The Mysterious Cities of Gold

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Title card.

The Mysterious Cities of Gold is an animated television show about 16th century Spanish explorers who exploit children to search for the fabled golden city of El Dorado in South America. The show was produced by DIC Entertainment and Studio Pierrot and included 39 episodes. It was first broadcast in Japan from 1982-1983 and in France from 1983-1984. A couple years later is was translated to English and shown in the UK and the USA (on Nickelodeon) from 1986-1987. It was released on DVD in 2008. A sequel was created in 2012, but I have no desire to watch it.

I first saw an episode of this show when I was six years old at my cousin's house in 1986. They had cable TV and Nickelodeon, something my family would never buy. I only saw one episode, but I thought it was really interesting, and the title music became a haunting memory for decades. I didn't hear the song again until I was in my early 20s after downloading a collection of television themes on Kazaa, but I still had a pretty clear memory of the "ahhhhh ahhhhhh ah" portion. After finding the series in my 30s I found that I had seen episode 8, "The New Continent" back when I was six. I also discovered that the show is pretty awful when you have adult sensibilities. I finally finished the series on 2018-12-05, 32 years after I saw my first episode.

Review

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • The design of the backgrounds is pretty great.
  • The show has a pretty good soundtrack, especially the title music.
  • There is a lot of adventure in the show: fighting, strange locations, ancient buildings, exciting vehicles, dangerous people, etc.
  • Mendoza is a pretty good character. He has depth, learns lessons, and isn't as 2D as all the others.
  • The educational portions at the end of each episode are quite informative, and I like that they don't sugar coat the more graphic parts of the pre-Columbian South American history.

Bad

  • Since the show wasn't animated for English vocals, the English dub is way off the lip sync. They try to correct for this by changing the tempo of the dialogue, but it doesn't sound natural. Often times a person will respond to someone before they even stop talking.
  • Esteban is the hero of the show, but he's not very impressive. He's kind of a weakling and not that bright, but then, he is white, so...
  • The girl, Zia, is always pathetic and in need of help. Even when she has the ability to help the group, she usually just stands there looking useless.
  • Tao is a mechanical genius beyond the level of any person who would have been alive at the time, which is entirely unrealistic.
  • The male sidekicks, Pedro and Sancho, exist solely as comic relief, but they're not funny, just annoying.
  • The parrot Kokapetl has the brain of a sentient human, which is a bit unnerving.
  • I don't care for the science-fiction route the show takes near the end, but I guess it was necessary to make sense of amazing technology found in the Condor and Solaris.
  • Despite having massive flying machines, computers, and the ability to manipulate genetics, the Olmecs still use swords and spears.

Ugly

  • The show was clearly targeted toward children, and I think only children would enjoy it. It becomes very difficult to enjoy for older audiences.

Media

Cover Art

Posters

Videos

Titles

Language Native Transliteration Translation
English The Mysterious Cities of Gold
French Les Mystérieuses Cités d'or Les Mysterieuses Cites d'or The Mysterious Cities of Gold
Japanese 太陽の子エステバン Taiyo no Ko Esuteban Esteban, Child of the Sun

Links

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