Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Anime REVIEW: New Getter Robo


Getter Robo is a franchise I've been meaning to look into for a long time. As a fan of both super robot animes and other Go Nagai works (particularly the Mazinger franchise), it's something that would probably tick all the right boxes with me. Since I wasn't particularly in the mood to start with a 51 episode series from the 1970s (although I might revisit this later), I decided to start with something a bit more modern. 2004's New Getter Robo is an alternate retelling of the Getter Robo story, and was an OVA series that ran for 13 episodes.

Taken from anime-planet;
Humanity is under attack by the Oni - fierce demons of unknown origin - that can only be defeated by Dr. Saotome's Getter Ray-powered robots. However, these robots are only a stopgap, buying time for the next generation of Getter-powered robot: Getter Robo. Able to change shape into three combinations to suit the current task, and vastly more powerful than its predecessors, Getter Robo requires three pilots to fully utilize it. Dr. Saotome selects three interesting individuals for the task: Ryoma Nagare, a headstrong martial artist; Hayato Jin, a power hungry terrorist; and Benkei Musashibou, a bear of a man who has turned to the way of Buddha. Together, these oddly-matched teammates must find out where the Oni come from and stop the threat that they pose.

Unfortunately the story is by far the weakest aspect of New Getter Robo. It often seems to be going in an interesting direction, but I can't help feel that perhaps the writers attempted too much into a 13-episode show. There is a hell of a lot going on (including ancient demons and time travel in the past and future among the typical super robot science fiction and over the top action) without very little explanation behind it. Villains change hands with very little build up it, and in reality the villains are about as thinly developed as they come. Initially I really liked the three main protagonists - who were about as stereotypically manly as anime males can get, but as time went on I even began to lose interest in them. Ryoma, as the main character of the show, receives the most development, but eventually lulls into the stereotype of the crazed anime hero. Its a somewhat important story point, but at the same time makes him feel a little one dimensional until the series comes to its (rather interesting) conclusion. Hayato is introduced as a complete psychopath, killing pretty much everyone and everything in his path, but then without any real explanation goes through a complete character change, becoming probably the most reasonable (and sanest) member of the trio. And Benkei, well, other than some light comic relief moments he was never that interesting in the first place.

What this anime clearly wants to do is be loud and obnoxious - and it does this in spades. The violence is completely over the top (with multiple blood drenched decapitations and even monsters getting their spines ripped out), the fights are long and numerous, and the screams of "GETTER BEAM" and "GETTER TOMAHAWK" are loud. Action-wise, its the heart and soul of the super robot genre and a style that Go Nagai has not only nailed, but also help create.

As a huge fan of Go Nagai's character/mecha designs and art style, visually the show was a treat to watch. Getter Robo, much like Mazinger Z, has a very important place in super robot/mecha history - it was the first anime robot to be made up of multiple components and combine. What's interesting about Getter Robo is that its made up of three different ships (the Eagle, Jaguar and Bear) and that they can combine in different ways to create three different Getter Robos. Getter-1, the most iconic of the three, is certainly the show's main highlight. Go Nagai's retro styled, simplistic robot designs really come to life with modern animation technology and Getter-1 is sure that everyone's eyes is fixed on it when it appears. Getter-2 and 3 are much less memorable designs, but I do like how different they are from Getter-1 - which is even more impressive when you consider that they're made from identical components. Getter-2 is far skinnier and has a giant drill for an arm (which is always a plus if you know me) and Getter-3 is squat with tank treads for legs/feet. Each Getter unit is designed for a different style of combat and that is reflected in their attacks. The other robot designs and monsters featured in the show are nothing particularly special, but this helps the Getter stand out much more - so whether this was intentional on the staff's part, it does work quite well.

With a soundtrack from veteran super robot musicians JAM Project - music is one of the areas New Getter Robo does manage to succeed in. However, the show's opening theme (entitled 'Dragon') can only be played over a fight sequence so many times before it begins to lose its impact. And since it's played over pretty much every major fight in the series (so atleast once an episode) by the time you've reached the show's big climax all power and effect the music is supposed to have is long gone.

By no means is New Getter Robo a bad series, I just feel it was capable of a whole lot more. They may have had more episodes to work with, but shows like Gurren Lagann and Mazinger Z's 2009 reboot/retelling showed that super robot shows can be about more than just flashy over the top fight sequences and screaming attack names as loud as you can - both this shows contained damn good storylines and some excellent character development too. What Getter Robo lacks in plot and characters it makes up for in over the top violence, gore and robot vs monster action. If this is all you're looking for in a series, then I can't recommend it enough - but I couldn't help feeling somewhat disappointed by it. This will by no means be my last foray into the world of Getter Robo, but I can't say its off to an excellent start. New Getter Robo is certainly a very accessible start for people looking to get into the franchise, but I can't help feel that there are probably much better options out there.

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