It is another solo year for me with as the only participant from the blog in the Secret Santa pool. I have to say when people are just picking for me the choices are far better. When it is both of us we get Gunslinger Girl, Texhnolyze, and Dead Leaves. (The scars from Texhnolyze will never heal. I’m fairly certain we both still wake up in the middle of the night crying because of that show.) When it is just me I get to leisurely pick from several shows that actually seem fun. I will admit while I love reviewing shows with Kate I think I was a little relieved that she bowed out again. Otherwise we might have ended up watching something like Yosuga no Sora or Kaiba. Also it lets me speculate who my Secret Santa is as much as anyone else who participates in the project.
I actually got four choices this year. The first three were Barakamon, Nagi no Asukara, and New Getter Robo. They also gave me the super challenge of the Touch but did mention that it broke the rules of the Secret Santa Project but figured they would throw it out there anyway. I actually picked my show fairly quickly this year.
I had actually watched Barakamon. The problem is I liked the show so much I marathoned it in two days and then forgot to note that on My Anime List. It was utterly my fault for leaving it off the list. But it was clearly a good choice considering my reaction to the show.
I watched the first episode of Nagi no Asukara but had mixed feeling on it as P.A. Works has a very distinct formula it uses on some (but not all) of its anime that can be very hit or miss. It was something I considered but figured it could be my backup show if I needed one.
I passed on Touch for two reasons. The first is that I actually read all of the Touch manga. There was no reason for the person picking shows to look into that but it does mean I actually know the story already. The second is that while I might not be the busiest human being on Earth even I would have a hard time watching 101 episodes in the time allotted. (Also Fate/Hollow Ataraxia does not play itself.) I was slightly curious how the anime differs from the manga but not enough to plunge into a crazy marathon.
I picked New Getter Robo for several reasons. The first is the reason I picked Aquarion Evol last year. We have not had that many mecha reviews on the site so I wanted to correct that to some degree with this pick. The second was the show had a fairly strong reputation so it seemed like something worth talking about just to see how my opinion stacks up with the prevailing attitudes. And the third was just to beef up my knowledge of Go Nagai. For a legendary manga creator I have not experienced a good deal of his signature creations so this seemed like a great chance to expand my anime database.
I’m going to try my best to watch all four shows before the end of the project. I’m a little too lazy to write that up so I will probably do that as a mini podcast. I will definitely review all the shows I watched by the 25th on a podcast. The question is how many of the four will I get to. If I add Touch to the list I will probably just watch the three compliation movies. It is not the full 101 episode experience but it is something I can do in the time I have.
But enough discussion of decision-making processes and internal politics. Lets talk about robots!
I undoubtedly respect Go Nagai more than I actually like him. It would be disingenuous or ignorant to overlook his impact on anime and manga. He single handily created several signature elements of various genres and changed the way people looked at manga in general. Mazinger Z was the first mecha show were the pilot was inside the robot which changed mecha forever. Cutie Honey’s influence on the magical girl shows is still felt today. Harenchi Gakuen was sort of cultural revolution that helped put Shonen Jump on the map. Lets not forget that Getter Robo was the first combining mecha. He even did a manga adaptation of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. (Not to be confused with his Demon Lord Dante series which is a … less faithful adaptation of the classic poem.) If you are serious about studying anime and manga he is a name you should be familiar with.
But when push comes to shove I can’t say I really love anything that is a direct adaptation of his work. If there is a filter of another creator his work tends to be far more palatable then just straight Go Nagai. I really enjoyed Shin Mazinger Z Impact and Re: Cutie Honey but both of those series had directors that distinctly made the production their own. Yasuhiro Imagawa and Hideaki Anno are directors that cast a long shadow on whatever they create. When I get pure Go Nagai shows like Violence Jack and Kekko Kamen I just find I can’t get as into those shows or find them mostly uncomfortable. Mazinkaizer SKL is a great example of a show that is right in the middle. It is just off formula enough that I would give it a positive review but just Go Nagai enough that I can’t love it like lots of people I know.
Then I learned THE TRUTH. I did not know that Getter Robo is mostly a Ken Ishikawa joint with some collaboration with Go Nagai. Everything I knew was wrong. It is not like there is no Go Nagai influence on this property. His thumb print is all over this. But I only ever heard Go Nagai’s name attached to this property so it is quite shocking to learn this is majorly the work of his protégé. It would be like thinking that Osamu Tezuka did Cyborg 009 only to learn that it was the work of Shotaro Ishinomori. I am now curious how Getter Robo has essentially become intrinsically linked in people’s minds to Go Nagai while Ken Ishikawa’s name is nowhere as synonymous. But it is worth noting that Getter Robo is very much a Ken Ishikawa work but at the same time the influence and style of his mentor in undeniable.
New Getter Robo is definitely a return to the REAL Go Nagai and Ken Ishikawa. No kindly uncle Professor Satome. Just homicidal Professor Satome who is like one bad day away from being Dr. Hell. No spunky hot-blooded teens piloting robots and more people who are planning what to do when they end up on Japan’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. There are no cute girl daughters who pilot support craft and more embittered scientists who seem like a mixture of Misato and Ritsuko. That is the true Go Nagai and Ken Ishikawa anime.
This is normally where I would give a brief overview of the plot of New Getter Robo. The thing is the plot of New Getter Robo is not all that important. If you told me that New Getter Robo was actually written as an exquisite corpse project I would not be shocked in the least. The series starts off with the extremely questionable Professor Saotome gathering a team of three sociopaths to pilot the experimental Getter Robo to fight oni monsters. The three individual mecha of Getter Robo use the power of Getter Rays to combine into an even more powerful robot to fight monsters. Eventually the Getter Team has to go back in time to fight the historical Seimei Abe in steampunk Japan. After that they get back and fight some gods who theoretically tie everything together. I guess.
Overall it feels like each episode was written but a different person who only got to read the last ten lines of the previous episode. It is not utterly disjointed. It begins and then it ends. Some things happen in the middle. It is not like Axe Cop that just randomly jumps from plot point to plot point at a whim but it does not seem really beholden to making the plot utterly cohesive as well. It just gets bored with one aspect of the plot and then transitions to the next section with little care for creating a grand story. Once the story is tired of fighting monstrous yokai it switches to fighting steampunk onmyouji. If you are watching solely for the fights then there is just enough plot to make everything work with a bit of duct tape and selective inattention. If you want a strong narrative with an introspective plot then you’re going to have a bad time. Which is funny because the story seems to trying to provide a bit of meta commentary so the slipshod storytelling does seem a bit careless. But maybe that is the point.
The characters are even more straight forward. For the most part. Ryoma Nagare is a Go Nagai protagonist through and through. A rough and tumble anti-hero that mainly fights to save humanity more because it is a battle against a powerful enemy that just happens to even be more wicked than he is. I would not say that Ryoma has no moral compass. It is just that his warrior’s code has a fairly scant amount of restrictions which distinctly lets him be ruled by his id most of the time. He is also a martial arts master because … well because that is just how this type of show rolls.
Hayato Jin is the really odd case. When you first see him he is just a mad dog anarchist terrorists. He kills his own men as easily as he murders anyone who stands in the way of his glorious vision of the future. He cuts a bloody swath of destruction to get to the lab where the Getter Robo is. Even after seeing the danger that oni pose to humanity Hayato still tries to murder everyone the second he gets behind the steering wheel of the Getter Robo. Then they throw him in a straight jacket. In the next episode he is the calm seeker of truth that often acts as a mediator and a strategic planner. He still skulks around the base trying to figure out what is going on but always in a far less bloodthirsty manner. No grand explanation of why he changed. The next episode starts and it is like he became a different character overnight.
On one level it feels like someone just took over writing Hayato and only had a brief outline of what he was like so they came to a radically different conclusion than the original execution. It is more likely that they realized that his initial personality was just too disruptive to the plot and decided to modify him into something more useful to the story.
Benkei Musashibo is probably the nicest member of the Getter Team. When the violent and lecherous fallen monk is the team nice guy I think that says volumes. He is probably the only one of the team who would actively save a person or not smash in their heads for disrespecting him. He also if the only person who seems to make sane decisions when push comes to shove. Everyone else seems to be determined to show the world how quickly they would fail a mental health assessment.
Professor Saotome is pretty much a mad scientist who makes the Getter Robo for no readily explained reason. You almost get the feeling that if it were not for all the monsters that popped out of various hell dimensions to fight the Getter Robo he would probably stitch together a man and woman as his chief lieutenant and then try to take over the world.
Technically there are two women in the series but they are mostly there to be there. Michiru Saotome mainly sulks in the lab and disapproves of everyone and everything. She also does research and experimentation but none of that actually ever affects the plot. She mostly seems to be around because she was in the original manga and because they need someone to make the series something more than a total sausage fest. Raikou Minamoto appears when they go back in time. She seems like an effective female samurai who might actually contribute to the plot and maybe even promote some character grown in Ryoma. Then they kill her off and pretty much never mention her again.
I cannot forget to mention the bloodshed in this OVA. New Getter Robo is not Shigurui: Death Frenzy but there are few things that are. There is a good deal of blood and organs all over the place. Oddly enough there is not that much nudity and no real major sexual situations to speak of. (But they still have this line to make sure you remember its roots.) I know you think I’m lying but clearly this version decide to focus on the blood and guts and not the boobs and awkward squicky stuff. It is crazy but it is true. That does mean that the incidental casualty rate is enormous. Scientist and guards at the lab die like they were stormtroopers wearing redshirts, random civilians in the area could not die quicker if it they were Fist of the North Star farmers, and I’m fairly sure the army that fights alongside the Getter Robo in the steampunk past is wiped out to the last man. It seems the Getter Robo is as good (if not better) at killing its allies as it is at crushing the enemy.
For an OVA I can’t say I was too impressed with the animation of New Getter Robo. It is certainly never bad. They clearly save the budget for the fights when you can see them pour in the love. But anything else goes on you often feel like the animators are children being forced to eat their vegetables so they can get their desert. They will do it but they are not going to be happy about it (and if they can hide some of them in their napkin all the better.)
The Getter Robo has come a long way since its initial design 70s design where is made absolutely no sense how the robots would combine. The updated design has had several manga and anime versions to finally get to the modern Getter Robo. As far as I can tell the Black Getter is the most popular version but this seems to be a worthy entry into the greater Getter Robo history. The monster designs mostly seem on the normal half-creature half-robot school with even the gods and the end generally falling into that paradigm. The one exception is the reborn Seimei Abe. His giant torso now has squid ink black tentacles and is fused inside a winged monsters’ torso which in turn been plugged into a battle ship. The battle ship has turtle legs and a coachmen who whips two half-naked ball gagged female mastheads to steer this monstrous abomination. Really everything else in the OVA is just mundane after that.
If there is nothing else to praise about the series is it does know to make its opening and ending a JAM Project songs. If you have a manly robot show you will never go wrong by getting JAM Project to do your music. When Dragon kicks in during some of the fights it does get you pumped.
The strangest part about the whole series is part of me wonders if this is actually supposed to be a commentary on the whole Getter Robo series in general. It it trying to comment on how violence only leads to more violence in an endless circle of misery? Is it saying that those who rush to larger armaments in the name of peace only bring war to their doorstep instead? Could it be that only those who can throw away their animalistic militarism can ever hope to achieve something beyond an endless cycle of war?
Or I could just be reading far too deeply into what is on the screen.
I can’t say that I regret watching New Getter Robo. I definitely feel it is an important part of my overall mecha education. Without Getter Robo you might have never gotten shows like Voltron, ZZ Gundam, or The King of Braves GaoGaiGar. It also was one of the foundational pieces of the soul of Gurren Lagann to the point where the anime’s writer, Kazuki Nakashima, calls himself a “Getter Person.” At the same time I don’t think I’m really all that hype to go out and see more of the series. Its testosterone fulled machismo is a bit too much for me. I love steaming pile of red meat as much as anyone but I feel like more Getter Robo would bring on whatever the anime version of gout is. To paraphrase a different version of Getter Robo, “This anime series has too much high power man!“