Iâ€™m afraid I wasnâ€™t one of those kids who got to grow up watching Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, leaving me without a nostalgic fondness for the show. As a result, I tend to view it with a rather critical eye, noticing quite a few flaws and shortcomings. Yet, even as I watch it today, there are a few aspects that I genuinely enjoy.
Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs was released in the United States in 1987, following the trend of popular space Western cartoons like Bravestar and (to an extent) Silverhawks. It was, in reality, a re-dubbed and re-edited version of a Japanese anime called â€œSeijuushi Bismarckâ€, which translates to â€œStar Musketeer Bismarckâ€. It lasted only one season but there were a total of 52 episodes produced. Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs never quite garnered the popularity of other imported and dubbed Japanese giant robot cartoons from the 80â€™s, like Robotech, Tranzor Z or most notably, Voltron, and thereâ€™s a very good reason for that: Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs is rather forgettable.
The story goes like so: in the distant future, man has spread out all over the solar system creating a new frontier (not to be confused with the final frontier, or Paramount will sue). Cavalry Command is a military organization that keeps the peace, so to speak. Alien creatures from another dimension called Outriders threaten the new frontier. They are vapor beings, meaning that if you shoot them in the skull theyâ€™re just evaporate back to their home dimension. It can be very frustrating, since evaporating is but a minor inconvenience for them and they can easily return to our world on a later date. The Outriders, much like Dr. Demon or Lotor, have an armada of giant evil robots that they routinely attack humanity with. In retaliation, the Cavalry Command created a giant robot of their own: Ramrod, who looks like a cowboy.
The characters in this series have some pretty wacky names. Thereâ€™s the leader of the bunch, Saber Rider, a British fencing champion and high-ranking member of the Cavalry Command. Then thereâ€™s the purdy French gal, April Eagle, who is the engineer that designed Ramrod. Next thereâ€™s the Japanese racecar driver, Fireball, who eventually hooked up with April. And last but not least is the rowdy American yeehaw round-em-up Cowboy stereotype, Colt. Heâ€™s the sharp-shooter of the posse. Ramrod is probably the best character of the cast, mostly because heâ€™s voiced by Peter â€œOptimus Primeâ€ Cullen. Cullen is known for his John Wayne impression (which he used for Optimus Prime) and he provides it in full force for the robo-cowboy, Ramrod.
Like a lot of Japanese cartoons brought over to America in the 80â€™s and 90â€™s, Saber Rider was quite fiercely edited. The funny thing is, it wasnâ€™t only edited for content, but to be moreâ€¦â€American-friendlyâ€. In the Japanese version, can you believe it, the Japanese guy was the main character! Crazy, eh? Well, that wouldnâ€™t fly over here in the US of A, as no red-blooded American child could possibly watch a show where the main character wasnâ€™t Caucasian. So through the use of re-dubbing and re-editing scenes, the British guy, Saber Rider, and the American guy, Colt, became the main characters. This didnâ€™t always work so well, as there would be moments when characters are looking directly at Fireball, talking in his direction, but be dubbed to sound like theyâ€™re having a conversation with Saber Rider or Colt.
There were also the standard content edits one would expect. Every saloon on the new frontier is apparently an ice cream parlor, leaving one to think that in the distant future all alcohol has been annihilated. I remember one particular scene where you could just tell some nasty editing had gone on. In the scene, an angry old man with a shotgun tries to kill Colt for doing something to his daughter. Colt replies with dialogue to the effect of â€œOh câ€™mon, it was just a square dance!â€ Hilariously suggestive.
The Japanese giant robot genre is terribly over-saturated; there are dozens of giant robot cartoons that never even made it to America in the 80â€™s. Iâ€™m afraid that there just isnâ€™t enough about Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs to make it stand out in the crowd. I will give them some credit, though; the theme song was pretty cool.
A 2-disk â€œBest-ofâ€ set was sold earlier this year through Voltron.com and may very well lead to a complete series DVD release. Thereâ€™s even the remote possibility that the original Star Musketeer Bismarck series might get a subtitled release (hey, theyâ€™re doing it with Voltron/Go-Lio and Technoman/Tekkaman Blade). However, I canâ€™t say Iâ€™m a fan of the series and in all honesty, itâ€™s pretty much a footnote in the giant robot genre.