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 at least 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.

What New Getter Robo lacks in depth though it certainly makes up for in over the top violence, gore and robot vs monster action. If this is what you're looking for in a series, then I can't recommend it enough - but I was certainly left wanting more. 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.


Anonymous said...

Alright gotta correct some things in this review.

For one thing, Getter Robo is NOT a Go Nagai series……. Sort of. While Go Nagai had some involvement with the series, the main creator of Getter Robo is Ken Ishikawa, a close friend of Go Nagai. There’s a great 2 hour video that goes into all things Getter Robo related called “Believe In Getter - A Complete Retrospective on Getter Robo and The Legacy of Ken Ishikawa” by Mrcheese. Its a really good video and I highly recommend you check it out as it goes into the history of the franchise and he goes each and every entry.

To sum up, Ishikawa did the artwork, the story, the writing, and everything else in the series. While his art style is similar to Go Nagai’s it’s distinctive enough to be considered Ishikawa’s own style.

One thing i have to question your opinion on is the music. It’s fine to think that the show reusing the theme song can feel repetitive, but considering tokusatsu shows like Kamen Rider Super Sentai, Ultraman, Garo, and many others spam the thing song none stop in every fight scene, I really dont see why that’s an issue for you here. Heck, considering how short this series is it doubly makes no sense. I’d honestly say the shows i just mentioned have this problem even worse because they’re 50 episodes longer than New Getter Robo.

Alex said...

First off, please bear in mind I wrote this a decade ago and was pretty uneducated on this back then - and this review really shows it. I haven't thought about it in the longest time, and looking back on it it's pretty embarrassing. Not giving Ishikawa credit in the start is inexcusable to say the least. I know that it's his creation, don't worry about that.

I think if I went back and watched this now I'd feel very different about it, as my tastes have definitely changed since then. I watched Arc as it came out and enjoyed it (didn't understand it all of course, but I enjoyed nonetheless). I would like to go and revisit the franchise properly one day, and when I do I'll go back and give this the kind of review it actually deserves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response, I also apologize if I seemed a bit too harsh during that last part.

Something I should bring up regarding Arc. It’s an adaptation of what was supposed to be the grand finale to the Getter Robo manga series, however it was put on permanent hiatus due to Ken Ishikawa sadly passing away in 2006, leaving the Arc manga unfinished. I haven’t seen the anime but I am aware of it’s ending. And its as much of an ending as we’re gonna get with Arc so better to take it or leave it.

I also highly recommend checking the manga series out, as well as Ishikawa’s other work. He even did his own version of King of Fighters games like Fatal Fury and Samurai Showdown believe it or not. And they are absolutely buck wild. They’re nothing like the games at all, and they’re filled with Ishikawa’s style and its awesome. Most of Ishikawa’s work sadly remains untranslated.

Oh also the forgot, the while the Getter Manga has Oni in it, the Hyakki Empire, the villains in this OVA are not them. They actually come from Ishikawa’s other manga, Kyomu Senki (another manga I highly recommend and even has an OVA adaptation). This manga is also where the time travel arc and the Four Heavenly Kings come from, kinda like how Shin Mazinger Z Impact included allot of stuff from Go Nagai’s other works.

As for the Getter Manga, again I can’t recommend it enough. The manga entires include Getter Robo, Getter Robo G, Getter Robo Go, Shin Getter Robo, and finally Getter Robo Arc. There’s also allot of spin off manga like Hien, Darkness, Dino Getter, and most recently Devolution which serves as a meta sequel to the original manga series and its by the creators of the Ultraman manga as well as Linebarrels of Iron. Its also one of the only readily available Getter mangas here in America.

I’m a huge Getter and Ishikawa fan in case you couldn’t tell.

Alex said...

Not at all, it’s a badly written review and you were totally right to correct me on it! I just wanted to hopefully explain just why it’s so bad compared to a lot of the other stuff on here.

It’s nice to get a response from a big Getter fan such as yourself, thank you for commenting! So would you say that the manga is a more straightforward way to experience the franchise than the anime is?

Anonymous said...

Yes. The 70s Toei anime’s are good in their own right, but the manga blows them out of the water (minus G which is a case where the anime is actually superior but the manga is still more important). It’s sort of an Evangelion situation where it starts off as a simple monster of the week story, before going into more philosophical themes. The manga is also where allot of the OVAs get their inspirations from. Like the Shin Getter vs Neo Getter OVA fully recreates the final battle with the Dinosaur Empire from the manga in it’s opening, and the rest is pretty much an adaptation of Getter Robo Go. Only instead of using that manga’s villains, it’s the Dinosaur Empire again.

For ALLOT of the context when it comes to most adaptations you really need to read the manga. Allot of the stuff that happened in Getter Robo Arc, such as Shin Getter’s first fight with the insect monster in a flash back, the stuff with Benkei, that’s all from the Shin Getter manga. This manga timeline is sort of the Universal Century Gundam of the Getter series, called the Getter Robo Saga, which was later rereleased with new scenes to tie them into future events and Getter G even getting an extended final battle. It’s not perfect as theres a clear disconnect between Ishikawa’s 70s ra style and his then current art style and they do not transition well together at all, to me it honestly would’ve been better if the entire manga was redrawn entirely to fit his later art style because G constantly switching from Ishikawa’s 70s art to his later art just doesn't jell well.

Speaking of Benkei, the Benkei we see in this OVA is actually an original character made for this OVA and is pretty much a fusion between the characters Musashi Tomoe, and Benkei Kurama. In fact his full name is Musashibou Benkei, named after the actual historical figure. Him being a Monk was actually taken from Baku in Getter Robo Arc.

I would recommend the Getter Robo Go anime as just a fun early 90s mecha anime, but unfortunately only 9 episodes have been fansubbed.

Anonymous said...

I should also warn you that the manga was never officially released in the US minus Devolution. So you know what that means. ‘Yo ho yo ho a Pirate’s life for me’. Yeah you’re gonna have to look at fan translated scans online if you want to read the manga.

Elfoscuro said...

Really, I don't understand why many people forget about Ishikawa. Although in Japan he is revered as a master by big names like Anno