Ulysses 31

Ulysses 31 (宇宙伝説ユリシーズ31 Uchū Densetsu Yurishīzu Sātīwan, lit. Space Legend Ulysses 31) (French: Ulysse 31) is a French-Japanese animated television series (1981) that updates the Greek mythology of Odysseus (known as “Ulysses” in Latin) to the 31st century. The show comprised 26 half-hour episodes and was produced by DIC Audiovisuel in conjunction with anime studio TMS Entertainment.

This is also the first show produced by DiC Entertainment as an independent company (the company’s first series, Archibald le Magi-chien, was produced when it was a division of the RTL Group). Today, the rights to this show, along with most of DiC’s other programs, are owned by DHX Media.

The plot line of the series (made by the French Jean Chalopin) describes the struggles of Ulysses and his crew against the divine entities that rule the universe, the ancient gods from Greek mythology. The Gods of Olympus are angered when Ulysses, commander of the giant spaceship Odyssey, kills the giant Cyclops to save a group of enslaved children, including his son. Zeus sentences Ulysses to travel the universe with his crew frozen until he finds the Kingdom of Hades, at which point his crew will be revived and he will be able to return to Earth. Along the way they encounter numerous other famous figures from Greek mythology who have been given a futuristic twist.

The entire series is available in English in a complete DVD box set in the UK released by Contender Entertainment, and in Australia by Madman Entertainment. In the United States, one DVD entitled Ulysses 31: The Mysteries of Time was released, containing only four selected episodes.

The first four episodes were available on Jaroo, a defunct online video site operated by Cookie Jar Entertainment, with whom DiC has since merged, now DHX Media on 22 October 2012. There are currently no plans to add more episodes.

Characters-

  • Ulysses (ユリシーズ Yurishīzu)
Main character and captain of the Odyssey. He achieved the solar peace before becoming the subject of the Olympian gods’ revenge. His weapon of choice is a laser pistol that conceals a blade very similar to the lightsabers in George Lucas‘s Star Wars, complemented by an energy shield and a belt that allows him to fly. Ulysses is brave, noble, determined, and will stop at nothing to defeat the gods and the conditions imposed upon himself and his companions.
Son of Ulysses and second in command for most of the voyage. Yumi’s friend and protector. Very beautiful, as described by Yumi in their first encounter. Courageous, adventurous, and level headed. He is a skilled pilot, and his weapon of choice is a hi-tech, energy-ball shooting slingshot.
  • Yumi (ユミ Yumi)
Thémis in the original French dub (after the name of the ancient Titan). A blue-skinned humanoid alien girl from the white planet, Zotra. She is the younger sister of Numinor and possesses telepathic powers. She is saved from being sacrificed to the Cyclops, along with Telemachus and her older brother, by Ulysses. She also exhibits telekinesis to some extent, as shown in the episodes “At the Heart of the Universe” and “The Lotus Eaters”; in addition, she is immune to fire. Although physically very frail, she is very intelligent and courageous. Zotrians, aside from blue skin, have snow-white hair, pointed ears and slanted eyes with cat-like vertical pupils; they are considered extremely beautiful.
  • Numinor (ユマイオス Yumaiosu)
Noumaïos in the original French dub. A Zotrian teenager and older brother of Yumi. He is saved by Ulysses from being sacrificed to the Cyclops. He is in suspended animation along with the rest of the crew for most of the series. Like his sister, he is considered extremely beautiful. He has a sweet and very gentle personality. He is courageous, as well as trustworthy and loyal. He awakes three times before being finally released from the gods’ curse in the final episode of the series: The first time in “The Lost Planet”, where the Odyssey comes across a white Zotrian moon. Secondly, in “Mutiny on Board”, where the crew are subjected to possession by an alien essence. The third time is in “The Magician in Black”, when the entire crew is awakened by a powerful spell by the titular character. Japanese name Yumaiosu is the katakana orthography of English pronunciation of Eumaeus, the pig-guardian of Odysseus in Homer’s poem.
  • Nono (ノノ Nono)
Small robotic companion of Telemachus. Fond of eating nuts and nails. He is a trusty friend who was given to Telemachus as a birthday present. He is rather timid, but can be relied upon in a crisis. He is skilled at machinery repair and possesses tremendous physical strength.
  • Shirka (シルカ Shiruka)
The Odysseys main computer. Speaks with a deep female voice. Japanese name Shiruka seems a katakana form of the name Circe.
  • Zeus (ゼウス Zeusu)
The god of gods, Ulysses’ persecutor.
God of the Seas, he is enraged by Ulysses’ killing of his creature, the Cyclops. He wields a trident, the symbol of his power, and his servants pilot ships that are shaped like a trident.
Ruling god of the Underworld. Ulysses must find his realm to find the way back to Earth.

In 1980, Telecom Animation, TMS Entertainment, and DiC Audiovisuel produced a pilot for the series, simply titled “Ulysses 31”. Although there was a Japanese VHS release of the series by King Records in 1986, the pilot never saw an official home release and was used for internal use only. It would, however, eventually leak and be uploaded onto the DivX Stage6 website, along with several other TMS pilots.

The pilot appears to have only been recorded in Japanese.

The story is virtually identical to episode one of the finished series; however, the story was the only thing that was kept. Although all the characters were kept, some underwent major redesigns from a typical anime design to the one seen in the finished series, which is a mix of Japanese anime style and European art based on the appearance of classical Greek sculpture.

Renowned Japanese illustrators and animators Shingo Araki and Michi Himeno, who have worked in anime adaptations of famous manga (e.g., Masami Kurumada‘s Saint Seiya, Fūma no Kojirō, Ring ni Kakero, Riyoko Ikeda‘s Versailles no Bara, and UFO Grendizer OVA) were responsible for the finished series’ character designs, animation routines, and visual style.

Out of all the characters, Telemachus received the largest redesign. Nono was kept identical to the anime design of the pilot, without changes. In the series, Numinor and Yumi are identical to their design in the pilot, only the color of their clothes was changed from purple and dark blue to lilac and yellow, and their hair became slightly longer. Also, their boot length was shortened from knee-high (in the pilot episode) to normal-length boots in the final series.

The Odyssey ship also received some redesign work, as in the pilot episode it simply resembled an enormous ring. The design inspired by a human eye shape found in the finished series is reminiscent of the ring design in the pilot episode. Although many scenes would be scrapped and redone for the finished episode 1, a couple of shots were re-used, notably some of the backgrounds originally produced for the pilot.

Most of the original soundtrack was composed by Denny Crockett and Ike Egan. Six additional themes were composed by Shuki Levy and Haim Saban: Potpourri, Final Glory, Space Traffic, Ulysse Meets Ulysse, Mermaids, and Change of Time (Theme of Chronos).

The Japanese version has a different soundtrack. The music was composed by Wakakusa Kei, who was responsible for the soundtrack in both the series and pilot that was produced in 1980. An official soundtrack was released in 1986 on vinyl and on CD in 1988 by King Records.

Comments are welcome on your 80s memories...