JP On Gaming

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Under the Influence Day 22: Albator, Le Corsaire de l'espace

When I was 6-8, every Tuesday at 4pm, I was rivetted to my television to watch the same awesome TV show.

If you were a boy in the early 80s, you watched Albator. This anime dubbed into French was one of my favorite - and while writing this, I went back and re-watched a number of episodes. It was and still is great. Sure the animation is old but the topic and the story is still something that is valid today. I am talking about the 1978 series, not the bad story line of the '84 version.

Space + Pirate + Evil women + Stupid government + Complex story + gun shaped like sword = How can it not rock?

We are in the far future (close of the 30th century). Mankind has fallen into a degenerative phase where laziness is the norm. Since robots do pretty much everything, people spend all their time in leisure. Sounds cool right? Well, it would be unless and until a big black sphere lined with Aztec symbols crashes into the center of "Tokyo".

That's where the plot becomes more complicated. A scientist - who is not lazy - and his son make some discoveries about the sphere and he gets assinated by a woman that bursts into flame when his son shoots him back leaving no trace of her.

Then Albator, a renegade and criminal wanted by the Earth government appears on the scene. And then the adventure moves to space where the evil women have a massive armada and plan on invading the earth.

But wait.

They have been here all along!

I did say a complex plot, and a good one at that. And I didn't even mention that his dead buddy's mind ran the ship. Or his buddy's daughter - Stelli. Of the subplot of each of his crew. Oh and the government keeps trying to kill him, too.

This show taught me that to do a large-scale plotline, you don't front-load the plot, you build it up through small events. Though the overall plot is fairly simple: aliens want to take over the earth; the twists and nooks that takes us there make for a very interesting storyline. It does one thing very well: you end up hating both the Earth Government and the Aliens. Not because you "have to" but because in episode after episode they reinforce this vision. You want to see the aliens dead and the government exposed for its ridiculous excesses.

All this is done little by little, meaning the viewer is never lost.

Another reason for this awesome is that the show "only" has 42 episodes. That means that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to the plot. In gaming term, we witness a campaign from start to end. Unlike the other shows I watched at the time - like Capitaine Flam and Goldorak, this show's story was bigger and more united that the rest of them. whereas Capitaine Flam had a number of mini-plots, it did not have a lot of overarching story. Albator was all about learning and extending that plot. Even if you missed a few episodes, you could pick it back up pretty quick. That is something I always tried to take into account into any storyline I wrote.

I must say that I never articulated clearly until I began to read Jim Shooter's now-effectively-abandoned-blog. Just like that day when I picked up an X-men comic for the first time, in the middle of a story, I was able to quickly know the characters and pick up the story. Jim Shooter was the editor for Marvel from 78-87 or so. One of the things he insisted was that "every issue could be the first one for the reader." Sounds simple? But its hard to implement. Albator had that. The action: starship battles, starfighter combat and even the gun-sword fighting was great, it would get you in. Because of the many side plots that reinforced either aspects of the bad guys, you would catch on quick.



  1. Jim Shooter was right and that is what today's comics are missing: "every issue could be the first one for the reader."

    1. That and price are two of the top reasons I do not follow any comics anymore. I only collect compilations (Marvel Essentials/ DC Showcase) . Even the modern trades are unapproachable.