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Ulysses 31 (originally titled Ulysse 31 in France, 宇宙伝説ユリシーズ31 in Japan) is an anime series co-produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha studios and the French company DiC Entertainment. As the name implies, it is based on Homer's The Odyssey (Ulysses being what the Romans called Odysseus) and heavily borrows plot elements from it.

In the 31st century, spaceship commander Ulysses flies home from the Trojan War. On the way, he rescues a group of enslaved children by killing the Cyclops, angering the Olympian gods who rule the universe. Zeus curses Ulysses by putting his crew in suspended animation and erasing the ship's memory files that contain Earth's location. He will now have to wander throughout space until he finds the realm of Hades, at which point his crew will be revived and he will be allowed to travel back to Earth.

He is accompanied in his quest by his teenage son Telemachus; Yumi (Themis in French) a blue-skinned alien girl with telepathic powers; and a toy robot named Nono.

The series is an unusual product of international collaboration, that is still right now rather unique in its quality (there was a two-week delay for episode production, instead of the standard one-week; the French team was almost entirely made of professional illustrators, which forced the Japanese animation team to actually simplify the graphics, but also gave them enough inspiration to go much farther than what they were used to).

The Odysseus was originally planned to be animated by computer, but the single wireframe model generated was still too complex to render for the machines of the times. So, the only computer animation left is the opening credits.

Contains examples of:

  • AI Is a Crapshoot: The rogue AI Cortex.
  • Cool Ship: The Odyssey.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas
  • The Cutie: Yumi.
  • Cyber Cyclops: For the obligatory blinding of the cyclops scene, he got revamped this way, in order to fit into the sci-fi setting.
  • Expository Theme Tune: Ulysses, no-one else can do the things you dooooo!!
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Many episodes offer a shortcut back to Earth to Ulysses, only to have it snatched away by the end. He finally earns his happy ending in the last episode.
  • Genre Blindness: Unlike, say, the characters of Ikki Tousen, who are quite aware that they are reliving the plot of Romance of the Three Kingdoms in a contemporary context, Ulysses and everyone else haven't wised up to the fact that they are reliving Homer's epic in a SF context, despite meeting the original Ulysses at one point.
    • Near the very end of the series.
    • Future!Ulysses does remark the gods treating the both of them rather similarly, however since the future cast gets a reboot to the beginning of the episode, he can't remember it.
    • Most episodes are based on Ancient Greece stories, however only a few do allude to the Odyssey - and those that do, due to Adaptation Distillation, only bear a vague resemblance to the original. This actually appears very well when the cast is sent to the past, as although similar-looking and a good warrior, Future!Ulysses is far from being as bloodthirsty and sinister as his ancestor. Let's not forget that Odysseus was more well-known for his trickery than his courage in battle (though the guy was hailed as one of the best warriors of his time, he was also known to avoid direct confrontation whenever he could help it and/or didn't feel like bathing in the blood of his enemies).
  • God Is Evil: The gods persecute Ulysses in particularly petty and underhanded ways.
  • Greek Mythology: A Space Opera take on it.
  • The Homeward Journey
  • International Coproduction
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The complete series has been released in Europe at one point, but not the U.S.. While there was a Region 1 DVD, it only contains four select episodes. Additionally, the series is also available on Jaroo, but it's just those same four episodes. It doesn't help that they're identified as episodes "1-4", when in fact they aren't.
  • Laser Blade: Ulysses's weapon is a laser gun that doubles as a lightsaber.
  • Leitmotif: The haunting theme of the gods, among others.
  • Lotus Eater Machine: In, get this, "The Lotus Eaters". Although, with this being an adaptation of the original legend, it doesn't quite fit the usual definition.
  • Manly Tears: In the episode "Calypso" Ulysses almost shed a tear.
  • Master Computer: Shirka, the ship's AI.
  • Mookmobile: The Tridents.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Nono.
  • Powers That Be: The gods intervene overtly but also like to pull the strings unnoticed.
  • Recycled in Space: The show is literally The Odyssey IN SPACE!
  • Riddle of the Sphinx
  • Robot Buddy: Nono.
  • Secret Test of Character: Upon finally reaching the Kingdom of Hades, Hades allows Ulysses to return to Earth...provided he leaves all his companions behind. When Ulysses refuses, Hades turns him to stone. Just as it seems that all is lost, Ulysses is restored; it turns out this was the final trial of the gods and he is now free to return to Earth with all his crew.
  • Small Annoying Creature: Nono
  • The Stoic: Ulysses never says a word during a fight.
  • Time Travel: At one point Ulysses travels back in time to ancient Greece and actually meets the original Ulysses.
    • Identical Stranger: Played with -- 31!Ulysses and Original!Ulysses are confused for each other, but their loved ones can tell the difference fairly easily.
      • You reckon it's cuz one has a spacesuit, a jetpack and a lightsaber and the other doesn't?
        • Nah, it's more a matter that Original!Ulysses looks like an aged, hardened warrior-trickster with lots of anger, with scars and killer eyes, while 31!Ulysses looks... Well, civilized. According to the making of, it's due to recommendations from the Japanese animation team that 31!Ulysses never gets angry - and showing the original Ulysses kill his enemies in cold blood and get ready to execute all the men running after his wife, sure drove the point home.
  • White-Haired Pretty Girl: Yumi.
    • Since all Zotrians, either male or female, seen in the series have white hair, isn't that actually a subversion?
    • All the Zotrian girls shown are pretty, too - this troper votes for subversion.
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