Another shout out to Discotek for this blu-ray. They put so much hard work and effort into their releases and since I’ve wanted to watch this one for a while, it’s so great to watch this release in the best quality possible. It’s after Crest/Banner of the Stars situation for me except the release is actually and good? This was a fun one to walk into even before I even start digging further into the series all because of some interesting conversations I’ve had with dad. I talked about the plot itself with dad and he just mentioned how it reminded him of Gigantor. This is the reason why I posted my Tetsujin 28-go review last Friday so you know a little bit about that series. The crazy thing is, he was right in some ways. Gigantor or Tetsujin 28 was a manga by Mitsutera Yokoyama which was created in 1956 and became an anime in 1963. Giant Robo is from the same mangaka a year after the Tetsujin 28 manga ended in 1967. There is going to be a connection between.
That’s not where the story stops or starts with this anime series though. You guys know who Yasuhiro Imagawa is, right? The guy behind G Gundam, the first three episodes of Getter Robo: Armageddon, Shin Mazinger, and many other retro inspired mecha works. Yeah, he was given the task of creating an OVA series for Giant Robo from Yokoyama himself. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to use the side characters from Giant Robo in it which is a weird predicament. Luckily, he was given permission from Yokoyama himself to use some of the characters from his other works to create something new and different. Character’s from Yokoyama’s works like God Mars and his adaptations of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms star in this anime series. It’s not just robot action in Giant Robo, there are all sorts of action in it. I’m just saying, it’s really cool. Seven 45 minutes to an hour long episodes of this is just perfect.
So what is Giant Robo about you may ask. I feel like the YouTube link above this paragraph will do the best sort of job in explaining it to you with the best style ever. The anime’s style. If you don’t have the time to watch that, Giant Robo takes place in a very interesting future where all the world’s energy problems were solved by this magical energy source called the Shizuma Drive. It’s this infinitely recyclable, cheap, safe energy source which can be used in every application possible. To oppose its creation and use, the BF group or Big Fire rebels against the world seeking to show its weaknesses to everyone in the world brutal. To oppose them are the IPO (International Police Organization) and their experts of justice. The one important one being the young boy, Daisuku Kasuma, controls the almighty and titular Giant Robo. That’s the show in a nutshell even if it digs a little more than that with it’s narrative.
It’s a series that gets more and more dire as time goes on, but also a little muddled in its characters and theming too. For example, Big Fire is on top most of the series and one of them whose name is Genyu (as far as we know) uses the Vogler sphere and anti Shizuma field to cause an energy crisis all across the world. There are many well animated battles to stop it and most of them lead to more and more tragedy from characters that we kind of know and completely know until their backstories appear afterward. Not all the things from one episode to another merge that well together plot wise and merge as well as one would think. Also, I feel like Giant Robo was going to say something about energy and nuclear power in the beginning with the reveal that Giant Robo is nuclear power, but that plot element was mostly dropped by the end. Still, it has a coherent enough plot for awesome fights of all kinds and great character growth. Yes, the story has some flaws here and there, but it’s well constructed enough to get you more then mentally involved in the story going on itself.
With all the names of the groups like “Big Fire” and “Experts of Justice”, a kid controlling a robot, all sorts of action elements put into it, and so on this might sound like the ultimate kid friendly type of series. That’s a strong reason for it except there is a strong element of despair and a lot of people dying which adds and takes away some layers to it. For instance, the entire series is built around a huge, traumatic background event which everyone except Daisaku remembers and is traumatized for. The Disaster of Bashtarle is a huge thing that happened ten years ago where the entire nation of Bashtarle was destroyed from the Shizuma drive’s activation. Something that Big Fire and it’s characters use as their excuse to attack the world because of how people have uncovered it. It was long though that Von Vogler was the scientist behind the insanity and that is what drives things further.
It’s also the guiding light to the IPO and the experts of justice for the reasons why they fight. There is also that guidance and protection towards our teenage protagonist that guides Daisuku as well. For example, Genrei is our action girl in the experts of Justice and she doesn’t think that her father Von Vogler was in the wrong or evil at all. People in the IPO don’t trust her because of this because her brother Genya is apart of Big Fire and is causing atrocities in their father’s name world wide. I really do like this sort of dynamic because it’s similar to Daisuke’s but different. Also, it makes Genrei more than the hot action girl and gives her some great depth. That sort of feeling also feeds into the ending which I really did like a lot because it gave Genya some depth. What is that ending? Not telling. Just know that I think it ties the show’s ending together pretty well in a satisfying way. That’s my take though, not everyone will agree with that.
There is also plenty of things around Daisaku that I like too. I know there are plenty of people who complain about how too many characters die for Daisaku’s sake, but I honestly feel a reason for that. A lot of this show’s messages are fathers and current father figures passing down messages to their kids even if they aren’t alive anymore. That’s what Daisaku represents to these Experts of Justice in the IPO. Daisaku is a kid holding power stronger than a lot of the people in that group with Giant Robo. He’s the key to victory and each one of them wants to make sure that Daisaku lives and carry on forward without any regrets and only good messages and thought patterns. I mean come on, Daisaku is a mostly normal kid who happens to have Giant Robo under his control. He doesn’t have the tragedy Bashtarle leading his actions, but he did lose his dad at a young age so he has some emotional baggage too. That and thinking that the Shizuma system is perfect and then learning to accept it flaws and all was great stuff for this kid. I honestly have no faults with him. He gets so much cooler as time goes on.
With all of that talk comes all the visual talk about this show. I’m just going to say this right now, I think Giant Robo is the most beautiful piece of 90’s animation that exists. I say this from the point of view of a decent knowledgeable stance because I haven’t watched every single 90’s show, but I’ve watched enough of them to where I can confidently say this. Each episode came out six months after the last one at the earliest with the last episode coming out two and half years after the sixth one. Every single moment of that time felt like it was spent well. I know I’ve seen this already, but I love seeing all the retro character designs animated so well from an action and characterization stand point because it’s just so good. People in business suits fighting with shonen powers is one of my new favorite aesthetics, though I love all the The Romance of the Three Kingdom characters too. Every character design from the difference series were designed well enough to where they belong together with each other. The visual mastery is out standing here. Yasuhiro Imagawa made this while working on G Gundam. What a brilliant, mad man.
That of course leads to mechanical design. Man this show is just Chef’s kiss in this department. I don’t just mean all the retro mecha designs including Giant Robo that fought against other retro mecha designs in awesome battles. Though, all of those are gorgeous and have such fantastic weight to them as they move around it’s just so good. No complaints there. There is so much time using the mechanical design to tell the story of the world too. Not just in terms of building construction and all the mechanical things used for Giant Robo to repair and recharge it, but everything. Cars, trucks, giant spheres that fly through the air, everything. Like all the effort put in the Shizuma drive and making ot look like it would function. It goes everywhere, looks functional in practice, and you can see the Shizuma drives popping out of every device when the Vogler sphere appears and deploys its field that makes all of these devices useless. I just have no complaints here and the blu-ray from discotek makes everything pop out so very well. Just chef’s kiss here. Love it.
I’ve thought about how to rank this show in my mind for a while and I’m going with a good instead of a solid. Though, it is very close to being a solid here. I really liked all the character things, the visual elements of every single part of this anime are great, the action is great and comes in a wide variety of flavors, and the story is definitely strong. With all those strengths I mention come all sorts weaknesses for Giant Robo that come from the intermixing of so many elements and series into one ova like this. The plot has so many things going on sometimes that not everything could be as well explored as it could or the plot elements just don’t line up as well as they could. Giant Robo’s narrative is a lot more broad strokes then some guy examining everything under a microscope and that’s fine here. Still, I greatly enjoyed watching this OVA flaws and all. Giant Robo is a giant thumbs up from me. Highly recommended.
I’m not the only person dedicating a lot of blog time working on Mecha March posts. Please give Lita’s blog a look too because she’s putting out some great content.