Ladies (ha!) and gentlemen (double ha!), may I have a moment of silence to commemorate a momentous occasion? I have finally completed my collection of “standard sized” Takatoku vinyls of Bryger, Baxinger, and Sasuraiger. Let us bust out the parachute pants in appreciation for that most Eighties of anime series, the J9 shows. All zipped up? “Fat laces” laced? “Members Only” jackets on? Hair gelled and Rubik’s Cubes greased? Great. Here we go.
Bryger (1981, front ‘n center) was the first J9 show, a super low-budget SF ripoff of — I mean, homage to — the wildly popular Lupin III. Apparently forgetting that he lived in early Eighties Japan, the director originally proposed making the show without any robots in it at all. I imagine that wildly creative idea persisted for roughly fifteen seconds into the first conversation with sponsor Takatoku. Anyway, “J9” is the name of a team that features prominently throughout all three shows in the series. The screenwriter, Yu Yamamoto, supposedly named it after a 1980 Sony SL-J9 Betamax deck he wanted but couldn’t afford. It was a trememdous hit that spawned two sequels. The show, I mean. Not the Betamax. That didn’t spawn any sequels at all.
And lo, Bryger begat Baxinger (1982, back left), which was a sci-fi anime re-telling of the famous story of the Shinsen-gumi, a 19th century group of lawmen that you’ve never heard of but is legendary in Japan. How they managed to squeeze the twenty-strong Shinsen-gumi crew into five tiny vehicles, we’ll probably never know. It’s set six hundred years after the first series, in a terrifyingly far-flung future where really ugly motorcycles can fly. And magically grow in size. And combine into giant robots.
And yea, Baxinger begat Sasuraiger (1983, back right), which is in turn set two centuries beyond its predecessor, and is loosely based on Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days.” It stars a handsome ne’er-do-well who lives aboard a gasoline-powered (!) steam train / spaceship / giant robot that races across the galaxy. Why build a robot that transforms into a train in space? Hmm. In any event, know this: “Sasuraiger” is about as punny of a name ever to be coined in Japanese, coming from the word “sasurai” (“to wander.”) It’s like…”The Wanderizer.” “Wan-dorr!” “Wan-derrr?” Whatever. You bought the ticket, you ride the damn train.
Oh yeah: here’s a little parting shot.