America was introduced to one of the largest animated series from Japan in 1978 in the form of the Battle of the Planets. This series began as Tatsunoko Productions’ Science Ninja Team Gatchaman which aired from 1972 to 1974. This series became one of the most beloved series from the 1970s in Japan. However, its fate was much different in America.
Upon viewing the series at the MIP-TV Conference in 1977, Sandy Frank fell in love with Gatchaman. However, he knew that the series would need several changes to make it onto American television. After Star Wars became one of the greatest success stories around, all new media had to be like Star Wars. So, Sandy Frank had to transform the Earth-centered series into an intergalactic epic.
As Sandy Frank Entertainment prepared the series for American audiences, they trimmed down the episodes by removing on-screen deaths and profanity. Then they added new animated sequences to take the story into space. To further fill in the run time, they added three new characters: the robot 7-Zark-7, his dog 1-Rover-1, and the voice of Susan. By the time all the edits were done, the 105-episode run of Gatchaman became 85 episodes.
This series followed the members of the G-Force, Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop, and Tiny. Following G-Force’s goals to protect the Earth, this team came into conflict with the planet Spectra and their leaders, the Luminous One and the commander Zoltar. Each of these G-Force members wore a bird-themed outfit. They fought off evil with a combination of martial arts and ninja-themed weapons. They even had cerebonic implants that empowered them.
Even though the series gained some fans in the United States, it never reached the heights of Japan’s success. In part, this may have been because of the lack of merchandise in the 1970s. At the time, only a few products were produced. There was a comic book series produced by Gold Key Comics from 1979 to 1980. Milton Bradley also created a board game that featured the series in 1979. Otherwise, there were various gun toys and a radio control set created by Henry Gordy, Inc. in 1979.
The situation was completely different overseas. Beginning in 1979, Popy of Japan began creating die-cast vehicles for the Gatchaman series and its sequels. They also produced a series of 3 ¾” action figures of the G-Force team that would spread across the European market. They even produced a Chogokin figure of the robot from Gatchaman II, Pimer.
In France, many of the toys for La Bataille des Planetes, as the series is known in French, were produced by Ceji Arbois in 1980. They introduced most of the toys produced by Popy, like the 3 ¾” action figures and vehicles. Meanwhile, Orli Jouet produced a different series of action figures with bendable wire frame armatures in 1979. There were also 8” scale action figures produced by Ceji Clodrey that based their molds on various Hasbro toys, including a G.I. Joe action figure. Many of Ceji’s toys made it to other countries, for instance, the 8” figures were also sole in Greece.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, the Battle of the Planets, or Strijd der Planeten, toys were produced by Civas. They created both a 5-figure set and individually packaged 3 ¾” action figures of the team. They also reissued many of the die-cast vehicles that Popy had produced.
Colecciones Jecsan intorudced toys for La Batalla de los Planetas, as it is known there, in 1980. These action figures featured Mark, Jason, Princess, 7-Zark-7, and 1-Rover-1.
Popy also had regional manufacturers in both Italy and the UK that rereleased their toys for those regions from 1982 to 1983. These toys also made their way to Australia. The UK mainly received the die-cast vehicles from Popy. Meanwhile, Italy also received the Gatchaman: La Battaglia dei Pianeti 3 ¾” five-figure set.
Gatchaman also became popular in South Korea, where many more toys were created. Notably, Seoul Chemical created a Sofubi figure set in 1996, featuring the full G-Force team. Each of these figures was made of soft vinyl with even softer plastic used to make their capes. Notably, the capes were all white instead of created with show-accurate colors.
America would have several more chances to experience Gatchaman over the decades. In 1986, Turner recut the series to create a brand new series, G-Force: Guardians of Space. This series attempted to remain more faithful to the original, but still made some cuts.
Later, Saban created a brand new series in 1997, Eagle Riders, that combined both Gathaman II and Gatchaman Fighter. Even though this series was 65 episodes long, it only fully aired in Australia. America only aired 13 episodes of this new series.
As the 25th anniversary of the Battle of the Planets arrived, several new companies decided to create new media and merchandise. Top Cow Productions introduced a new series of comic books from 2002 to 2003. Meanwhile, Diamond Selects produced one of the most prominent the Battle of the Planets toy lines to ever appear in America. These 7” action figures were highly detailed with decent articulation. Medicom Toys also joined in by producing 12” action figures.
During this time, Sandy Frank attempted to revive the cartoon series with a brand new dub. This new series would have been called Battle of the Planets: The New Adventures of G-Force and included the 32 episodes that were excluded from the original. However, this project was terminated before it aired.
While there had been multiple various Gatchaman toy lines from Japan over the decades, there was one notable figure that appeared in 2006. Takara introduced Jun, otherwise known as Princess, to their Cy Girls toy line. This action figure had two different variants, including a Dark Jun.
In 2019, the Russo Brothers announced their intentions to create a brand new live-action film for the Battle of the Planets. While this project is still in production, it may usher in a new era of merchandise.
Until then, brand-new Gatchaman merchandise continues to pop up. For instance, Storm Collectibles produced a collector’s tier 1/12 scale action figure of Ken the Eagle.
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