Monday, September 27, 2010

Geek Out Central!

So I'm on this massive geek-out-come-re-living-my-childhood odyssey this past week.

A couple weeks ago I celebrated a birthday (and NO you don't get to ask how old!) and one of the gifts I received was a voucher for our own kick-arse CD/DVD/HiFi/Everything a tech-toy loving guy could ever want in life - otherwise known as JB HiFi - from my brother. I used to regard these sorts of gift vouchers as a kind of easy way out so far as gift giving is concerned but, in recent years, I have come to prize these gifts because they are the one gift that allows you to go your hardest and literally get just the right gift for yourself. I LOVE them. 

So anyway - I sat down and I went through the entire JB HiFi online catalog just totally drooling at all the cool stuff I could choose from - and believe me there is soooo much cool stuff in that store. And in the process I happened across one particular product which totally opened the flood gates to long dormant memories of my childhood. And I knew in that instant that it was going to be the winner this year.

(Cue "Wonder Years" theme tune here)...

Back in the really early 80's when I was all of 8 years old, I used to have a paper round each weekday after school at the local power station in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, Australia. For an hour and a half each day I would sell "The Herald" newspaper - a big old afternoon broadsheet newspaper - for 30 cents a copy to the power station workers who would finish their shift around 4 in the afternoon, which was perfect timing so far as a paper round was concerned. I can't exactly remember how long I did this for - maybe a few months or so - but I distinctly remember enjoying it a great deal. My mother made for me a special pouch that I would tie around my waist to collect my money in and after a while, I would actually go into the workshops to sell the newspapers, rather than wait on the gate outside. The men in the workshops "issued" me with my own hard hat, upon which they wrote the nick name "Digger" and I was required to wear that hat each time I went into the workshops to sell my papers. I actually still own that hard hat to this very day. It hangs off a hook in my shed at home - memento of a long time ago. 

Anyway. The paper round would keep me occupied in the afternoon from the time I finished school 'til a little before 5PM when the newsagency manager would collect me in his van and return me back to the shop where he would sort out the takings and pay me. And then - like those times when you're literally busting to go to the toilet and can't wait a minute longer - I would be out the door of the newsagency, onto my bike and I would pedal like crazy to get home. Because, at 5PM each weekday afternoon on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Channel 2, Star Blazers would screen.

For a little while in the early 80's, this logo was almost as kick-ass as...

THIS logo!

For half an hour I would disappear into this kick arse future universe where the crew of the "Argo" - lead by the ubiquitous white bearded Captain Avatar - struggle in their battle against the evil Gamilon Empire as they desperately try to reach a distance planet called Iscandar. The reason being is that in the future, Earth has been bombarded by devastating bombs that have unleashed poisonous radiation, rendering the surface of the planet uninhabitable, and has forced Earth's population underground where they live in fragile cities. The entire premise is that the only hope for Earth lies with the people of Iscandar. If the "Argo" doesn't return to Earth within one year then their home will be gone and all life destroyed. High art indeed.

Star Blazers was the first TV series that I remembered following religiously. It had everything - action, adventure, ships and fighters, a totally hot chick that was my first animated crush (and plus it filled the gap in time between Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi so - what's not to love huh?). At the time that I first came to the series I managed to catch all of the first season and most of it's second season but I can't remember whether I saw anything more of it after that - I mean C'mon! I was like 9 and besides by the time 1983 rolled around, I was all Star Wars again so everything else had to take a back seat!! Sadly though, Star Blazers all but disappeared off of our screens and I never saw it on network television again...but I never really forgot it.

The Space Battleship Yamato (rebadged the Argo in the US redub).

Star Blazers actually predates Star Wars. Conceived in the early 70's in Japan, the series was actually born as The Space Battleship Yamato (TSBY) and it premiered on Japanese television in 1974. Considered perhaps one of the seminal works of Japanese anime, TSBY actually spawned three series for television and it went on to become a series of animated feature films which culminated in a 1983 feature entitled "Final Yamato" which still holds the record for the longest animated feature film ever made (it clocks in at something like 2 and 3/4 hours). Western audiences were awoken to the Yamato saga in 1979 when it was broadcast on American television and, of course, it trickled out to countries like Australia not long after. In the ensuing years the fan community around the whole Yamato/Star Blazers saga has enjoyed an ongoing love affair with the series and it is a staple of conventions world wide - especially of course Japan who hold the Yamato pretty sacred, understandably so. It has continued unabated into the present day where just this year there has been a newly released animated feature film with totally blow my mind visuals called Yamato: Resurrection which I have added to my must have DVD's - despite the fact that it is all in Japanese. And in yet another big deal for the community at large, December 2010 will see the release of an even more blow my mind live action Japanese production "Space Battleship Yamato"

Poster Art for the upcoming live action film Space Battleship Yamato.

In the meantime...

We cut forward a...few...decades. I'm now in my...mid 30's and around a year ago I happened across a store in Adelaide's City Center that specializes in all things anime. And of course the old memories of the series I loved so much bubbled to the surface and I just had to ask the girl behind the counter whether she knew of the series and whether it was available on DVD. Now this chick was totally Y-Gen, tricked out in a quasi geek/emo get up and chewing gum as she gazed blankly at a computer screen in front of her. This "older dude" comes in and is racking his brains trying to think of this show he watched as a kid. 

Well...I swear, the minute I said "Star Blazers" her bottom jaw slackened, her eyes went wide and her wad of chewing gum fell out. She actually gave me the broadest smile and cheerily lead me to a cabinet containing all sorts of DVDs - anime of course. And there, tucked away in the bottom was the complete collection of series one to three of "Star Blazers". Of course, I didn't buy it then - it was ridiculously priced - but we got into this brilliant discussion about all things "Star Blazers" - how cool, Derek Wildstar and Mark Venture were, how Nova was my first anime crush and how totally kick arse the "Argo" was (the purists will refer to it as the Yamato).

Gotta love my bro...

A parcel arrived in the post the other day, a nice big bulky one with "JB Hifi" marked on the address panel. I ripped it open in barely a second and held in my hands that which I had come to covet. 17 discs of unadulterated glory that is "Star Blazers" complete with a tonne of extra features and enough geeky goodness to sustain me for at least the next six months. Just this weekend, my son and I sat down to the opening three episodes of season one  and already - he's hooked and I'm tearing up with the campy beauty of it all - the cheesy dialogue, the even cheesier 70's boom-chicka-wow-wow music, the esoteric Japanese philosophy translated into semi brainless Americanism. It's just all so wonderful.

My serioso just shakes her head yet again...



  1. Brilliant Series Star Blazers, still love it now as much as I did when I first saw it in 1984. Didn't see it on ABC in 83 first time uo. In yr 7 in 84, I took up Karate, and made beaut Japanese friends that introduced me to it. The first few episodes I sat thinkin:"what the hell is this crap"

    Then I saw the Episode where they destroyed the floating continent on Jupiter with the wave motion gun.......I was hooked after that

  2. Love the post Deano bro, good stuff mate. I'm 45 now, had a career in the SAS from 1992 to 2007, and I still enjoy downtime watchin Star Blazers and Knight Rider. Thumbs Up*

  3. I've always felt Star Wars was overrated...........Star Blazers kicked its arse:P

  4. Dean I've just watched season one with my kids on Youtube after decades of forgetting all about this show. Watched it with my 8 and 10 year old. I absolutely loved it. Sad to hear Nova's voice actor died earlier this year. I used to own a Star Blazers pencil...I never used it...but lost it...wish I still had it.

    1. Wow! I didn't know that about Nova's voice actor. That's really sad. I couldn't get my kids into it sadly. I still enjoy my boxed set.