When online friend Ollie Barder dropped a note that Red Photon Zillion was available in North America on Blu Ray I wasted no time securing my copy. I tried to watch it years ago but I could only get the first half of the series. I’ve finally been able to watch it all with subtitles.
Red Photon Zillion aired in 1987 and lasted 31 episodes. It tells the story of the White Nuts, an elite team of sharp shooters armed with special zillion energy weapons, as they try to prevent an invasion by hostile aliens called the Noza. After landing their forces on the human colony world of Maris, The Noza are successfully pursuing a campaign to wipe out the humans and dominate the planet. Noza forces are unaffected by all but the heaviest of human weapons and their soldiers advance almost unchallenged.
Three relics are found in the ruins of the aliens that lived on Maris centuries ago and incorporated into energy pistols called zillion guns. Humans are unable to produce more so they hurriedly put the guns into the hands of three elite sharp shooters: JJ, Champ and Apple (pictured above). These three form the core of the White Nuts who are supported by technician Dave, coordinater Emi and lead by Mr. Gord. The White Nuts have three elite combat vehicles – one for air, land and water – and use transforming motor bikes.
The show has an upbeat atmosphere and focuses on the action. Each episode is a new challenge as the Noza press their invasion. In time, we see the Noza suffer from short life spans and are under pressure to complete their conquest before their lives end abruptly and the next generation emerges from their cocoons.
The characters were fun and appealing (something rare in recent anime) and the villains were appropriately menacing. The Noza general Baron Ricks was particularly interesting. His strong sense of honor and independence made him a scene-stealer.
Zillion is a great show and I certainly recommend it to science-fiction and anime fans. It’s also appropriate for all ages. Although they avoid technical details, the attention to story and science-fiction themes made this a show that ages well. The Noza are presented as alien beings with their own biology and motivations. Planet Maris is much like Earth but the frequent eclipses and alien ruins set it apart and make it interesting.
Zillion has an interesting footnote. It was originally created as a promotion for the Light Phaser, a peripheral for the Sega Master System. During the first half of the show, the three main characters’ zillion guns looked exactly like the Light Phaser and even had cords that went to a box connected to the heroes’ belts. I had to smile during one episode when JJ twirled his zillion gun on its cord. It’s hard to make dangling cords look cool. Even though the show was a toy commercial the studio creating the show decided to give a damn and gave us a TV show that’s worth owning on DVD. Sega returned the favor and there are two Zillion video games.
In 1988 the TV show was followed up by an OVA, Zillion: Burning Night. I only found out about the OVA when my DVDs arrived. Rather than give us another Zillion story the OVA gives us the same characters in an alternate universe. Here, the technology is late 20th century and the five Noza from the TV show who have names appear as humans. The zillion guns appear as they did in the 2nd half of the show and instead of firing red energy they are standard guns. They are still special because all other guns have been confiscated by the villains. Although this may seem odd to westerners, those familiar with East Asian history know that there were many times when the authorities made weapons very scarce and commoners had to improvise their own crude weapons to have a decent rebellion.
The White Nuts is now a rock band and instead of being a talented sharp shooter, JJ is a gifted brawler. I laughed when I remembered the fascination mid and late 80’s anime had with rock bands. Countless mecha pilots, martial artists, private eyes and high school kids were transformed into rock musicians who played to large, adoring audiences.
The Noza matriarch Admiss is now a middle-aged woman with three adult children (the three elite cyborg Noza soldiers from the TV series) who lives in a fortress that oppresses the surrounding countryside. Apple is kidnapped to become a forced bride to one of Admiss’ sons. Champ and JJ infiltrate the fortress to rescue her and come face to face with Admiss’ hired enforcer, a human Baron Ricks who now wields a whip. The OVA was fun but my desire to see a science-fiction side story in the same universe as the TV series left me disappointed.
Zillion is a great anime TV show and if you haven’t seen it now is a great time to pick it up.