We talk about Transformers a lot around here, and for good reason. It’s the thing that unites us all. But growing up in the 80s and 90s, there was a limited supply of Transformers stuff to watch. Of course, you had classics like Tom & Jerry or Roadrunner. But those were more meant for children and didn’t quite spark the same sense of wonder and sci-fi goodness. So today, I’ll share with you some of my favorite 80s and 90s sci-fi/robotic cartoons. Hopefully you’ll get some viewing material out of the list.
Actually preceding Transformers by a good decade, Mazinger Z is one of the original ‘bots anime. Or should I say: ‘bot. Created by legendary (and controversial) mangaka Go Nagai, the series features a super robot called Mazinger Z, a wonder of technology created by Professor Juzo Kabuto to defeat the evil Dr. Hell. This was my older brother’s favorite show growing up, and I have very fond memories of him pretending to be Koji Kabuto, Mazinger Z‘s pilot. Weird in a way that only Japan can create, this is a must watch for fans of bots, mecha and anything big and made of metal. When it comes to cartoons about robots, Mazinger Z is right up there.
Created by Rankin/Bass, the company behind ThunderCats, it was basically ThunderCats in space. But it was also much more than that. Sadly, it only ran for a single season, which admittedly had 65 episodes. It is much less known than its cats-based sibling, but pound for pound, to me this is the better show.
The SilverHawks fought against intergalactic mobster Mon*Star and his band of cronies. The whole idea of these bionic beings who are able to fly in space had me mesmerised as a child. And looking back now, the themes were much more nuanced than I originally thought, too. It’s ThunderCats mixed with Top Gun, with one of the best theme songs of the 80s. Definitely one to check out.
Finally, we have one of the more bizarre entries in this list. BraveStarr was produced by legendary American animation company Filmation, responsible for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, as well as She-Ra, Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Star Trek: The Animated Series. The show follows Marshall BraveStarr, who has special powers such as Eyes of the Hawk, Ears of the Wolf, Strength of the Bear and Speed of the Puma. He uses these powers to maintain law and order in 23rd century New Texas, defeating Stampede and his main goonie, Tex Hex. BraveStarr’s main sidekick (pun 100% intended) is Thirty/Thirty, a bionic, sentient horse capable of becoming bipedal. Thirty/Thirty owned a huge gun called Sara Jane.
As other Filmation shows, BraveStarr episodes contained a moral lessons usually recapped at the end of the runtime. However, these were quite a lot more somber than He-Man‘s, including the aptly-named “The Price”, in which a teenager becomes addicted to the drug “Spin” and dies of an overdose. Yikes. Talk about adult cartoons!
So, that’s my list. At least, the first one. I have many more to share with you all, but I want to hear suggestions from you as well. What are other, similarly-themed shows you enjoyed alongside Transformers?