That Late-Nite Animation Sensation, episode 2 – SABER RIDER AND THE STAR SHERIFFS

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Another gem I was connived for a long time I’d imagined from an amalgamation of different things was SABER RIDER AND THE STAR SHERIFFS, which was on TV and dubbed in Greek when I was a kid living in Athens for a while. I think I was 11 when I discovered it.

An anglicized version of STAR MUSKETEER BISMARK, which I’ve never seen or actually heard of until I did a little research (because for some reason I thought that this was a French creation? Long story), SABER RIDER AND THE STAR SHERIFFS  was another early Young Costa introduction to anime. Again, it was something I was exposed to when I was in Greece, another thing picked up for cheap to put on TV this show on Saturday afternoons.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember much about this show. They fought aliens, I think? One was a space cowboy, another had a racecar that shot rockets, and then the “leader” was an outer-space Scottish cavalier with a robot horse and a saber, and their shockingly-unoriginal looking giant ship could transform into a large robotic space cowboy. Or maybe an army or navy person? I can’t tell what his head is supposed to look like. It’s a combination of Voltron-esque giant-robot space battles and Power Rangers-esque different-color and different-personality characters that have to work together, with color-themed costumes. Depending on the episodes, they’d have to summon their giant ship to battle whatever kaiju-sized monsters or alien vampires or whatever, or they’d battle it out in a stock-footage harmless laser and sword battles. I couldn’t tell you anyone’s names unless I looked them up, or who the bad guys were, what anyone’s motivations were. I do know that each character was meant to represent a country from some kind of global coalition, so there’s the Scottish guy, the French pilot of the spaceship (the only female character and I think the love interest of one of them?), the American cowboy/test-pilot type, and Google tells me the racecar driver was Japanese. That’t he extent of my memories.

What I do remember is watching this for the first time in my aunt’s apartment in Greece. I don’t know if I’ve ever written about her, my maternal grandmother’s sister and her husband, who lived next door to us when we lived overseas. He was a doctor and a vocal Greek Communist Party member and party official. Their apartment was actually two apartments with the wall between them smashed, joining the two when the building was probably being upgraded in the 60’s after WW2 to create a more “house”-like feeling. He always joked about me becoming a teacher when I grew up (and I always think about him when i think about how I got to this place in my life), and she would get us deep-fried giant donuts with grainy raised sugar all over them when she’d watch us when my parents worked.

Her apartment had a fascinating style combining no central main light fixtures in the big living room with 70’s chic with the wall patterns, tiling (Greece is hot and everyone has ceramic tiles on apartment and house floors), and her furniture was mostly over-the-top velvet and drapes and almost-Baroque lamps and tassels on everything. The front hall/living room felt like a bordello that turns out to be a front for a Satanic temple in some 70’s Hammer movie, and we’d go over to visit and while my mom and her would chat in the kitchen in the front of the apartment, my brother and I would watch TV in the back, including SABER RIDER either dubbed in Greek or in English with Greek subtitles, depending on the day (because who knows where the TV station was getting their versions of it and if the history of Western anime is any indicator, shows going west was a mess of multiple versions being translated for rebroadcast depending on rights.

There’s been some comic adaptations of this series from the early 2000’s that I’ve never seen but apparently exist, and a video game has been in development hell for like a decade, but for a long time I really thought that I’d made this up, mixing up stuff in my memory along with a misread of root of the Scottish character with the sword, and thinking he was French. In my mind, it was a French/Japanese cartoon created for a European audience with a French cavalry space officer and then the other characters, I guess. It’s oddly relieving to realize this was was an actual thing.

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