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Imagine a book about space adventures from The Eighties. The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison would fit the best. Make the overall tone a bit Darker and Edgier, slightly increase the amount of naked female body, keep the funny level the same and give the main character an Arm Cannon. Make it all into manga and anime adaptation. Give it an awesome, very Eighties female vocal opening and ending.

Here you have it — Space Adventure Cobra. A Space Opera manga by Buichi Terasawa published between 1978 and 1984, and later adapted to anime format and feature-length film.

Two anime adaptations were made, both closely watched by author of the original manga and preserving both plot and style of the original. What is even more awesome, in a recent remake titled Cobra the Animation they even recruited the same seyuus for both Cobra and Lady Armoroid. Preserving the character design helped a lot too.

Space Adventure Cobra, manga and anime, provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lady and many secondary characters.
  • Adolf Hitler: Lord Salamander's true identity.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike
  • Arch Enemy: Crystal Bowie
  • Arm Cannon: The Psychogun
  • Badass: Where do we start? Probably at all those gadgets disguised as cigars....
  • Balloon Belly: Taken to its logical conclusion here.
  • Biseinen: Cobra, before he changed face.
  • Blood Sport: Rugball
  • Casanova: Cobra, all the way.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Cobra, about all the time.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Cobra can bench-press 500 kg. With his right, non-cybernetic arm.
  • Cigar Chomper
  • Combat Stilettos: A frequent accessory of female outfits.
  • Cool Gun: Cobra's Psychogun
  • Cyborg: Many characters, friends or foes. Cobra himself, with his left arm. Lady Armaroid was once human, but her brain had to be put in a mechanical body to save her life.
  • Fake Memories: Cobra has erased his own memory in order to evade his pursuers, and regains it by accident.
  • FemBot: Lady Armaroid
  • Fountain of Expies: Cobra himself has tons of them, like Vash, Ragna, Alucard, Vincent Valentine, Dante, etc. All of them all wear red and a lot of them have an unusual arm of sorts, while some others share Cobra's flirtatious and cocky personality.
  • Girl of the Week
  • Gratuitous English: The Psychogun. Crystal Bowie. Also, the setting's currency is the kuredito (credit).
  • Loveable Rogue: One of anime's most absolutely charming scoundrels. Think of him as a Japanese Han Solo mixed in a blender with Arsène Lupin.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Most of the women in the series, in addition to being good looking, wear rather revealing clothing.
  • Morph Weapon: The "Ultimate Weapon".
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: According to Word of God, the hero was inspired by French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (maybe from Godard's film Pierrot le Fou).
  • Out-of-Clothes Experience: The sisters Jane and Catherine Royal are seen together, naked in a void, as they are dying.
  • Pastel-Chalked Freeze-Frame: Anime director Osamu Dezaki is the Trope Maker, and Space Advenutre Cobra is likely the Trope Codifier.
  • Rated "M" for Manly
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cobra and Lady. It's in the clothes.
  • Refuge in Cool
  • Reset Button: In one of the later episodes, Cobra accidentally unleashes an unstoppable ancient weapon that WILL destroy entire civilizations. As a result a little robot chicken guardian has to rewind time, retconning the entire episode out of existance.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Both in manga and old TV series, Cobra carries a custom six-shooter. (The bullets are of a special alloy that can pierce some blindages even the Psychogun can't go through, however.) In some versions it's actually a portable mortar, with Cobra refusing to use it inside his ship for fear that he'd destroy the vessel. It's back in the new TV series.
  • Robot Girl: Some of Cobra's female encounters aren't quite human. Lady Armaroid herself; the name should be an eyecatch.
  • Rocket Punch
    • One of the episodic villains in the first TV series has a very well-guided version.
    • Cobra himself can launch his fake arm in that way. It returns too.
  • Rule of Cool: Replaces the laws of physics. Every episode.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Cobra always has a cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth.
  • Space Pirates
  • Space Whale: Not a whale, but in one story (later used for the first PC-Engine game) the spaceship Cobra is on in the beginning gets eaten by a giant hammerhead shark.
  • Stripperiffic: Every. Female. In. The. Series. Ranging from very skimpy to virtually nonexistent.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Shi no Koshin.
  • Used Future: It is Space adventure, after all.
  • Water Is Air
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The third arc of the new series takes place on a mountain that disappears when characters start doubting it.
  • Zeerust: The series takes place in the future, but looks as if it was stuck in the 1960s.