The first “not just for kids” television series to premiere outside of Japan was Sei Juushi Bismark, also known as Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. The first mecha series with genuine character interaction was this one. The heroes did not spend the entire episode inside their base waiting for another attack.
They liked taking vacations, speculating about the future, and enjoying and despising other people. Yes, earlier programs like Battleship Yamato and the original Gundam series had a similar effect, but they were only available on VHS. The first television series to employ plot twists was Bismark.
For the first time, we witnessed “good side” traitors who were driven by jealousy rather than money. It was the first time we had ever seen the heroes lose because of internal politics! Later in the show, the tone drastically changed, leading to the first big scenario change we would ever see.
And as a result, it is even more spectacular! The strengths of Bismark are prevalent in contemporary action and the mecha series. However, this does not change the fact that it was the first television program to present those standard characteristics and to get us ready for the series that would come after it.
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What The Cartoon Television Series Is All About
An animated space western called Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs debuted in 1987 and had a similar idea with Bravestarr, Galaxy Rangers, and Trigun from Adult Swim. The Studio Pierrot animation series Star Musketeer Bismarck from 1984 was only moderately successful in Japan. The show’s English translation rights were purchased by World Events Productions, or WEP, in 1986. Before publishing it as Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, WEP reorganized and redone the series, using both the already-produced episodes and six new ones.
The aesthetics are basic and reminiscent of many 1980s television shows. The story’s historically accurate setting, which is eerily reminiscent of a futuristic Wild West, deserves special note. The extraterrestrial evil guys’ costume had a sense of a 19th century English and Spanish military style, and the nice guys’ a hint of ranchers and the American infantry, making the whole war an allusion to the American Revolution. Until this series, all setups were either always Japan or some fictitious country. The song “Do you feel the thunder Inside” would become a popular ring tone on cell phones throughout the world.
In the program, mankind has extended beyond Earth and inhabited planets throughout the cosmos, forming a New Frontier of Man. The Earth’s Cavalry Command was established to guard these new inhabitants and uphold regulations and rules in the New Frontier. Cavalry Command is essentially a military organization, with an army and a fleet of ships to defend the New Frontier. A force of elite operatives called Star Sheriffs worked as field agents within Cavalry Command, investigating crimes and schemes against the safety of the New Frontier.
The Star Sheriffs’ and the Cavalry Command’s main adversary is a species of non-human aliens known as Vapor Beings or the Outriders that leaped into their realm to conquer it. They assault inhabitants, ruin communities, and abduct people in order to extract various metals and crystals from the land. Outriders are better than humans in battle prowess, boasting a legion of massive robots with incredible firepower, against which Cavalry Command’s space-going ships are no match. Cavalry Command creates a prototype spacecraft dubbed as the “Ramrod Equalizer Unit” or simply Ramrod, which has the capacity to transform from a spaceship into a strong robot capable of fighting the Outriders on equal terms.
The second installment of the program is fairly brief, and it was created just for the American edition of the show. However, it is the magical touch that transformed the narrative. A low-ranking Earth soldier fell madly in love with the story’s main character. But, because he was a novice before the Star Sheriffs, he was often ridiculed.
Even the lady made fun of him while clinging to the embraces of the major male characters in the narrative. He betrays mankind and joins the invaders as a mole and elite fighter, intent on getting vengeance and acquiring the lady for himself. In addition, the aliens urge a truce and the destruction of the lead mecha and its production line as a gesture of goodwill.
The human leaders agree, and the mecha is demolished by the traitor in front of the heroes’ eyes, with the permission of their own lawmakers! Of course, the extraterrestrials lied, and the ceasefire was soon broken. And, surprise, the good folks did as well! In case things went wrong, another mecha was developed in secret. As a result, the tale continues in a different environment. The environment is no longer Earth-bound, but rather the unending emptiness of the universe and unfamiliar planets and outposts.
Main Characters of the cartoon series
Star Sheriffs – Saber Rider
Saber Rider is the commander of the Ramrod Equalizer Unit in the American edition of the series. He is a young fellow, yet his talents and marksmanship are characterized as “legendary.” Saber Rider is a Scottish Highlander who is skilled with both horses and swords.
He is often seen as a charming man with a cool mind, when it comes to tactics and judgments. Saber, also known as the ‘Top Sword’ in the US version, frequently rides Steed, a robotic horse with extremely powerful thrusters and the capacity to fly, race, and function in space.
However, because it is unable to do any long-distance space travel, Steed is kept in Ramrod’s cargo hold and is mostly used to fly down to various planets from orbit or to use on the surface of the planet. Steed is virtually sentient in nature, and Saber once joked about giving him a sugar cube. He recognizes his master’s words and can function autonomously whenever Saber is in peril.
Fireball used to be a race car driver, and he was the youngest champion in the history of the competition. Fireball pilots the Ramrod Unit and is in charge of the chest cannon and heavy weapons housed in Ramrod’s chest section. He rides a race car known as the Red Fury Racer or Turbo, which is loaded with an armory of weapons. He has a fast temper and once boasted about his immaculate memory.
Throughout the story, he learns that his father was actually a fighter pilot who fought aside King Jaray, who was from the Legendary Kingdom of Jarr, against the Outriders fifteen years ago. Sacrificing everything, his father sent his spacecraft into Nemesis’ command ship, stripping Nemesis of his form and sending them both to the Outrider dimension, where he remains missing to this day. In the original Sei Juushi Bismarck, Fireball is known as Shinji Hikari, the crew’s Japanese commander. The flag of Japan is emblazoned on his sleeve and helmet.
Colt first appears in the show as a contract hunter on the search for Vanquo, who is an Outrider spy. He has near-perfect accuracy with weaponry and is the gunner on Ramrod, handling the six-iron as Fireball handles the chest cannons. His character is portrayed as a bit of a recluse, but also as an incredible flirt, making advances at practically every woman he encounters.
Right after Colt went to join a touring rodeo, his parents were ambushed and likely slain by assaulting Outriders. This incident inspired him to turn into a bounty hunter. For personal travel and solitary combat, he relies on Bronco Buster, a white and blue one-man spaceship. In the Japanese edition, the character is known as Bill Wilcox and is from the US, hence a US flag appears as a patch on his outfit.
April Eagle is Commander Eagle’s daughter and the sole engineer who devised and oversaw Project Ramrod. General Whitehawk trained her at Cavalry Command. She was a pro tennis player before choosing to join the Star Sheriffs. April seemed to have an unrequited affection for Saber Rider in early segments of the series, which may indicate why in WEP-created episodes, April gets a robotic horse dubbed Nova with Saber’s Steed’s skills.
Throughout the show, April’s three romantic involvements were Saber Rider, which was one-sided on her part, Jesse Blue, which was one-sided on his part, and Fireball, which was finally reciprocated and led to a happy relationship. The fact that the girl does not wind up with the main protagonist, Saber Rider, is an interesting oddity of the American edition of the program.
Commander Eagle, April’s father, is the chief of Cavalry Command, which oversees all of the warships and armies that guard the United Star Systems, including the Star Sheriffs special forces organization. Eagle takes his tasks seriously and yet has a kind heart and a compassionate disposition underneath. Commander Eagle adores his daughter and is a staunch supporter of Project Ramrod. The character’s name in the Japanese edition is Charles Louvre.
Outriders are humanoids from another realm known as the Vapor Zone. They do not require oxygen, but they do require a lot of water. They’ve also acquired the capacity to pass themselves off as humans, to the point that even a medical checkup won’t disclose their actual identity. Their personal lives, like their home dimension, are dreary, and they have depleted all of the resources of their home world, forcing them to relocate to a synthetic planet.
Nemesis, a massive, darkly dressed and masked figure, is the wicked mastermind in command of the rogue Outriders. He built the Vapor Trail, which enables the Outriders to travel from their realm into the human dimension, and he is the genius behind their nefarious plots. Nemesis is revealed to be a cyborg in the series’ final episodes, and his mind also functioned as a device named the Nth Degree, which was a strong computer that is on the Outrider’s synthetic homeworld. Saber Rider is reportedly the only one of the Star Sheriffs who has met Nemesis face to face.
After Saber traveled inside the Vapor Zone in the aftermath of an Outrider ship traveling down the Vapor Trail in the segment named “Stampede,” the pair engaged in a laser sword combat. When Saber Rider was about to win the combat, Nemesis rescued himself by draining the oxygen from inside the room where they were battling, as Outriders do not require oxygen, knocking Saber Rider out.
Jesse Blue was a talented cadet at Cavalry Command till he fell in head over heels for April Eagle during one of his training exercises. He was a fairly unique looking figure with greenish blue hair and a sarcastic streak. When April turned down his overtures and accidentally humiliated him in front of other cadets, he went against all of the Star Sheriffs and developed a personal hatred towards Saber Rider, believing that it was April’s love for Saber that caused her to reject his love.
Gattler, also known as Gattler the Rattler, wears a scary fanged space mask that, when removed, shows his true appearance as a glowering, sinister monster. Gattler, who is heavy-handed and has a stone heart, responds only to Nemesis.
Vanquo is a spectral Outrider with blank eyes paired with a long pale face; he is a terrifying figure with a haunting chuckle. He is an extraordinarily fast draw while dressed in some kind of a serape and hat. Vanquo eventually had an unusual ending for an Outrider – he actually turned human. Saber Rider faced him in the Vapor Zone soon after Saber’s combat with Nemesis in “Stampede.” Vanquo cut a pitiful figure, deserted by Nemesis and realizing he was defeated and was at Saber’s mercy. Vanquo was reportedly last seen doing what he appeared to be dressed for: becoming a cowboy. Vanquo dies in the first episode of the Japanese version.
Rob Paulsen as Saber Rider
Rob Paulsen, born on 11th March 11, 1956 is a voice actor from the United States. He is well recognized for his appearances in the animated series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Raphael in 1987 and Donatello in 2012. Paulsen has provided the voice for over 250 distinct cartoon characters and over 1,000 commercials. He won a Daytime Emmy Award for being an Outstanding Animated Program Performer and three Annie Awards for his work as Pinky in Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain.
Pat Fraley as Fireball
Patrick Fraley, born on 18th February 1949 is an American voice over teacher and voice actor best known for his roles as Krang, Baxter Stockman, Casey Jones and a variety of other personalities in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated tv show in 1987, as well as Falcon in the Stuart Little animated tv show in 2008. Fraley also belongs to the Voice and Speech Trainers of America.
Townsend Coleman as Colt
Townsend Coleman is a voice actor from the United States who has been in several animated shows and television advertisements since the early 1980s. Wayne Gretzky from ProStars, Michelangelo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the lead protagonists in Where’s Wally? and also The Tick are among his most prominent roles. In the late 1970s, Coleman worked as a radio jockey for WGCL in the city of Cleveland in Ohio.
Pat Musick as April Eagle
Patricia Anne Musick, born on 26th January in 1956 is a voice actor from the United States who has appeared in several television series, films, and video games. She and her husband, set construction coordinator and personal manager Jeff Whitman, are the mom and dad of singer and actress Mae Whitman. Musick’s first film appearance was in The Loch Ness Horror in 1981. She was known for her roles as Harold Frumpkin in Rugrats and Snappy Smurf in The Smurfs.
Saber Rider & The Star Sheriffs
The first episode of the show starts with the narrator talking about a freedom-fighting unit named Ramrod. He claims that it is a “peacekeeping vehicle” that is shaped like a cowboy. This was used to help protect the people of the new frontier and keep them safe from the attacks of the wicked outriders. The outriders were evil, and had crossed into their dimension and wreaked havoc for the people who lived there and used special battalions to move easily from their world to other worlds, and Ramrod was possibly the only way to stop them.
But it is not Ramrod who defeats them. Instead, it is the leader of the Star Sheriffs, Saber Rider. After narrating this, the leader Saber Rod, alerts the head of operation Ramrod, a woman named April. April believes that the outriders found out about Ramrod because of a spy named Vanquo, and she would have to go to another planet because of this. Saber Rider and April arrive on the planet together, just in time for the planet’s grand prix, where a young man named Fireball was leading the way in the race. He is suddenly almost attacked by an airborne vehicle, which causes him to lose his lead, but yet he manages to win.
Meanwhile, Saber Rider saves the day by rescuing a woman from a couple of Bandits. He and Fireball get into a scuffle over a hotel room, when they are interrupted by a cowboy, who claims he is looking for an outrider with a long, pale face and ghostly eyes. Suddenly, a woman comes running and tells the cowboy, who is presumably named Colt, that her father knows about the square dance as her father comes running behind her and shoots at Colt.
Meanwhile, Saber Rider and Fireball unwillingly come to a truce and decide to share a room, and Saber Rider tells Fireball to inform him if he sees the Outrider that Colt mentioned, as the planet is in grave danger. Colt finds the Outrider and decides to take him on on his own and turns him into vapor, much to Saber Rider’s dismay, as now, he cannot get the information he needs.
Saber Rider and Fireball both lie to each other and decide to go to the frontier base, not knowing that they’re both heading that way. Saber Rider reaches the outpost just in time, as it is being attacked. Colt and Fireball have already arrived and the three of them save the day. April asks Fireball to help her with the Ramrod and asks all three men to work together.
Fireball takes the lead to drive the Ramrod, as he is an experienced driver. Suddenly, they are attacked by a Renegade desperado unit, but the four of them work together and manage to destroy it. April invites Colt and Fireball to join the Star Sheriffs, and that marks the beginning of the show’s plotline.
In the second episode of the show, Colt comes back after finding a pet iguana for himself, when, suddenly, April comes to the three men and she bears bad news. The three of them leave in the Ramrod after April tells them New Dallas is in danger, ready to save the world yet again. The group reaches New Dallas, only to find out that they’re too late and that the outpost is in ruins.
Colt says that the Outriders know they’re there, when the team is suddenly attacked. All of them fight back, but they’re greatly outnumbered. Even so, they bravely battle the army using their swords and teamwork. They blast off in the Ramrod once again to look for the base of operations. Colt and Saber Rider flip a coin to go out and look for the Outriders, with Colt eventually winning, much to Saber Rider’s dismay.
Colt actually cheats to win but nevertheless goes out in search of the headquarters. Once he finds them, he decides to return back when the outriders and a renegade unit suddenly attack him. Colt’s pet iguana helps him escape and he contacts Fireball and Saber Rider, before deciding to go after the Outriders by himself. Just as Colt is about to get annihilated, the Ramrod destroys the renegade unit. Colt decides to let his pet go back to its original home as he is grateful to it for saving his life. The episode ends on a happy note as all of our heroes are safe and successful once again.
Interesting Facts About the Cartoon
In 2016, on 20th January, Lion Forge Comics announced that a new graphic book miniseries inspired by the show would be released on March 16, 2016. The four-issue miniseries will revamp the show’s idea to appeal to a new audience. Mairghread Scott wrote the series, and Sendol Arts drew it. In one episode of the German-dubbed version of the series, Colt pursues some young ladies to flirt with them. “He never can keep away from attractive women…”, “Well…that’s the Tramitz-syndrome!” said the other Star Sheriffs, amused. Colt’s German voice actor is Christian Tramitz.
Colt’s real name is Bill Willcox, while April Eagle’s real name is Marianne Louvre. In the English adaptation, Peter Cullen does a John Wayne impression. Saber Rider is the captain of the team and commander of the Ramrod Equalizer Unit in the American adaptation of the series.
The moniker “Top Sword” is given to him on occasion. Actually, his given full name is Richard Lancelot. The Vapor Zone, in which vanquished Outriders vanish, was created particularly for the American edition. When they were shot in the initial Japanese version, they just died. This version, on the other hand, demonstrates that they are simply transferred to another realm, from which they will eventually return as humans. In the Japanese version, “Fireball” led the group instead of “Saber Rider.”
While a lot of us were youngsters, Saber Rider was indeed an incredible, if obscure, television animation show. It was not like any other adventure cartoon program of the time, and they even managed to sneak in “real” action via a plot twist and took off with that as well. Yes, there were a few significant “changes” made during the English version of this brief anime series, but none of that detracted from the fight sequences or the good vs evil struggle.
The plot itself got increasingly compelling as the series continued, and the action scenes became more diverse and expensive as the budget expanded following the first season in Japan in 1984. Fries Home Video only issued three video cassettes to the market, each containing two episodes from the first season. Unfortunately, if you didn’t get into it during its late 1980s syndication, you may not ever know about the true exploits that took place somewhere in the New Frontier