acquired Starzinger and re-named it Spaceketeers. Re-edited and redubbed it became part of his Force Five collection, a TV series, airing 1980-81, comprising of five hacked-up, originally unconnected, anime shows. One episode from each series was shown weekday mornings from 7 am with Spaceketeers taking the Wednesday slot. Starzinger's original run of 73 episodes were crushed down into only 26 with any ongoing plot or character development torn out so that the show could be viewed in any order.

Finally Spaceketeers, which never aired on British TV, made it's way to the UK, straight to video rental, as
Sci-bots from a new distributor known as Krypton Force The show was messily reworked into 45 minute features and all references to the US version's Spaceketeers title were removed (but not always successfully, as I'll come to later...). For Spaceketeers the plot was altered to the Princess's quest to put an end to the Dekos Energy which is corrupting the universe. Now her companions are named Dart, Porkos and Aramos, clearly inspired by the Three Musketeers. Dart for D'Artanion, Porkos for Porthos and Aramis- Aramos.

 
 
Japanese Promo images for SF Saiyuki Stazinger
 
 
 

These tapes, at one time, where every where. Every second hand store, video rental shop, bootsale and market was overflowing with the distinctive honeycomb background and primary coloured title banner. But what was on these tapes?

It's worth pointing out that this review almost never happened. As I was rewinding the video, which had been left at the end by the previous owner, the tape broke! It had grown so old and worn, not to mention not being a particularly good stock to start with, the tape was actually pulled off of the spool by my VCR. Ignoring fate and the very basics of good VCR care, I repaired the moldy, steadily dissolving, ex-rental cassette with a bit of sticky tape and tried again. Second time lucky... or not, as I found out.

This time wasting event would turn out to be a bad omen, indicative of the feature's overall quality. A horrible tune overlaps the BBFC certificate almost as a warning of what is to come. What follows is a ghastly, shonky, animation of a crowing Cockerel (combined with the soundtrack it seems like a Monty Python inspired nightmare) signifying the Krypton Force logo. This shield then bounces off screen as a segue way to part two; a primitive overlayed animation, which doesn't even reach the sides of the screen, of a MS Paint Spaceship inside a hanger. A beveled block announces "Krypton Force. The Cartoon Video Co." before the ship shoots out into space, along with this yellow brick, to become a star. Finally stark yellow letters type out "Sci-bots Vol.7" onto a black screen which is presumably hiding the US versions Spaceketeers logo, and the show begins.

The episode title of 'Volume 7' is Zalo. We first meet our three heroes, Jesse Dart (the only one who appears to have a first name), Porkos and Aramos as they drift through space in their ship- the camply titled 'Galactic Queen'. Porkos can't sleep as he's too hot which Aramos informs him, in a terribly under emoted manner which turns out to be a constant 'acting choice', that the air conditioning is out of order. Fortunately he has a chance to cool off as the intrepid travelers happen upon an ice planet. Porkos does some unsettling poor humour to do with his love of ice cream, seemingly carried over from the original, while Aramos and Dart take a look around. Princess Aurora is present as Aramos makes a shock discovery- not only did this frozen waste land used to be his home but his former army buddies have been encased in ice! Out of the darkness steps a rotund man Aramos recognises as Monpa. Aramos seems to run over to him in excitement yet he is seen to punch his old buddy in the face, declaring him a coward and sending him spinning to the ground. This attitude and actions seem a little odd considering that Aramos doesn't yet know that Monpa, a weak cadet, allowed his fellow men to be frozen into blocks of ice Zalo (pronounced Zaylo-like J-Lo) the "Animoid with the freezing breath". But never the less he did and Zalo instantly returns to finish the job.

Aramos battles him despite the Princess's pleas but foolishly spares it's life because she doesn't like to see living creatures killed. Maybe she should get a new job... Anyway, as Zalo leaves it emits a gas which melts the ice and Aramos is reunited with his people. Monpa is not leader material so Aramos elects to leave Dart, Porkos and the Princess and stay to keep his planet safe. But the team have barely enough time to use his old room for storage before he returns thanks to Monpa's valiant refusal to continue his life of cowardice. Having proven himself worthy to lead by beating Zalo, permanently this time- when he returns to reclaim the planet, Aramos is free to rejoin the others.

No sooner is this excitement behind them than they come across a small boy stranded on an asteroid. As the men-folk of the Galactic Queen leave to rescue him this wily pre-teen sneaks on board and forces Aurora at gun point to take off and leave them behind. A few moments later and the three heroes are back aboard the ship and the situation is calmed. The boy, whose named Pompo, claims to have escaped from Racoomoids, a stupidly titled gang of Racoon-esque pirates from the planet Dondar (the silly names just keep coming) who killed his mother. Mommy comes looking for him and the responsible adults of the crew believe her story and return the kid. Unfortunately for Pompo he wasn't lying and the exotically accented woman is actually the Raccoomoid leader in disguise and death awaits him for spilling the beans. But, as luck would have it, Dart and the crew decide to investigate Dondar anyway and it's not long before the whole rouse is uncovered. A minor battle breaks out and order is quickly restored. Pompo wants to kill the Raccoomoid leader in revenge but Aramos won't let him because it'll upset the Princess. Instead the pirate gang are imprisoned in a cage of ice, where they'll almost certainly starve to death- a much less humane end. Pompo promises to stay guard over them until they return to their original, harmless forms, once the team stops the Dekos energy. It's my guess that he shot them all dead the second the gang left.

 

But that is not all! After the show ended and the credits finished I left the tape to run. Lucky I did as, not long after the colour bars had been and gone a new adventure started, but I'm not sure what it has to do with the main feature. Appearing onto my screen all washed-out and worn was a four minute segment of a Channel 4 News broadcast from the mid 80's! Top story; US and Russian talks over short range nuclear missile disarmament Also a special auction at Bonhams (I'm not sure what kind as this is the point where the tape cut in) and finally some details of the Stock Market Crash in New York. This last story was a great display of how far technology has come as the news reader (Peter Sissons I think) actually engaged his New York correspondent in conversion over the phone!

 

As this bonus episode demonstrates Krypton Force weren't too concerned with the quality of their products. In several places during the tape the US version's announcer can be heard saying "We return to the Spaceketeers after these me--", the volume of which has been turned way down but it is still audible even on a cassette as old and worn as this one. Also the 43 minute feature is clearly two 20 minute episodes unconvincingly crammed together. The join between the end of Zalo and the start of Racoomoids is obvious even without the muted announcer declaring
"tune in next week..."

From what I gather the contents of this Sci-bots edition don't differ from that of the Spaceketeers show. The music appears to be that of the anime original which does little to drown out the wobbly voice acting. While it's not as bad as some it comes from the 'cover rather than match' attitude to the character's mouth movements. This kind of cheap, slapdash approach is what scarred me off of Sci-bots as a kid and I doubt I was the only one.

 
Missing videos Missing videos

This review predates video clips
I'll try to make some but I have lost the digital file for this VHS, so it may be a while

This review predates video clips
I'll try to make some but I have lost the digital file for this VHS, so it may be a while

 
The Channel 4 news!
 
Spaceketeers was a reasonable production
  The voice acting is endearingly poo!
 
Amazingly low-rent production
 
Wooden voice acting
 
Ropy script
 
Recorded on a used video
  A bad hack-job
  Zero concern for quality!

A cheap and poorly slapped together hack-job of a hack-job. It's clear the distributors had no interest in the quality of their output just the quantity they could supply.

The turgid dialog and wooden voice acting add some charm and the surprise arrival of the Channel 4 News was pleasant, but that's far too little to over look the complete absence of quality and effort.

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