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7 Great Classic Cartoons Set in Outer Space

You’re probably still reeling from the science fictions sugar rush that was Force Friday and you’re reveling in all the Star Wars-related purchases you’ve made. But, if you’re like me, your overwhelming feeling is still of longing, because now you’re even MORE excited for The Force Awakens but it is nowhere near close enough to December 18th right now. I’ve already plowed through The Clone Wars and Rebels (read my review of Season 1 right here) but I want more sci-fi space stuff!

Luckily, there are some more awesome space opera series in the animated medium for us to imbibe, perhaps to take our minds off of the fact that we don’t even have a new trailer to watch yet. Below, I’ve compiled a list of 7 of my favorites. Now, this is by no means a complete list, and I’ve purposely left off ones that are more obvious or, like Cowboy Bebop, which I’ve written about extensively in the recent past. So, with that in mind, and in no particular order, awaaaaaaaay we goooooo!

1) Exo Squad

This show made no attempt to hide its attempt to be an American anime; in fact, it promoted itself that way. A rich and dense tapestry of characters and situations that made for smashing toys. The story concerns the epic battle between Earth forces, the Pirate Empire, and the Neosapiens – synthetic lifeforms created by humans. The serialized story was surprisingly deep for weekday morning cartoons and dealt with many issues from prejudice to sexism. And it was all about people flying around in personal mech suits, so, you know, it’s pretty great.

2) Star Blazers

In a well-trod theme of space opera, Star Blazers, the American version of the Japanese Space Battleship Yamato, depicts Earth being nearly wiped out by an alien menace only to be saved by another, friendlier alien race who also gives them lots of cool tech and the ability to travel through space in a big, giant battleship named Yamato that gets turned into a spaceship called Argo. I would have named it “Clamato,” but that’s just me. This is about as close as anime space opera got to Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica.

3) Space Pirate Captain Harlock

I do so love me some space-themed anime, especially from the ’70s and ’80s. Why? Because I love seeing they way they did spaceships back then, and if you have a badass antihero as your main character, all the better. Harlock always seemed so sad all the time, even though he had a crew full of silly ruffians to back him up. Even though it was the future and they were on a spaceship, everybody dressed like they were on the high seas in the 1700s and boy is that a lot of fun. There’s even an alien woman with psychic powers who can only survive on liquor. Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me.

4) Space Cobra

What was I just talking about? I love space anime! This one’s a little more tongue in cheek, and a little more Total Recall, because the titular adventurer, with his laser-cannon arm and his constantly smoking cigar, is actually an office worker having very elaborate dreams of traversing the cosmos with his android sidekick Lady Armaroid. Even the theme music seems like a James Bond film of the era more than a space adventure. It’s like a pulp detective novel but with lasers and stuff. Dude, just watch it; you’ll thank me later.

5) Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars

Early ’90s for the win! There’s nobody better suited to battling imperialistic toads and evil lizards than a green rabbit and his crew, consisting of a magic cat lady, a four-armed duck with one eye, a robot, and a Betelgeusian Berserker Baboon. This series, based on a comic book, packed in humor at the expense of the baddies, especially Toad Air Marshal, but never skimped on the drama. An early episode has Bucky’s entire planet enslaved. That’s pretty harsh. One of the main crew members dies (or at least disappears) in the very first episode. And as far as theme songs go, this one will not leave your head for about 22 years.

6) Ulysses 31

Mixing Greek Mythology with space adventure can be dangerous in some instances (like the ill-advised Lou Ferrigno Hercules movie), but it worked incredibly well here. Like all good anime (this one was a French-Japanese co-production), it knew the story it wanted to tell and did only that, lasting just 26 episodes. In essence, the show followed the plot of Homer’s The Odyssey, but with a laser sword instead of a steel one. His ship was even called Odyssey. Having the Gods of Olympus as the antagonists is a pretty awesome idea. That theme song is the pits, though.

7) Silverhawks

Remember Thundercats? Well, SilverHawks was the exact same show, except in space. It featured a team of people who were “partly metal, partly real,” (was the theme song insinuating the metal was imaginary?) who could fly around space and protect Earth from MonStarr and his minions. MonStarr could change shape to become even more monstrous (sorta like Mumm-Ra, huh?). The best character by far was Bluegrass, the guitar-playing, southern-accented member of the group. Like Thundercats, this show existed in a universe where there was never anybody except the heroes and villains. Who exactly are we protecting?

And there you have it! These are just seven of my favorites; why not go ahead and share some of your own in the comments below? DO IT!

Image: Nozomi Entertainment

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s written the animation retrospectives Batman: Reanimated, X-Men: Reanimated, Cowboy Rebop, and Samurai reJacked. Follow him on Twitter!

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