Monday 21 February 2011

Anime REVIEW: Dai-Guard

Dai-Guard takes place in the not so distant future. Following an attack by an alien race known as the Heterodynes, a giant robot has been built to protect the city from any future attacks. But after many years of peace, the robot is never used for combat and becomes more of a symbol - and is used by the public relations sector of the 21st Century Defence Corp. As the Heterodynes resurface, 3 office workers must take on the roles of Dai-Guard's pilots and defend the city. As their exploits become more and more famous, struggles between the 21st Century Defence Corp and the Military emerge concerning who Dai-Guard belongs to.

Put simply - think Neon Genesis Evangelion with less kids, less psychobabble and a much more realistic setting. The Heterodynes are extremely similar to Evangelion's angels in terms of design. But that's where the similarities end. Dai-Guard's pilots don't suddenly become adept in piloting the machine like many mecha pilots do, and so for a good third of the series Dai-Guard spends far more time on the floor or broken than fighting. It doesn't even make a grand entrance - initially the titular robot is literally put together. Not only that, but there is much more real physics applied to the series. For example - Dai-Guard gets given a drill attachment arm, but due to the torque the drill produces it is extremely difficult to use. Little things like these nicely root Dai-Guard in a realistic setting, and really help it to stand out from similar series.

So with a mecha that's hardly all-powerful, it's up to the characters to keep the viewers watching. Main character and pilot Shunsuke Akagi is a happy-go-lucky salary man who gets to live his dreams of piloting a giant robot and fighting for justice. His overenthusiastic and headstrong nature is the perfect foil to slightly more series pilots Ibuki Momoi and Keiichiro Aoyama (both of which have their own problems to deal with as the story goes on), and he has a tendency to think out of the box for a lot of Dai-Guard's earlier battles (his recreation of Mazinger-Z's famous 'Rocket Punch' has to be seen to be believed). While the rest of Public Relations Division 2 are equally as colourful, the rest of the cast can seem a little on the stereotypical side - Shirou Shirota is Dai-Guard's tactical advisor, a man who is initially very strict with regulations but eventually warms up to the teams way of thinking. Another example is Rika Domeki, a 17 year old genius who is the head of the company's technology division.

From just reading a synopsis Dai-Guard has the potential to be a great series. While the premise may seem extremely promising, it doesn't stop a lot of the series from being horribly dull. Shirota's character progression is just seemingly repeated with Toru Saeki (Shirota's former subordinate) when he is introduced, and as Dai-Guard's pilots become more adept at handling the robot, fights become a lot more generic and a lot less interesting. Dai-Guard's ending is a difficult thing to judge - its fairly anticlimactic, but at the same time perhaps the perfect ending for the series and something perhaps only it could pull off.

All in all, Dai-Guard is an average series at best. But a unique spin on the mecha-genre and a colourful cast of characters make it a refreshing series among the hoard of giant robot animes. And most importantly, the series taught me that even a salary man can pilot a giant robot to defend the peace. If that doesn't instil you with hope, I don't know what will.

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