Sa-berrrr Ri-derrrrrrrrrrr! Yeah, gotta love those cartoon themes from ’80s shows. Usually they were pretty easy for kids to sing along with. Of course, you gotta have a hook to keep the kids watching beyond the credits. How about a giant robot? It worked so many times before in the decade, and in 1987 World Events Productions decided it couldn’t hurt to try another such show since Voltron had done so well for them. Denver The Last Dinosaur… not so much. WEP saw that Bravestarr and Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers were doing okay for the kids who liked the cowboys-in-sci-fi mix. So they managed to snag the anime series Star Musketeer Bismarck from Studio Pierrot (yes the same folks who keep churning out Naruto episodes) and did some… minor tweaking to present the American kids with Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs.
Star Musketeer Bismarck was a wild west themed anime series broadcast through Japan in 1984. It showed the adventures of a mixed group of teen officers piloting their ship through space to keep Earth and her Federation of colonies from being attacked by the Deathcula—an alien race led by the evil cyborg Hyuza, who has sworn vengeance against all humanity due to the fact he was badly hurt while invading Federation territories. Over time, Hyuza employs several agents to oversee his forces against Earth, the most notable of whom is General Perrios, a manipulative, calculating tactician and very skilled pilot harboring more than a few ambitions of ruling the Deathcula someday.
Scientist Charles Lovure sees the threat Deatchcula represents and builds the Bismarck, a super-powered transformable heavy fighter with various sub-weapons designed for all kinds of situations. The four teens he selects to pilot the Bismarck are his daughter Marianne, Richard the Scottish gentleman, Bill the American cowboy, and hotheaded Japanese team leader Shinji Hikari (not Ikari). Sometimes, the Deathcula will use their giant robots in a given episode so the Bismarck will change into a humanoid mecha complete with a cowboy hat and holstered sidearm, not to mention a chest mounted kill-‘em-all cannon, to finish the fight.
So when World Events imported the series… remember those minor tweaks I mentioned? Well they included such things as removing several episodes and characters while animating new ones to incorporate storyline changes, like having Richard written as the team leader Saber Rider. Shinji was relegated to just another pilot named Fireball who liked Commander Eagle’s daughter April. Bill was renamed Colt, but was pretty much kept intact otherwise, even gaining his own theme song played in the background at times.
Hyuza became Nemesis, whose forces came from the Vapor Zone and were returned there upon being hit by stun beams. Perios was re-written as Jesse Blue, a snarky Jack Nicholson-speaking academy cadet who turns evil after April rejects his advances in favor of Fireball. He has a serious rivalry with Colt over who’s the best pilot.
If you’ve seen the more popular Voltron series as a kid, you probably remember the cheesy style of dialogue accompanying these kinds of shows. Here’s a quick example from a late episode exchange regarding the Bismarck fighter, now known as Ramrod.
Fireball: “How’s Challenge Phase?”
Commander Eagle: “Challenging, Fireball. But I know you’re all up for that challenge.”
Ah well, Saber Rider was written to entertain kids and I guess in that sense, World Events succeeded. The show still retains fun battle scenes and catchy music composed by Dale Schacker, who gives an interview and fun insights in this 52-episode collection quietly released by VCI Entertainment. There are also a couple clips from the Bismark series to enjoy if you’ve not had a chance to see it previously. We also get fun performances by Transformers mainstay Peter Cullen, who does double duty as both head-villain Nemesis and the good guy robot Ramrod, speaking like Optimus Prime reincarnated with a John Wayne complex during the ship’s transformation sequence.
The video quality of this set is decent but leaves a bit to be desired, similar to a straight dump from VHS with a little enhancement. It’s not quite as good as ADV Films’s Robotech Collections or the Voltron ones from Media Blasters. Still, if you want to have some fun reliving your childhood or want to learn about anime that’s appeared on American television, you could do worse than to grab this complete collection of Saber Rider & The Star Sheriffs.
Studio/Company: VCI Entertainment