Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cartoon Profiles: Skysurfer Strike Force

Skysurfer Strike Force is one of those numerous reasonably good quality but nearly forgotten cartoons that aired in the '90s and featured mediocre to good animation and mediocre to downright goofy writing, which the viewer usually doesn't care about because it's just an excuse to keep the action going. (It was also blessed with good voice acting.)

If you watch the intro, it actually gives many insights on the series. First, it is clearly sentai (i.e. Power Rangers) inspired, with a team who have transformations into costumed superhuman "modes." The animation is very anime-like, and the end credits further reveal that it was basically animated entirely in Japan. (Further supporting this is the fact that one episode, when the writers apparently got lazy and gave the animators space to "ad lib" scenes, the situations on screen suddenly became intensely anime-like.) Even more Japanese is the fact that the series opening has "bio cards" for the characters, and they list blood types. (For those not in the know, numerous anime and manga supply the blood types of characters as part of accompanying materials; the Japanese believe that blood types can signify the personality of a person.) And the second season's theme music (both the opening and ending) were performed by a Japanese all-girl rock group called Super Junky Monkey.

The series is extremely episodic by nature, because status quo is king. There's a pretty delicate balance between the flying-surfboard-riding pseudosentai team and the evil Cybron's scientific genius and "army" of bionic cyborgs (bioborgs). If the good guy lead, Jack Hollister (I feel silly typing these names), were ever to make any progress in avenging his father and stuff, the series would probably disintegrate. So nothing permanent ever happens.

If you're used to watching cartoons, though, this is not an issue.

Anyway, as many cartoons in this sort of genre (pseudo-scifi-cartoon-action-hero) do, the series is populated by bad guys with numerous cool powers... and terrible names.

There's Replicon, who can turn into almost anything-he frequently changes his arms or even his head into automatic weapons, cannons, or even missile launchers. He's also nearly indestructible, as being blown up only puts him out of sorts for a few moments. (He once had his head exploded and he was thrown out of a jet; his head reformed a split second later and he laughed as he shapeshifted into a parachute.)

There's Noxious, who can spray gasses (no fart jokes, shockingly) that can do anything from knock people out to temporarily turn people into huge mutant anthropomorphic animals. No joke. When one of the good guys, notable for being the mean and edgy one (his team name is Soar Loser), is hit by this, he comments afterwards that he had no idea what had just happened "but it looks like fun."

There's Dr. Five Eyes, who has an eye on his chest and an extra one on both the front and back of his head, who has hypnosis and telepathy centered in the eye on his forehead. (In case you're counting on your fingers, he has three extra eyes; that's why he's "Five Eyes.") He also looks something like a green-haired clown.

There's Grenader, who explodes (and regenerates) when you pull out a pin on his chest. This makes him one of the most pathetic of the baddies, as anybody with half a brain will pull the pin out and run away, and he can't actually control himself. Of course, he's invulnerable to being exploded in general, but still...

There's Lazerette, who aside from having possibly the most annoying of these names, is probably the most competent in terms of mental ability, and who can shoot lasers (who would have thought) from her eyes and mouth. She's also voiced by Venus Terzo, who voiced Black Arachnia. They're almost the same character at times.

There's Chronozone, who is not in fact a zone but does have very inconsistently portrayed powers over time. He can teleport, though he's usually too dumb to remember that and thus usually just spins around his clock-themed pendulum flail. He also can "follow" people to places they've recently been, allow others to move through time at different rates, and similar stuff, but he uses these powers rarely. Like I said, dumb.

And then there's Zachariah Easel (ha ha ha), apparently a failed artist (I am not making this up) who is not only a skilled painter and only about three feet tall, but has the power to create solid holograms from nearby images. Understandably, he spends most of his time hiding behind a bigger bioborg, most often Chronozone; he's the most likely to be tasked with noncombat jobs. I also imagine that the other bioborgs call him "Weasel" behind his back.

The series is frequently hilarious, both intentionally and otherwise. Cybron alone is a gold mine of humor. At one point he imperiously intones "Skysurfer One [Jack Hollister] is in jail!" Another time, Cybron, who is about eight feet tall when you count the computer tower on his head, walks into the low-hanging doorway with a clang... and just stands there, holding a conversation as if everything was normal. To be fair, the poor dude can't move his head at all. I'm not even sure I've ever seen him lean over, for that matter. Guy must need a lot of help getting dressed in the morning.

The series has recently had a somewhat spotty DVD release in the form of Digiview DVDs, which are the somewhat notorious no-budget super-minimalist $1 DVDs that have proliferated in the past few years (among their other releases is the epically confusing and infamous Space Thunder Kids). Despite my gripes, the video quality is quite nice, and if you're the least bit interested, four episodes are certainly worth a buck.

Having two of these DVDs myself, I'll probably document a few more of the notable incidents of the series, such as the two-part Attack of the Slitha Monsters!, which certainly deserves its own post. (Not for being good so much as being a huge mass of wasted potential. You could have written a whole series on the basis of these two episodes, yet in true episodic fashion these elements are dropped like a hot potato once the end credits for part 2 roll.)

And on that note...

-Signing off.

1 comment:

Sorrowdusk said...

Sky Surfer Strikeforce (Japanese/Season 2 Opening) by Super Junky Monkey