Every so often something comes along that changes your life and stays with you forever. For Charlie Jane Anders and me, it was Star Blazers.
Charlie Jane Anders' love letter to Star Blazers is one of my favorite pieces on the Internet this week. I encourage everyone to read it.
I'm in my mid-forties, and I'm squarely in the first Star Wars generation. I was seven when that movie came out, and my friends and I all collected the action figures and played Star Wars in our back yards, pretending we had light sabers. But there was a sci-fi TV series that meant more to me even than Star Wars, and it was Star Blazers.
Anders explains the psychology behind the show — something inferred through characters' actions throughout the series, but never specifically articulated. Something that's stuck with me ever since.
Years later, I lived in Japan and learned Japanese, and became pretty familiar with the concepts of "gambaru" (doing your best, no matter what) and "gaman suru" (remaining strong, in spite of all temptation and suffering). The characters on Star Blazers modeled those qualities for me, even with the sometimes awful dubbing — they seemed both stoic and passionate, and ready to beat the odds over and over.
Star Blazers was a syndicated show broadcast every afternoon out of Boston (just like Anders, I grew up in Boston). In the days before cable TV, when we were relegated to whatever channels the rabbit ears on top of the TV could pick up, Star Blazers came in on a high-number UHF channel, more staticky than some of the other stations we watched, but still viewable.
Star Blazers was incredibly gripping: High melodrama in space, humans trying to save the Earth from destruction at the hands of a callous alien foe. But it was also gorgeous to watch, a resurrected World War II-era battleship recycled as a starship complete with Wave Motion Gun, an energy weapon that occupied the entire bow of the vessel.
When I was four I remember watching Speed Racer raptly, running around the living room to the theme song: "Go Speed Racer goooo!" I was also an avid Battle of the Planets fan.
Star Blazers came along at a very formative time in my life. I gradually began to realize that my other most treasured cartoon series were made in Japan. Thus began my life-long love of Japanese animation, or anime, something my wife and I share and that we've instilled in our kids.