Science Ninja Team Gatchaman

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"Gatchaman" redirects here. For the 2013 film adaptation, see Gatchaman (film).
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.jpg
A cover art by Alex Ross for the ADV Films release (DVD 18)
(Kagaku Ninja-tai Gatchaman)
Genre Adventure, science fiction, mecha
Anime television series
Directed by Hisayuki Toriumi
Produced by Ippei Kuri
Written by Jinzo Toriumi
Music by Bob Sakuma
Studio Tatsunoko Productions
Licensed by
Network Fuji TV (original broadcast)
Original run October 1, 1972September 29, 1974[1]
Episodes 105 (List of episodes)

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (科学忍者隊ガッチャマン Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman?) is a five-member superhero team composed of the main characters of several anime created by Tatsuo Yoshida, originally produced in Japan by Tatsunoko Productions and later adapted into several English-language versions. The team is also known as Gatchaman.[2]

The original series, produced in 1972, was eponymously entitled Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman and is best known in the English-speaking world as the adaptation entitled Battle of the Planets (1978).[3] The series had additional English adaptations with G-Force: Guardians of Space (1986) and ADV Films' uncut 2005 release. Tatsunoko also uses the official translation Science Commando Gatchaman in related products and media.

The original Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman series was followed by an animated film and two sequel series, Gatchaman II (1978) and Gatchaman Fighter (1979). During the 1990s, episodes from both series were dubbed into English by Saban as Eagle Riders. In 1994, the original series was remade as a condensed original video animation series.[4]

A second feature-film version of Gatchaman was in production by Imagi Animation Studios, directed by Ben Gluck for a 2011 release, but was canceled as a result of the studio's financial problems. A live-action film was developed by Nikkatsu Studios and released in 2013.

Original series[edit]


Recurring themes of Gatchaman involve conservation, environmentalism and the responsible use of technology for progress.[5] The series centers around five young superhero ninja employed by Kōzaburō Nambu of the fictitious International Science Organization to oppose an international terrorist organization of technologically advanced villains (Galactor) who are trying to control Earth's natural resources. The leader of Galactor is an androgynous, masked antagonist named Berg Kattse, who is later revealed to be a shape-shifting, mutant hermaphrodite acting on the orders of an alien superior (Sosai X).[6] The most-common plot involves the Gatchaman team opposing giant monsters dispatched by Galactor to steal (or control) natural resources such as water, oil, sugar and uranium. These mechas are often animal-based.[7] The Science Ninja Team is often aided by a squadron of combat pilots led by the enigmatic Red Impulse, who is later revealed as Ken's father.

Most of the team are in their late teens, except for Jinpei (who is about ten or eleven years old). They include Ken Washio, the team leader and tactical expert; Jō Asakura, his second-in-command marksman and weapons expert; Jun, the team's electronics and demolitions expert; Jinpei, the youngest and the reconnaissance expert, an adopted brother of Jun, and Ryū Nakanishi, the ship's pilot. The main characters wear teen clothing with T-shirts numbered to show their rank in the team or caped, birdlike battle uniforms.[8]

The Gatchaman team employ a unique style of violent, effective martial arts (developed by Dr. Nambu) drawing on their ability to perform feats similar to their avian namesakes, such as high-speed running and flight, high jumping and silent attacks. This fighting system, known as Science Ninja Technique (科学忍法 Kagaku Ninpō?), is mentioned in the Japanese lyrics of the Gatchaman theme. The team members also use signature weapons and mecha-style vehicles, each with a mundane, disguised form. To change modes, each member is equipped with a wrist device that, in addition to communications and tracking, enables a change when the proper gesture and voice command ("Bird, go!") is given.

Their vehicles are docked in the team's main vehicle: the God Phoenix, a supersonic plane capable of underwater travel and space flight. The God Phoenix is armed with Bird Missiles, which are fired from a rack mounted atop the center section. After the original God Phoenix is destroyed by an octopus mecha, an improved version carries a pair of Super Bird Missiles in twin drop-down pods on the bottom center section. The ship also has an energy-beam weapon which opens the nose doors for the weapon apparatus mounted on the frame holding Joe's car; however, its solar power source is unreliable because of its sensitivity to cloud cover. The plane can also temporarily transform into a massive bird of flame (like the legendary phoenix) to escape danger or attack, although the process endangers the team because of extreme pressure in the passenger cabin.


Five birdlike cartoon characters
Left to right: Ken, Ryū, Jinpei, Jun and Joe
Ken, the Eagle
Ken Washio (鷲尾 健 Washio Ken?), a pilot, is a leader of the Science Ninja Team. "Gatchaman" designates the team leader. Ken's father disappeared during a flight, becoming Red Impulse. Ken did not know his father, and was raised by Dr. Nambu.
Joe, the Condor
Joe Asakura (ジョー 浅倉?) is an Italian of Japanese descent. A race car driver, he is a sub-leader of the team. Joe was born George Asakura (ジョージ 浅倉 Jōji Asakura?), the son of Giuseppe Asakura and his wife Caterina (members of Galactor, who were killed by a Galactor rose bomb when they tried to escape). Dr. Nambu rescued the boy, named him Jō to hide him from Galactor and raised him as his son.
Jun, the Swan
Jun (ジュン?) is an American of Japanese descent. Raised in an orphanage, her last name is not disclosed in the anime. In her free time, she enjoys riding her motorcycle and runs Snack Bar J.
Jinpei, the Swallow
Jinpei (甚平?) was also an orphan, and grew up with Jun. His last name is not disclosed in the anime either, and he lives in Snack Bar J with Jun.
Ryu, the Owl
Ryu Nakanishi, a fisherman's son, is the manager of a yacht harbor and the main pilot of God Phoenix. He is the only person in the team who has a family (parents and a younger brother).



Created in the wake of the Henshin (transformation) boom begun by Shotaro Ishinomori's Kamen Rider in 1971, Gatchaman was conceived as a blending of ninja adventure with science fiction.[10] It was one of the most successful anime attempts to emulate the American superhero genre, with many of its conventions (such as colorful costumes).

Film version[edit]

Other anime series[edit]

Gatchaman II[edit]

Main article: Gatchaman II

A sequel, filmed with a different color process, was released four years later. Resembling the Blue Hawk, the new God Phoenix is larger and painted with the face of a bird. The personal mecha are also upgraded, with similar bird-designed paint jobs. Ryu has a tank-like mecha and a Pilot Machine to assist him.

Gatchaman Fighter[edit]

Main article: Gatchaman Fighter

This series aired in 1979, immediately after Gatchaman II. Here, the team's mecha bear no resemblance to birds. Earth is again threatened by the former Sosai X, who inflicts many more casualties than he did in the two previous series.

Gatchaman (OVA)[edit]

Main article: Gatchaman (OVA)

A 1994 series featured updated character designs and altered backgrounds.[11]

Gatchaman Crowds[edit]

Main article: Gatchaman Crowds

A new series based on the Gatchaman universe premiered in July 2013 on NTV. Like the original series, it was produced by Tatsunoko. The story is set in Tachikawa City, Tokyo, where some of its residents have been chosen to join a team to confront a mysterious entity known as MESS. The series follows Hajime Ichinose, a 16-year-old girl who is the team's newest member.[12]


Gatchaman has aired in a number of countries, in several languages.

Original broadcasts[edit]

The original series was shown in Japan, and later exported to other countries. In Taiwan, beginning in 1977 it was known as Ke Xue Xiao Fei Xia (「科學小飛俠」/“科学小飞侠” kēxué xiǎofēixiá, Scientific Flying Fantasy Warriors). The series, aired on the China TV network, was repeated several times.

Battle of the Planets[edit]

Main article: Battle of the Planets

Sandy Frank and Jameson Brewer aired the series on American television in 1978, in heavily edited form, as Battle of the Planets (BOTP).[13] A number of scenes were replaced with new segments by Gallerie International Films, with additional characters: 7-Zark-7 and his associates, 1-Rover-1 and Susan, in a number of space outposts. Other segments included the Phoenix flying in space. The quality of the new segments matched the original content, with the G-Force and 7-Zark-7 appearing together. New music was blended with the original soundtrack. Although all 105 episodes were used as sources, 85 sporadic episodes were released. An animated TV movie was made, combining several episodes into a new storyline.

G-Force: Guardians of Space[edit]

The series received a second English translation from Turner Program Services and Fred Ladd, and was entitled G-Force: Guardians of Space. This adaptation consisted of 85 episodes, spanning episodes 1-87 but skipping episodes 81 and 86. The series aired internationally beginning in 1987, but would not air in its entirety in the U.S until its run on Cartoon Network in 1995. Although this version was less heavily edited and had a relatively faithful translation, the voice acting, background music and the Americanized character names were criticized.[citation needed]

Eagle Riders[edit]

Main article: Eagle Riders

The sequel series Gatchaman II and Gatchaman Fighter were combined and translated as Eagle Riders in 1996 by Saban Entertainment, with changes in audio and character names.[citation needed]

Battle of the Planets: Phoenix Ninjas (working title)[edit]

There will be a reboot of Battle of the Planets produced by Nelvana and D-Rights.[14]

North American home-video releases[edit]

Battle of the Planets was released on VHS and DVD from 2001 to 2003 by Rhino Entertainment in six volumes and a complete DVD collection. Episodes from the G-Force version were included on the DVDs, and seven more episodes were released in a 2004 best-of collection (with 13 out of 85 episodes of G-Force available on disc).

Urban Vision released the 1994 OVA on VHS in 1997 and DVD in 2001, containing the original Harmony Gold English dub and Japanese audio with English subtitles. Urban Vision's license then expired, and the releases are out of print.

ADV Films released an uncut version of the original series on DVD in 2005–2006 in 18 volumes (and nine limited-edition sets) containing a new uncut English dub and Japanese audio with English subtitles. This release included all 105 episodes. The dub aimed to be a faithful translation, without attempts to modify the show for younger viewers (including profanity and the word "kill"). The English dub contained creative changes: profanity, 1970s slang and thick, occasionally stereotypical accents were added.[15][16][17]

In 2007 Sandy Frank's long-term contract with Tatsunoko Productions (owners of the Gatchaman franchise), which gave it all domestic U.S rights to the first Gatchaman series and its English adaptations, lapsed and all video releases were out of print. Sentai Filmworks later signed a contract with Tatsunoko, acquiring the North American home-video rights to the Gatchaman franchise in 2013.[18] Section23 Films released a complete collection of the series on DVD and Blu-ray on December 10, 2013. The Blu-ray set contains 14 discs in three keep cases, and the DVD set has 22 discs in four cases.[19] Both sets contain all 105 episodes of the original series (with the ADV Films English version and Japanese audio) and all three OVA episodes (containing a new accurate English dub from Seraphim Digital); the OVA were also released individually on DVD.

Character variations[edit]

Team variations in different versions[edit]

Gatchaman (and sequels) Ken Washio Jō Asakura Jun Jinpei Ryū Nakanishi
Battle of the Planets Mark Jason Princess Keyop Tiny Harper
media360group G-Force Unaired pilot Lucas Jason Rachel David Quintin
G-Force Ace Goodheart Dirk Daring Agatha June (Aggie) Pee Wee Hoot Owl (Hooty)
Eagle Riders Hunter Harris the Hawk Joe Thax the Falcon Kelly Jennar the Dove Mickey Dugan Ollie Keeawani
OVA (Harmony Gold dubbed) Ken the Eagle Joe the Condor June the Swan Jimmy the Falcon‡ Rocky the Owl
Rank G1 G2 G3 G4 G5
Bird Uniform (aka Bird Style) Eagle Condor Swan Swallow Owl
Weapon Razor Sonic boomerang Harpoon pistol, also the shuriken Yo-yo Bolas Harpoon pistol, mostly fists
Mecha Airplane Race car Motorcycle Dune buggy God Phoenix
Japanese voice actor (also applies to sequels) Katsuji Mori Isao Sasaki Kazuko Sugiyama Yoku Shioya Shingo Kanemoto
Japanese voice actor (OVA) Masaya Onosaka Kōji Ishii Michiko Neya Rica Matsumoto Fumihiko Tachiki
English voice actor (BOTP) Casey Kasem Ronnie Schell/David Jolliffe Janet Waldo Alan Young Alan Dinehart/Ronnie Schell
English voice actor (G-Force pilot) Don Spalding Barry Stoltze Faith Salie John Ferguson Doug Paul
English voice actor (G-Force) Sam Fontana Cam Clarke Barbara Goodson Jan Rabson/Gregg Berger
English voice actor (OVA, Harmony Gold dubbed) Eddie Frierson Richard Cansino Lara Cody Mona Marshall Richard Epcar
English voice actor (Eagle Riders) Richard Cansino Bryan Cranston Heidi Lenhart Paul Schrier
English voice actor (ADV/Sentai dubbed) Leraldo Anzaldua Brian Jepson Kim Prause Luci Christian Victor Carsrud

‡Although he was the Swallow, Jimmy called himself the Falcon.

Other character variations in different versions[edit]

Gatchaman Male scientist President of ISO Mystery pilot Enemy commander (Gatchaman) Enemy leader Announcer Enemy commander (Gatchaman II) Female scientist
Gatchaman Kōzaburō Nambu-hakase Andāson-shachō no ISO Reddo Imparusu / Kentaro Washio Bergu Kattse Sōsai X Gel Sadra Sylvie Pandora hakase
Battle of the Planets Chief Anderson President Kane Colonel Cronos Commander Zol Luminous One / Great Spirit (no appearance) (no appearance)
media360group G-Force Unaired pilot Professor Nicholas Zoltar Commander Tiros (no appearance) (no appearance)
G-Force Dr. Benjamin Brighthead Commander Todd Anderson Red Impulse/Kendrick Goodheart Galactor Computor (no appearance) (no appearance)
Eagle Riders Dr. Thaddeus Keane Anderson Harley Harris[citation needed] Lukan Cybercom Mallanox Dr. Francine Aikens
OVA (Harmony Gold dubbed) Dr. Kōzaburō Nambu Director Anderson Red Specter/Kentaro Washio Solaris Lord Zortek (no appearance) (no appearance)
ADV/Sentai English dubbing Dr. Nambu Director Anderson Red Impulse Lord Berg Katse Leader X Gel Sadra Dr. Sylvie Pandora
Japanese voice actors Tōru Ōhira Teiji Ōmiya Mikio Terashima Nobuo Tanaka Hideo Kinoshita/Shūsei Nakamura Masaru Ikeda Miyuka Ieda
English voice actors (BOTP) Alan Dinehart Michael Rye Keye Luke Keye Luke Keye Luke William Woodson/Alan Young
English voice actors (G-Force pilot) Barry Stoltze Doug Paul John Ferguson Doug Paul
English voice actors (G-Force) Jan Rabson/Gregg Berger Jan Rabson/Gregg Berger Cam Clarke Bill Capizzi Jan Rabson/Gregg Berger Norm Prescott
Japanese voice actors (OVA) Ikuya Sawaki Kaneto Shiozawa Nobuo Tanaka
English voice actors (OVA Harmony Gold dub) Michael McConnohie Michael Forest R. Martin Klein Ralph Votrais
English voice actors (Eagle Riders) Greg O'Neill Peter Spellos R. Martin Klein Lara Cody
ADV/Sentai English dubbing Andy McAvin Marty Fleck John Tyson Edwin Neal Winston Parish George Manley

Other changes[edit]

Variations Gatchaman (Japanese) Battle of the Planets Guardians of Space Eagle Riders OVA (English, Harmony Gold) Gatchaman (English)
Identity change command Bird, go!‡ Transmute! G-Force, transform! Eagle Mode, now!
Ken Eagle One, transform!
Joe Shapeshift, Condor!
June Swan Mode, now!
Jimmy Falcon Tracker, transform!
Bird, go!
Enemy planet Selectol Spectra Galactor Vorak Galactor Selectol
Enemy civilization Galactor (Gyarakutā) Spectra Galactor Vorak Galactor Galactor

‡The original Japanese-language version of Gatchaman features a few words in English.

Film adaptations[edit]

Canceled Imagi film[edit]

Imagi began developing a film version in 2004, with producer Tom Gray saying that it would have a PG-13 or R rating.[20] A Gatchaman film was first announced in February 2006,[21] with an expected 2008 release.[22][23][24] Kevin Munroe (TMNT) was scheduled to write and direct,[25] with Lynne Southerland (co-director of Mulan 2) as producer,[26] and an initial treatment was begun.[27] However, in 2008 Munroe was taken off the project to direct Dylan Dog.[28] Although early scripts were written by Paul Dini,[29] in fall 2007 he was released from the project.[30] In June 2007, Robert Mark Kamen was signed to write the screenplay in preparation for a 2008 release.[31][32]

At the July 2008 Comic-Con, Imagi introduced a Paul Dini-scripted trailer. In August, art director Felix Ip began posting screenshots from the trailer. At the July 2009 Anime Expo, Imagi shared another 45-second, Dini-scripted trailer. Although it did not reveal much plot, it was the first public look at the 3D characterizations of the main villain Galactor and the Gatchaman team in and out of costume. The trailer also introduced the film's theme: "A world in chaos, an alien evil, a lone warrior is found; Earth's last hope, five shall rise, Gatchaman."[33] In July 2010 Imagi posted a new one-minute trailer for Gatchaman on its company website, with a release date of 2011.[34]

In December 2009, auditors reported growing concerns with the half-year results posted by Imagi. Although the company said that it was on course for the release of Astro Boy, according to the audit firm "It is uncertain whether the group will have the necessary financial resources to complete [the films] Gatchaman, Tusker, and Cat Tale."[35] In January 2009 the auditing firm announced that the studio lacked funding for the release of Tusker, Cat Tale and Gatchaman,[36] although Felix Ip reported that Gatchaman was expected to be released later in 2009.[24] In June 2009, Imagi opened Gatchaman for licensing and announced a planned 3-D theatrical release in 2011.[36] On December 11, 2009 Imagi's Hong Kong-based parent company, Imagi International Holdings Limited, laid off 100 employees.[37] In January 2010 it announced that although the Gatchaman project would be delivered in 100-percent stereoscopic 3D, to safeguard working capital it would close its U.S. subsidiaries. The U.S. closure was finalized in late January, with about 30 staffers laid off and a few key personnel continuing as consultants as Imagi sought $30 million from investors for its animation projects.[38][39][40] In February 2010 the parent company laid off another 300 employees, calling the layoffs temporary as it sought new investors.[37] On June 21, 2011, Imagi announced in its annual report that the Gatchaman film project was cancelled.[41]

Nikkatsu film[edit]

Main article: Gatchaman (film)

Nikkatsu Studios produced a live-action version of Gatchaman for Japan, which was released in August 2013.[42]

Video games[edit]

Ken, Jun and Berg appear as playable characters in Tatsunoko Fight. Ken and Jun appear as playable fighters in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes, and Joe joins Ken and Jun in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars.


In 2001, the Japanese magazine Animage listed the 1972 Gatchaman TV series the tenth-best anime production of all time.[43]



Gatchaman helped establish the convention of the five-member hero team emulated in later series, notably in the successful tokusatsu Super Sentai franchise (a genre exemplified by the English series adaptation of the Power Rangers franchise many years later). The Sentai series Chōjin Sentai Jetman was, in many ways, a homage to Gatchaman.[7][44]

Guest appearances and pop culture references[edit]

  • In 1994, the Science Ninja Team and Dr. Nambu appeared in a crossover OVA, Time Bokan: Royal Revival.
  • In 2000, NTT East produced two animated and two live-action television commercials for their ISDN service with an updated version of Gatchaman, featuring members of the J-Pop boy group SMAP.[45]
  • They appeared in several episodes of the 2008 reboot of Yatterman as background characters and played a minor speaking role in the hour-long "Episode 12.5" TV special.
  • The third episode of Sket Dance has Jun as a playable character in a re-enactment of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom.
  • The face of one of the characters appears in episode 252 of the Gin Tama anime.
  • Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog comic series parodied Gatchaman in Sonic Super Special, Issue #12.
  • A parody of Gatchaman was used in the cartoon Megas XLR as the S-Force, appearing in two episodes.
  • Joe is the reference of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG card, "Swift Birdman Joe".
  • The Ame-Comi version of Batgirl has a costume with design similarities to the Gatchaman costume. She is also equipped with Batarangs that look identical to Ken the Eagle's Birdrangs.
  • The character of Lord Viper in the 90s cartoon King Arthur and the Knights of Justice appears to be based on the design of Spectra foot soldiers.


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External links[edit]