Space Knight Tekkaman – music by Bob Sakuma

Tekkaman soundtrackFrom the team behind Kagakuninjatai Gatchaman (known to the English speaking world primarily as Battle Of The Planets) came another, slightly more obscure creation later in the 1970s. Though it’s not meant to occupy the same “universe” as G-Force, Tekkaman shares many (perhaps unavoidable) similarities: the artists at Tatsunoko Studios devised a very similar look, complete with a tinted motorcycle-helmet-inspired visor, immediately inviting comparisons with the character designs of Gatchaman, and Tekkaman’s adventures were scored by Bob Sakuma, the inventive composer behind the original Gatchaman music. Still in “Chicago mode” for his new assignment – Sakuma has openly admitted that the jazzy rock-disco stylings of his 70s anime scores were inspired by the American rock group – Sakuma still manages to create a slightly different musical setting for Tekkaman.

What it has in common with Gatchaman is Sakuma’s trademark bold, funky brass – you can definitely tell the same person is behind the music of both shows. The most obvious “new” element to the Tekkaman music is a wordless solo female vocal that floats above the rest of the music. Strangely enough, there are instruments and frequently vocals that have a completely different amount of reverb than the rest of the music. It doesn’t really detract from anything, but this odd production technique does tend to draw attention to itself.

There are guitar passages that cross the line from funky into hard rock territory, making for some interesting 3 out of 4new twists on the style Sakuma had established with the earlier series. But for the most part, if you enjoyed Bob Sakuma’s original Gatchaman music, Tekkaman makes a nice companion piece to it. This is one of those cases where a “sounds like…” or “customers who bought this also bought that” recommendation are probably right on the money.

Order this CD

  1. Tekkaman no Uta (2:48)
  2. Hoshi Kara Kita Otoko (2:55)
  3. Hiromi to Mutan (4:46)
  4. Chikyuu Ryakudatsu Shirei (4:50)
  5. Gekitou no Tekkaman (4:47)
  6. Minamijuujisei (2:37)
  7. Yameru Chikyuu (1:45)
  8. Voltekka (0:09)
  9. Harukanaru Sanno-sei (3:36)
  10. Weekend (4:27)
  11. Waldaster Trap (3:37)
  12. Taiyou no Yuusha (3:27)
  13. Leap, Tek Set! (3:52)
  14. Saigo no Tekkaman (3:09)
  15. Space Knights no Uta (0:44)

Released by: Columbia Japan
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 47:29

Battle Of The Planets – music by Hoyt Curtin, Bob Sakuma

Battle Of The Planets soundtrack22 years after the series first premiered in American syndication, this collection of music is finally available, featuring music from Bob Sakuma’s original Gatchaman soundtrack (previously reviewed here) as well as the material composed by the late Hanna-Barbera maestro Hoyt Curtin especially for the extensively re-edited American version of the show.

But like so many things from our childhoods, it might just be that the anticipation for the Battle Of The Planets soundtrack outweighs the actual product. Some of Hoyt Curtin’s music is very good, drawing in equal measure from disco and John Williams’ Star Wars style, while other cues draw more heavily from the former. In places, it sounds like Meco. And while that’s no slight to Meco or to the late Mr. Curtin, who died just last year, it definitely dates the proceedings. To be fair, Bob Sakuma’s original score for Gatchaman also sports some disco stylings, so the two actually dovetail quite well.

For those who splurged on the Gatchaman soundtrack already, you may want to declare victory there – a great deal of the original Gatchaman BGM (background music) release is duplicated on this CD, though with slightly better sound quality. However, you won’t find the cheerful children’s choir singing “Destroy Gallactor!” in Japanese on this CD, so maybe it is worth it to track down both titles. Still, I appreciate the effort to include the original Bob Sakuma score – if not for these tracks, the CD would’ve had a dismally brief (not to mention unjustifiably expensive) running time of just under 35 minutes. Truth be told, only a few purists and fanatics like myself will probably have the original Gatchaman CD, so I doubt very many will be complaining about duplication of material.

Battle Of The Planets soundtrack, 2004 re-releaseIncluded as bonus tracks are the audio tracks from six television promos for Battle Of The Planets, as well as a second version of the theme song complete with robust narration – “G-Force! Princess! Tiny! Keyop! Mark! Jason!” – though this version suffers a lot in the sound quality department. It’s very likely that it had to be sourced from a 22-year-old video master tape somewhere.

Some of my favorite cues from Hoyt Curtin are those composed for the scenes of robot advisor 7-Zark-7 (and his equally robotic dog, 1-Rover-1). As is generally well-known, these robots didn’t exist in the original Japanese series, added at the behest of American syndicator Sandy Frank to further solidify the Star Wars cash-in by including cute robots to comment on the action (and to fill out the vast amounts of program time which were lost with the surgical removal of the original show’s near-legendary violent scenes). The robots’ cues are bizarrely calliope-like, using trippy late 70s synths for what once passed for a futuristic sound.

If you’re ready for a trip back in time, complete with sometimes painful reminders of how discofied incidental music could be back then, then I give this CD a hearty four-star recommendation. But if you’re expecting to compare it to Goldsmith, Williams, Horner and/or Silvestri, maybe you should give up and save your money for something more modern. Despite the disco elements, I thought it was an excellent vehicle for some childhood nostalgia – and, of course, a 4 out of 4full-page ad for Rhino’s upcoming Battle Of The Planets video and DVD releases this fall is included in the liner notes booklet. (The booklet may just be the real prize of this release, with extensive biographical notes on both Curtin and Sakuma and previously unknown facts about their involvement in the series. I was a little surprised to read that Sakuma based his music on the early 70s style of Chicago!)

    Order this CD in the Store
    Battle Of The Planets – music by Hoyt Curtin (1978)

  1. Battle Of The Planets main title (1:32)
  2. Love In The Afterburner (1:29)
  3. Ready Room (2:02)
  4. Alien Planet (2:52)
  5. Phoenix Raising (2:11)
  6. Space On Fire (2:08)
  7. Robot Hijinks (0:58)
  8. Alien Trouble (1:25)
  9. Return To The Alien Planet (3:00)
  10. Melting Jets (0:53)
  11. Romance In An Afterburner’s Light (1:30)
  12. The Robot’s Dog: 1-Rover-1 (0:54)
  13. Firefight (1:35)
  14. Alien Trap (2:20)
  15. 7-Zark-7’s Song (1:23)
  16. More Alien Trouble (1:29)
  17. The Chief Alien Shows Up (0:34)
  18. Come Out, Come Out (1:30)
  19. Victory (1:09)

    Gatchaman – music by Bob Sakuma (1972)

  20. Emblem G (3:10)
  21. Spectra Versions (3:50)
  22. Fighting Phoenix (3:22)
  23. Coral Reef (0:26)
  24. Crescent Moon (3:17)
  25. Holding Up A Shade (3:37)
  26. Zoltar, Fastening The Armor (0:32)
  27. Fighter G (3:54)
  28. Red Illusion (4:37)
  29. The Earth Is Alone! (1:53)
  30. A Vow To The Sky (3:12)
  31. Countdown (3:39)
  32. Like The Phoenix (3:26)

    Bonus Tracks

  33. Promo #1 – The Luminous One #1 (0:32)
  34. Promo #2 – G-Force vs. Zoltar (0:32)
  35. Promo #3 – 7-Zark-7 and Company (0:32)
  36. Promo #4 – The Luminous One #2 (0:32)
  37. Promo #5 – Commander Mark, Jason (0:32)
  38. Promo #6 – Princess, Tiny, Keyop (0:32)
  39. Battle Of The Planets main title reprise with narration (1:31)

Released by: Super Tracks Music Group
Release date: 2001 (re-released by Silva in 2004 with different track list)
Total running time: 73:32

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman – music by Bob Sakuma

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman soundtrackNever heard of Gatchaman? Oh, yes you have. Gatchaman is the story of five highly-trained young people, given state-of-the-art equipment and Earth’s most advanced spacecraft, the God Phoenix. Their mission is to employ their dual skills – ninja fighting and scientific knowledge – to defeat the evil Sosai X, who endlessly conjures up elaborate schemes in an effort to conquer Earth. It’s just possible that this early 70s anime’ series was the birth of the five-kids-in-spandex genre that later gave rise to such godawful live-action train wrecks as Power Rangers and VR Troopers. It’s also just possible that you remember the English dubbed version from the early 80s, retitled Battle of the Planets.

Bob Sakuma’s oft-recycled music accompanied both the Gatchaman team and their American counterparts (a.k.a. “G-Force”), and anyone who spent any time with the show will recognize the melodies and cues lined up on this survey of the show’s music.

I’ll be up-front and advise you to steer clear of this if you are not a Gatchaman/Battle of the Planets fan. This album is loaded with really, really short cues, all crammed into longer tracks. Some of the pieces on this selection of background music are over in all of three seconds – such is the brevity of music composed for animation. Some of the music is really a bit dated too – one doesn’t hear quite so much Hammond organ in science fiction (or, for that matter, animation) these days.

That said, there is a lot of very interesting music here, and some of it stands up quite well. This, along with the Space Battleship Yamato (a.k.a. Star Blazers) soundtrack, may be enough to help you journey back to those post-grade-school afternoons of your youth.

It’s also worth noting that your favorite pieces of music from Battle Of The Planets might not be present here; the Americanized version of the series had music added by U.S. composer Hoyt Curtin, and Curtin’s music – including the Battle Of The Planets theme song – is not represented on this CD. (The original Gatchaman theme, 3 out of 4however, is almost disturbing – its title translates to “Destroy Gallactor!” and it is cheerfully sung by a children’s choir.)

Almost all of the non-vocal music from the Gatchaman soundtrack was recently included on a semi-official Battle Of The Planets CD, though this album remains the only place to find the vocal tracks.

Order this CD

  1. Prologue (1:27)
    1. Science Ninja Team (0:10)
    2. Gatchaman main theme – Destroy Gallactor! (1:17)
      performed by Columbia Cradle Club
  2. Emblem G (3:16)
    1. The White Shadow (0:04)
    2. International Science Organization (0:38)
    3. Birdstyle (0:45)
    4. Scramble (0:53)
    5. Gather God Phoenix (0:53)
  3. Gallactor Versions (3:56)
    1. Dangerous (0:47)
    2. Zero Angle (1:38)
    3. Sniper (0:33)
    4. Death Clash (0:30)
    5. Iron Beast (0:21)
  4. Fighting Phoenix (3:28)
    1. Snack Jun (0:16)
    2. Gatchaman Attack (1:28)
    3. Birdmissile (0:29)
    4. And Then…Victory (0:40)
    5. Return To The Sunrise (0:33)
  5. Coral Reef (0:28)
  6. Crescent Moon (3:24)
    1. Good Morning Phoenix (0:52)
    2. Morning Service (0:33)
    3. Croissant (0:21)
    4. At Dusk (0:42)
    5. Goodnight Seahorse (0:49)
  7. Behind Shaded Eyes (3:46)
    1. Shadow Of Gallactor (0:26)
    2. Burning City (0:30)
    3. Into Dark Depths (0:35)
    4. The Hidden Devil (0:24)
    5. A Night Of Unrest (0:53)
    6. Devastation Of The Earth (0:45)
  8. Katse, The Helmet Strap Tightens (0:33)
  9. Gatchaman (0:05)
  10. Fighter G (4:00)
    1. Invasion Assault (0:38)
    2. Army Corps (0:34)
    3. Capture (0:41)
    4. Pursuit (0:33)
    5. A Sudden Change (0:16)
    6. Violent Force (0:10)
  11. Red Illusion (4:40)
    1. Red Wing (0:06)
    2. Red Partner (2:17)
    3. Red Memory (1:00)
    4. Red Impulse (1:11)
  12. Alone On The Earth (0:52)
  13. A Pledge To The Open Sky (3:13)
    1. Surrender To Fate (1:16)
    2. Strong Flapping Wings (0:43)
    3. Stable, Lifting Wings (1:10)
  14. 0002 (3:48)
    1. Unknown Figure (0:29)
    2. Mutant (0:50)
    3. Cross Karakorum (0:47)
    4. A Living Island (0:34)
    5. Target X (0:16)
    6. Rushing In (0:39)
  15. The Phoenix Can (3:30)
    1. Visiting Tomorrow (0:23)
    2. We Are The Flock… (1:06)
    3. Daybreak (0:42)
    4. The Immortal Ninja Team (1:10)
  16. Epilogue (1:28)
    1. Ending Theme Song: Gatchaman’s Song (1:28)
      performed by Masato Shimon & The Columbia Cradle Club

Released by: Columbia Nippon
Release date: 1981 (re-released on CD in 1995)
Total running time: 42:59