Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier
Nine cyborgs, plus a repentant scientist, break out of the lab where they've been confined, and resolve to defeat the evil organization that created them.
Grampa is in heaven about this show, since it reminds him so much of the superhero comics he grew up with. He's so simple-minded. I bet he'll try to cosplay the show's characters.
Now the sheer number of movies, series, and games based on the original manga would seem to indicate that it was very popular in Japan also, but this review is going to take a more nuanced, though still, on balance, very positive view of the show; it's terrific fun, a very "old-school" sci-fi action/adventure show (though some of the LESS wonderful conventions of the "old school" are present too.) And yet there is some attention to deeper dramatic and philosophical issues thrown in, though that's usually pretty subtle. (For example, the cyborgs encourage some alien children to defend themselves, but we're given some visual evidence that the kid's attendant loss of innocence is maybe NOT entirely a good thing.) Their chronic enemy is Black Ghost, which early on seems mainly an enterprise for creating sophisticated weapons (including themselves) - AND for creating a market for those weapons by fomenting wars. Even when we think they've defeated Black Ghost, various evil scientists formerly employed by it seem to have continued their own twisted projects, and there's always the potential for the original to re-emerge as maybe an even LESS rational enterprise. (How DO you turn a profit by destroying the world???)
Our cyborg cast is multinational. While they HAVE names, they usually just refer to each other by the number assigned to them (based on the order in which they were created): "Oh-Oh-Three", "Oh-Oh-Nine", and so on. They wear red outfits with gold capes through most of the series. Those capes really look more like long scarves, and so would seem prime invitations to mishaps of the sort that Edna Mode warned about in The Incredibles.
Shall we meet our cast?
001 (Ivan Wisky) is an infant in form, but his brain is not only fully developed, he's able to communicate by telepathy with the others. He possesses a variety of psionic powers, including levitation, teleportation, and the ability to generate force-fields. The problem is, he can only do this for a short period, and then he needs his nap. A FIFTEEN-DAY nap.
002 (Jet Link) is supposed to be American. He's the impulsive/hotheaded one in the bunch. (Every superhero group requires one of these.) His superpower is flight (rockets in his feet a la Astroboy). There's just a hint of a romantic triangle involved here, between him and 009, for the attentions of 003, the group's token female; she's clearly got her attention focused on 009 now, but 002 has KNOWN her longer. (001-004 are "earlier generation" cyborgs.)
003 (Francoise Arnoul), our female member, wanted to be a ballet dancer before being forcibly cyborg-ized. Truthfully her power doesn't amount to much: she can perceive threats coming at a great distance. While she can wield their standard-issue raygun as well as anyone, her limited combat capabilities mean she typically needs rescuing during firefights, usually of course by 009. Still, in Ep. 34, they ALMOST let her take down the bad guys by herself. She's also usually relegated to carrying 001, our "infant", around. So points off here for a "traditional", AKA sexist, character treatment.
004, Albert Heinrich, we see in flashbacks trying to escape East Germany. (Remember, 001-004 are older generation.) He has a literal machine-gun hand, and can launch missiles from his knees (!). He's a little cynical, VERY pragmatic, and really is my favorite character in the show. He has, alas, terrible, TERRIBLE luck with the women who enter his life.
005 is called G-Junior. He's Native American, apparently, and his ability is super-strength. He's got the virtues stereotypically attributed to Native Americans (spirituality, closeness to nature, etc.), but I found him the least developed as a character of any of them.
006 is Chang Changku, so he's just gotta be Chinese. Before, AND after, becoming a cyborg, his desire has remained to run a restaurant. He cooks for our cast, and his particular power, fire-breathing, is sometimes useful for this.
007 is NAMED "Great Britain". He's an actor (of the hammy kind), aspiring author (of the dreadful kind), and into self-aggrandizing. I didn't like him much as a person, though he has one nice moment when he's speaking to a theatrical group. His power, appropriate for an actor, is being able to assume the form of any person, creature, or thing he wishes. He and 006 form a sometimes-bickering friendship, and he ends up working in 006's restaurant.
008 is a young African man named Pyunma. His visual depiction seems a little racially stereotyped, but honestly EVERYONE in our cast (with the NOTABLE exception of our male and female leads, 009 and 003) is drawn more or less grotesquely, so it's hard to say. In his off-time from saving the world, Pyunma is busy trying to save his own people, bringing food and medicine to the villages in his poor country. He's supposedly an expert in underwater work. (Though ALL the cyborgs seem to be able to do without air, and can even TALK while in water (OR in vacuum, which is quite a trick).) 008 is a compassionate, reliable, and sensible guy, and my second-favorite character in the show.
009 is our hero-of-record, named Joe Shimamura. His power is "Acceleration Mode", in which his mind and movements are so fast that the rest of the world seems to stand still. A malfunction in this power leads at one point to a Kokkoku-type isolation from the whole world, coupled with a dilemma similar to that in the Outer Limits episode I mentioned in the Kokkoku review: he has to save some people about to perish in an explosion, but his molecular motion in the accelerated state is so fast that everything in "normal" time that he touches bursts into flame. His solution to the problem was pretty ingenious. (In fact, while all the cyborgs get solo stories, 009's are often the best; another one, involving a dog, is, like so many stories involving dogs, high in pathos content- as was one where he's reunited with some of the people from the orphanage he grew up in.)
And finally we've their scientist-mentor and repairman, Dr. Gilmore. Dr. Gilmore, like all the other Black Ghost scientists, originally put his research interests ahead of any respect for the humanity of his test subjects, and there's this marvelous moment where he's confronted with the fear that he STILL might be like this. It's one of those magical moments of revelation (and forgiveness) that you don't normally expect to see in a show like this.
If I have one major complaint about the show, it's that the narrative flow seems to frazzle toward the end. The next-to-last story arc is missing one VERY important detail at the end; and the last arc (last 3 episodes) is a mess, involving arbitrary changes in costumes, powers, and the characters' relationships. (It looks like it might have been lifted from some other point in the lengthy manga version of the saga.)
A more minor complaint is that synthesizer riff in the opening theme that's allowed to go on WAY too long. (You'll know what I'm talking about, when you hear it.)
The show is frequently thrilling, occasionally moving, though often sad; the Black Ghost-related parties do a lot of human damage. (I DO wish something could have been done for this show's NON-Quintessential Quintuplets, at least for the one with a romantic interest.) If you'll excuse me, I have to go rescue Grampa; he's got his scarf-cape stuck in a door. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Quite a few innocents (and NEAR-innocents) end up dying, and not ALL of them are even people. The violence, while not necessarily graphic, would be too disturbing for small children. We do have one cyborg who I suppose is fanservicey, though her depiction doesn't seem to be meant to be arousing per se. Rightstuf rates the Blu-Ray as 13+, which is exactly the rating I would have gone with too.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (51/51)
Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier © 2001 Ishinomori Production/Cyborg 009 Production Committee
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