Space Adventure Cobra
In the far future, Johnson, a menial worker with a grumbling robot servant ("Here's your damned breakfast!") visits a Virtual Reality parlor to live out his vague male fantasies, but the experience instead revives memories of being the great space rogue Cobra, scourge of both right and wrong (the Galactic Patrol and the Pirate Guild, respectively.) He remembers having altered his face, and his memories, to take a break from his continual battle against both good and evil. Nevertheless, he plunges, with gusto, back into that old life as a brigand. (This setup sounds familiar, doesn't it? And yet this series dates from seven years BEFORE a certain sci-fi movie starring a certain Austrian actor- though it WAS years after the Philip K. Dick story on which THAT movie was based.)
Speaking of Total Recall, one of my old bosses had a running disagreement with me about whether Arnold's character actually went to Mars (which she was sure was the truth), or whether he was actually still in the VR facility and had just completely lost touch with the real world (which was my conviction.) But I digress. Back to the show at hand.
In any event, Space Adventure Cobra may, or may not, pursue that issue at all. Its opening theme song reminded me a lot of the ones in circa 1970's American low-budget action pictures- the songs were usually sung by Tom Jones or Nancy Sinatra sound-alikes, because the movies' budgets couldn't afford the originals. Cobra himself is pretty typical of that breed of action hero: he's constantly got a cigar in his mouth; his left forearm is a gun, concealed with a fake forearm and hand (strangely enough,the hand is nevertheless fully functional); he likes to give women crass compliments about their bodies, and the women of the show, being fantasy women of the day, really appreciate his praise. (Cobra, unlike James Bond, hasn't even the pretense of being suave; in fact, he seems about as uncouth (and even dense) as- well, Johnson, and the Cobra we see in flashbacks, before he "changed his looks", doesn't just LOOK different from the one we're presented here. It aroused my Total Recall-esque suspicions again, but again, the show may, or may not, go there.) Nevertheless, Cobra's blessed with a lot of advantages in a fight- he's got that gun arm; and an extraordinary ability to dodge laser blasts; and more handy gadgets than Batman used to pack in his utility belt; AND a sexy-voiced android companion named Lady Armaroid (who, like many TV and movie sidekicks, is much more thoughtful and sensible than the lead, and who also never gets jealous of Cobra's myriad romantic dalliances); AND a spaceship that's capable of some (limited) morphing. Ask him about his "500-kilo grip". He's particularly proud of that.
The women in the show aren't just there to receive Cobra's crude compliments- oh, no. They are frequently nearly, or completely, nude- the most outrageous example was a woman who seemed perfectly comfortable in a bikini on a planet of ice and snow- and the women are ALSO there to be subjected to particularly cruel abuse, and gruesome murder, by the villains. If Cobra rescues them, they typically just increase their stay in this universe by only a few days, for while Cobra is good at snatching them out of the villains' clutches, he's lousy at keeping them that way. (In fairness, Cobra's male buddies and helpers have a pretty high mortality rate, too.)
Still, despite its rampant sexist clichés, the show has some virtues. Some of its rogues' gallery of villains are pretty memorable, especially a character called Crystal Bowie, whose body is made of glass. Cobra's final battle is with the commander of the Pirate Guild, named Salamander, and it was an interesting near-surprise to find out who he really was. ("Near" because the show DOES telegraph this a minute or so before it's revealed. The Wiki article on the show REALLY spills these beans, though.)
The show had one female character I really liked, in a one-shot episode with an Arabian Nights theme; her name is Bellamy, and she's not quite the statuesque blonde type that most of the show's featured females are; she knows some magic, and so is able to save both herself AND our knuckleheaded male hero; AND she gets to keep her clothes on, which is quite a feat for a woman in THIS show. (As I said, there's tons of nudity, but no real sex- probably about as daring as you could be in 1983 without actually qualifying as hentai. I wish they'd spun Bellamy off into her own show- I'd watch it.)
There are other times when the show tones down the sexploitation and allows Cobra to be a bit more altruistic. We've some episodes devoted to a planet of sand-seas and some imaginatively conceived inhabitants of the planet, called the Swordians; Cobra gets to rescue some refugees (a la Vin Diesel in Pitch Black) AND help restore rightful rule among the Swordians; the guy CAN multi-task when he puts his mind to it. He has another excellent run of multi-tasking during some episodes playing a game called "Rug Ball", which is just like baseball except that the guys on base are allowed to do ANYTHING to stop the runners from the opposing team. Granted, the woman who was OK with a bikini in the snow is back in the Rug Ball games, sitting in the stands (and still in a bikini), but there's still a bit less fanservice, and a bit more story, in these than usual. I enjoyed the closing theme a bit more than the opener; it has sort of a torch-song vibe that's at least OK.
The good stuff caused me to go three stars here despite the show's usually archaic attitude toward women. The recommendations are similar shows (in theme and time frame) that were significantly better. Think of the recommendations as, respectively, silver and gold relics of their time, while Cobra is...pure brass. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Pervasive female nudity (including nipples), and occasional gruesome violence. Not for children.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (31/31)
Space Adventure Cobra © 1983 TMS Entertainment
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