Anime Evil Masterminds

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Zoltar. From Battle of the Planets Artbook vol. 1 #1 © 2004 Top Cow Productions. ART BY ALEX ROSS.

Anime Evil Masterminds

(pop culture)
Whether endowed with superpowers or not, many memorable villains do not always carry out their dirty deeds single-handedly. Most of them employ henchmen and/or are backed by a massive secret organization that they use to wage their evil campaigns. These villains move beyond one-man operations to become “masterminds.” Despite this elaborate network of evil, some masterminds do, at times, personally face off against the heroes. These masterminds are major threats to our heroes—and the very existence of the world itself. While such villains are staples of American comics, they also exist in anime (the Japanese word for “animation”); many popular anime characters are based on popular manga (Japanese comics), and some eventually reach America (albeit in an edited form). Generally, at the end of the series, whether in manga or anime, the evil mastermind is defeated, but the price of victory is often great to the heroes. One mastermind from the early years of television anime was Dr. Spectra from Eighth Man. The U.S. TV series—based on the 1963 manga created by Kazumasa Hirai and Jiro Kuwata—followed the adventures of the android hero Tobor, the Eighth Man, who had been given the mind of a murdered special agent. Dr. Spectra, introduced in the episode titled simply “Dr. Spectra,” became perhaps the deadliest enemy of Eighth Man. Driven by his unrelenting desire to acquire the means to construct an army of androids based on Eighth Man, Spectra eventually learned the whole truth about his foe's origins. This soon placed everyone that Tobor knew and cared about at risk. In 1963 Shotaro Ishinomori's manga Cyborg 009 began. It introduced the world not only to nine superpowered cyborgs (perhaps manga's first “superteam”) but also to the terrorist organization that created them: Black Ghost. The organization's leader was also named Black Ghost, and he resembled a dark figure wearing a skull-like helmet or mask. The nine cyborg heroes rejected the organization and waged constant battles against their creators. Black Ghost responded by sending various cyborgs and war machines to stop their wayward creations. Cyborg 009 became an animated series in Japan in 1968, and an animated film was released in Japan in 1980. A heavily edited version of the film was released in America in the mid-1980s. A new animated series titled Cyborg 009 aired in Japan in 2001 and ran on Cartoon Network in 2003 with its original title intact. In 1972 the anime Science Ninja Team Gatchaman premiered in Japan, and it was brought to the United States in the late 1970s under the title Battle of the Planets. The mastermind of this series was Zoltar (in Gatchaman, Berg Katse), a tall man wearing a purple outfit with cape and cowl, and with red lips. As the military leader of Spectra (a malevolent empire whose planet faced depletion of its resources), Zoltar sought to conquer Earth and its allied planets to gain their resources. A highly skilled military leader, Zoltar was also a master of deception and lies. He would send Spectra's armies and robotic monsters into action, but would usually find some way to escape to fight another day. Opposing Zoltar and his plans was G-Force, five teens with superpowers and advanced weaponry developed by their guardian, Chief Anderson. Yet even Zoltar was a loyal soldier to the Luminous One, a spectral figure who was the real power behind Spectra. Of course, things were rather different in Gatchaman: Berg Katse was the leader of Galactor, a terrorist organization that was actually a front for an alien force bent of invading Earth. Katse, however, was revealed to be a hermaphroditic mutant; at the end of Gatchaman, he committed suicide by throwing him/herself into a lava pit. This story point was cut from Battle of the Planets. So influential was Gatchaman in Japan that in the thirty-plus years since its debut, other anime have had villains in the mold of (but not necessarily resembling) Berg Katse. Also, not every mastermind is male: Sister Jill from Go Nagai's Cutey Honey (1971) and Queen Beryl of Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon (1992) prove that female masterminds can be just as cold and cruel—and as popular—as their male counterparts. One of the most unusual masterminds in anime would prove true the adage “size matters not.” That was Colonel MacDougal from the 1990 manga Spriggan, created by Hiroshi Takashige and Ryoji Minagawa (the manga was released in America in 1992 by Viz under the title Striker: The Armored Warrior). MacDougal was introduced in the “Noah's Ark” storyline (which was the basis for the animated Spriggan film released in 2000) as the head of the Machine Corps, a renegade branch of the Pentagon. The Machine Corps sought to gain the technology left by an ancient advanced civilization; many of these artifacts were held by the group Arcam. Arcam had just discovered Noah's Ark—and it was not the ship described in the Bible, but much more. Assisting MacDougal to capture the Ark were an army of soldiers, including the supersoldiers Little Boy and Fatman, named after the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The only person capable of standing up to MacDougal was Yu Ominae, Arcam's top supersoldier, or “Spriggan.” MacDougal's appearance was of a young boy between eight and ten years of age wearing jeans, athletic shoes, a jacket, and a baseball cap, but he had the personality of an adult. What made Mac- Dougal a truly formidable villain were his powerful telekinetic abilities, which allowed him to manipulate objects (or twist bones and flesh) with his mind, or to create an impervious psychic shield. These powers were the result of a device implanted in his brain, but the device would give him massive, painful headaches—and it was slowly killing him. MacDougal wanted to gain the Ark because of its true purpose: it was an ancient weather control station, as well as a genetic laboratory. The Ark had affected the evolution of life on Earth, and MacDougal wanted that power for himself. After a bloody battle with Yu Ominae, MacDougal was stopped; refusing to admit defeat, he activated the Ark's self-destruct system, and he was destroyed along with it.