Movie Review: Gatchaman: Battle of the Planet (Movie)


For the much younger generation who probably have not heard or only have a very vague knowledge of this anime based movie, here’s a bit of history…

The Science Ninja Team Gatchaman or simply Gatchaman was an anime created by Tatsuo Yoshida in 1972. Gatchaman was composed of five members – 4 guys and a girl – much like Voltes V and Combattler V. Though make no mistake, Gatchaman predates both anime series by a couple of years.  In some countries the series is known as G-Force which was lifted from one of its OVAs – G-Force: Guardians of Space (1986). The main theme of Gatchaman involves the preservation of natural resources and the responsible use of technology for advancements and progress. The theme of the anime clearly reflects ideals way advance for its time. The main villain of the anime was a group of technologically advanced aliens known as Galactors who wants to invade the earth for its natural resources including oil, water, sugar, uranium, etc. A shape-shifting hermaphrodite known as Berg Kattse is the leader of the Galactor.

The Gatchaman team employ super robots to fight the giant robots used by the Galactor to attack the earth. They are often aided by a mysterious fighter known only as the Red Impulse which was later revealed to be Ken’s father.  Aside from the super robot the team also employ a unique highly violent and effective fighting style akin to their avian namesakes,  developed by their creator Dr. Nambu, which enable them to perform superhuman feats much like the ninjas of legend.  They also have a kickass ride called the God Phoenix, a supersonic plane capable of underwater travel and minor space flight as necessary.

Team Members:

Ken, the Eagle (Owashi no Ken) – team leader, pilot and tactical expert.

Joe, the Condor (Konduro no Jo) – second in command, marksman and weapons expert.

Jun, the Swan (Shiratori no Jun) – the only girl on the team, electronics and demolitions expert.

Junpei, the Swallow (Tsubakuro no Jinpei) – the youngest member of the team at age 10 or 11, reconnaissance expert.

Ryu, the Owl  (Mimizuku no Ryu) – main pilot of the God Phoenix and muscle man of the team.


Review and Major Comparisons between the Movie and the Series:

being fans of the series since, well since we were quite young, hubby and I excitedly watched the movie and came out – not quite sure whether we were happy about it or not. Definitely we were happy to see that the series finally get its live-action adaption and that it was done by a Japanese company – we actually made a major sigh of relief with that bit of information. However, we expected to be totally blown away by the movie as we were with Rorouni Kenshin but Gatchaman the Movie, was a huge let down.

There were major plot and character personality changes that was just hard to ignore. By now we’re used to seeing slight changes from the series to the film but these were just too big. Firstly, there was no mention in the series about special genes, called Receptors being present in the team members. The movie postulates that the Science Ninja Team was special chosen because of their Receptor genes which enable them to imbue weapons with certain properties making them able to penetrate the Galactors armor. The Galactors are said to be immune to any human weapons except when they are powered or enhanced by the Receptors. In the series, the team members were especially trained in the unique ninja style patterned after their avian namesake – much like the ninjas of legend.  There was no special gene, no superhuman powers given to the members aside from their special trainings and natural skills, that was the theme of the anime of the 70s – just look at Voltes V, Daimos, Combattler V and the likes. The gene-thing was an idea postulated in the 90s where DNA and genes were the big theme among anime such as Evangelion, Gundam, etc.

Secondly, in the movie the audience was made to believe that there was a sort of training school for Gatchman members, and that aside from the team in Japan there were other Receptor teams fighting Galactors in other parts of the globe. This global cooperation force does not exist in the original anime. In the anime, the Gatchaman team came from different parts of the globe but all with Japanese descent.  Jo, who was originally named George Asakura was Italian with Japanese descent, his parents were members of the Galactor until they were assassinated while trying to escape, Dr. Nambu rescued the young George and renamed him Jo. Jun was an American with Japanese descent, she was raised in an orphanage and recruited by Dr. Nambu. There was also no mention in the movie of the special techniques or avian skills used by the team members, though the speed was emphasized with Jo’s fighting style there was no mention of why or how he attained such skill. The other members did not even exhibit any of the fighting styles often seen in the original anime.

Thirdly, the film did not make any effort to develop any of the characters – villains and heroes. Thus, the film seemed shallow and the villains did not frighten at all. I mean there was no feeling of threat at all, that the viewer can relate too. The film fail to get the audience involved in the plot and this makes for a very dull viewing experience.  The film makers tried to come up with a love angle on the film which was not present whatsoever in the anime and that too failed big time!

Fourth, Berg Kattse was NOT and I repeat NOT a WOMAN! WTF!? Berg Kattse was a shape-shifter and basically a hermaphrodite which means the character can either appear as a woman or a man depending on the need. Berg Kattse was a character, not a title that can be transferred as it was made to appear in the movie.

In conclusion, this movie could have been nice but it turned into a big waste of time. It failed in so many levels that I pity the theater that gambled on showing this film in the first place, which for us was SM Cinema. This was the first time that we entered a cinema where there were probably less than 20 people seated. The anime was a classic, and thus only a handful of young people today know about it. It was either you grew up with the anime, like us, or they’re real anime otakus who know far more than the average anime watcher. Hence, SM Cinema should have advertised the movie instead of taking the route they made with Rorouni Kenshin. Maybe if they had, more people would have watched the movie but as it was we only found out about it by accident and that was because we live near the mall. That plus, the fact that the movie wasn’t really very good…well, I would say the Failed result should be expected.  😦


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