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Cyborg 009

Entry updated 12 March 2021. Tagged: Film, TV.

1. Japanese animated film (1966). Based on the Manga by Shotaro Ishinomori. Toei Animation. Directed by Yugo Serikawa. Written by Takashi Iijima and Yugo Serikawa. Voice cast includes Judy Ong, Hiroyuki Oota and Jouji Yanami. 65 minutes. Colour.

This was the first of several Anime based on the long-running manga Cyborg 009 (1964-1981).

When racing driver Shimamura Joe's (Oota) vehicle is sabotaged and crashes he is taken in a fake ambulance to the lair of the Black Ghosts, an organization that manipulates nations into fighting Wars so it may profit from arms deals. On arrival Professor Gilmour (Yanami) turns Joe into Cyborg 009, with heightened reflexes and other Superpowers. There are already eight other cyborgs from different countries, all with individual talents – genius (see Intelligence), flight, finger/arm cannons, super sight/hearing, strength, fire-breathing, Shapeshifting and swimming underwater. None wish to be part of the Black Ghosts' plans, so they – and the Professor – flee.

The Black Ghosts pursue, sending Robot Dinosaurs, a giant octopus and sharks fitted with missile launchers. 003 (Ong) is kidnapped and – belatedly – brainwashed. Joe pursues: there are a series of Black Ghost officers, each killed for incompetence by their superior – who will be killed in turn by theirs. Whilst freeing 003 Joe meets and kills the true leader, who resembles a Computer with a human brain. Though defeated, more by accident than design, it insists the Black Ghost will not be destroyed as it is created by the corruption that lives in the human heart (as such it might be argued that, as Joe is human, it was also killed by its line manager); it also adds that the Island will blow up in five minutes. The cyborgs make it out in time. War ends, but it is acknowledged that the desires that cause them might one day resurface; if so, the cyborgs are prepared to return to the fray.

The production is unremarkable, using limited animation and clearly having a small budget; uncomfortably, the African, Chinese and Native-American cyborgs are caricatures (see Race in SF). The plot is full of action, but not exciting: the film is at best pleasantly forgettable, with the occasional diverting scene. However, by featuring a team of humans turned into superheroes it could be considered a forerunner of shows like the Super Sentai series and possibly The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978). The best character is the underused 001, a baby genius (why the Black Ghosts cyborged a baby is unexplained).

A sequel followed: Cyborg 009: Monster Wars (1967; original title Saibogu 009: Kaijū senso; vt Cyborg 009: Underground Duel). There were further films: Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy (1980; original title Saibōgu 009: Chou Ginga Densetsu; vt Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Vortex) was a companion to the 1979 television series; 009 Re:Cyborg (2012) is a 3D film set 27 years after the break up of the original cyborg team; Cyborg 009: Call of Justice (2016) was a trilogy. For the Television series, see 2, below. There have also been two Radio shows and several Videogames. [SP]


2. Japanese animated tv series (1968). Toei Animation. Based on the Manga by Shotaro Ishinomori. Directed by Yugo Serikawa. Written by Masaki Tsuji. Voice cast includes Katsuji Mori and Jouji Yanami. 26 25-minute episodes. Black and white.

This series is set after the events of 1 above, with Cyborg 009 (Mori) and the other Cyborgs ready to combat evil, with Professor Gilmour's (Yanami) support. Though also having a small budget this series made better use of its resources than the film, being more ambitious (to its cost); whilst many scenes are simplistically animated, others are reasonably effective.

Adventures include a Mad Scientist who turns people into mindless giants; Uplifted pyrokinetic dogs; cyborg children implanted with bombs; Aliens who plan to wipe out humanity; an Incan Robot; arms dealers blackmailing an alien lion; a man claiming to be Moses using science to mimic miraculous powers; and future humans, Mutated by nuclear bombs, trying to prevent World War Three (see Time Travel).

The latter episode led to complaints, as did the anti-militaristic Ghost of the Pacific (original title Taiheiyô No Bôrei), where Japan's World War Two navy rises renewed from the seabed and once again attacks Pearl Harbour, with the radioactive battleship Nagato heading towards San Francisco – the USA respond by dropping an atomic bomb on it, which only makes matters worse. The team discover the culprit is a Japanese scientist who has developed Technology boosting Psi Powers, making his wishes flesh: his son died in the war and he desires revenge. However, when he senses the fear of the San Francisco public his mania subsides, culminating in the ghost of his son appearing and remonstrating with him: the navy reverts to its ruined state and sinks once more. There are also prolonged images of the Hiroshima Peace Park and of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution ("... the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes ..."). The episode wasn't broadcast again for decades.

Though most episodes were routine, a few others were strongly anti-war/nuclear weapons, including the finale, Death Is the Peace of Soldiers (original title Heiwa No Senshi Wa Shinazu), whilst others were anti-racist – in The Final Escape (original title Hateshinaki Tōbō), the cyborgs become involved in the Nigerian Civil War, and the death of an African leader is intended to draw parallels with the assassination of Martin Luther King. Tsuji has said the shows relatively short lifespan was due to its staff refusing to bow to the television company's request to be less political following complaints from Japanese Parent Teacher Associations (the alien villain in the finale is said to represent a PTA member).

The 1979 series (in colour; 50 episodes) has the cyborgs, having gone their separate ways, coming together when the Norse gods (see Gods and Demons) return, planning to rule the human race (one god insisting, "Power is justice."); however this arc only lasts 9 episodes and the rest of the series is taken with a fight against the Neo Black Ghost, a more traditional evil organization. The 2001 series Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier (2001-2002; 51 episodes) reworked the source manga's stories, including Ishinomori's unfinished final work. Another television series, Cyborg 009: Call of Justice (2017; 12 episodes), was edited from the 2016 film trilogy, and the three-part OVA Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (2015) is a crossover with the Devilman franchise (see Devilman Crybaby). [SP]


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