Space Adventure Cobra (1982) poster

Space Adventure Cobra (1982)


Japan. 1982.


Director – Osamu Dezaki, English Language Version Director – Carl F. Macek, Screenplay – Buichi Terasawa & Haruya Yamazaki, Based on the
Manga Cobra by Buichi Terasawa, English Language Version Screenplay – Michael Charles Hill, Producer – Tatsuno Ikeuchi, English Language Version Producers – Dee Gomillion & Kara Redmon, Photography – Hirohata Takahashi, Music – Susumu Aketagawa (Magic Capsule), Music Director – Osamu Shoji, Animation Director – Akiro Sugino, Art Direction – Shichiro Kobayashi. Production Company – Tokyo Movie Shinsha Co.


The intergalactic bounty hunter Jane Flower is followed home from a nightclub by a man who professes love for her. He reveals that he is Cobra, one of the most wanted criminals in the galaxy. Jane is one of three triplet sisters who are the princess heirs to the wandering planet Dakobar. She drags him on a mission to rescue her sister Catherine from a prison orbiting an ice planet where she is held by the evil Crystal Boy from the Space Mafia Guild, an android with a transparent skeleton. However, Catherine has been corrupted by Crystal Boy and kills Jane. The only hope for Dakobar is if all three sisters fall in love with the same man or else the only surviving sister is good. The only alternative is now for Cobra to find the third sister Dominique, an ice guerilla on the Red Star planet.

Space Adventure Cobra is one of a number of anime space opera efforts that popped up trying to mimic the success of Star Wars (1977) – others include Space Cruiser Yamato (1977), Galaxy Express 999 (1979) and Lensman (1984).

The film is based on Cobra, a popular manga that appeared in Weekly Shonen Jump between 1978 and 1984. The film here was then spun out into an anime tv series Space Cobra (1982-3). Subsequently, there were several OVA films and a revival anime series Cobra: The Animation. Alexandre Aja has purportedly purchased the right to make a live-action film.

The film is quite an invigorating venture into the generally rather juvenile mini-genre of anime space opera. Although the animation is limited, the film has a number of exciting action sequences. Director Osamu Dezaki adopts a novel visual style – using split screen, mirror splits, freeze-frame ghostings and wipes across the frame, as well as adding trippy psychedelic backgrounds that makes the film look like something out of Metal Hurlant or Barbarella (1968).

Intergalactic adventurer Cobra in Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
Intergalactic adventurer Cobra

There are also a number of novel ideas and inventions such as the giant prison that floats a kilometre above the surface of an ice planet, the robot ostriches the characters travel on and the transparent robot villain who rips out his own golden rib bones for use as weapons. As is frequently the case with Japanese fantasy, there is a theme of tragic sacrifice and transcendence – the killing of the two sisters manages to be both shocking and sad.

The only minus is some of the one-dimensional characterisation, especially when it comes to the banally awful romantic scenes. The hero falls in love with the Jane after merely seeing her from a distance in a bar; and despite being a tough bounty hunter, she comes out with dialogue that seems to have been written for a teenage girl: “Oh Cobra, are you my true love?” and “Oh – thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Space Adventure Cobra was directed by Osamu Dezaki, who had worked on series like Astro Boy (1963-6) and Lupin the Third (1967-9), among a great many others. In later years, he co-founded the Madman animation studio.

Trailer here

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