Even these tapes cost something

  Shadow World
1983 | Modern Programs International S.A.
Shadow World Hi-Tops Video

From the creative minds (and editors) behind Tranzor Z... the first robo-team to join the NFL and save the world from mutant space invaders! Keep an eye out for a Phil Collins cameo.

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UFO Senshi Dai Apolon (UFO Warrior Dai Apolon) was yet another product of the 'Super Robot' craze of the 1970's. Hitting TV screens in April 1976 Dai Apolon was arriving quite late into the fad so it would need a gimmick to set it apart from the wave of giant piloted robots already filling the TV schedules and toy shops.

The key motif of the new series was American Football, an obscure sport in Japan at the time which had yet to be supported by a national team. The story is set around a cast of kids who live at the Blue Sky Orphanage. Eldest of the gang, Takeshi has recently started a Football team with his closest friends Miki, Matsuo and Goro. While out on the field one day something incredible happens - the group is confronted by a horseman riding a winged steed who descends from the thick clouds and casts them into a deep trance. They meet an old man named Rabi who reveals that Takeshi is actually from the planet Apolon, a member of the royal family, and that he was brought to Earth as a baby to keep him safe from an evil invading race known as the Dazaan.

Rabi has returned for him on his sixteenth birthday so that he can receive the secrets of the Dai Apolon and defeat the demonic hordes. Together the orphan gang unite in their American Football themed giant robot; Edda, Trunku and Legga to battle week after week with the space invaders, combining to form Dai Apolon whenever faced with a foe too powerful to face alone. The UFO team are soon joined by two non-robot owning allies Akira and Miyuki, the former an electronics whiz and the latter a young girl for the young girls in the audience to identify with.

UFO Senshi Dai Apolon was derived from a manga by Tetsu Kariya and which had been serialised in the weekly anthology Shonen King. The original tale was quite different from what ended up on Television screens - following the battles of 15 year old Akira as he took on 108 Demons with his inherited supernatural powers. The comic featured no giant mecha nor any reference to American Football.

The TV series was shown on TBS on Tuesdays at 7.00pm and ran for 26 episodes. Part way through the run the show changed channels and the remaining part was re-titled Dai Apolon II. The production team behind the show was Eiken who founded in 1963 and brought many well known anime of the black and white era to the small screen including Sazae-san, Tatsujin 28 (aka Gigantor) and Eightman.

While UFO Senshi Dai Apolon wasn't widely popular, just one of the many minor hits spawned during the popularity for all things giant and robotic, it still had it's fair share of toy merchandising from the usual action figures and kits to the obscure - quad bike riding pull-back-and-go robots!

UFO Senshi Dai Apolon's first stop in the West was in Italy in 1982, six years after it's Japanese debut. All 26 episodes were shown by Antenna 3 Lombardy unedited, dubbed into Italian with all the original character names unchanged.

The English language debut didn't arrive until 1986 when an edited movie, created three years earlier by 3B Productions, the staff behind the Tranzor Z release of Mazinger Z, was released on video by Hi-Tops Video. Hi-tops was the children's video arm of Media Home Entertainment a distribution company set up by Horror movie producer Charles Band in 1978. Band is well known to cult movie enthusiasts as the man behind the dreadful, straight-to-video horror outfit Full Moon Features.

The new movie edit was retitled Shadow World and contained the usual cast name changes; Takeshi became Terry, Matsuo was changed to Mark and Goro became Gray. Only Miki's spelling was changed to Mickey and Labi became Largo. Dai Apolon was allowed to keep his name but Edda, Trangu and Legga became Alpha, Beta and Gamma. Due to the tight running time of 78 minutes a number of the regular characters are missing including Miyuki while others, like key bad guy Josephine, are reduced to very short appearances.

The feature was comprised of the heavily edited remains of four episodes; #1 Gou Me! Akuma Gundan or Taose!! (Combine Body! Stop the Demonic Enemy!!) - provides the introduction and back story. Dai Apolon's maiden monster battle is replaced with the climactic Dam based showdown of Episode #2 Ankoku Seiun Kare Butjuu Bagu Raishuu Radon! (Attack of the Nebula Absorbing Demon Bug Radon!). A short 5 minute section of conversion is taken from episode #8 Meka Juu Kara Ko Inu ga Taskukero! (Save the puppy from the Mechanical Beast!) before the final confrontation with the evil Dazaan empire in episodes 25 Sugu Iku Ze Kaasan! Dazaan Boshi Totsunyuu! (We Must Leave Immediately Mother! Dazan Star Thrust!) and 26 Kaasan Namida Ga Uchuu Ni Heiwa (A Mother's Tear Called Peace in Outer Space) close the movie.

The original score is replaced by new music by Douglas Lackey whose work also appears in many well known movies and TV shows including the Police Academy series, Seaquest DSV and Independence Day.

For unknown reasons Shadow World nor any other version of UFO Senshi Dai Apolon was released in the UK making this tape the only English language edition available.


Japanese Soundtrack LP
A model Kit and Dai Apolon on his Street Legal Quad

"The time is the near future" claims the occasional narrator as a fleet of untrustworthy looking alien invaders fill the skies above the pacific. Without being told if they are good or bad we instantly know the answer from the location they choose to make their home - an active volcano on an uncharted island. The key aliens appear to be a demon who can't close his mouth and 1980's era Phil Collins - crossed with a vampire. And where have this sinister duo chosen to start their enslavement of Earth? California! Let's hope this future isn't so near that Arnie is still the governor or they couldn't have chosen a worse starting point.

UFO Dai ApolonShadow World
Phil Collins

Fortunately for the space invaders they seem to have confused California for one of the islands of Japan - no ex-endo skeleton killing machines in seats of power over there.

Under clear sunny skies two young teams play a game of (American) Football. It must be a charity game as everyone is dressed like it's the 1970's, when it's actually "the near future". The population's funky wardrobes aren't the only odd sight at this stadium; first there is a light in the sky and then one of the crowd spots a mysterious old man watching the game from a shadowy doorway.

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

The children playing all belong to the Blue Sky Home for Orphans (or Orphanage) and, on the bus home, eldest girl Mickey reminds the Headmistress, Miss Johnson, tomorrow is star quarterback Terry's 16th birthday. Miss Johnson had completely forgotten, not only about his birthday but also that a mysterious old man had left Terry at the Home For Orphans as a (glowing) baby with a note stating that he would return for him on his sixteenth birthday. Funny how a thing like that can slip your mind.

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

That night Miss Johnson breaks the news to Terry who doesn't respond well. He runs off as fast as his bell-bottoms will allow, all the way to the Football field. His all American friends Gray (the flat-headed lunk), Mark (the bratty kid) and Mickey (the token girl) meet him there and try to reason with him but their pleas are cut short when a great ball of light develops in the clouds above them. From within it appears a shirtless man riding a white winged stallion who strikes Terry down with a huge spear of light. Looks like someone forgot to run off with their pills. This isn't a solitary freak-out either but a group hallucination as all five kids are beamed up and whisked off to one of California's remote neighboring islands.

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

Awaking in this strange place the kids are confronted by the mysterious man who was hanging around the game earlier. It was him who left Terry at the Blue Sky Home for Orphans all those years ago.

The old man, Largo, reveals Terry's origins in a conversion where the word "Apolon" gets banded around so frequently it could out smurf "Smurf". It's meaning too soon becomes confused. Terry must join the Dai Apolon because he is from the Planet Apolon which his father, King Apolon used to rule until he was murdered by the Dazan, who Terry then immediately refers to as "the Dazan Corps" just to make things even more confused.

Fearing Planet Apolon would be invaded by the Dazan [Corps] King Apolon created the "Energy Generation and Absorption Device" which consisted of two parts; the Energy Heart and the Key Energy. Largo never explains what the Device actually is, it could be a novelty airhorn for all we know. But when the Dazan [Corps] got wind of this possible threat (or airhorn) they invaded Planet Apolon and stole the 'Energy Heart', killing King Apolon in the process - so the device served its purpose well.

The other half of the Energy Generation and Absorption Device is buried in Terry's chest under the "Orb of the Day" mark (that's right, those wacky names keep on coming).

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

It's a long, and convoluted chunk of exposition but there is some creative writing:

Largo: "Your father is King Apolon"
Terry: "Then you mean my father is a king?"

Largo: "As our king, your father planted the key in your chest as a baby. We were destroyed by the Dazan invaders!"
Gray "Terry! You can take revenge for your father's death!"

... and finally Largo stumbles to his knees, almost collapsing. Terry rushes to him...

Terry: "Largo! What's the matter?!"
Largo: "Nothing... it's just your mother."

The final part of the agenda is the unveiling of the giant robots and associated vehicles. Terry and the gang cast their eyes over them in amazement.

Terry: "Wow, but how do we use them?"
Largo: "When the Guardian Droid gave you the Dai Apolon Power of the Obelisk he also gave... you and your friends telepathic power to communicate with this base! When the time comes just shout: DAI APOLON! DAI APOLON! DAI APOLON! DAI APOLON!"

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

The kids finally wake up from their crazy fantasy and vow to help Terry, the Dai Apolon, gain victory over the evil invaders.

The next day, at practice, Terry accidentally kicks the ball into the face of the new kid. Later that afternoon the boy Harold is welcomed into the Home for Orphans by Miss Johnson who explains that his late father was one of California's greatest engineers. Terry feels he can relate to Harold's loss since he lost his father too, to the Dazan. A fact he just learnt yesterday. She also tells the kids they've been invited to a party. Terry's birthday party? (After all that was supposed to be today). No, better than that, they're going to a party celebrating the exciting opening of a new local Dam. What eight year old would want to miss that?

Meanwhile, at the secret volcano base... Phil Dracula and the wide-mouth demon (their real names escape me) plot to cause disruption in downtown California using a powerful creature they captured in the Shadow World (make the most of it, that's the only time the video's title is mentioned). Budagree, some sort of gas in a jar, has the ability to absorb all energy, we're told. I'm not sure what that really means but I'm sure it's disruptive enough to lure the Dai Apolon out of hiding. And you'll never guess the location for their attack? The new dam! Terry won't even have to travel far.

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

It's time for the bus to leave for the excursion but Harold is nowhere to be found. Terry volunteers to stay behind and look for him and Miss Johnson irresponsibly agrees. Not long after the group leaves Terry finds the missing boy crying against a tree. His father built the new dam and this celebration has brought it all back - not great planning on Miss Johnson's part. Terry straightens things out by yelling at him for being afraid of his feelings. On the bus Gray realizes that Harold has seen them practicing in their jets - a pretty impressive feat since we haven't even seen them practicing. Or their jets. But there'll soon be far worse things to worry about.

No sooner have the Orphans arrived at the Dam when the Evil Dazan perform a low altitude fly-by - dumping out the purple Badagree cloud like a sinister crop duster. Mickey is the first to spot the danger; "It was such a pretty day! What are those purple clouds?" Purple Rain clouds, maybe? Badagree can take on any form it wants and decides on the rather specific form of a giant mechanical bat. Why does the bat have to be mechanical? Why not be just choose to be a bat? Isn't it enough being giant without also needing to be metal?

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

He instantly gets to work demolishing Harold's father's legacy, one identical-but-horizontally-flipped concrete building at a time. With no time to wait for their leader, Gray, Mark and Mickey take action by themselves, calling in the UFO's. They each call out a letter while forming it with their arms YMCA style. Where and when they were told how to do that, I don't know. Cheer leading camp perhaps? Why wasn't the audience allowed in on this?

Shadow World Dai Appolon

Terry seems to have gone to some additional super hero class too - racing through the woods, having heard news of the monster attack, he yells "Space Clear Dai Apolon!!". The narrator quickly explains that this chant telepathically calls the jets into action from their underwater base. It's quite a steep learning curve, but if these kids can keep up with it so can I. Leaping into the passing cockpit, Terry magically changes from his white flares and shirt into a red Football uniform. He is soon joined by the others and they take on the mecha beast together. Despite only being kids and having had no training or guidance the Dai Apolon team go all out against the Dazan threat, taking several serious hits before resorting to calling on Dai Apolon (their Giant Robot form not Terry, or the planet, or Terry's dead father).

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

In the heat of battle Terry gets the command wrong and yells out "Apolon; Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta!!!" rather than the four "Dai Apolon"'s that Largo told him, but it seems to work none-the-less. Three robots arrive on the scene and absorb our hero's jets. Next comes the 'Body Merger', which is not some sort of yuppie business slang but the command to combine the three robots into the giant Dai Apolon. Honestly, how does Terry know all this stuff?

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

The (American) Football themed metal hero tussles with the robo-bat, suffering all the expected set backs before gaining the upper hand and tearing limbs off of the enemy then reducing it to nothing more than a toxic looking mushroom cloud. Later that evening, at the smoldering foot of the smog tower the gang meet up with Harold to offer him membership of the UFO Corps (yet another new phrase).

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

After a long fade-to-black, which often separates scenes in these videos, it is the next day. Harold unveils his new invention - a Dazan tracking radar which he put together with spare parts from "electronic games". So, somehow, that game where a racing car doges oil slicks and pot holes and the one where a firefighter catches people jumping from a burning building with a net and a couple of valuable Game and Watches became a fully functioning alien detector. And it was made by a ten year old. Well, he does where glasses I guess. Terry's impressed, so much so that he has to go "lay down for a while".

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

Terry lays in his bed, screwing up his face and sweating while an old man watches him telepathically without his knowledge. The problem is Terry wants to be stronger in order to beat the Dazan so Largo invites him down to the secret base for some one-on-one training. Largo teaches him a new maneuver but as Terry makes his first attempt he is warned that to try this move and fail means instant death. Terry fails it twice in a row but doesn't even suffer slight disfigurement or so much as a partial loss of mobility.

You can now forget the events of the previous two paragraphs as, monumental as they seemed at the time, the radar and the special move will never be referred to again, but they killed some time and were fun to watch, right?

That night Largo reveals a devastating secret to the UFO Corps - he has located Terry's mother! Having searched for her for decades she has finally been found... on planet Dazan! Understandably Terry wants to rescue her right away but Largo demands that he find the Energy Heart first, bellowing that "You must go and get the Energy Heart or your mother will never be happy!" like an angry dad yelling at his kid for smashing a vase.

At the scary Volcano HQ we are introduced to two new characters; the Emperor of Dazan and Josephine. Live via satellite from his palatial throne room on Planet Dazan, the Emperor gives Garano (Phil Dracula) the shock news that he is being replaced by this new Josephine character. It all seems a bit harsh to me after all he's only suffered one minor defeat. The order is given to recall all Dazan forces to their home planet in preparation for the coming attack of the untrained teenagers and their new robots (which they were only given two days ago).

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

Garano has taken his demotion badly. Staring out of the window at the fast disappearing planet Earth he delivers this long monologue which gives some insight into the feelings of an alien;

"I did my job exactly as I was told and I didn't baulk, even though I disagreed with emperor Dazan's thirst for blood. I carried out my orders, I compromised my ideals constantly in the name of my planet, hoping that some day peace would again return. But Dazan wants nothing of peace, he will do anything to exact the empire he wants to attain! I won't put up with Dazan's madness... any more."

Where'd all that come from? He only lost one battle at a dam! I never realized he was so deep.

On Earth Terry and Largo watch over Dai Apolon as some sort of motor is placed loosely and without any sort of precision (or even welding) into a compartment on the front of the robot.

"The work is complete! Now Dai Apolon can move into any sector of space!" proudly announces the old man. If it was that simple why did they leave it until now to fit? In fact, why was it left out in the first place? This whole operation seems extremely slapdash! Finally equipped to put an end to this turbulent, violent and bloody 24 hour conflict, Terry says farewell to his friends, who for unknown reasons are sitting this one out, and then leaves for deep space and Planet Dazan!

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

The evil emperor gives Queen Apolon a brief history of where his planet's evil originates (long-story-short; space gas cloud - turned them all into mean spirited freaks) and on why he needs Apolon's (the robot) energy. The Queen suggests, and Garano agrees, that the two sides combine their scientific thinking and work together for a peaceful solution. The Emperor is sickened by their softy-liberal-lefty views and the battle commences.

Thrilling scenes of repeat animation ensue. The same three tanks get kicked over again and again. Haven't I seen Dai Apolon punch that jet before? Yes, but it was on his left! Money is getting saved left and right while Garano helps Queen Apolon escape. His plan is woefully simplistic and all it succeeds in doing is exposing him as a traitorous collaborator before they are quickly recaptured.

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon
UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

The Queen is rushed away from the conflict but Terry soon catches up in his jet, only to find that the Emperor has a fiendish, yet easily escapable trap in store. Terry's mother is hidden behind an invisible electrified force field. All Terry needs to do to deactivate it is to pull the humorously over sized switch nearby. Here's the catch! - if he pulls the lever it will also cause the planet to explode! A slightly over-the-top punchline, I think you'll agree. Wouldn't it have been better just to have the switch kill Terry?

But none of this actually matters as whoever set up the bomb left the timer facing out, indicating to Terry that there will be a thirty second delay before the planet busting explosion. The Queen waits until her son has pushed the switch almost all the way home before imploring him to spare the people of... well whichever planet they are on. Our hero struggles to understand his own mother's, once again, softy attitude as another threat makes itself known. Why, it's only the Avenger!!

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

The Avenger is a, frankly ludicrous looking, giant robot. Ask a five year old to draw an "awesome baddie robot" and this is what you'd receive in return. The super-giant robot kicks the hero around the room for a bit, Terry unable to get an attack in. Soon it looks like its all over for the good guys - The Avenger is poised to tear Dai Apolon in half and nearly all of Terry's power is drained. But, wouldn't you know it, help arrives! Largo and the kids show up in their flying base (you knew they had one of those, right?) and bomb The Avenger until it let's go, and then together they heroically flee.

Cowering in fear the UFO Corp learn from their radar that the planet has a large underground cavern and reason that this could lead them to the enemy base. Why they need to find the base, I don't know, since the emperor was standing right there! Largo bravely sends the kids off alone and they are shocked to discover the ordinary people of Dazan are forced to live as slaves beneath the surface of their own planet. Finding a convenient mine cart the good guys head deeper into the caverns.

Elsewhere the Emperor decrees that, as a lesson for the troops, Garano is to be publicly "eliminated" for his recent betrayal. Just moments after guards remove him from the throne room he is once again free and escaping with Queen Apolon. The Queen urges him to leave her behind and find the stolen Energy Heart which she believes will bring life back to this barren planet and he agrees.

In all the confusion Terry and the UFO's manage to slip into the base and are confronted by Garano. Still believing him to be an enemy Terry let's him have it with his laser pistol. Fortunately he is a lousy aim and only wings him. Wounded, the former Commander explains the situation and tells the good guys the location of the Energy Heart. Unfortunately Terry's recent past catches up with him as The Avenger rejoins the battle. In another display of UFO Corp bravery Terry sends Gray and Mickey in their tiny, weak robots to distract the colossal brute while he instructs Largo to do a bit of home surgery on him to remove the Key Energy from his chest. Fortunately the old man has just the thing for the job, and it can perform the delicate and tricky operation without cutting the skin.

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But, outside, Gray and Mickey do a lousy job and allow The Avenger to break into the very room where the operation is taking place which, if nothing else, isn't very sanitary. The risk of Terry contracting an post-surgery infection just went up! Just then, when this ridiculous cartoon couldn't get much more baffling, the Apolon Guardian Droid (you remember him; he rides shirtless astride a winged horse... he gave Terry the Dai Apolon Power of the Obelisk... ) appears one final time in the sky and grants Terry the last of the Apolon Energy. Terry summons Dai Apolon and with this new strength brutally dismembers The Avenger - which in turn burns alive a number of nameless grunts and Josephine (remember her?).

UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon
UFO Dai Apolon Shadow World Dai Appolon

Dai Apolon flies out into space, carrying the Energy Heart, in pursuit of the fleeing Emperor. Onboard the escaping UFO Garano springs a space-gun on Emperor Dazan and ejects the captive Queen. The evil ruler retaliates by stepping on an unmarked button at the edge of the floor which fires a killer death-ray. Garano is killed and there will be some sort of health and safety investigation into that irresponsible button placement, I certainly wouldn't want to be hoovering that spaceship if that's the kind of thing they have in the floor.

Shadow World Dai Appolon

Having never used it before Terry assumes the Energy Heart is activated the same way as everything else in this story and yells out its name. He's dead-on. A bright light washes the planet clean of its pollution and the people rejoice. Emperor Dazan is so taken aback by what he sees that he backs into an instrument panel and the poor wiring catches light and he burns alive.

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Dai Apolon catches his mother and the two are finally reunited on the the restored landscape of Planet Dazan. And then it ends. Abruptly.

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Missing videos

"Our target is California!!"
An introduction to the Weird looking cast of characters

"...your mother will never be happy!!"
...and other bad dubbing mysteries.

Well edited
Giant robots! Football Robots!
  Phil Collins!
Fairly dull
Uninspired characters
  Lousy script
  Unoriginal story
  Cheap animation

Shadow World is at least a different attempt at a compliation movie. Usually you get the Jim Terry method; take the first & last episodes of the series and then cram plots from the other episodes between them until you reach 90 minutes (See Time Fighters, Ninja the Wonderboy). In this case 3B took the first and last episodes but put them together, using only a short incidental sequence to bridge the gap making the resulting video feel more like a movie than an unrelenting series of events.

That said, Shadow World feels like exactly what it is- the beginning and end of a series. There is no middle to this story. The story is set up and then almost immediately concluded.

The original UFO Senshi Dai Apolon was an uninspired and dirivative series to begin with. With little in the way of humoursly bad dialog or shoddy dubbing this video has little to interest us but I'm sure it was a good kids tape back in the eighties!

While it never gets close to the heights of the Japanese edited likes of Dallos or Space Warriors it's equally far from the mind numbing lows of Return of the Dinosaurs. Shadow World fits almost perfectly with ThunderSub in the bracket of logical editing yet dull story. Plus, Apolon is such as stupid name!

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