Sep 28, 2019
Wakusei Robo Danguard Ace is Leiji Matsumoto's only mecha work and, by watching the show, it's easy to notice why.
Let's start with some background. After the end of Toei's partnership with Go Nagai, creator of smash hits such as Mazinger Z and Ufo Robo Grezinder, the company was desperately searching for a worthy substitute. Among those asked to create new giant robots, there was Matsumoto himself, coming off Uchuu Senkan Yamato's unfortunate flop.
Given its creator, it's not surprising that the show manages to put a quite unique spin on the cliches of the genre.
Humanity is, as usual, in danger: the Earth is so polluted that
its only hope is to migrate to another planet, Promethe. However, Doppler, an evil scientist wants to make out of that same planet a paradise accessible only to a small élite of "worthy" and "enlightened" people. Thus, a race starts: whoever gets to Promethe first, gets to colonize it.
Meanwhile, Takuma, a young man whose father is a famous pilot gone missing, is training to become the pilot of the Danguard, humanity's only hope against Doppler.
The first half of the show revolves around this specific plot point: Takuma trying to overcome his flaws and become a pilot, while cleaning up his old man's reputation.
When it focuses on it, the show shines and Matsumoto's typical melancholy comes through. The production team probably realized this, since most of the time is spent taking a look inside the characters' heads.
In fact, the Danguard doesn't show up until episode 12 and, even after that, the battles are very short, underwhelming. In some cases, the mecha is not even required to win against the enemy. In this respect, Danguard Ace is probably one of the first animes to go beyond the "super robot" category and fall into the "real robot" one.
Unfortunately, except for that, the show has shaky foundations.
The plot itself feels like a Uchuu Senkan Yamato rip-off, but with a mecha and no sense of urgency whatsoever.
The second half of the show, where they finally take off towards Promethe, is basically full of filler episodes, where Matsumoto seems to rehash themes (such as the horrors of war and the humanity within androids) developed much better in previous and later works. The protagonist also seems to have suddenly fixed every single flaw of his after the departure from Earth and the father-son dynamic, the best thing about the show, is missing. Also, please, can we stop overdoing the "falling in love with one of the main characters at first sight" trope? It happens at least four times in this show and it gets ridicoulous really fast. Thanks.
Even the enemy organization loses every credibility when you realize they didn't even try to hide the nazi inspiration. In the italian dub they even gave goddamn german accents. While on the subject, I believe it's important to point out that this review is based on the italian dub, which is, to put it bluntly, horrible and may have harmed my enjoyment of the show.
As for art and animation, the token mecha is not exactly memorable and the sporadic appearances certainly don't do it any favours.
The characters designs (and their roles) also seem straight out of Uchuu Senkan Yamato (but worse). The only notable one: Takuma's father, who looks like a Captain Harlock prototype.
Taking a look at the staff working on the animations, seems like some notable talents (first of all, Yoshinori Kanada) were wasted on static and uninventive directing.
I believe Danguard Ace is a show that had very little passion put into it. This becomes more noticeable the more episodes you watch, culminating with a predictable, underwhelming and uninspired ending. It's what you get when a talented team is put on a project born from the needs of the current market and strangled by them.
The overall product isn't bad per se, but it feels for the most part empty and formulaic. And this becomes a particular flaw when its creator is someone who made so many childhoods special with his other stories.
A shame, really.
What did you think of this review?