Anime Spotlight: Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs

Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs started out in Japan as a 51-episode anime series titled Star Musketeer Bismarck. In 1986, World Events Productions acquired the rights to the series. World Events reorganized and rewrote the series, as well as included six new episodes, and renamed it as Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. Saber Rider ended up having 52 episodes, and ran on syndicated American television from September 14, 1987-September 2, 1988.

In the series, humankind has colonized planets across the universe, creating a New Frontier. In order to protect the new settlers, as well as to maintain laws and regulations, Calvary Command was created on Earth. Calvary Command is essentially a military organization, and maintains an army and a fleet of ships to protect the New Frontier. There is special group of operatives in Calvary Command known as the Star Sheriffs, who investigate crimes and plots against the security of the New Frontier.

The main adversary in the series is a race of non-human creatures known as the Outriders (known as Deathculas in the original Japanese version). They jumped into our dimension to conquer it, because they have exhausted all the resources on their planet and are now forced to live on an artificial planet.

The Outriders attack settlers, destroy their settlements, and kidnap humans in order to have workers to mine metals and crystals. The Outriders are superior to humans when it comes to battle technology, and possess gigantic robots. To combat these giant robots, Calvary Command developed a prototype ship called the Ramrod Equalizer Unit (Ramrod for short); in the original Japanese version, the ship was known as the Bismarck. Ramrod can transform from a spaceship into a powerful robot.

The lead of the series is Saber Rider, the Scottish captain of Ramrod. In the original Japanese version, his name was Richard Lancelot, and he was of British nationality. Also, in the original Japanese version, this character was not the captain of Bismarck; instead, he was part of a multi-national team assembled to battle the Deathculas.

Saber Rider is a young man with incredible skills and marksmanship, but is also a gentleman with a cool head for tactics and decisions. Saber Rider has a robotic horse named Steed, which has high-powered thrusters and the ability to fly, run, and is able to travel through space long enough to travel down to planets from orbit.

Fireball (known as Shinji Hikari in the original Japanese show) was a race car driver, and was the youngest champion of all time. He’s the pilot of Ramrod, and also controls the cannons and weaponry located in Ramrod’s chest region. He drives a race car called the Red Fury Racer, and it’s armed with an extensive arsenal of weapons. He has a somewhat quick temper, as well as a crush on fellow Star Sheriff April Eagle.

Colt (known as Bill Wilcox in the original Japanese show) starts out as a bounty hunter on the trail of Vanquo, an Outrider spy. He has great skill with firearms, and controls Ramrod’s six-iron. Colt is somewhat of a loner, but also tends to flirt rather unsuccessfully with every woman that he meets. For his personal transportation, as well as for solo battles, Colt uses a blue and white one-man spaceship named Bronco Buster.

April Eagle (known as Marian Louvre in the original Japanese series), is the daughter of Commander Eagle (known as Charles Louvre in the original series). April is the engineer in charge of the Ramrod project. She has a robotic horse named Nova, which has the same abilities as Saber Rider’s Steed. Over the course of the series, April was involved with three love interests: Saber Rider (which was one-sided on her part), Jesse Blue (which was one-sided on his part), and Fireball (which is eventually reciprocated on both sides).

Nemesis (known as Hyuza in the original Japanese series) is in charge of the Outriders. He was the one who created the Vapor Trail that allows the Outriders to cross over from their dimension into the human dimension.

Jesse Blue (known as Perios in the original Japanese series) has a sarcastic streak, and was a promising cadet at Calvary Command. He fell in love with April Eagle during a training exercise, but after she rejected his advances and inadvertently embarrassed him in front of the other cadets, Jesse turned against the Star Sheriffs. Jesse became a fugitive, and joined forces with the Outriders. However, it should be noted that in the original Japanese version, Perios is a Deathcula, and that there was no love affair between him and Marianne/April.

The series focuses on the Star Sheriffs as they find themselves having to fight with the Outriders and stopping their evil schemes.

I first watched Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs when it originally aired in syndication in the late 1980s, when I was around 12-13 years old. At the time, I thought it was an enjoyable enough series.

I was finally able to see the series again as an adult, and it was about 20 years after the series had aired on television. I definitely had a different perspective on it as an adult than I did when I was a pre-teen and early teen. As an adult, I could see that the story itself showed a lot of promise, but that choices were made for the English dub script to include corny jokes that really didn’t work in the dialogue, as well as other changes in order to water the series down for the child audience that World Events was aiming for. I really wish there was a way to legally see Star Musketeer Bismarck, so I could see the original Japanese source material and compare it to what I saw as Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs.

Ultimately, this English dub really doesn’t stand up to the test of time.

To be honest, I can only truly recommend Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs to anime viewers who remember the series from when it aired in 1980s and enjoyed it, or to anime viewers who want to see this series from a historical perspective in order to learn more about anime that was released in the 1980s in the United States and how English dubs of that era differ from the English dubs that are being produced today.

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