(#MechaMarch2023) Mighty Orbots

Localization? More Like Collaboration! 

So this is an interesting one to talk about. I did a lot of research on this topic during my small amount of free time at work and Orbots is just so fascinating. Did you know that a lot of western cartoon works from the 1980’s (though possibly early) had a lot of animation from Japan? Inspector Gadget, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and so on right? From 1984, Mighty Orbots is possibly the first collaboration of a cartoon between a Japanese and American studio. Broadcasted to air in 1984, TMS under the direction of Osamu Dezaki (Yes, that one) and MGM worked together to create this series for the western piece of animation.

If you didn’t hear about this before, this was years before something like Big O season 2 came out that was funded more by Cartoon Network to be seen on the Western Market instead of Japan. This came out less than two decades before that happened on Toonami and it was only 13 episodes in length due to a legal battle. Tonka sewed this project into oblivion for sounding too similar to “GoBot’s”. Which is sad because this is a fun show and who knows what would have happened if the Mighty Orbots were successful. Another scenario to think about.

Mighty Orbots’ Story Concept

Mighty Orbots is an episodic cartoon/anime series? I’m not sure which side counts here because it was produced by a Japanese company under a Japanese director, but produced for a western audience. Regardless of that, this show takes place in the 23rd century. Lord Umbra, the leader of an organization called Shadow, wants to destroy the Earth. The only force that can protect them, under the galactic alliance, are the Mighty Orbots team. A team made out of six robots and Rob, their Robot commander. Pretty classic sort of episodic storytelling for only 13 episodes.

I really love that though. Especially at this length, it’s such a fun ride without becoming too much of a slog. Well, I say a slog but there is a sense of momentum as Umbra’s schemes become larger in stakes. Why is Shadow and Umbra after the destruction of the Earth? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Tor, Bort, Bow, Boo, and Crunch form to join the Mighty Orbots together with Ohno and Rob (Mighty Orbots Commander) in their space car, control the Mighty Orbots from the inside like a normal mecha show. It’s a great time with so many little bits of environments in space or in other places.

About The Mighty Orbots (With God Mars)

The reason why I checked out God Mars is solely for the purpose of trying to get more background of Mighty Orbots. I mean, Mighty Orbots’ design is basically God Mars with a different color swap. The plots of the two shows, on a macro level, are ridiculously similar because it’s about fighting one giant voice or entity in space trying to destroy Earth. The approaches of these two shows  couldn’t even be more different from each other. From that sort of description did I have to watch a 65 episode God Mars to watch a 13 episode Mighty Orbots after it? No, but I got two good shows out of it so I am not complaining. 

But yeah, the Mighty Orbots themselves are sorts of cliche characters in ways that kind of works in interesting ways. Tor, for instance, is the strong muscular guy and that is who you would expect him to be. Same with Crunch, the fat robot that eats a lot. Or Ohno, the little robot girl that says Ohno a lot. Then there is Bo that has elemental powers, Boo who has psychic powers, and Bort who can transform into anything. All led by the commander who is a geeky scientist when he doesn’t become his bad ass transformation. It feels like a pretty basic sort of 80’s cartoon series that has a good plot and idea, but it can push things a bit more if it wanted.

For instance, this isn’t a show that just has the robots turn into and/or form Mighty Orbots all the time. There is a lot of down time, well minutes I should say, of down time, per episode that allows the characters to interact a little more and become a lot more well rounded. Bo, for instance, likes to pull pranks on characters that cause trouble in each episode. Ohno is that bossy little girl that gets everyone to clean or take care of themselves a little better. Or we could talk about Rob’s crush on Dia, a badass top agent who would make anyone have a crush on her. This show uses its cast very well to get a better experience out of it and that’s great.

Dezaki All Over It

It’s time to touch on this one, because I am amazed by how the thirteen episodes in this show made it to western broadcast at all. This feels a little strange for early 80’s american audiences to get into because this is basically Space Adventure Cobra light. There is something so strange and experimental about how it executed each scene or location that just made it feel that way. Plus, a lot of the character designs are toned down characters from Space Adventure Cobra, just not as sexualized then added with a bit of  crazy elements onto it as well. Visually, this show was wild and kind of tranquil for them too. 

But Dezaki’s energy and direction is what made the show stand out so much. The show was a pleasure to watch because you never knew where the show would go, and the unique visual direction really makes it such a feast for the eyes. Especially when the show has such fluid animation for Dezaki to play with. A lot of western shows didn’t even have that back in the 80’s, so in that way it really stood out. The stock footage of the Mighty Orbot forming together for instance? Beautiful just like all over super robot combinations. Only this time, there was so much flow and energy to them that most anime don’t have. As in, the angles change in interesting ways that make it so transcendent from other appearances. 

There Should Have Been More Orbots

I wish that there were more Orbots for me to enjoy. 13 episodes is enough and technically there is a conclusion because Umbra gets defeated. At the same time though, the show didn’t act like it was a finale in a tone sort of way. It felt like the ending of a first cour while the second cour would have the true finale. It would have been interesting to live in the world where Mighty Orbots was allowed to be a success and possibly created a faster collbarational world of anime then we have now. Or maybe that wouldn’t have happened. No one knows  and we only have these 13 episodes to get some sort of glimpse into that world.

So if you can find Mighty Orbots, which should be easy because it’s on YouTube or you can buy the disc from Warner Brothers like me for cheap, then you just have a cool kids show to watch and enjoy. It feels so special and a comfy little show which you will have a blast. Enjoy that early 80’s voice acting with I think Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget playing Umbra? I’m not sure about that completely, but the voice is very, very familiar. It is full of 80’s sorts of styles and characters, but the animation is still really good and fresh. I think it would still attract some sort of audience even now. It’s that good looking. What a fun, western mecha show. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s