For this session of Mecha March, the time with Tomino anime is about to stop before transitioning to works of great people from one way or another. This is Zambot 3, a Tomino directed anime from 1977 from Studio Sunrise. A show that feels like the first major transitional step from standard super robot shows to forming the larger basis of the real robot genre that appears in Mobile Suit Gundam. The quick changes from Voltes V to Zambot 3 are the change to a mecha running out of ammo and the realistic effects of giant robot fights in the city from collateral damage. Human drama has always been a part of the mecha genre, it’s the mechanical changes which make it more “real”.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, there was a planet named Beal which was decimated by the Gaizok. Three small families of survivors from that disaster (the Jin, Kamie, and Kamikita families) make their way to Earth in an attempt to survive and live freely. Collectively, they form the Jin family. A family that knew that one day the Gaizok will return. Of course, that is how the story starts. The Gaizok attack Earth just to destroy it. The remainder of the Jin family just being there was a special surprise for them because they formed a basis of a resistance against this huge occupying force that no one would be able to stop otherwise.
In general, the story starts with a young boy at 12 named Kappei riding a motorcycle that is too big for him against Kozuki and his gang. Something that easily symbolizes his personality very easily. An overconfident jerk who constantly takes on things that are too large for him without care of anyone around him. Yet, he is the main protagonist and is eventually given the role of the main pilot against the Gaizok and their Mecha Boosts that caused trouble across the Earth. Zambot 3 is his story as he learns to grow up and finally understands what responsibility he has when piloting a robot to save the Earth.
At the length of only twenty three episodes, the rest of the cast is rather simple or not as well focused on. The Zambot 3 is created from three mecha combining together, yet Kappei gets the main pilot slot. Kappei’s cousins Keiko at 14 and Uchuta at 15 do have one singular focus episode, but they are mainly there to fill a role when Kappei finally gets around to fight the Mecha Boosts if he is away. I do think that Kappei’s relationship with Kozuki adds some more grounding to his story and Kappei’s grandfather is the leader of the family and their spaceship the Beal. Both we see multiple layers from. The rest of the family and cast fulfill jobs on ships.
Which is fine considering that the story of Zambot 3 itself is pretty great. There is some obviousness in what the story is about when the antagonist leading the force is named Butcher. He kills human beings in the most horrifying ways like making human bombs or just causing destruction whenver is possible. These are strange alien creatures who in their own time casually are like parodies of American culture. So maybe there is something about WW2 in there for a measure of the trauma Tomino wanted to convey. The threat is so real because the Gaizok always up the stakes in ways that the Jin family has to deal with.
So there is some obvious work of Zambot 3 and the Beal taking on the threat and trauma of what the Gaizok represent. The Mecha Boots keep getting stronger and stronger so there is a constant blender of this team of people resistance until they fail at it there. It’s pretty obvious to see the old mecha formula with alien invaders and how strong this formula works with something like Evangelion and other later Tomino works. I mean, this is the series where Tomino got the nickname of Kill’ em All. This wonderful story of people growing up despite the tension they must face from the past to create a future of peace and harmony even if people die.
There is a major horror factor to the entire show that could make it so hard to watch. I mean, this is a show about humanity itself being stretched to its limits. That means that when the huge amount of collateral damage of the Zambot 3 vs Mecha Boost fights happen, there is a lot of human blame that goes towards anyone a part of that party involved. A major part of Zambot 3’s story is humanity finding some trust in the Jin family finally after realizing they aren’t the reason the Gaizok are attacking. So there is a lot of strength in people who keep going despite the trauma they face from the people around them which makes Zambot 3 feel so relatable.
From a visual standpoint, Zambot 3 feels very simple yet well executed in how it works. Along with Voltes V, this feels like mechanical design is being figured out so there are a lot of different and strange mechanical beings that the Zambot 3 has to face. Some are birds and others are dinosaurs and others are strange beings beyond the explanation of most human beings but are very fun and creative. The Zambot 3 is a very cool mechanical design that feels very relatable and well put together. The stock footage of it merging together or transforming in general are very relatable. Other aspects of Zambot 3’s attacks and fights are pretty well animated in general.
In 23 episodes, Zambot 3 is a great show that digs deeply into the human psyche and has some very innovative things at that time with Zambot 3 having so many things which the real robot genre is known for now. So, let’s go with a Solid here because that episode count feels so rare for a show from the 1970’s. It is a show that even seeks to answer why young kids are forced to face the trauma of mecha combat even if The story of Kappei as he grows up to understand the world around him and can escape the trauma of what his forefathers came from. For all the times I was horrified, it was thoughtful to see all of these things play out in how they turn out.