Once Upon a Time… Space
Il était une fois… or “Once Upon a Time…” is an ongoing animated series produced by the multi-talented French television-maker Albert Barillé and his Procidis studio in Paris. Since the late 1970s the franchise has devoted itself to charting the broad evolution of humankind for a children’s audience with each series devoted to one particular theme: “Once Upon a Time… Man” (1978), “… Space” (1982), “… Life (1987), “… The Americas (1991), “… The Discoverers” (1994), “… The Explorers” (1997) and finally “… Planet Earth” (2008). However for Irish men and women of a certain age it is probably the episodes of the 1982 “science-fiction” season that have the most resonance. Broadcast in an irregular early evening time-slot on RTÉ 2 “Once Upon a Time… Space” featured some fantastic-looking spacecraft, many designed by the legendary illustrator Philippe Bouchet(or Manchu) and very much reflecting French aesthetics – albeit through the filter ofEiken, the Japanese anime studio contracted to draw them.
Unlike the other more straightforwardly educational productions in the franchise this was very much a drama with a “space opera” feel, inspired somewhat by French comics likeValérian and Laureline. It featured some of the reoccurring characters from all seven seasons of the series including Professor Maestro, the white-bearded elder, Peter and Psi, the young officers, and their robotic companion Métro. Arrayed against them were the despotic General Pest and his loyal acolyte the Dwarf. Running to twenty-six episodes it was a slow-burn success in Europe though largely a failure in Japan. However it is fondly remembered in Ireland as a sort of early proto-anime for the teicógaigh, Irish fanboys and girls. I loved it as a child and it certainly converted me to both Japanese and European comics and graphic novels. Not sure I would purchase a DVD copy now but I’d definitely purchase an artbook if it included some of Philippe Bouchet’s fantastic designs.