Monday, April 27, 2009

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Five

What do you do when stranded on a deserted island? Eat turtles, cactus, and whatever the natives are cooking. Wait, I thought you said this island was deserted?!

I've been waiting for this episode for a while now. Mendoza is pretty capable and all, but he seems to represent all that is scientific and ordinary in the world. Things never get truly crazy with him and his minions around. While Tao is my least favorite of the children, his introduction means that all of the main characters have finally been presented. Now we can get down to interpersonal conflicts and real adventures.

Favorite parts:

This is the part where Esteban really begins to shine. I loved the part where he swam out after Zia, both because it shows his courage and because it proves that he can survive independent from Mendoza. I also liked when he explained how tired he was from swimming all that way...but that he was still up for a fight, if that's what it came to.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Four

This episode was pretty choppy as far as cutting the scenes together. It's almost as if they forgot to draw some of the footage the editor needed. The sound effects were also somewhat lacking when the ship started breaking apart. It also contains the first blatant inaccuracies as far as science goes; the ever-popular shark attack.

Plot-wise, there's really no surprises. As the ship is damaged in the storm, the rest of the crew exhibits typical every-man-for-himself behavior, except for Gaspar who is so bent on his revenge that he'll risk a sword-fight even in a half-submerged cargo-hold. The children, Mendoza, and his lackeys are abandoned on progressively smaller pieces of the ship, eventually making it to shore on a raft.

Favorite parts:

Esteban climbing the mast to escape the crewmen, insisting that he can't make the sun come out even as it does.

Almost a counter-point to Esteban's sun-calling; the mast glowing with St. Elmo's Fire.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Three

Mendoza, staying at the wheel for 4 days and 4 nights, steers the ship through the Straits of Magellan. He becomes popular with the crew, much to the captain's dismay, but now it becomes an easy task for anyone to guide the ship to Lima. Esteban causes a conflict by trying to steal a cup of water for Zia, but a storm blowing in interrupts Gaspar's revenge.

There's an odd part which seems to be about Esteban imagining a giant sea monster, that makes me wonder whether there was some internal monologue cut from the translation. This episode also has the first obvious use of recycled footage, as Mendoza recaps his rescue of Esteban while sailing past the place where it happened.

Favorite parts:

Esteban coming on deck as the sun emerges behind him.

Gaspar getting pegged by a flying fish.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Episode Two

The transitions in this episode make it obvious that the show was written as a continuous story; only divided into pieces later for airing on television. This episode isn't quite as smooth as the first one, skipping any early dialogue between Esteban and Zia, and several spots seem to be translated roughly. The story moves quickly, through both the historical content such as the explanation of the Straits of Magellan, and the plot exposition which includes the revelation that Esteban and Zia possess matching sun pendants.

Esteban seems to have several dreams/hallucinations while on board the ship to the New World. He wakes up from one of them to overhear the captain of the ship discussing plans to get rid of Mendoza and to use Zia to find the lost cities of gold. It is revealed that Zia knows the Incan form of writing, which uses knots on thread. Also, talking to Esteban she tells him he is 'not really Spanish', which is very ambiguous, given that he is drawn with much paler skin than she and Tao are.

Favorite parts:

The golden butterflies on the water; proof that they are nearing the coast.

That sound Gaspar makes when the captain tells him to be patient. I have that in wave format somewhere, labeled as 'the most intelligent thing [he] ever said'.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold - Impressions from Episode One

First of all, I must say that the quality of the animation is significantly higher than I expected given the age of this show. The dubbing is a little rough in places, but also a great deal better than I expected. It's definitely vintage, and a little corny in places, but it blows anything else from the same era out of the water.

I'm not certain I ever actually saw the first episode before, though I'd read a plot synopsis. Esteban, the main character, is an energetic Spanish orphan. In this episode, he meets Mendoza, a friendly but apparently mercenary type who would supposedly 'do anything for gold'. He also learns several important facts about himself and his past.

First, apparently he has the power to cause the sun to shine. Second, he was rescued at sea by Mendoza, who took a piece of the medallion he wore and has been searching for him ever since. Third, his real father might still be alive, possibly somewhere in the New World.

Favorite parts:

It was fun seeing the look on Mendoza's face as he considered the reward for finding Esteban of just 'one gold piece'. Obviously his ambition runs higher than that.

It was also interesting to see how well Esteban can climb for a kid who has trouble with heights. Ostensibly this problem is also why he resisted the villagers' efforts to find him and make him summon the sun.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Mysterious Cities of Gold DVD Release

At long last, after years of waiting, searching and hoping, The Mysterious Cities of Gold is available on dvd.

How many of you remember coming home from school and running to the television set to be sure you never missed an episode of this show? It was by far one of the most captivating shows from my youth - combining pieces of real history with a plot which was continuous rather than episodic, it created a hunger in me which has rarely been satisfied by American television since. When I discovered that it was finally being released on DVD this month, I immediately surfed over to to check it out.

The price is about what you'd expect for a whole season of a show these days. Unfortunately, not even the deluxe edition of the set has the original Japanese soundtrack (though apparently the music created for the English/French dub is completely different).

If you're looking to whet your appetite for the Mysterious Cities of Gold, or just a nice blast from the past, check out
some music from the show.