Cobra (コブラ Kobura?, sometimes stylized COBRA) is a space-opera manga series written and illustrated by Buichi Terasawa of the Black Sheep studio. The serialized form of Cobra originally appeared the Japanese shōnen manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump during 1978–1984. The individual chapters were collected and published in 18 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha.
The series follows the adventures of a man known as Cobra, who lived an ordinary life until his enemies began to hunt him down. Cobra surgically alters his face and erases his own memory to hide from his enemies. Cobra gradually regains his memories and unites with his old partner Lady Armaroid and his ship Tortuga. Later in his adventures, Cobra meets the Royal sisters whose map-tattoos lead to treasure.
The Cobra manga led to nine sequel series, as well as one-shots serialized in Super Jump and Monthly Comic Flapper. The manga later served as the basis for a feature-length film adaptation, a 31-episode anime series retelling the film's story, and two original video animations.
In 1990 Viz Media published portions of the manga for the United States in twelve 48-page volumes. The full series was published in France by Dybex and later Taifu Comics, in Sweden by Epix Förlag, and in Taiwan by Tong Li Publishing. The series has received mixed reviews from critics.
Johnson, a worker for a futuristic trading company, was awakened on a Sunday morning by his robotic maid, Ben. Ben suggested that Johnson go to the Trip Movie Corporation (T.M. Company), a company that enables their customers to experience a dream as if it were real. Johnson asked to be the king of Harlem, surrounded by beautiful women, and commanding a battlestar.
In his dream, Johnson as "Cobra" explored space with his partner Lady Armaroid. Cobra wielded the "Psychogun" to fight monsters from other planets and the Pirate Guild. After a battle with the the pirate guild, Johnson allowed the leader, Captain Vaiken, to escape. Vaiken distributed Cobra's picture to all every other pirate, making him a wanted man. When the dream ended, a woman asked Johnson how the dream was. After Johnson described his dream, the woman corrected him, saying that it should have been about being the king of Harlem.
On Johnson's way back home, he crashed into a speeding car. He recognized the driver, who looked identical to Captain Vaiken. Johnson started to explain to the driver that he looked like Vaiken, thus making Vaiken think he knew something about Cobra. Johnson unconsciously lifted his right arm as if he had a gun, and shot a ray out of his hand, killing Vaiken. The shot blew up his arm, revealing the Psycho-gun.
After Johnson hurried back home, Ben noticed his arm and Johnson realized that he did not remember anything from the last three years in which he had lived in his house. After looking into a mirror, Johnson found and turned a nob to reveal a secret room behind it, which revealed a revolver which he used in his dream. Lady Armaroid then came out from hiding within Ben.
As Johnson began to recover his memory, many people were simultaneously recruited by the Pirate Guild to kill Johnson. After Johnson killed the new recruits, he started to remember that he was Cobra, was wanted by the Pirate Guild, and that he was tired of fighting them off. He also remembered that in order to get away from them, Cobra surgically altered his face and had his memories erased. Lady Armaroid tells Cobra that Trip Movie had apparently triggered his sub-conscious to bring back old memories. This begins a series of adventures by Cobra and Lady Armaroid.
Cobra later meets Jane Royal, one of the Royal sisters, in a bar. Jane Royal teams up with Cobra and Lady to find the other two Royal sisters, whose tattoo maps lead to the greatest treasure in the universe.
- Cobra (コブラ?)
- Voiced by: Nachi Nozawa (TV anime, OVA, Cobra the Arcade), Shigeru Matsuzaki (movie), Yasuo Yamada (PC Engine games), Yūsaku Yara (PlayStation games), Naoya Uchida (Cobra the Animation), Dan Woren (English dub)
- Cobra is the main protagonist and eponymous character of the series. Buichi Terasawa drew his inspiration for the figure from the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo due to the roles Belmondo played in the 1960s and 70s. Cobra's signature weapon, the "Psycho-gun", is a cybernetic arm-laser which connects directly to his brain. The Psycho-gun can target putative enemies without having a line-of-sight. Though using the Psycho-gun drains his mental energies, Cobra's superhuman stamina makes up for it. He also carries a "Python 77 Magnum" revolver as a backup weapon.
- Lady Armaroid (アーマロイド・レディ Āmaroido Redi?, originally "Armaroid Lady")
- Voiced by: Yoshiko Sakakibara (TV anime, movie, OVA, Cobra the Arcade, Cobra the Animation), Etsuko Ishikawa (PC Engine games), Toshiko Fujita (PlayStation games), Joan-Carol O'Connell (English dub)
- Lady Armaroid is Cobra's long-time partner in the story, representing the serious half of the duo. She and Cobra share an unspoken deep trust, and each always comes to the other's aid in times of need. As a top-class Armaroid (a mechanical cyborg), Lady is derived from advanced technology recovered from an ancient lost civilization of Mars. She possesses superhuman strength, but does not carry a weapon and is rarely involved in direct physical combat. When Cobra away on adventure, Lady typically supports him as the pilot of their spaceship, the Tortuga.
- Jane Royal (ジェーン・ロイヤル Jēn Roiyaru?)
- Voiced by: Toshiko Fujita (TV anime), Akiko Nakamura (movie), Masako Katsuki (PC Engine games), Barbara Goodson (English dub)
- Jane Royal is the first of the triplet daughters of Captain Nelson that Cobra meets. Each of the three sisters has a unique tattoo on their back which, once assembled in a chromatic sequence, form a map leading to a hidden treasure of gold, diamonds, and the fabled Ultimate Weapon.
- Catherine Royal (キャサリン・ロイヤル Kyasarin Roiyaru?)
- Voiced by: Yuko Sasaki (TV anime), Toshiko Fujita (movie), Manami Maruyama (PC Engine games), Mari Devon (English dub)
- Catherine Royal is the second of the triplets that Cobra meets, after a request from Jane to rescue Catherine from the Sidoh Penitentiary. As a timid school teacher, Catherine is the only sister who is not involved in a violent line of work.
- Dominique Royal (ドミニク・ロイヤル Dominiku Roiyaru?)
- Voiced by: Gara Takashima (TV anime), Jun Fubuki (movie), Kazue Komiya (PC Engine games), Wendee Lee (English dub)
- Dominique Royal serves as an officer in the Milky Way patrol. Dominique possesses great strength and co-operates well with Cobra, often looking the other way when her professional duties would require her to arrest him. She hires him to resolve an unpleasant matter of drug trafficking involving the Rug Ball Federation at the Rand Stadium.
- Crystal Boy (クリスタル・ボーイ Kurisutaru Bōi?, originally "Crystal Bowie")
- Voiced by: Kiyoshi Kobayashi (TV anime, Cobra the Arcade), Gorō Mutsumi (movie), Tesshō Genda (PC Engine games), Koji Totani (PlayStation games), Hiroki Tōchi (OVA), Jeff Winkless (English dub)
- Crystal Boy is Cobra's archenemy. Crystal Boy sees Cobra as the only man worthy to become his adversary. He is a humanoid cyborg with a golden skeleton and a body made from indestructible polarizing glass. He works for the mysterious "Guild", led by Lord Salamander. Crystal Boy's signature weapon is a claw which he can attach to his right hand. The claw can crush anything, and he also uses it for slitting his victims' throats. The claw has a built-in laser gun which can also be used as a grappling hook or fired as a projectile.
- Sandra (サンドラ Sandora?)
- Voiced by: Reiko Tajima (Japanese), Catherine Battistone (English dub)
- Sandra's first serves as the ruthless and cold-hearted leader of the Snow Gorillas, the local branch of the Pirates Guild on her own planet. Later on, she hounds Cobra and tracks him down on the planet where the Ultimate Weapon is hidden. Originally ordered to retrieve the Weapon and turn it to the emissaries of the Guild, she uses it for her own ends and turns against the Guild itself until Cobra stops her in her tracks.
Lord Salamander (ロード・サラマンダー Rōdo Saramandā?)
- Voiced by: Hidekatsu Shibata
- Lord Salamander is a deep-voiced man dressed in a samurai's armor. He is a creature of mystery. After he unites the Pirates' Guild under his command, Salamander's unquenched ambitions lead him to strive toward absolute control over the galaxy. While he rarely appears in person, Lord Salamander demonstrates a powerful telekinetic ability when he does. He can also teleport, incinerate an enemy by will alone and even trick their minds into seeing him as someone else. He uses this trick and his other powers to dispose of Doug, Pumpkin and Bud. It is revealed in the final episode that he is the spirit of Hitler revived 3000 years after his defeat.
- Ben (ベン?)
- Ben originally seems to be Cobra's personal robot butler when he was still under the guise of Johnson. A clumsy, clunky and dull robot which actually was Lady in disguise.
Shueisha's Japanese shōnen manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump originally serialized the Cobra manga during 1978–1984 and released it under the magazine's Jump Comics line in a tankōbon format. Cobra also appeared in an aizōban edition under Jump Comics Deluxe entitled Cobra: Space Adventure. The manga series was only partially released in the United States by Viz Media in 1990 in a twelve-issue series of books, with each issue containing 48 pages. This English language publication only covered the origin story and the Royal Sisters' saga, with dialogue adapted by the American comic book writer Marv Wolfman. The comic book issues that were released by Viz Media (then known as "Viz Communications") were published under their Viz Select Comics line. The complete manga was published in several other countries. In France, the manga was first published by Dybex in 1998, and later reprinted by Taifu Comics. The manga was also published in Sweden by Epix Förlag, and in Taiwan by Tong Li Publishing.
Shueisha released Cobra in kanzenban form with the title Space Adventure Cobra: Handy Edition, which included volumes one through ten. Shueisha later created three kanzenban magazine series based on the Cobra manga under their Shueisha Jump Remix line: Irezumi no Onna Hen (刺青の女編?) which spanned two volumes, Lag Ball Hen (ラグ・ボール編?) which spanned two volumes, and Shido no Megami Hen (シドの女神編?) which spanned three volumes. The magazines were issued in 2002 and 2003. Media Factory, in addition to the publication of Magic Doll for the manga's 30th anniversary, also released a kanzenban magazine based on the Cobra story, simply called Cobra Kanzenban (COBRA完全版?). Cobra was also sold as an e-book, Space Adventure Cobra: Galaxy Knights (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA〜ギャラクシーナイツ?) for a limited time.
The series reportedly received a Hollywood film offer, but this claim remains uncertain and Buichi Terasawa stated that the offer seemed to be made "off-the-record." Cobra 30th anniversary whiskey bottles were sold by Charassyu for a limited time.
The seinen manga-magazine Super Jump published several follow-up series of Cobra. The first was titled Cobra: Seinaru Kishi Densetsu (コブラ〜聖なる騎士伝説?, lit. "Cobra: Legend of the Holy Knight"), which was serialized in the magazine in 1986 in an off-shoot special issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump. It was then published in a single tankōbon by Shueisha in 1988 under the magazine's Jump Comics Deluxe line. The manga was reprinted in Japan by Media Factory in 2008 for the series' 30th anniversary. Cobra: Seinaru Kishi Densetsu was published in Taiwan by Tong Li Publishing. Space Adventure Cobra: The Psychogun (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA〜ザ・サイコガン?), a fully colored "computer graphics" manga, was serialized in Super Jump in 1995 and was published in a single tankōbon under the same line. A "computer graphics" follow-up called Space Adventure Cobra: Magic Doll (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA〜マジックドール?) was serialized in Super Jump in 2000. Space Adventure Cobra: Magic Doll was re-serialized in the Monthly Comic Flapper magazine by Media Factory, and was published under their MF Comics line as Cobra the Space Pirate: Magic Doll Mae Kōhen (COBRA THE SPACE PIRATE マジックドール前・後編?) for the release. After the re-release of that manga, Media Factory published a single volume follow-up titled Cobra the Space Pirate: Darkness God (COBRA THE SPACE PIRATE 黒竜王?). Media Factory published several other Cobra one-shots: Cobra the Space Pirate: Ragball (COBRA THE SPACE PIRATE ラグボール?), Cobra the Space Pirate: God's Eyes (COBRA THE SPACE PIRATE 神の瞳?), Cobra the Space Pirate: The Psychogun Kōhen (COBRA THE SPACE PIRATE ザ・サイコガン 後編?), and Cobra the Space Pirate: The Psychogun Zenpen (COBRA THE SPACE PIRATE ザ・サイコガン 前編?), all of which were also under MF Comics.
TMS Entertainment adapted the manga into a movie titled Cobra: Space Adventure (distinct from the previously mentioned aizōban). Manga Entertainment then released the film, adapted into English as Space Adventure Cobra by Urban Vision Entertainment and translated by the original Japanese company. The Manga UK version's dub had an alternate soundtrack from the pop group Yello. The movie was released in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment, in France by Déclic Images, and in Brazil by Flashstar. Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend music video used footage from the movie. The series was later adaptated into an anime series with an alternate retelling of the movie. The anime adaptation, Space Cobra (スペースコブラ?) was aired by TMS Entertainment beginning in 1982, the same year the anime was announced. The anime was directed by Osamu Dezaki and produced by Tatsuo Ikeuchi. The Space Cobra anime was released in box-set form, sub-titled "Perfect Collection". In 2000, the series was released in a DVD box set. In addition to the movie, Space Cobra was released in English by Urban Vision Entertainment under the same title as the film. Space Cobra was licensed in French by Olivier Constantin and in Spanish by Roberto Alexander. The series has led to two follow-up original video animations and one TV series which were published under the Cobra the Animation line. The first of the series was Cobra the Animation: The Psychogun (COBRA THE ANIMATION ザ・サイコガン?), a sequel of the original anime series, followed by its sequel OVA Cobra the Animation: Time Drive (COBRA THE ANIMATION タイム・ドライブ?), followed by the anime series Cobra the Animation: Rokunin no Yūshi (COBRA THE ANIMATION 六人の勇士?). These three anime were created for the series' 30th anniversary.
Popy and Bandai included Cobra's ground vehicle, the Psychoroid, in the Japanese Machine Robo toyline, where it gained the ability to transform into a robot. Japan later exported this idea to the United States as part of the Super Gobots toyline under the shortened name "Psycho", designed by Murakami Katsushi.
Original TV series
- Resurrection! The Psychogun! (復活！サイコガン Fukkatsu! Saikogan?)
- The Mysterious Zygoba! (奇怪！ジゴバ Kikai! Jigoba?)
- Long Time Enemy! Crystal Boy (宿敵！クリスタル・ボーイ Shukuteki! Kurisutaru Bōi?)
- Evasion!! The Cido Penitentiary (脱走!!シド刑務所 Dassō!! Shido Keimusho?)
- Who is the Powerful Sniper!? (謎！強敵スナイパーは？ Nazo Kyōteki Sunaipā Ha??)
- The Magician's Identity! (魔術師の正体!! Majutsushi no Shōtai!!?)
- Jane's Revenge! (ジェーンの仇！ Jiēn no Ada!?)
- Final Fight! Cobra vs. Boy (激闘！コブラ対ボーイ Gekitō! Kobura tsui Bōi?)
- There They Are!! The Snow Gorillas (出現!!海賊スノウ・ゴリラ Shutsugen!! Kaizoku Sunō Gorira?)
- The Tattoo's Secret (イレズミの秘密 Irezumi no Himitsu?)
- Zados: The Sand Planet (砂の惑星ザドス Suna no Wakusei Zadosu?)
- Amazing: The Ultimate Weapon (恐るべし最終兵器 Osorubeshi Saishūheiki?)
- The Death Roullette (死のルーレット Shino Rūretto?)
- The Great King of Bad Galtan
- The Friend of The Dragon's Crystal!
- In Hell! Rug-Ball!
- The Good-For-Nothing Team
- Death Game! At 0078!
- Will The Victory Home-Run Be Ours!?
- Mortal Fight! The Terrible Sand Sea
- The Two Kings of The Sword
- The Underground Visitors
- Tomb at the Bottom of the Ocean
- Would You Care for a Robot?
- Cobra Died!?
- Letting the war to others!
- Evil Emperor! Salamander
- Cobra returning the hate
- The North Pole Man — Warm blooded.
- How to defeat Salamander
- Bye! My Cobra!
In 1982 Popy electronics created "Space Cobra Professional" with a flip-out design (similar to travel alarm clocks), and 2 screens (, ). The success of the series led to arcade and video-game adaptations. The first video game was developed in 1989 for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16 in America) titled Cobra: Kokuryū ō no Densetsu (コブラ〜黒竜王の伝説?). This was followed by Cobra 2: Densetsu no Otoko (コブラ2〜伝説の男?) for the PC Engine, which was released in the United States for the Sega CD as The Space Adventure - Cobra: The Legendary Bandit. In 2005, Namco Bandai Games developed a video arcade game based on the series, Cobra the Arcade. In 2008, many games were developed for the mobile phone by WorkJam based on the Cobra storyline: Space Adventure Cobra: The Psychogun (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA ザ・サイコガン?), Space Adventure Cobra: Galaxy Knights (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA ギャラクシー・ナイツ?), Space Adventure Cobra: Ōgon no Tobira (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA 黄金の扉?), Space Adventure Cobra: Blue Rose (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA ブルーローズ?), and Space Adventure Cobra: Time Drive (SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA タイム・ドライブ?). Pachinko developer Newgin created a Cobra-based pachinko game called CR Cobra, and for the 30th anniversary a sequel was created titled CR Cobra: Owari Naki Gekitō (CR COBRA〜終わりなき劇闘〜?). Cobra, Crystal Boy, and Lady Armaroid served as newly included support characters in Jump Ultimate Stars published by Nintendo.
The Cobra manga has become the basis of two artbooks. Concept designs of the manga were added to a Cobra artbook titled Cobra Wonder: Concept Design Arts of Cobra World. An artbook focusing on the female characters of the series was released as Cobra Girls: Takeichi Illust-Kessakushū (COBRA GIRLS―寺沢武一イラスト傑作集?) under Super Jump's Jump Comics Deluxe line.
Ivevei Upatkoon of EX online magazine praised the Cobra manga series as a "rich fantasy" that was unmatched by any other. She felt the main character took "after James Bond, albeit somewhat on the silly side, and the costumes and bizarre worlds are but a shade shy of plagiarizing Barbarella." She was impressed that the series "is surprisingly devoid of the sexual innuendo and exploitation that anime fans have come to associate with decorative female characters" in that it avoids the stereotypical random beautiful women, and instead creates its own "extreme" world that features "superhuman strength, superhuman senses, fantastically grotesque monsters, inhumanly powerful villains and gorgeous sidekicks." However, Upatkoon noted that modern readers might find the manga so dated they would be discouraged from reading it, despite a growing improvement in artistic quality as the series progresses. The English version of Cobra was also named as one of the "The Top 25 Translated-To-English Manga of All Time" by Wizard magazine.
The anime film has received mixed reviews from many critics. Tim Henderson from Anime News Network of Australia gave the film adaptation a generally positive review with an overall B-rating. He praised the English-translated film for staying very true to the 1978 manga series and "holding its own with a modern audience." Henderson stated that the series carries a "love as a power beyond compare" theme to it, which battles with the main character's playboyish air. Henderson said that the dub and the original Japanese voices are almost like a history lesson when compared. Overall, Henderson judged the movie to be a masterpiece and classic that is worth viewing to know the medium's foundations. The online Sci-Fi Magazine of the Sci Fi Channel gave a fair review for the film. Tasha Robinson of Sci-Fi praised the movie for its psychedelic imagery and its energetic plot. Robinson approved of the movie's visual weight and texture. However, Robinson said that the characters are nothing more than shallow stereotypes. Robinson added that "magical-energetic-power-of-love" does not work with the movie, but it is a "classic head trip" and "the surface is only what matters."
Charles Packer of Sci-Fi Online gave the film adaptation a negative review. Packer regarded the plot as pure nonsense. He explained that the animation looks like a saturday morning cartoon. Packer did say that the animation also crosses between that of an old anime and a new one, complete with interesting "psychedelic moments." He said the dialogue is almost laughable, however the voice actors are decent in both languages. Packer complained that the disc contained no extras aside from the trailers, one of which looked as if it came from a bootleg. Matt of the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival website gave the film a very positive review. Matt explained that he should seriously hate the movie but stated that the movie has a "cheesy, easygoing charm" that made him smile. He stated that the movie has a very straightforward plot, screams "cliché" to him, and is old enough to have invented some of those clichés. Complimenting the film, he said that the main character is like the "animation equivalent of Han Solo" with a similar personality. He praised the dubbing of the film and the animation.
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- Alexandre Aja Nabs Cobra, 19 August 2010
- Upatkoon, Ivevei (June 18, 2000). "Space Adventure Cobra". EX 5 (5). Retrieved March 8, 2009.
- Viz Media (November 28, 2001). "Thirteen Viz titles named in "The Top 25 Translated-To-English Manga of All Time"" (PHP). Press release. http://www.viz.com/news/newsroom/2001/11_top25.php. Retrieved March 27, 2009.
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- Official Space Cobra page (Japanese)
- Official Cobra: Space Adventure page (Japanese)
- Official Cobra the Animation website (Japanese)
- Official Manga Entertainment page (English)
- Official Madman Entertainment page (English)
- Space Adventure Cobra (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Space Cobra (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Space Adventure Cobra (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Cobra the Animation: The Psychogun (OVA) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Cobra the Animation: Time Drive (OVA) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Cobra the Animation (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia