#198 : Hades Project Zeorymer

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the form of a four episode mecha anime… never thought I would say that statement. Here we have an OVA that begins a little weak and then evolves very quickly after the initial introduction into one of the darkest tales of the piloted giant robot genre. In the end who is the hero and who is the villain? Maybe it could be played from either side, or maybe neither side is truly on the side of justice, which brings up another topic, the aspect of self identity. Am I really who I think I am, or am I only the programming of someone else’s will? Wow this sounds deep, so this must have been well loved? By some yes, by others not so much… this was Hades Project Zeorymer.

HPZ_1Let’s now dive into this interesting stew. Mix part Izcer-1 and Dangaioh from director Toshiro Hirano; 80s mecha OVA experience check. Now add in some Silent Möbius from character designer Michitaka Kikuchi (a.k.a. Kia Asamiya); gritty cyberpunk attitude check. Now add this to a previously released mecha manga that was featured in a lolita hentai magazine and was created by the mind responsible for the Guyver (Yoshiki Takaya). What the?! Now how did this all work out as a mainstream OVA release? Easy… no hentai, or lolicon stuff… oh good that was creeping me out. The final product became a possible prototype for what became of mecha anime in the late 1990s. Angst filled, psychological, darker in tone… perhaps Evangelion was not as revolutionary as we are led to believe? After all Evangelion paid homage to the many things from creator Hideaki Anno’s past, including his mental journey states. Now let us return to Zeorymer.

HPZ_2How is it that I am so mixed about Zeorymer? The first episode was a bit of a let down and I was thinking that things were pointing to a plot direction of a mecha of the episode fighting against a wimpy hero. Then things change over the remaining three episodes moving into an extremely darker tone that shapes not only the characters, but the plot as well. We begin with our protagonist who plays the victim card and is taken by strangers to pilot a giant robot that was stolen from a large organization bent on conquering the world. With this renegade machine we find our protagonist change from scared and mild mannered into inhumane and cold. This is like shifting from Gundam’s Amuro Ray, or Evangelion’s Shinji Ikari into the archetype of M.D. Geist at the drop of a pin. Our hero is not a hero, or a victim, but perhaps a villain? Or is he? Several characters in this OVA, including our main character, end up looking inside themselves to realize what they thought they were was nothing more than a manufactured hoax.

HPZ_3Very heavy themes surround Zeorymer, but the shorter episode count format could have been longer in my opinion. The subject matter could have worked very well for a TV series, or at least a longer OVA run to develop the plot even more. We have to accept what is given even though for me this anime had a lot of potential. I am always a sucker for a deep intense story so when it gets good in terms ot being ‘serious’ I want to dive even deeper down and down and down. Even if darker themes are not your cup of tea what cannot be denied is the quality of Zeorymer in terms of presentation. Like many of Hirano’s directorial projects the detail and fluidity are very high in terms of quality. Spare no expenses here, this is a nice looking OVA.

HPZ_41988 brought many reinventions and presentations in the OVA market. Gunbuster, Patlabor and Dragon’s Heaven all brought a hope of light to the future of mecha anime. But what of the former dramatic titles from the past that filled either epic space opera, or deep sacrificial tones to the story that were on television? This all seemed to be a memory until the appearance of a lone dark figure, Zeorymer, who would appear against the previously mentioned titles as a both a call from the past and a harbinger of the future. Zeorymer may not be too everyone’s taste palette, but it cannot be ignored.

#187 : Magnos the Robot

If this is the best I can do for a substitute for Magne Robo Gakeen, I may just stop right here. Magnos the Robot is a condensed localization I found my via a bargain bin DVD, though I am sure it may exist as well online as well as this seems to be a public domain type of thing. I am not going to give up hope in eventually seeing the original and I look forward to the opportunity, but it may end up being on the lower end of my priority list.

Magnos_1The story is very typical mid 1970s super robot anime having a small group of humans fight against an alien invading force to protect the Earth and it’s inhabitance. Super robot mecha was the de facto go to for shonen type stories during these times due to mainly toy promotion and often each series had it’s own schtick. Magnos is piloted by a male and female pair representing polar opposite charges like a magnet. Magnetically both do one of the most bizarre unifying sequences I have ever seen in a mech show, much like aerial summersaults, that bring all the pieces of Magnos together with the precision locking of LEGO bricks. This alone makes the show worth a watch. In fact I could watch the launch and combining sequences on repeat all day.

Magnos_2Can I please say that this is an ugly show? The editing to make this version is very spastic and abrupt shifting from scene to scene with no real direction of where the direction is going except we have another monster of the week to fight in ten more minutes. I am sure the original has a more flushed out story? The designs for the Magnos robot, Magnon and Magneta (two supporting robots piloted by our heroes) are not very aesthetically pleasing either. Compared to period alternatives like Getter Robo, Combattler V, or Voltus V, Magnos, or Gakeen just did not do it for me. And then the invading aliens, very bizarre like left over sea creatures morphed into humanoid form with garishly complimentary color schemes. I often think of Go Nagai villians as being on the bizarre end of the spectrum, but they have some class and style about them. These opinions are mine of course, but all these factors really made it hard to watch.

Magnos_3“Now it’s up to you!” to decide on whether this is worth your time. Another production complied by the same folks as Magnos, Super Grand Prix, was more pleasing to my taste palette, but it may not be the same for all of you. Yet there is a rule of thumb I always go by… better to watch ‘bad’ anime than an average live action production. Even if it is so ‘bad’ I can’t help but take in these little ones as well. All classic anime deserves a home and a chance. I only pray that the original Magne Robo Gakeen, when it does come my way, can fill in the necessary gaps that are missing in Magnos, because I do love the launch and transformation sequences too much to throw off the whole production for an awkward re-edit.

#177 : Dancougar: Requiem for the Victims

Hold on! Thirty eight episodes and this story I have been watching for some time is not over yet!? … Often times a series has a proper ending, or some kind of closure that can be taken care of in terms of a follow-up movie, or OVA to iron out details that seemed odd or rushed. Yet not for the 1985 mecha series Dancougar. Maybe the show was cancelled, or perhaps there was a need for more creative freedom to allow for the final installment to eventually surface as an episode length OVA? The story is far from over, for we must now tie up all these loose ends from the previous 38 episodes to conclude with Dancougar: Requiem for the Victims.

Dan_Req_1Save the final boss fights for last and make it really good! The television series had a lot of potential and I tried to be fair towards it in my initial review, but seeing a lot of mecha anime, I felt this has a lot of super robot re-hatching that had been in place since the mid 1970s that by 1985 was a little derivative. The look of the show is very spot on for the period, still I personally recommend other mech titles from 1985 in terms of watching priority: Zeta Gundam and SPT Layzner. Still, Dancougar had an attitude that was appealing, nice character designs and a fine robot that would have made a great toy to promote. Now after 38 episodes of story we find the Cyber Beast Force with two remaining obstacles to complete before a proper ending could be declared. Shinobu, Sara (still has awesome hair!), Ryo and Masato have to take down long time arch rival Death Gaia and Emperor Muge himself to rid the Earth of the tyranny of the Zorbados Empire.

Dan_Req_2The choice of ending the show as a single shot OVA is an interesting one. Perhaps the creative freedom I mentioned before was a strong reason for this decision. Not being tied to the restrictions, or standards of content for television allowed a greater amount of creativity. Also the possibility of having a higher budget could yield a more polished product… this is a nice looking production. Yet again, this was the mid 1980s and the OVA market was a new and fresh, as well as lucrative market to release animation to the public. You can watch the initial episode run for free, but for the finale, you’ll have to pay for it. For great mecha action, it’s worth the price.

Dan_Req_3It has been some time since seeing the TV series and watching Requiem for the Victims was a breathe of fresh air that reminded me of what I enjoyed in Dancougar proper beyond any personal issues. Also Requiem for the Victims accomplished what it set out to do, which was finish the Dancougar story in a very dramatic fashion… just who were the real victors in this war? As always in war, both sides lose to a certain degree even if one side declares a triumphant declaration. Ironically though, Requiem for the Victims would would not be the final finish for Dancougar as a franchise; out of endings come new beginnings.

#156 : Godmars

GM_1GOD… MARS! ROKUSHIN GATTAI! I get chills every time I hear that when our hero Takeru Myojin prepares to bring together the six robots that make up the ultra cool Godmars mech. Released in 1981 during the space opera and mecha high times in the anime world, Godmars is a fine mix of the two. It’s far from a perfect mech show, or anime in general. So many anime fall into this pit trap, yet we still attach to them anyway because we found some redeeming qualities that end up resonating with us. Now strap in and get ready for one of my favorite super robot tales from way back when. This is Rokushin Gattai Godmars, often shortened to Godmars.

Godmars holds a special place in my heart in that this was the first super robot show I tackled to completion beyond the ‘Voltron’ universe (be it GoLion, Diarugger, or Voltron itself). The time had come to grow up and move beyond the usual pastures and venture forth into the lands where alternate antiquated robot shows lived. Pictures and articles at first fulfilled speculation, next came the process of tracking down media. Godmars would present itself via a VHS tape of the 1982 compilation movie. Soon the film and the entire TV show became available on the fansub circuit and became the avenue that I digested the missing parts of the Godmars storylines. … Now disc based media exists as well, an eventual purchase on the horizon… maybe?

GM_2Loosely based on an original manga (Mars) by the legendary Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Godmars turned into an epic space drama; a huge departure from it’s more Babel II-like roots. Takeru Myojin, our protagonist, is a 17 year old member of the Cosmo Crasher squad, a group dedicated to Earth’s protection during humanity’s age of heavy space exploration. This all takes places in the far off future of 1999, which for 1981 made sense, but nowadays seems a little… dated? It is 2019 when I am writing this entry and where is all the cool space travel and super hi-end technology? Back to what 1999 could have been… it seems that the Earth has encountered a race of aliens, hostile of course… why not friendly ones? An emperor named Zul, along with his Gishin empire, are determined to conquest the universe and Earth is the next stop.

GM_3It turns out Takeru is not an Earthling and is in fact originally from Gishin. He was found as a baby by his adopted father and raised on Earth… hmm… sounds like Superman. Takeru learns his true identity is Mars and that he also has ESP abilities. So he is an esper?… yet another late 70s/early 80s trope. That and he soon learns he has a guardian robot which he can pilot as well, Gaia. OK then, I wonder if he has any surviving family on Gishin? Turns out he has a twin brother, Marg. Wow, talk about a lot of elements for a run of the mill mecha series! Plus let’s not forget the big bot of Godmars as well. Takeru while piloting Gaia combines with five other robots to create this nicely designed piece of engineering. The only thing that is missing here is a romantic element… and Godmars has that as well, via the conflicted character of Rosee (pronounced Ro-zay). Lots and lots of ingredients in this stew of a series… and this is only the first of three story arcs.

GM_4It is Takeru Myojin for me that makes Godmars special. He is not the usual mecha/shonen archetypal character. Neither the funny goof ball, nor the hotshot masculine tough guy, or even the bratty complainer, Takeru is at the other end of the spectrum being more sensitive and gentle. A nice change of pace and a great way to show masculinity can have a tender side. On the other side of the fence, my only real issue with the show was that the romantic elements and sparks between Takeru and Rosee are never really flushed out. and even though this is a shonen action show, I really wanted to see at least one kiss between these two… just one! Not the end of the world, but I am a sucker for anime couples… maybe there is some fan fiction somewhere?

While it was not a gateway drug, Godmars became for me a crucial next step into my journeys into classic mecha anime. The heavy melodrama and space opera were key elements I needed at that time of my fandom as this was just the answer to my many questions needing a solution. The only thing is that from one would come many more series to watch, yet I never forgot what Godmars showed me in the beginning and I still enjoy a watch from time to time.

#65 : Beast King GoLion

GL_1“Hey mom! When I grow up I want to pilot a robot lion and save the universe from all the bad guys. And then I would have four other teammates who also pilot lions and guess what? All five of us would form this gigantic behemoth of a robot. And… and from the hands, which are lion mouths by the way, a sword would be formed that could be our fail safe final weapon to save the day.  Wouldn’t that be totally awesome mom?”… “Yes dear, but don’t forget to eat your green beans.”… “Yeah… ok. I wonder if the five pilots from Beast King GoLion had to eat their green beans too?”

FGL_2rom days of long ago… about 1984. From unchartered regions of the universe… my childhood basement. Bore a future otaku… THAT’S ME! We can all point to our genesis point, our first experience, or to be blunt… the anime we lost our so called otaku virginity to. Beast King GoLion was my first lover so to speak under the guise that many of my age will remember with nostalgia as Voltron: Defender of the Universe. I was five… so young, innocent and impressionable. And what I got was fantasy, sci-fi, fairy tales and giant robots. What a combination, plus, character designs and drawings that looked a little different and set a standard to me as to what a cartoon should be. And when it came to sci-fi of the time it was Star Wars vs. Voltron. Voltron and anime won out for me 🙂 And even though the show was edited and censored here in the west, there was enough of an itch, to keep the scratch of curiosity alive in me.

GL_3Now much further ahead in time… when the announcement that the original GoLion series would be released here in the States, I immediately knew I had to see it and purchase these DVDs. This was a no brainer, I mean after all I needed to see what the 1981 original show had to tell. And in many ways I wanted to see what was different in terms of plot, edits and characterization. And while the advertising hyped up that the original Japanese version as more violent, I found that to be very limiting in scope. That kind of target marketing is what keeps the kind of mindset of entertainment in a very immature state. But needless to say, if I did witness these more intense scenes as a youth who knows the damage that it could have done. But, then again, I also witnessed the death of Optimus Prime in the original Transformers: The Movie, Watership Down and Toei’s 1975 adaptation of The Little Mermaid and became in the end, a fairly functional and healthy individual.

GL_4So is GoLion better than Voltron? Not so much better (as what defines better?), just more concise. And much like Voltron’s other sister series, Diarugger XV, GoLion flows better as a series as plot points make so much more sense. And yes, people die sometimes and don’t go to the hospital planet. Still this is a basic story of five guys from Earth getting kidnapped and then escaping from the evil Galra Empire to crash onto planet Altea where they meet a really pretty princess, her ward and a group of space mice that hold guard to the great robot champion GoLion. And it turns out that GoLion needs five pilots to operate, what a coincidence! After all GoLion is kind of like a play on the word go, which in English is to move and in Japanese is the number five. Reminds me of Mach Go Go Go, you know Speed Racer. Eventually one of our heroes succumbs to the Galra empire and our lovely princess takes up the charge and joins the team. It’s a brilliant fairy tale adventure told through a sci-fi mecha lens.

For my generation GoLion became a right of passage, but the one issue I have with the show is the fact that it becomes a standard to draw towards. In other words… a brand. GoLion/Voltron is great and if it is one of your favorite mecha shows all the power to you, but just remember there are other shows that are just as great, maybe even better, that are available if you open up to them. Still if it wasn’t for GoLion, Voltron and the fall of 1984 in kindergarten class, this blog would never exist. Classic Toei animation at it’s best… Go Go GoLion.

 

 

#35 : Dancougar

dan_1I often wonder how I would have felt about Dancougar if I had acquainted myself with this series much earlier? But alas I did not watch this show until 2014/2015 and by that time I had seen a multitude of mecha shows. All of those left certain expectations, tropes and to be honest a little favoritism to certain production. The designs and attitude of Dancougar scream 1980s to a tee that it has very few rivals, particularly Sara Yuki’s hair. WORK IT GIRL! But… but, I don’t know. Something seemed a little wrong when I finished. Almost like an awkward date that from the surface looked like a good combination, but in the end left me going… that’s it?

dan_2Now I don’t hate this show, it had a lot of potential. And that potential was never used to full effect. Kind of like watching a lot of cartoons from youth that did not have an overall plot and left so much left to speculation when the series was over. I mean you had a guy who backstabbed the Earth to join the invading alien force, Shapiro, and the same time left his girlfriend, Sara, who ends up becoming a his enemy. And by the way those aliens are some ugly motherf$%^*&s. You also had a pretty good hot headed lead guy in Shinobu. The Dancougar robot is a solid piece of machinery and we didn’t get to see it fully formed until a ways into the series. I give big props for this decision, because at least that was different. How many mecha shows can you name off hand that need to have the uniting all the pieces together sequence to sell a couple more toys to the kids from the very beginning? Too many…

dan_3In the end most of the plot structure is resolved, but that meant most of the episode count in between the start and end was perhaps… filler? My high point was watching Sara smack Shapiro for leaving her and the Earth behind. I wanted to see some more of this because that backstabber deserved a couple more. And the tension between Ms. Sara and Shinobu, come on, show me some more romantic sparks. So much lost potential. Now for as for the music, oh I love you many times over Dancougar. In particular the first opening Ai Faraway (Faraway Love) and the first closing, Burning Love are top 40 potential in every right. How can you have such great bookends to fill it with just a lot of… filler? Again lost potential.

dan_4It was 1985 after all and in a way mecha was having it’s initial swansong. Zeta Gundam, which came out the same year, capped off the era with a bang and with the incoming season of Shonen Jump fare like Dragon Ball and Saint Seiya, time was running out for big bot adventures in space. At least for the old school classic fare in my regard; I guess you can’t continue an idea into infinity. But, here is the real mystery. How did the entirety of this show get released here in the U.S. in the VHS era? Don’t get me wrong I would love to own it (VHS addiction), but how did this happen? To Software Sculptors and Central Park Media, I give you a gold star for being so bold, but I think they got it in with a licensing deal for other Ashi Production shows. But, don’t quote me on that.

To be fair I think Dancougar will deserve a re-watch eventually as maybe I am wrong, but I have seen others who have had similar results, so I am not too crazy? Maybe. But, don’t quote me on that. If anything I will just want to admire Sara’s hair once again…

#17 : Armored Fleet Diarugger XV

There are times in one’s life that things just seem to come full circle. There are moments where you feel you have heard, or experienced part of the story and you have to know more, or know it all. One must experience the full totality of a tale when one is ready to understand it… or in this case, when an anime gets released on DVD. I have had a few of these moments in regards to adapted shows of my youth and this is one of them. Let’s look at Armored Fleet Diarugger XV.

dairugger_1Voltron was a cornerstone of my youth and to my early experiences with animation from Japan. Voltron was hugely popular and had it’s fifteen minutes of exposure during the mid 1980s. I was along for the ride as I was at the right age bracket to get swept up. We all loved the five heroes in the robot lions battling it out against the likes of the bad guys of Planet Doom (I wonder if anyone is nice from there?). But, Voltron was originally setup to be a trilogy, showcasing three unique super robot shows from Toei. In reality we ended up with the adaptation of Beast King GoLion, an original follow up to GoLion and the odd step child, the adaptation of Armored Fleet Diarugger XV.

dairugger_2I have always liked the Vehicle series, Diarugger’s western treatment, and by no means am I saying it is better than the Lions, it was just… different. Something about it spoke to me. A harder edged space opera, mixed with a little political intrique. No matter what the adaptation tried to either cover up or present, I had a feeling that something more was going on in the background. And by the time I came across the officially released DVDs (a little advice: GET a release when it feels like the time right to avoid the over priced markup when they go out of print) that we had here in the U.S. I had a mission and it was simple. That mission was to see what actually this show was really telling. And after the first couple episodes, I knew my hunch was correct.

Dairugger_3.jpgGone is the knowledge that the crew of the Rugger Guard knew of the Galveston (Drule) Empire ahead of time. Gone is the fact that every episode seemed to be on a different planet when often it looked like they were at a location for a couple episodes. Gone are the existence of the ‘hospital planet’ or ‘escape pods’. (because after all no body really dies, right?) And yes ‘Chip’ is really not ‘Pidge’s’ brother (different show and timeline). What we do have is a 52 episode journey that slowly unfolds, builds and grows where the emphasis from my eye, is more on the overarching story than individual characters. And yes, there are many characters (I will discuss this in the next paragraph). It’s kind of like the original Star Trek updated to the 1980s with a heavier plotline and a big robot added for good measure (got to sell those toys after all, and what a toy it was). My personal favorite is episode 13 The Enemy Within the Mind, an episode with a lot of suspense and where no laser blast, sword swing or punch is thrown. Different? I though so.

I know some people give flack to the show for having the fifteen manned mech. “It’s too many characters… ” Or is it? Macross and the Gundams have larger casts. Or how about Legend of Galactic Heroes? Now there is large cast. So the team that forms the big bot is fifteen strong, who cares. True we don’t get to know all of them intimately, but still it works. After all the it breaks the mold of the usual one, two, three or five manned teams. I give kudos for being different. The origin for fifteen lays in the name Diarugger, the rugger part. A rugby team comprises of suprise, fifteen people. And later in the show we see an actual game of rugby. How about them apples?

dairugger_4So the circle has now been complete and the smile on my face is large indeed. Diarugger is without question a dark horse entry into the ginormous field of mecha shows made during it’s era. The ending is one of the most satisfying endings I have ever seen as I felt true closure unlike the tie a bow on it Voltron version (I still love you Voltron, but seriously I need a solid ending). A true diamond in the rough that has always been under our noses since the days of innocent childhood. To badly quote a John Lennon lyric… “All I am saying, is give Diarugger a chance.”