Thursday 20 January 2011

Anime REVIEW: The King of Braves GaoGaiGar

The last of Sunrise’s Yuusha (or Brave) metaseries (funded by toy company Takara who moved onto Brave once Transformers had become non-profitable), GaoGaiGar is the story of a young alien boy named Mamoru – brought down to Earth by a mysterious mechanical lion. When Mamoru is eight years old, the invasion of an alien species known as the Zonderians begins. Using Zonder metal to turn humanity into machine creatures known as Zonders, the Zondarians lay waste to Japan. But the world is defended by GGG (Gutsy Geoid Guard) and Guy Shishiƍ – a cyborg with the ability to combine with the very same lion that brought Mamoru to Earth (named Galeon) into the mecha warrior GaiGar. Using further GaoMachines – DrillGao, GaoLiner and Stealth Gao, GaiGar can perform final fusion to become the super robot and King of Braves GaoGaiGar! As it is soon revealed that only Mamoru can purify Zonder cores back into their human state, Mamoru joins GGG in secret and slowly comes to terms not only with his new found powers – but his reason for coming to Earth and his place as the legacy of Cain.

Of course the title mech isn’t the only robot in the series – there’s a whole bunch of GGG robots defending the planet. These include the rescue vehicles HoRyu and Enryu – two brothers able to combine symmetrically into the warrior ChoRyuJin, intelligence and stealth officer Volfogg – a police car ninja who can also combine into a larger form, Mic Sounders the 13th – an American built robot who holds a lot more than his initial ‘comic relief’ persona suggests and later FuRyu and RaiRyu – the rescue brothers’ Chinese built brothers with the ability to combine into GekiRyuJin. So as you can see there’s not only human-piloted robots on offer in GaoGaiGar – and fans of Western series such as Transformers will feel right at home here. In fact, the style of many would go on to be emulated in later Transformers series.

One thing that does need saying about GaoGaiGar is that it is a series you have to stick with to enjoy. The first story arc is comprised of almost entirely one-shot monster of the week episodes with thin strands of a continuing story-arc compiling. While these kind of episodes are expected from a robot series such as this, the sheer amount of them in succession can seem a bit much at times. But get towards the end of the arc and beyond and you really have a treat in store – the series becomes a lot more continuous, with most episodes ending on a cliffhanger and plot development and action piling on non-stop. Once this series gets truly going, you won’t want to put it down.

Speaking of action – GaoGaiGar has it in spades. Even the monster of the week episodes contain some spectacular fight sequences and has everything a hot-blooded mecha action series requires. Combining? Check. Lots of shouting and over the top attack names? Check. Great robot designs? Check. Oh, and perhaps the greatest weapon of all robot/mecha series – the Goldion hammer.

And if you think things can’t get any more ridiculous and hot blooded after that – think again, because the 8 episode sequel OVA GaoGaiGar FINAL takes what the series did and ups it yet again. It does however suffer from the inclusion of uninteresting new protagonists – who for the most part add little to the story and seem to just take away screen time from the rest of the GGG team. The new villains – the 11 soul masters, also suffer from a severe case of “godhax”, remaining nigh unbeatable (even unhurt) until the very last few minutes of FINAL. Nevertheless, in return this gives the battles to stand out even more than they did in the series, with every robot getting an excellent fight sequence in FINAL’s climax. GaoGaiGar’s ending is truly one that will make you weep manly tears and will stay with me for a long time – even Gurren Lagann could learn from this level of epic-ness.

While not perfect, GaoGaiGar is a rollercoaster of a ride that has everything anyone could ever want from a mecha/super robot series. It is essential viewing for every robot fan and highly recommendable to those who merely dabble or are looking to get into the genre. If you don’t come out of the series singing the theme tune loudly or shouting some of the more over the top phrases you can find in it – then you didn’t watch it properly.


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