The original Mysterious Cities of Gold series was a French- Japanese co-produced animation by Dic Entertainment and Studio Pierrot. The series premiered in Japan on NHK on 29 June 1982 and ran weekly for 39 episodes.
I first caught the series on BBC 1 in the early 80s and was beguiled by the mythical adventure story of a young Spanish boy named Esteban who joins a voyage to the New World in search of the lost Cities of Gold and his father. The impressive looking background art, sharply drawn characters, and the beautiful soundtrack kept me entranced throughout the whole series, becoming my favourite programme of all time. It informed my formative years and introduced me to the wonders of the ancient world including the Incas, Aztecs, Atlantis and El Dorado. Even at the age of 33 I still regularly revisit the programme every year and I can attest to the fact that it still holds up as an impressive piece of work.
There has been talk of a second series for years and preliminary plans were laid however it never materialised. However with the re-release of the series on DVD in 2008 and increased interest in the new series were finally put into production. Debuting on the Kix Channel in December the second series finally landed. So how does it fare compared to the original?
At the end of the original series the children had only found one of the seven lost cities of gold, yet the conclusion was oddly satisfying in an open-ended way. Well the second series is a continuation rather than a reboot, so with the same character designs and story the series picks from the end of series one; The three children and Mendoza, Pedro and Sancho heading to China in search of the next lost city of gold and the truth about Esteban’s father.
On the whole I really did enjoy the new series but felt that it lacked the atmosphere and awe that was present in the original series. The voice actors were passable, however I did feel that Mendoza sounded angry or annoyed a lot of the time, a shift from his can-do attitude from the first series. Also the synth music from the discovery parts and key events made each new discovery super special. The music that dropped when the adventurers find the Solaris and Golden Condor still sends shivers down my spine. I felt that in this new series moments of emotive music and silence from the characters would have carried greater gravitas than the exposition from the characters.
The series does take a little while to get going, the first 10 or so episodes are very slow paced but the series does pick up and from episode 16 onwards I had those moment of awe and wonder, much like I felt nearly 25 years ago when I first saw the first series.
I'll leave you with one of my favourite youtube videos, this is St. Elmos Fire, the piece of music by Haim Saban and Shuki Levi. This music swells in the series when there are moments of discovery... the new series was missing these moments but does stand well as a continuation. Roll on series 3!