Some of you may be familiar with the work of Gerry Anderson, creator of many Supermarionation puppet series for Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment such as Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet. Anderson also later produced live action SF series for ITC, like UFO and Space:1999.
Anderson’s puppet shows were a huge hit in the UK, but never quite managed to achieve the same success in North America, despite building a devoted cult following here. However they were very popular in Japan, dubbed into Japanese. I used to own a Japanese LaserDisc with their collected opening titles, both the originals and the Japanese versions with their different theme songs. I imagine this is probably available on YouTube somewhere.
Gerry Anderson’s most iconic and well remembered creation was the 1965 puppet series Thunderbirds. This show, set in the futuristic world of 2065, featured the adventures of International Rescue, a secret organization that used high-tech land, sea, air and space vehicles in their rescue operations.
In 1982, Jin Productions (the company behind X Bomber in 1980) came up with an anime series heavily inspired by Thunderbirds. There were many differences: the TechnoVoyager team isn’t a literal family like the Tracy clan, and there’s no real espionage equivalent to Lady Penelope & Parker. There are also deliberate similarities: just as the original Thunderbirds used to respond to commands with the iconic: “F.A.B.!”, the TechnoVoyager team shouts out: “I.R.O.S.!”, the acronym for their international rescue organization.
I’ve subtitled the first episode, big thanks to drmecha for providing the DVD source. Probably a one-off, but I might get around to subtitling more eventually.
I’ve also included a couple of original broadcasts of the same episode with this release…
Thanks to Dougo13 for providing his original off-air Betamax recording of episode 1, taped by his friend in Nagasaki on April 17, 1982. If people enjoy these “original broadcasts with subtitled commercials” releases and want to see more, let me know in the comments.
Because of the show’s many similarities to the original Thunderbirds, the English-language rights to series ended up getting bought by ITC and rebranded as a sort of reboot to the franchise. TechnoVoyager was set in the year 2066, right around the same time as the original series, so the dubbed version was moved 20 years further into the future. It’s not generally considered to be Thunderbirds canon by Gerry Anderson fans, but more like a fun re-imagining of the show.
English scripts for the dubbed version were written by Owen Lock and Robert Mandell. Like much dubbed anime of this era, there’s little evidence that the writers made any use of actual translated scripts as a reference, although they would occasionally make a lucky guess based on the visuals. These English scripts also tended to contain jokes and references to various movies and TV series, such as A Clockwork Orange, or (in the case of this episode) The Honeymooners. The dubbing supervisor was Peter Fernandez, best known as the voice of Speed Racer, as well as being the English dubbing director for that show and many other classic anime series.
I first became aware of Thunderbirds 2086 around 1983 or 1984, when several 3-episode compilation “movies” aired on cable TV and were available in video rental stores. Does anyone else remember the “IRO Data Cube” that linked these episodes?
The full series started airing in the Chicago area on WGBO-66 in 1986, and here is a Betamax recording of the same episode dubbed in English. TechnoVoyager #1 was actually shown as episode #11 of TB2086, but since this one was a self-contained rescue story that doesn’t touch the show’s loose story arc, it really doesn’t matter what order it was slotted in.
Several years ago I subtitled the first couple of episodes of X Bomber, the Go Nagai series from Jin Productions that was heavily inspired by Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation shows. I removed those from my site when the entire series became available in both English-dubbed and English subtitled versions on a single SD-BD from Discotek. I bought this myself and highly recommend it, still available from online retailers. I would be very happy if eventually Discotek ended up buying the rights and doing the same type of dual release of TechnoVoyager and Thunderbirds 2086. I don’t know how complicated the rights situation is with the different versions, but I can dream…