Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time.
Date 01 Apr 2004
Before I get hit with the "it's not anime!" emails, it does qualify on a tenuous link, since the Japanese co-produced it. It's also of interest to people who read the site, so it gets an entry - in other words, shut it ^_^
So, it's over 20 years old and still doing the rounds on the television (care of Fox Kids and the occasional early morning stint on Channel 4), Ulysses 31 has been reliable kids fare for a respectable amount of time. Now its been given a new lease of life on DVD, does the reality live up to the memory?
In terms of production values, its largely what you'd expect from a show of this age - cheesy music, hit and miss animation and the sort of stilted voice acting that can make you cringe. It certainly seems staid in the face of more modern (and more kinetic) cartoons. And yet Ulysses 31 remains dignified in the face of all the opposition thrown at it, and here's why;
Although most of the ensemble cast is young, the central character is a man. Not a boy, not a gang of kids causing havoc, but an adult. Maybe its just me, but in recent years kids seem to have been deprived of an animated role model worth looking up to. Pokemon, Beybade, Yu-Gi-Oh! and its ilk largely cast grown-ups as the villains, if they're ever featured at all. In fact I can't think of a respectable adult lead character since the days of Prince Valiant, so Ulysses has that much going for it at any rate. Not that the kids will appreciate it...
The stories featured here are all pretty good. Using Greek mythology as its backbone, the series features a wonderfully imaginative universe, and whilst generally the spaceship and mecha designs may have dated, the Odessey itself looks every bit as incredible as you remembered it from your youth. Orca's voice (the ships central computer) also sounds wonderful - the eerie monotone still sends chills up my spine.
Although the DVD is light on extras (there are none) it makes up for this by packing 9 episodes onto the DVD, which is a respectable number in anyones language.
Ulysses inevitably suffers from its age. Kids will pass it by for brighter, more heavily marketed rubbish, whilst adults will look at it on the shelf, remember it fondly and likely keep walking. But for those of us who grew up on it and want to recapture a little of that lost youth, the DVD will keep you entertained without ruining your cherished childhood memories.
For those who care about the series, this DVD is magic. For others its a fond reminder of days gone by.