It's the 31th century, and Ulysses is on his way home from the planet Troy. On the start of his journey, his son is kidnapped by the followers of the cyclops. When Ulysses rescues his son, plus two alien beings from the planet Zotra, he is subjected to the anger of the gods. His companions are frozen and he is cast out to unknown space, set with the task of finding the kingdom of Hades. Only then will he gain the return of his companions and the course back home to earth.
Back in the eighties, I was no stranger to Saturday morning cartoon fare, the likes of... oh, Jayce and the Wheeled warriors, MASK, He Man, Thundercats and many, many more. Despite never having seen this show at all beforehand, Ulysses 31 actually manages to awaken that feeling of nostalgia within myself, and I like it.
Ulysses 31, which is actually as much a French series as a Japanese one, nevertheless counts as an anime title unlike the aforementioned ones. (I guess you could actually draw parallells with Interstella 5555 on this, amusingly enough.) French writing, Japanese character design and animation work.
Speaking of which, the art and animation is actually pretty good for such an old series. It's still Saturday morning fodder from the eighties, which means it doesn't hold up to, oh... Haibane Renmei, for instance. Still, it's certainly workable, with a lot of attention put to details. The character designs are decidedly retro, though, as are costumes, equipment and ship designs. (Though Ulysses' ship is pretty cool, I have to admit. As is a lot of the worlds portrayed in this series.)
80's corniness aside, Ulysses 31 actually manages to incorporate a lot of elements from Greek mythology, combining it with futuristic sci-fi, turning it into a surprisingly enjoyable watch. A lot of the well known (and, I assume, a lot of the lesser known) characters are included in the various episodes, like Sisyphus' everlasting work and the labyrinth of Minos. Calypso and Circe have their roles as well, naturally. (Though Calypso's crystal afro -- never mind what she can do with it -- has to be seen to be believed.) Still, as ridiculous as things can get at times -- as schmaltzy as it can get -- the writing in this show remains strangely fresh and, given the year of release, perhaps even a bit ahead of its time. (Though not by TOO much.) Ulysses 31 is quite the adventure, simply because there's so much to see. At one point, even, Ulysses actually goes back in time to help his predecessor in name regain his throne.
Ulysses himself is even quite the role model. He's a leader, a father and an adventurer at heart. As expected, he's as honorable as they come, and the writers have had great fun pitting him against the various gods and deities from Greek lore. Unlike the original, though, he has Telemachus with him on the ship. Also, unlike the crew, he (and the alien girl Yumi) is not stricken by the curse for some reason. Yumi, on her part, seems to fit the role of the lead female. You can see that she's an alien because her skin is blue, and she has a contraption on her head that seems to grant her a selection of alien powers (like telepathy and such.) Needless to say, she's as valuable to the crew as any of the others despite her very young age. Hell, even the tiny source of robotic comedy relief called No-No has his uses outside of flaunting an ego that is rather disproportionate compared to his actual size.
There is a lot of fun to be had for your money in this series. It's old, but it doesn't get as corny as many of the older series. You won't have to worry about screen time being used to teach you about the virtues of not playing with fire or putting knitting needles into power outlets and things like that. It's just the thing for those early Saturday mornings when you just want to laze about and reminiscence about how much better the cartoons were back in those days, like most of us old people tend to do.
(It's an adventurous journey sure to please. Those who are too young to remember much of the eighties might want to deduct a star. Yeah, just go back to your squarepants-wearing sponges and stop complaining, you disrespectful children) — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: This is Saturday morning fare for young people. As such, you'd be lucky to find anything more than some mild violence. And... heh... I seriously doubt there are any outtakes ripe with obscenities to be found anywhere either.
Version(s) Viewed: R2 European DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Ulysses 31 © 1981 Tokyo Movie Shinsha
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