As a kid in primary school back in the 1970’s, I didn’t get to see much anime. We only had two terrestrial channels on RTM, and the earliest Japanese kids TV show that I could remember was the badly-dubbed Ultraman[1]. My first exposure to a mecha anime was actually a mid-1970’s Nippon Animation called ブロッカー軍団IVマシーンブラスター (Burokkā Gundan IV Machīn Burasutā) – which was referred to “Brocker” Corps Machine Braster by the RTM TV announcer.

If I remembered correctly this was screened on channel 1 every Saturday at 3:30PM in black and white[2]. I knew of mecha anime (albeit not by that monicker) from the robots and snippets on videos of scenes of similarly themed anime in their original Japanese dialogue at Katy’s Toys in Ampang Park, so much so that I wished the “Brocker Corps” anime didn’t have the BM dub on it. Yup, already an anime subbed only elitist at age 9.

I have to be honest here – I really didn’t know the premise of this anime. All it was for me (and my school friends whom I would excitedly exchange stories with over recess the following Monday) that the heroes comprised three guys and a kid, each piloting their own giant robots. Operating from a base that can be submerged in the ocean, the heroes would battle bad guys (that are based under the sea) and their monstrous machinations during every episode. Plot and character development? Who cares? The bad guys get beaten every episode and that’s good enough for me.

All I remembered was that the heroes had a main character named Asuka Tenpei (I remembered all of us referred to him as “Tempe”, although I didn’t know of the existence of similarly-named soy bean ingredient used in Malay cooking). Other than one of the corp members called Ishida, I couldn’t recall the names of any of them, villains included. I vaguely remembered the head villain was a woman whose dubbed voice had a vague reverb/echo effect to it.

So, fast forward to the present day, thanks to the internet, I learnt further details on this anime. The simple premise of the series was that the Machine Blaster Corps was a unit based on Astro Base, led by Professor Genrai Yuri to fight against incursions made by the Moguru empire, a marine civilisation hellbent on invading the people on Earth’s surface.

One thing I noticed was that a team of Japanese heroes tend to have the good-looking lead guy, the other good-looking guy (but not as great as the lead), a stocky guy, a female member (which is not seen in the Machine Blaster Corps) and a kid[3] – a common trope in hero teams in anime. The main character is Asuka Tenpei (the “handsome guy”), who pilots the Machine Blaster called Bosspalder/ボスパルダー, designated as Gundan IV, while his team-mates comprises:

Ishida Gensuke (the “stocky guy”) – Robocles/ロボクレス – Gundan I (leader of the corps).
Kenjō Billy (the “next-to-handsome guy”) – Bullcaesar/ブルシーザー – Gundan II.
Hayami Jinta (the “kid”) – Sandaioh/サンダイオー – Gundan III.

With any mission that involves deployment of the Machine Blaster robots, the corps members would take a massive lift that brings them to their respective aircrafts, each forming the head of the individual robots. In some episodes, the mission may just involve these aircrafts and I remembered feeling very disappointed that there would be no full-on robot action. Of course, no mecha anime of this period would be complete without the team members shouting some form of morale booster at the start of a mission – in this case, whenever each corps member reaches the cockpit, they’d shout out the name of their respective Machine Blasters. I remembered Jinta’s SANDAIOH! sounded like ATTAYYAAAA! Go figure.

At the Astro Base, the organisation is led by Genrai Yuri and he is assisted by Hojo Yuka, the only female character in the main organisation, whose father was a scientist killed by the Moguru.

The Moguru is led by Hell Queen V/ヘルクイーン五世 who looks a bit like a female version of Berg Katse, the bad guy in Gatchaman. The Hell Queen’s henchmen comprised the giant toad-like Goroski/ゴロスキー and snivelling mad scientist, Zangyakku/ザンギャック.

I have to say the animation quality of this original anime series here was actually sub-par. Although I don’t think it has anything to do with it being a mid-70s series but seeing that the series can appear as one that is jumping on the popularity bandwagon, there may have been some degree of slapdash-ery applied to its production. I had also read that it wasn’t as popular as the other anime that was out at the same time. I can only think of Gatchaman as anime that was out in the 70s that was likely of the same ilk, and while I hadn’t seen Gatchaman back then, you only need to go on YouTube and you can tell the difference.

I have recently noted that this anime has stand-alone episodes throughout (the series only comprise 38 25-minute episodes) despite having some degree of background story to the characters and how they came about to be in the organisation fighting against the Moguru. I can’t profess to have seen all the episodes as I could only get to watch if the whole family happened to be at home on a Saturday afternoon, but I was sad when the series ended. Especially when a non-mecha anime took its slot thereafter. As to whether at the end of the series, there is a conclusion to the battle between the Machine Blaster Corps and the Moguru, I am not entirely sure.

I recently wondered about action figures from the series of late but it seems that the ones made by Medicom are rare and very expensive. If I understand it correctly, there was a reissue of sorts in 2008 by a company called CM Corp and, even so, it is not commonly found in the resale market. I have nevertheless set up an e-mail alert on Mandarake for a good laugh.

I still have fond memories of this Machine Blaster anime. To think that waiting patiently weekly for the only anime there was on TV, was such a far cry from how these days can I choose what I want to watch by the click of a mouse. But you can’t find this anime on any streaming services, though. On Amazon JP, I saw a DVD set going for like JPY67000[4]. Come on, NETFLIX (or anyone, really) – do your thing and get us middle-aged weebs this series for old time’s sake.

[1]The original 1966 tokusatsu series by Tsuburaya Productions.
[2]RTM began colour transmission in 1978 but limited to certain programmes only. We only had a colour TV in 1980 in our household and I can’t really confirm if this anime was actually broadcasted in colour!
[3]This is reminiscent of the team in Gatchaman, a Tatsunoko Production series which preceded Blocker Corps, although the Gatchaman team had five members, one of whom is a woman.
[4]Roughly USD580 / MYR2400.