Space Adventure Cobra [スペースアドベンチャー コブラ Cobra Gekijōban] (1982)
Starring Shigeru Matsuzaki, Akiko Nakamura, Toshiko Fujita, Jun Fubiki, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Reiko Tajima, Akira Kume, Goro Mitsumi
Directed by Osamu Dezaki
The ’80s were a magical time, as anyone who lived through the era can attest. Space Adventure Cobra got an extra dose of that special charm, and if you’re a fan of that time period you will love it. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it got an extra dose of ’70s charm (another magical era all its own), since the manga it is based upon began in that decade. Cobra is a bizarre psychedelic space opera filled with over-the-top action and a heaping mountain of sexy girls in varying degrees of undress. Sense? We don’t need sense. We have crazy-awesome, and that’s even better.
The space pirate Cobra is famed for being the only guy who can transform his left arm into a psycho gun, which is apparently pretty damn powerful. But since he pissed off just about everybody in the galaxy, he’s racked up the largest bounty ever. So Cobra has decided to lie low for a while. But he falls for Jane, a beautiful bounty hunter that’s been tracking him down. Turns out she wants his help rescuing her sister from prison. Cobra is eager to please, even though it means showing his face again and tangling with his old rival, Crystal Boy. If you think that name’s a little too cheesy, there are other translations that call him Crystal Bowie, but screw that shit; I’ll take my ’80s action adventures with extra cheese, thank you.
Crystal Boy isn’t the pushover his name might suggest either. He’s a transparent cyborg that’s immune to any laser attack, including Cobra’s psycho gun, and he likes to rip his own ribs out and beat people to death with them. What’s worse is that Crystal Boy is getting it on with one of Jane’s sisters, which apparently only Cobra is supposed to do, so the fight is on.
When Cobra isn’t smooth talking the ladies, he’s kicking ass. He tears though action scenes as only an ’80s action hero can. He pulls off the impossible before every meal. And Osamu Dezaki’s crazed direction makes it all the more satisfying. It’s a lot of fun for anyone who wants a rollicking adventure without any realism to get in the way. Dezaki’s style is in full force here. The triple takes and multiple perspective split-screen shots he loved so much in the Golgo 13 movies are on full display. In fact, his strange stylistic approach is even more intense here than I’ve seen in his other films.
Since Cobra is a sci-fi space epic (actually, science fantasy would probably be a better term since there really isn’t anything scientific about any of this) Dezaki has a whole range of bizarre visuals to draw on that the more mundane setting of Golgo 13 doesn’t have. This means all sorts of strange shit can go down, from a fist fight with a floating head to a flying horse made of flames, to some acid-trip bath scenes where we find out that Jane and her sisters apparently have stars on their boobs instead of nipples. I guess that’s how we’re supposed to know they’re aliens.
If there’s a problem in this film, it’s that its central theme of the power of true love is at odds with Cobra’s playboy attitude. Perhaps by “true love” they actually mean free love. But I’ll just reiterate that this movie is all about fun. If you’re trying to find deeper meaning here, you’re going about this the wrong way. Just kick back and enjoy the ride. Cobra is pure gold for anyone willing to take it in the spirit it was intended.
This is the only trailer I could find for the film, which is kinda sad since the narration is a complete lie and the music came from god knows where. But on the other hand it’s absolutely hilarious.