Cyborg 009 is one of the lesser-known anime. It just came out of nowhere, with a really diverse and complex cast of characters and surpised me with just how compelling it could be. Although the metaplot is not particularly complex, each story is very character-driven and interesting. Moreso when you realize that like the Osamu Tezuka-verse these characters cross a number of anime series. With the series' primary antagonist being the star of the later (and much higher budget) SKULLMAN anime.
However, still judging this on its own merits, Cyborg 009 is very good. It is rare we have a convincing reason for such a diverse and charismatic cast of characters. If this had of made it to the west in the 1980's, it would have changed the face of anime. However, because it didn't it was reduced to a little remembered action anime people saw a few episodes on Toonami.
If you love that classic anime feel, where heart, motivation, and the why was more important than how "powahful" a character is or how flawless the animation is, give Cyborg 009 a chance. Its one of the few series that was so good that it motivated me to track down the manga.
Some years ago, I recall the days of Toonami..I vividly remember a certain show..a cast of characters..9 of them..all decked out in red, adorned with golden buttons as large as their eyes and golden scarves easily too long to walk around in..an extrmely catching ending theme particulary comes to mind, and it was this brought me back to perhaps one of the few "Super Hero" animes of the 2000s.
STORY: As stated before, this most recent addition to the Cyborg series is a rare find in the 21st century. It follows the story of Joe Shimamura, AKA Cyborg 009 as he tries to uncover the mystery behind Black Ghost, an evil organization responsible for his and 8 other once-humans kidnappings and sudden trasformations. As of yet, the series has spent time showing Black Ghost's abilities to track and destroy anyone who interferes with their plans. Every so often, a new cyborg appears and begins wrecking havoc wherever the good Cyborgs happen to be. It follows a smooth formula with the appearance of a new enemy, pinpointing its weaknesses, and finding out more about Black Ghost, while in the meantime revealing more of each of the cyborgs' pasts. Cyborg 009, in this format, follows the stories of many American Superhero Cartoons; it's mostly about the action and saving the day and many "super hero" animes today are oh-so personal and dramatic. It doesn't hurt to just save the day just becuase it's your duty, like a proud Superhero.
Animation: Let's be real folks. In terms of this anime, recent means late 2001. This anime definitely fits in with the likes of YuYu Hakusho and DBZ in terms of its old skool appearance. The character designs are pretty inconsistent with a mix between more human-looking characters, like 009 and 008, and characters that look like they just jumped out of a four-panel comic strip. Seriously, this anime just LOVES slapping that 18-wheeler of a NOSE on some of their characters. This ultimately helps them in the end however, becuase it gives each of the cyborgs a specific trait that we can remember them by. God knows we'll never be able to forget that mosquito nose of 002's that NONE of the other cyborgs have pointed out.
SOUND:One of Cyborg 009's biggest offenders. The music was pretty forgetful whenever I watched the series, but the only thing I could only recall was its opening theme for the English Dub, which just screamed "WE ARE HEROES. WE SAVE THE DAY!" The Japanese themes, while both the opening and catchy-a** ending themes were good, they seemed out of place with the type of story 009 was telling. Synthesizers and keyboards are just a little too "techno" for a show about people who were forcefully made into partial machines..that's like choosing a heavy metal theme for Pinocchio...Perhaps what MOST fans remember that I've now seen is how 009's voice actor was subject to changing as early as the FOLLOWING episode. It wasn't even a subtle change; he went from high-pitched teenage boy wondering where the heck he was to sounding like he lost his voice at a football game. His replacement voice actor has become pretty popular as of yet, playing characters who fit his voice, but big-eyed Joe needs a louder voice to claim "BLACK GHOST IS EVIL!!"
Characters:The characters in this anime, as of yet, are by no means on the same path of development like many. They all work together so perfectly that it's difficult to tell if there's SUPPOSED to be anything wrong. Sure, a jab here, a jostle there, but all the cyborgs seem to work together as a well oiled machine with no pun meant in the least bit. However, the characters of Cyborg 009 make up for this perfection by being easily recognizable. Each cyborg has a striking physical appearance and personality, along with a specific ability unique to them. There's also a diverse mix of ethicities among the cyborgs, with some French, Russian, Japanese, American and African to name a few. When a new bad guy is introduced, it almost always goes over the backstory of certain cyborgs who're the focus of the arc. The fight with 0013, for example, went over Joe's past as an orphan and his life in Tokyo. While I may have to watch a few more episodes to get a better view of the characters, being that this is a more superhero- oriented story, I wouldn't be surprised if everyone stayed the same..
Overall:Cyborg 009 is far from perfect. The animation is wacky, the music is out of place and forgetable,and the characters work in harmony despite essentially being complete strangers to Joe. And in 2012, it's more than 10 years old. The series was never (completely) released in the West and if I'm not mistaken, the DUB never finished either. Personally though, I believe Cyborg 009 is a decent anime for those looking to get into super heroes. It's a good prerequisite to the bigger hero shows, like Justice League and has a bit more character to it than DBZ. You'll find this anime enterntaining if you can deal with its old skool style of animation and blandish characters. All things said,while going down Memory Lane can be good every now and again, it doesn't always have to be the scenic ones that you remember the most.