1970s Sci-Fi Anime That Changed Television Forever Is Impossible To Watch Today

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

The history of anime in America is complicated, filled with shows cobbled together for an English-speaking audience out of bits and pieces of different series. While Robotech is likely the first series that comes to mind when you hear that description, it didn’t debut until 1985, putting seven years behind the first big anime in the United States. Though it’s been lost to time, back in 1978, Battle of the Planets was one of the first anime to reach America, and despite a few poor choices, it is still one of the most influential series of all time.

Battle Of The Planets Predates Macross

Similar to how Robotech was created out of editing together episodes of Macross, Battle of the Planets was taken from Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, which started airing in Japan in 1972 and ran for 105 episodes. Battle of the Planets only aired 85 episodes, but producers decided to make several drastic changes to the series in an attempt to appeal to audiences outside of Japan. For anime fans, the list of changes is going to sound incredibly familiar, as it basically matches up with what happened to Voltron, Dragon Ball, and even Sailor Moon.

Added Scenes For America

For starters, the series was named Battle of the Planets to appeal to fans of Star Wars: A New Hope, which had just kicked off a sci-fi renaissance around the world. The action in Gatchaman was entirely Earth-based, so new characters were created for the American series, including 7-Zark-7, and its dog, 1-Rover-1. Zark and Rover filled time to cover for content edits that removed profanity, graphic violence, and even characters dying in sequences that might as well have been added to the show with duct tape.

A Massive Hit At The Time

Amazingly, while it’s hard to watch those sequences now, back in 1979, Battle of the Planets was a bonafide hit. Following the adventures of a teenage team known as G-Force (if that sounds familiar, hold on, because you’re right), each of whom had a distinct uniform, color, weapon, and personalized vehicle that they used to keep the planet safe from the forces of Zoltar. Each of their vehicles was stored in the team’s ship, the Phoenix, which was as delightfully overpowered as you’d expect for an afterschool children’s program. influential

An Influential Anime

Even with that basic, surface-level description, if it sounds like Power Rangers, there’s a chance you’re right. Science Ninja Team Gatchaman predates the original Super Sentai by a few years, and Gatchaman’s impact in Japan was so big that the franchise received a new entry as recently as 2014. Battle of the Planets may have brought anime to America years before most people expected it, but it’s not even the only Science Ninja Team Gatchaman adaptation that made it over.

G-Force (Not The Guinea Pigs)

If Toonami is responsible for anime becoming gigantic in America, some credit should go to the first anime that aired on Cartoon Network in 1995: G-Force: Guardians of Space. A more faithful adaptation of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, G-Force kept most of the original dialogue, violence, and character deaths intact, with only small edits here and there. Most importantly, unlike Battle of the Planets, G-Force went through the original stories in the correct order instead of bouncing around according to the whims of the producers.

First Anime On Cartoon Network

Battle of the Planets was a massive success in syndication, and without its landmark run from 1978 to 1980, there would have been no G-Force on Cartoon Network 15 years later. It would take a few weeks for other anime to join G-Force, including Speed Racer and Vampire Hunter D. A full two years later, in 1997, Toonami took over, ending G-Force’s run.

Historic Series But No Way To Watch It Today

It’s fitting that one of the earliest anime in America, Battle of the Planets, would go on to help create the very first anime on Cartoon Network. You can find Science Ninja Team Gatchaman on HDIVE, but the ground-breaking Battle of the Planets and G-Force are nowhere to be found. Right now, again proving why physical media is superior, if you can find old DVDs, that’s the only to watch them, which is a shame, as a major part of anime history deserves better than that.