"I cannot bear to see what has become of Earth." -- Captain Abraham Avatar
With the new Star Trek movie opening this weekend, I started reminiscing about shows I loved from my childhood. One that particularly comes to mind was the Japanese sci-fi cartoon, Star Blazers. While some might think it was a Star Wars rip-off, be aware that even though the United States edited version appeared on television in 1979, the original was created in 1974. If anything, the story of a crew from Earth on a spaceship protecting the galaxy owes more to the vision of Gene Roddenberry than George Lucas, although there are certainly some Star Wars similarities.
Above all, Star Blazers was the kind of show that exemplified the greatness of Japanese animation, or anime. It addressed adult issues like war and death instead of just viewing the genre as cute children's entertainment. Cartoons in America and other parts of the world were "kid's stuff" -- sugar-coated Disney characters or marketing vehicles for fluff like the Smurfs. Star Blazers showed that real stories could be told in animation in which the only limit was the creator's imagination.
I recall fondly waking up every morning and watching an episode of Star Blazers on my TV right before going off to school. I was gripped by its serialized storyline, captivated by the characters, and inspired by the universe it created.
I wish more people had the chance to see it. The last great American cartoon I can think of is Batman: The Animated Series. (I won't count the humor toons like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, King of the Hill, since they're more like sitcoms. As a kid, while I liked the comedy of The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Tom and Jerry, etc., it was the adventure cartoons that really captured my attention, like Superfriends.)
Nowadays, sadly, kids are presented with shows like Iron Man: Armored Adventures, which is an atrocity and an insult to any child's intelligence, taking a great superhero, chucking the comic book's established continuity, and turning the lead character into a teenager for no logical reason.
Anyway, if you get the chance, hunt down Star Blazers or, better yet, the original Japanese versions for some epic space adventure for all ages.