10 Ladies Who Defined Mecha Excellence… 80s Edition (Part 1)

Hey you pilot that giant robot like a girl! Once considered a “man’s job”, like several other jobs, the occupation of being a mecha pilot has over the years shown that skill and finesse are not confined to one’s gender. “Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you, No you can’t… oh hell yes I CAN!”

Let us now pay tribute to a selection of ladies who are some of the best giant robot pilots EVER! And yeah, it’s an all 80s cast… as usual… you know me, no matter what year it is, to me it can still be 1987, or 1982, or 85, 89, 86… etc. etc. A small note, this will be a listing of pilots I know from shows I have seen. This means in the future I can create additional entries once I become aware of even more talented pilots. For this round I pick…


Marvel Frozen
Aura Battler Dunbine

ME_Marvel

Ginger haired and cool tempered, Marvel would join Neal Givens resistance group against the tyrannical Drake Luft quickly after her arrival into Byston Well from her native Texas. Beginning with the Dana-O’Shea/Danny O’Shea she would eventually pilot the prestigious Dunbine herself in the closing chapters of Aura Battler Dunbine.


Milia Fallyna Jenius/Miriya Parina Sterling
Super Dimension Fortress Macross/Robotech

ME_Milia

Claiming to be the best pilot of all the Zentraedi, or Meltrandi depending on which version of the story you are watching, Milia/Miriya backs up her bravado with ultimate skill. In a twist of fate there exists a member of Earth’s forces who not only bested her on the battlefield, but also her heart as well. Can love conquer all? It does in Macross!


Remy Shimada
GoShogun

ME_Remy

Pilot of the Queen Rose, Remy is the balancing counterpart between her two male GoShogun teammates. As a former spy who also has had her share of heartbreak with love, Remy is a survivor of a multitude of past tragedies. Admired by all the boys for her charm and beauty, she shows she is more than this by being the head pilot of the combined TriThree mech.


Fyana (Proto-One)
Armored Trooper Votoms

ME_Fyana

Produced to be the perfect soldier, a cold blooded killer, Fyana is the complete opposite in many ways. Once laying eyes on protagonist Chirico Cuvie she would both fall in love and preserve her humanity and common sense in the process. As an AT pilot, she is a near equal to Chirico and is highly sought after by many renegade commanders.


Patty Ellington/Ginger
Armored Fleet Diarugger XV/Voltron

ME_Patty

Piloting the sleek red jet like mech, the Falcon VT Fighter, that sits on Dairugger’s/Voltron’s chest, Patty/Ginger is valuable member of the Aki/Air Team.


Pai Thunder
Dangaioh

ME_Pai

The short tempered loose cannon member of Dangaioh, Pai is blessed with super strength as well precise piloting skills. She is the last of the member of the Dangaioh quartet to join up, but by her personality she is often the first one to speak her opinion. Just don’t make her mad!


Noa Izumi
Mobile Police Patlabor

ME_Noa

The ultimate story of a mecha otaku who made their dreams come true. Noa earned her place on the Tokyo Police Department being granted the pleasure of piloting the state of the art AV-98 Ingram for Special Vehicles Section 2. A sentimental girl, she nicknamed her Ingram after her beloved dog, Alphonse.


Noriko Takaya
Aim for the Top! Gunbuster

ME_Noriko

Ever the admirer of her heroic father, Noriko too wants to be a part of . She is very much a novice in every regard when it comes to being a pilot and she often looks up to her senpai, Kazumi Amano, as a guiding light. Though she may be not very skilled and green in many ways, there exists a coach who can see the latent potential waiting to be developed in her.


Princess Fala/Princess Allura
Beast King GoLion/Voltron

ME_Fala

The princess of the kingdom not only gets to live happily ever after, but she also gets to pilot a giant blue lion robot as well. Stepping in to replace a fallen comrade, Fala/Allura showed that her compassion and grace was also backed by bravery as she fulfills her royal duties by being an example of a member of royalty who will defend her kingdom with her life.


Jeanne Fránçaix/Dana Sterling
Super Dimension Calvary Southern Cross/Robotech

ME_Jeanne

Proving to be more than just a ditzy teenager, Jeanne/Dana, who loves fashion and has a care free attitude, shows much skill and prowess as the leader of the 15th Tactical Armored Corps aboard her ATAC. A genius in the heat of battle, she has earned much respect from her male comrades, as well as jealousy from female rivals… she who buys the dress first, WINS!

DressIWin

to be continued…

#193 : Armored Trooper Votoms: Big Battle

Hey did you hear there’s going to be a big fight between an ex-Red Shoulder with his friends going up against a fortress like transport? This doesn’t happen very often; good time to place your bets! The stakes are high this time round for Chirico and friends as they attempt to rescue Fyana and stop an up and coming Balarant Army PS (Perfect Soldier) who seems a ‘tad’ on the psychopathic spectrum. Enter now yet another tale from the Astragius Galaxy, the world of Armored Trooper Votoms. Presenting now the second OVA released after the conclusion of the TV series, 1986’s Armored Trooper Votoms: Big Battle.

VBB_1Searching for the elusive energy substance jijirium to feed Fyana, Chirico and Gotho, along with Coconna, Vanilla and Shaka, travel to A’koba settling near a gladiatorial battle arena that is being used by the Balarant Army to test their prototype mecha for use against Gilgamesh. Harkening back to the early episodes TV series episodes in Uoodo City, Gotho tries to get Chirico involved in the battling competitions. Balarant’s star battler, Niva, while in the heat of competition recognizes Chirico as a former Red Shoulder. Niva, who has severe anger issues and a ‘touch’ of the insane in his personality sees only revenge. Outside the arena, Chirico would rather work in the world of stealth and focuses on getting the jijirium for Fyana. That all changes when she is kidnapped by Niva and the Balarant, which brings out the dormant Red Shoulder in Chirico once again.

VBB_2Taking place during the final episode after the climatic showdown against Wiseman and before Chirico and Fyana are jettisoned away to live in peace and solitude, Big Battle does not so much fill in any holes in the plot, but instead adds to the previously laid foundations. The usual mystery and attitude that surrounds the world of Armored Trooper Votoms are here, but Big Battle is a rare treat in that it is mainly an all out action showdown… at least for the last quarter of the OVA’s running. Chirico’s piloting magic in a Scopedog are on full display as he, along with his friends, challenge Niva in both the fortress like transport and Niva’s own mech.

VBB_3As a product of the 1980s, just like the emerging direct to video OVA boom, Armored Trooper Votoms would ride this home video trend with great results. Three releases would emerge in the decade: The Last Red Shoulder (I love this one), Big Battle and The Roots of Ambition (still need to see!). Instead of previous compilations, the easy way out, Sunrise and Ryosuke Takahashi would introduce original stories for the Votoms universe. Big Battle, or more precisely Battle of the Heterogeneous Species (odd title… I prefer the shortened version) is for me the most fun entry I have seen in all of Votoms. While this does not dive into Chirico’s past as a Red Shoulder, or develops much in terms of character, or plot development, Big Battle is pure fan service (no not that kind!) giving fans a fun ride with the familiar cast and settings.

VBB_4Armored Trooper Votoms was ground breaking for a mecha TV series in that it brought military grit and a heavier mature sci-fi attitude that was not seen before. Piloted robots mixed with Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner became a hit combination that stills draws fans in. Votoms is a series that we don’t grow out of, but grow into as we age; much like a fine wine. If you have watched the TV series, you have only completed the first stage. If you are prepared to move on to stage two, then Big Battle is one of several great choices.

#97 : Armored Trooper Votoms

Votoms_1Armored Trooper Votoms in a certain frame of reference may be the greatest mecha anime of all time. And I say that again as a certain frame of reference since this may not be everyone’s idea of where mecha shows should tread. Several shows before and since have dived deep into realms of gritty military life and, or psychological science fiction, but nothing equals Votoms in terms of it’s presentation of both. This is a tale about a singular battle scared man coming to terms with his life and humanity in the dire of constant combat, but Votoms is also, perhaps, one of the most underrated love stories as well.

Votoms_2The year of 1983 brought many classic mecha shows to us and in particular the so-called real robot aspect of the genre. Sunrise would produce three gems: Yoshiyuki Tomino’s (Gundam dude) Aura Battler Dunbine, Takeyuki Kanda’s Galactic Drifter Vifam and Ryosuke’s Takahashi’s Armored Trooper Votoms. Mecha shows by this time had grown into a wealth of expression and many of the best had strong leanings towards space opera. Examples such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Yamato and Gundam all left influence on many shows in the early 1980s. These are prime examples of classic heroism and this is definitely not the world Armored Trooper Votoms. Votoms is more akin to the noir drama of Blade Runner, the esoteric sci-fi of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Vietnam War grit of Apocalypse Now. Votoms is a story of the hunted outcast searching for his purpose, not that of a perfect hero.

Sergeant Chirico Cuvie, a former member of the deadly Red Shoulder brigade, is a man on the run. Despite his stint in Gilgamesh’s Melkian army during the great war of the Astragius galaxy against the Balarant, Chirico finds life on the run just as difficult. During a mysterious last minute final assignment, Chirico becomes aware of a great secret. After interrogation and being left for dead, Chirico runs to find peace and safety. The only problem is everywhere he goes he can’t escape the proverbial battlefield. All Chirico wants to know is what the secret operation he was involved in was all about, who the secret organization behind the operation is, to have both Gilgamesh and Balarant off his back and… most importantly… who this mysterious beautiful woman that is so linked to his destiny is and why is it that he feels so attracted to her (Duh!… she is pretty and loyal to you).

Votoms_3The grit of militarism exudes not just in the story and politics, but also in the designs of the mechs themselves. The AT Scopedog is a timeless design for not being flashy, cool, or futuristic. The Scopedog is a basic run of the mill tank or army Jeep brought into the world of piloted robots. Clunky, functional and a nasty shade of green, the Scopedog is an antithesis to say a Gundam, or Valkyrie fighter (Macross). Ironically, the simple build quality of Scopedogs are fitting within the culture of model building since Chirico himself many times during the show either rebuilds, or modifies, several mechs. Yet there is one characteristic of a Scopedog that is distinctive… those roller skate type feet which allow them to roll on the ground. Of course this helped in production of the animation by keeping the drawing minimal at times, but still… it’s kind of fun!

Votoms_4The structure of the show is in four successive stages, or arcs and each one builds on the previous. The DVDs I have separate neatly into these so called movements: we begin in the streets of Uoodo (very Blade Runner), move into the jungles of Kummen (Apocalypse Now), and finish with the planets Sunsa and Quent (2001). Like an onion you slowly peel away the drama and suspense and end up in a world you never thought was possible when you first started. Uoodo was fun, Kummen was intense, Sunsa is my favorite for how dark and psychological it became and Quent turns everything on it’s head and then some.

Many times I write about anime from memory alone, or after I seeing something ‘new’ to me, I have to speak about it within a quick turnaround. Then there are times when the urge to dive back into the entirety of a show is most necessary. Votoms needed a re-watch and having seeing it with half fresh eyes, I can’t discount this masterpiece. After all… I am comparing this show to two live action movies that I highly respect and love, 2001 and Blade Runner. Perhaps I needed to grow into this show and now was the time to recognize Votoms brilliance.

… this could be Grey Digital Target’s soul brother and I love that movie too.