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Manga Reviews Space Adventure Cobra

Author: Terasawa Buichi
Copyright © 2000 Terasawa Buichi

—by Ivevei Upatkoon

These days it is getting harder and harder to find an anime that has not been released, or slated for release, in the U.S.A., but unfortunately one cannot say the same for manga. There is an almost painful amount of classic manga that never makes it to Western shores, and the few that do tend to die out after a short run of issues. One such example is SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA, a long-running sci-fi series that spanned the late 70s and 80s.
  For those unfamiliar with this title, SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA comprises stories about a space pirate named Cobra, set in the far distant future where humanity has spread out across the galaxy and exotic aliens mingle more freely than they do in the STAR WARS Cantina bar. With the incredibly powerful Psycho Gun hidden under his false left arm, a nigh indestructible body and plenty of gadgets to get him out of the tightest spots, Cobra flies from planet to planet "acquiring" valuable artifacts and saving beautiful women. His nemesis is the weapons-running, drug-smuggling Guild, a Mafia-like organization of villains controlling all crime across the galaxy.
  If it is not obvious by now, COBRA borrows more than its share of campy science fiction. The main character takes after James Bond, albeit somewhat on the silly side, and the costumes and bizarre worlds are but a shade shy of plagiarizing BARBARELLA. Yes, in this future at least, all women will wear skimpy revealing outfits and no one will bat an eyelid.
  Yet, in truth, COBRA is surprisingly devoid of the sexual innuendo and exploitation that anime fans have come to associate with decorative female characters. That is because, rather than simply inserting sexy women for cheesecake's sake, Terasawa has gone a step further and created an entire universe where "extreme" is the key word — superhuman strength, superhuman senses, fantastically grotesque monsters, inhumanly powerful villains and gorgeous sidekicks. Where else would you find rugball, a vicious no-holds-barred cross between rugby and baseball with 9 feet tall players batting 12 pound slugs? Or run across the invulnerable Crystal Boy, whose body is made of a clear refractive crystal that shows off his eerily mechanical internal organs? Or see a bunch of schoolgirls practicing "scuba-diving" in space...before being devoured by a pack of space sharks looking like Seaman's predecessor! It is a wonderfully rich fantasy world that one would be hard pressed to find an equal of, even after all these years.
  Of course, COBRA is not without its faults. Chief is its age; it began in 1978 and it shows, quite painfully. The art is old, and the clichés and overall style are so dated most people nowadays would not make it past the first several pages. That's a pity, because after the first two or three volumes, the quality picks up dramatically and Terasawa begins churning out some really good stuff. The stories vary, of course, from the short pointless filler, to the slam-bang action mission, to the multi-volume epic spanning worlds and dimensions. Time and again, Cobra is joined by his various friends and allies, all with their own unique abilities, and what would otherwise be an episodic series takes on a wholeness that sets it apart.
  So if you are into action, sci-fi and a good fun read, this reviewer definitely recommends trying out SPACE ADVENTURE COBRA. Shuueisha has re-released the series in the small pocket-sized editions so popular nowadays, which means decent value and new cover and insert art. It has been two decades, but a quick flip through shows that COBRA still excels at entertaining. Some classics don't fade with age after all.

Product Information

Publisher: Shuueisha
Six volumes, Ongoing
Approximately 320 pages; Black and White
Available now in Japan
Where to buy

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