The Mysterious Cities of Gold

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The Mysterious Cities of Gold
English promotional cover
(Taiyō no ko Esuteban)
GenreHistorical, fantasy, adventure
Anime television series
Directed byBernard Deyriès, Hisayuki Toriumi
Produced byAtsumi Yajima, Chad Hopewell (NHK)
Written byJean Chalopin, Mitsuru Kaneko, Mitsuru Majima, Sôji Yoshikawa
Music byShuki Levy, Haim Saban, Ryuji Sasai
Licensed byFabulous Films
Original networkNHK General TV (Japan)
Antenne 2 (France)
RTL Télévision (Luxembourg)
English network
Original run May 1, 1982 (1982-05-01) February 5, 1983 (1983-02-05)
Episodes39 (List of episodes)

The Mysterious Cities of Gold, originally released in Japan as Esteban, Child of the Sun (Japanese: 太陽の子エステバン, Hepburn: Taiyō no Ko Esuteban) and released in France and Luxembourg as Les Mystérieuses Cités d'Or, is an animated series which was co-produced by DiC Audiovisuel and Studio Pierrot.[1]

Set in 1532, the series follows the adventures of a young Spanish boy named Esteban who joins a voyage to the New World in search of the lost Seven Cities of Gold and his father.[2][3]

The series was originally broadcast in Japan and the French version, edited with different characterization and music, was subsequently redubbed and distributed in many countries. It is currently licensed for English-language home video release in the United Kingdom, Australia, and North America by Fabulous Films.

Opening narration[edit]

It is the 16th century. From all over Europe, great ships sail west to conquer the New World, the Americas. The men, eager to seek their fortune, to find new adventures in new lands. They long to cross uncharted seas and discover unknown countries, to find secret gold on a mountain trail high in the Andes. They dream of following the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado and the Mysterious Cities of Gold.


In 1532, a Spanish orphan named Esteban joins Mendoza, a navigator, and his associates Sancho and Pedro, in their search for one of the Seven Cities of Gold in the New World, hoping to find his father. They are joined on their quest by Zia, an Incan girl (who was kidnapped by Gomez, Gaspard, Perez and Mendoza), and Tao, the last descendant of the sunken empire of Mu (Hiva in the English dub).

The series is a mix of ancient South American history, archaeology, and science fiction. During their journey, the travelers encounter the Mayas, Incas, and Olmecs. They discover many lost technological wonders of the Mu Empire, including a solar-powered ship (the Solaris) and The Golden Condor, a huge solar-powered ornithopter (mechanical bird), capable of traveling considerable distances under the sun's power alone. They are constantly pursued by antagonists Gomez and Gaspard, who are also in search of the Cities of Gold.

The Seven Cities of Gold were built by the Emperor of Hiva out of fear that a global war would destroy all civilizations. Such a war actually broke out, destroying the Empires of Mu and Atlantis when they used the "Weapons of the Sun".[4] The Seven Cities of Gold hold copies of books in their "Universal Libraries" as well as powerful artefacts, including the "Great Legacy", a portable fusion reactor. Other elements of this technology turn up in unexpected places, like the Solaris on Tao's home island, Esteban's and Zia's medallions as keys to the Cities, and Tao's jar as an important piece of the Great Legacy.

Reminiscences of this ancient story are present in Inca legends written on golden quipu, which only Zia can read. This triggers an obsessive quest for the Cities of Gold on the part of the Spaniards Mendoza, Gomez, Gaspard and Francisco Pizarro.

Esteban seeks his long-lost father and he is also tied to Mendoza, who rescued Esteban from a sinking ship when he was a baby. Esteban seems to have a magical ability to make the sun appear, which proves to be an invaluable asset throughout the series. Zia also seeks her father, from whom she was taken and was brought to Spain as a gift for the princess Margarita when she was seven years old. She has a medallion just like the one which Esteban carries.

Tao seeks signs of his ancestors. He possesses an encyclopedia which contains information about their lost technology as well as a mysterious jar which according to the legend, only the High Priest of the City of Gold can open, and it proves to be the Great Legacy's cooling or control rod system. Mendoza, Sancho and Pedro are motivated by their search for gold, but Mendoza genuinely appears to be fond of the three children.

The Olmecs are the descendants of survivors of the global war who hid under their mountain. Only their elite were able to survive, suspended in cryogenic hibernation. The Olmecs do not appear to be human—or if they were once human, it is implied that they were horribly mutated by the fallout of the nuclear war that destroyed their ancestors. They are short and thin and they also have pointed ears and enlarged frontal bones. They are highly intelligent but they are devious and selfish.

Led by their king, Menator, the Olmecs seek an artefact called the "Great Legacy" in order to power their cryogenic systems, as well as samples of healthy cells from the children in order to combat their mutations and their sterility. Their technology is generally inferior to modern technology, and they use weapons such as spears and swords. They maintain some elements of their advanced technological heritage, such as the stasis and medical technology which is used to keep the elite of the Olmecs in suspended animation until an opportunity to revive them arises, technology which is powered by what appears to be a geothermal power system.

This power system is destroyed during an escape by the children and Mendoza, causing the Olmecs to conduct a frantic search for the fusion reactor core (the Great Treasure) which is hidden inside the City of Gold. They also possess a flying machine which appears to have been constructed with the same type of advanced technology which the Golden Condor was constructed with. It is armed with a particle beam or a focused heat weapon which is very powerful.

Eventually, the Olmecs succeed, at great cost, in taking control of the Great Legacy. It begins to melt down without the moderation which is supposed to be provided by Tao's jar. The resulting earthquakes and volcanism destroy the City of Gold. A world-threatening meltdown is avoided by the personal sacrifice of Esteban's father who, acting as the High Priest of the Cities, is presumed to be dead after he replaces the jar. At the end of the series, Mendoza, Sancho and Pedro, who have salvaged some gold before the city's destruction, return to Spain, while Esteban and his friends set out across the Pacific Ocean on the golden condor in search of the remaining Cities of Gold.


The main cast of the series dubbed into American English, includes:

  • Esteban (エステバン, Esuteban) (Voiced by: Masako Nozawa (Japanese); Shiraz Adam (English)) – An orphan who was rescued at sea as a baby ten years ago by the Spanish navigator Mendoza. He wears one of the two sun medallions.[5] He dreams of adventure and is extremely impulsive. Esteban has a fear of heights which is exacerbated by the people of Barcelona who believe that he is the "Child of the Sun" and hoist him up high at the port to call out the sun to aid the departing ships. He joins the Spaniards on their search for one of The Seven Cities of Gold in the New World, hoping to find his father.[6]
  • Zia (シア, Shia) (Voiced by: Mami Koyama (Japanese); Janice Chaikelson (English)) – The daughter of an Inca high priest. She was kidnapped from Peru five years ago, when she was seven, by the Spanish invaders and given as a present to the Queen of Spain for her daughter, Princess Margarita. She met Esteban when she was kidnapped by Mendoza for Governor Pizarro who wanted her to read the golden quipu. Zia wears a sun medallion like Esteban's, with an interlocking sun and moon disc.
  • Tao (タオ) (Voiced by: Junko Hori (Japanese); Adrian Knight (English)) – The last living descendant of the sunken empire of Mu (Hiva in the English dub). He lived alone on the Galápagos Islands following the death of his father. Initially he is evasive of the others' company when they wash up on his island, but when the ship Solaris was revealed he joined them on their journey. He carries with him an encyclopedia handed down to him by his Hiva ancestors. Being the most intelligent of the children, he often takes a more studious approach to problem solving with Esteban sometimes becoming irritated due to his own impulsive nature.
  • Mendoza (メンドーサ, Mendōsa) (Voiced by: Isao Sasaki (Japanese); Howard Ryshpan (English)) – A Spaniard and navigator for the Spanish fleet. He rescued a young Esteban from a shipwreck during one of his voyages. An experienced sailor, proficient navigator and master swordsman, Mendoza places himself in the role of a leader. It is not always clear, however, where his loyalties lie and he is often at odds with the other characters. He is accompanied by fellow sailors Sancho and Pedro. Mendoza has spent many years searching for information about the cities of gold, following his theft of a piece of Esteban's medallion when he rescued the latter as an infant. His full name is revealed to be Juan Carlos Mendoza in season three.
  • Sancho (サンチョ) (Voiced by: Takeshi Aono) and Pedro (ペドロ, Pedoro) (Voiced by: Kaneta Kimotsuki) are comical, bumbling sailors who, motivated by their greed for gold, join Mendoza and the children on their search for the Mysterious Cities of Gold. They get into a lot of scrapes, and make several attempts to escape from Mendoza's watchful eye, once they realize how tiring the quest is.


The story was written by Jean Chalopin and Bernard Deyriès, and is very loosely based on the novel The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell. The series' chief director was Hisayuki Toriumi.[7] The producers were Max Saldinger and Atsumi Yajima (NHK).[7] The musical score was composed by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy in the Western version (Nobuyoshi Koshibe in the Japanese version[7]). Shingo Araki was involved with the series as an animator and some episodes were directed by Toyoo Ashida and Mizuho Nishikubo.

Originally Koshibe's score was to be used for the Western version as well. In contrast, Bernard Deyriès recalled his reaction to the proposed music he heard from Ulysses 31 in that he felt that the score was rather understated as he was expecting a more adventurous feel, something akin to films like Indiana Jones. At that point Haim Saban and Shuki Levy had met Deyriès, and became involved with the soundtracks of Ulysses 31 and The Mysterious Cities of Gold.

The theme song to the Western version was performed by Noam Kaniel, an associate of Levy's.



The series originally aired in Japan on NHK (the national public broadcaster) and premiered on June 29, 1982, running weekly for 39 episodes until its conclusion on June 7, 1983.[8]

The French version first aired in France on Antenne 2[9][10] from September 1983 to July 1984 and in Luxembourg on RTL Télévision (also seen in French-speaking Belgium and Lorraine, France), a co-financier of the series. All non-Japanese versions of the series originate from the French version.

The series first aired in English in the United States on the Nickelodeon cable network from June 30, 1986, to June 29, 1990.[11] in the United Kingdom, twice on Children's BBC in 1986/87[12] and 1989 and on The Children's Channel in 1994/1995;[13] in Ireland on Network 2 in 1988/1989; and in Australia, on the public broadcaster ABC in the early to mid-1980s.

The series also aired in Turkey on TRT;[14] in East Germany on DFF and later in unified Germany on ORB, MDR and Your Family Entertainment;[15] in Italy on Rai 2; in Sweden on TV3;[16] in Spain on ETB 1; in Bulgaria on BNT 2 and Diema 2; in Israel on IETV and Zoom; in Hungary (translated as "The Kingdom of Inca" - "Az Inka Királyság"); in Portugal on RTP; in New Zealand on TV One and TV2; in South Africa on TV1 and SABC1; in Dutch-speaking Belgium BRT;[17] in Russia; in Namibia on both SWABC and NBC; in Gibraltar on GBC TV; in Zambia on ZNBC; and in several Arab nations.

Beginning in 2015, the English version is shown in Australia on SBS channel NITV.

The English version was also available via streaming for a limited time on Hulu and Netflix.

In 2017, the French version was repeated on Unis in Canada.[18]

DVD and digital releases[edit]

The Mysterious Cities of Gold was released on both VHS and DVD in France, Belgium, Japan, Portugal, Canada (in French) and Germany.[19] In 2007, Fabulous Films acquired the licence to release the series in Region 2 (Europe), Region 1, and Region 4. All 39 episodes of the series were released in the United Kingdom on June 23, 2008, as a six-disc DVD set with the picture and sound restored. The DVD was released in Australia in August 2008. It was released in North America on April 7, 2009.[20] The show is also available to purchase and stream via digital retailers.


Beginning in 2012, three new seasons (of 26 episodes each) were produced, picking up the storyline where the 1982 series left off. Unlike the original series, this sequel is produced entirely in France, as a co-joint venture between the French television channel TF1, the Belgian channel La Trois, the French animation company Blue Spirit and Jean Chalopin's company Movie-Plus Group.[21] The new seasons see the series move to China and subsequently Japan.[22] The design of the characters are more or less the same, although some subtle changes have been made to their physical appearances. Jean Chalopin and Bernard Deyriès act as creative consultants on the new series, with Chalopin concentrating particularly on the scripts (which are written by Hadrian Soulez-Lariviere from Chalopin's own draft for the sequel) and Deyriès focusing particularly on the graphical aspects. New background music is composed by the original theme song's singer Noam Kaniel.[23]

A 45-minute special, consisting of the first two episodes of the new series, was released on December 9, 2012, on TF1. The series started its regular airing during the first half of 2013. Like the 1982 series, each episode has a summary of the previous episode, a teaser to the next and a small documentary at the end.[24] The voices for the English-language version were recorded in Paris under the direction of voice director, Matthew Géczy. The sequel received a premiere on the Kix (UK and Ireland) channel in the United Kingdom on November 9, 2013, before a daily airing due to start on November 11.

In 2016, the third season of the show started production,[25] followed by a fourth season in 2020.[26][27]

Soundtrack releases[edit]

Score by Nobuyoshi Koshibe and Katsuo Ohno[edit]

  • 1982, Starchild Records, Taiyou no Ko Esteban BGM Collection Vol.1. LP containing 17 tracks from the Japanese score.
  • 1983, Starchild Records, Taiyou no Ko Esteban BGM Collection Vol.2. LP containing a further 13 tracks from the Japanese score.
  • 1983, Starchild Records, Ougon no Condor/Sorezore no Utopia. EP containing two tracks from the Japanese score.
  • 1983, Starchild Records, Boukenshatachi/Itsuka Dokoka de Anata ni Atta. EP containing two tracks from the Japanese score.

Score by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy[edit]

  • 1983, Saban Records, Les Mysterieuses Cités D'Or. Seven-inch of the title music with Zia's theme as the B side.
  • 1983, Saban Records, Les Mystérieuses Cités D'Or (Bande Originale De La Série Télévisée). LP containing 16 unedited tracks.
  • 1998, RYM Musique, Les Mystérieuses Cités D'Or. CD reissue, sourced from vinyl, of the LP with two bonus tracks from the series Inspector Gadget.
  • 1998, Animusik, Les Mystérieuses Cités D'Or (Bande Originale Du Dessin Animé). CD/VCD reissue, sourced from vinyl, of the LP with 13 bonus tracks in mono, sourced from video tape as the original masters are in a decrepit state. The VCD section contains several video clips.
  • 2002, Loga-Rythme, Les Mystérieuses Cités D'Or (La Bande Originale Du Dessin Animé Réorchestrée). Two-CD reorchestration of the full soundtrack by Boub (Yannick Rault).
  • 2002, Airplay Records, Zia. CD single containing 4 remixes of the title music.
  • 2008, Fabulous Films, The Mysterious Cities of Gold – Original Soundtrack Album. Twelve-track album, including 10 tracks of music restored and edited from video tape masters by Chris Watson. The album also contains the TV version of the English theme song in stereo, both with and without narration (tracks 1 and 12). This CD was made available as a limited-edition extra with Fabulous Films' DVD release of the series in the UK and Australia.
  • 2012, XIII Bis Records, Les Mystérieuses Cités D'Or. CD reissue containing 15 tracks from the original LP plus the American/English version of the title theme as a bonus track.
  • 2013, XIII Bis Records, Les Mystérieuses Cités D'Or – New Edition. CD reissue containing 15 tracks from the original LP plus the American/English version of the title theme and the "Hand Remix" of the title theme as bonus tracks.
  • 2017, Wagram Music, Les mystérieuses cités d'or (Bande originale de la série télévisée). Thirty-track digital reissue containing all 16 tracks from the original LP, the 13 bonus tracks from the 1998 Animusik release and the English version of the title theme.

Computer games[edit]

Two games have been produced by Ynnis Interactive. The first, The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Flight of the Condor, was released in 2013 only for iOS users on Apple devices.[28] The second was titled The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths and was made in 2013 for PC after a successful Kickstarter campaign.[29] The game was released in 2014 for iOS, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.


  1. ^ "Buried Treasure - Mysterious Cities of Gold". Anime News Network.
  2. ^ "The Mysterious Cities of Gold : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  3. ^ ""Olmecs approaching the outer perimeter with a flying machine!" The Mysterious Cities of Gold is..." Aint It Cool News.
  4. ^ "Hiva (Mu) war against Atlantis - The Mysterious Cities of Gold". YouTube. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Buried Treasure - Mysterious Cities of Gold". Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  6. ^ "The Mysterious Cities Of Gold DVD review". 8 July 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  7. ^ a b c エステバン(スタッフ&キャスト) (in Japanese). Studio Pierrot. Archived from the original on 5 August 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
  8. ^ "太陽の子エステバン". Media Arts Database. Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  9. ^ Le XVIème siècle, website (French). Retrieved on November 20, 2007.
  10. ^ Première diffusion des Cités d'Or, Linternaute Histoire. Retrieved on November 20, 2007.
  11. ^ Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. p. 352. ISBN 978-1476665993.
  12. ^ The Journal Nos. 43572 to 43820, September 1, 1986 to June 22, 1987.
  13. ^ The Journal Nos. 44378 to 44528, April 5, 1989 to September 28, 1989.
  14. ^ Esteban website (Turkish). Retrieved on June 16, 2009.
  15. ^ Die geheimnisvollen Städte des Goldes, website (German). Retrieved on June 16, 2009.
  16. ^ Daniel Hofverberg. "De gåtfulla guldstäderna" (in Swedish). Dubbningshemsidan. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  17. ^ "The Mysterious Cities of Gold (TV) - Anime News Network".
  18. ^ "Les mystérieuses cités d'or - Émissions - Unis TV". Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  19. ^ "Les Mystérieuses cités d'or – 6 Pack (French Version)". Amazon. Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  20. ^ Mysterious Cities of Gold - Fabulous Films Allies with Arts Alliance, Announces 2 "Mysterious" Sets, Plans "Monster Squad" and Others Archived 2009-02-07 at the Wayback Machine,, January 13, 2009
  21. ^ "News on the Sequel to the Series". Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  22. ^ "TV Review: THE MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD Season 2". Starburst Magazine. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  23. ^ "Mystérieuses Cités d'or (les) (série 2012) - Animebase". Animeland. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  24. ^ "Les Mystérieuses Cités d'Or / The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Trailer (2012)". 6 June 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012 – via YouTube.
  25. ^ "More Mysterious Cities of Gold in Production". Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  26. ^ "The Mysterious Cities of Gold, seasons 2 to 4 | Blue Spirit". Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  27. ^ "The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Season 4". Newen Connect. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  28. ^ "Mysterious Cities of Gold - Flight of the Condor - GameSpot". 3 September 2014. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014.
  29. ^ "Mysterious Cities of Gold - The Video Game! by Ynnis Interactive".

External links[edit]