Cyborg 009 (1966)

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Tisarana's avatar
Jun 12, 2018

Usually there are two conflicting aspects when it comes to rating something as old as Cyborg 009: Compared to more recent series or movies it goes without saying that it is going to feel dated and unpolished; applying today's standards would be more than unfair, modern media is a beneficiary of an evolution that spanned several decades after all.

At the same time it would be equally as unfair to justify all of its shortcomings by stating 'It's old! They didn't know better back then!' Not every piece of media ages as well as the other and some works, no matter how old they are, will always remain timeless.

Cyborg 009 is the brainchild of Shotaro Ishinomori, pupil of Osamu Tezuka, the god of manga himself, which explains the evident similarities in both their art and attitude to work. Just like Tezuka, Ishinomori was incredibly productive during his lifetime, publishing an incredible amount of manga; on top of that he also created numerous tokusatsu-franchises which are popular till today (like Kamen Rider). Working as an assisstant on Astro Boy certainly left its mark on Cyborg 009, as well as the ever-looming shadow of the cold war and the increasing western influences brought by Japan's opening after WWII.

The story goes as follows: Nine people from all over the world are abducted by a mysterious organisation named `Black Ghost' and are forcibly transformed into cyborgs with various superpowers. Black Ghosts goal is benefitting from warfare and conflicts by selling weapons and destabilizing countries - and the cyborgs are just one of the many tools they use to achieve it. Of course the cyborgs themselves are not pleased with the new part they are supposed to play, so they plan to escape and end Black Ghost once and for all.

Joe Shimamura with the number 009 becomes the cyborgs unquestioned leader from the get go and is the flawless, perfect hero who knows and can do pretty much everything. Compared to him the others are mainly there to show off their powers or to provide comic relief. It soon becomes clear that the story is mostly about Joe and not about the team itself, since all the others remain characterless and their backrounds are never mentioned.

The movies main focus is the fight against Black Ghost, told through numerous battles against various robots or monsters. Conflicts are resolved quickly without serious consequences or surprises and there aren't really any twists worth mentioning. One the one hand the tone tries to be serious but on the other hand it is full of cartoony slap-stick gags that make you think you're watching Tom & Jerry.

The animation is okay for the most part. Many of the movements feel pretty wacky, especially the ones of the characters with more realistic designs. Of course Cyborg 009's age has to be considered and I also assume their budget wasn't that high, however if you compare it to some of the movies Disney has put out at the same time or even prior there are a lot of deficiencies. Japanese animation still had quite the way to go.

Cyborg 009 has not aged well. Unless you are interested in the history of anime and its beginnings or seeing one of Japan's first superhero teams in action there is little reason to watch it. Checking out one of the newer adaptions or reading the manga, if you happen to be curious about these characters may prove more rewarding.

5/10 story
6.5/10 animation
6/10 sound
4/10 characters
5/10 overall
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