The story is centered around a small group of guerilla freedom fighters on a colonial planet named Deployer, who are known as the "Deployer 7", or "Sun Fang" team. In an unexpected coup, the elected Governor of Deployer becomes dictator and rules Deployer under martial law with the support of Earth's Federation. Fighting for independence from Earth's Federation influence, the freedom fighters begin a rebellion against the Federation's Combat Armors using a Combat Armor of their own: the Dougram.
I like Taiyou no Kiba Dagram a lot, but it is a hard show to recommend. Never before have I seen an anime that is both so brilliant yet flawed. It is easily among the best anime about revolution and war. While the anime started out as the classic "boy fall into mech cockpit and fight for what he believe in", it is NOT the kind of simplistic Star Wars-like rebellion tales. The show is amazingly detailed and realistic.
The anime explore every aspect of a guerilla war for independent: troops and officers recruitment, propaganda, supply lines, politics,.... Of course, some of the elements weren't
as detailed as it is in real life, and any history and military nerds can pick it apart, but every thing still hold together as a very believable epic war story. This is also one of the few mecha anime in which combined arm tactics is important. The main mecha is just a cog in a machine, not the win button.
Realism aside, what is truly important for fiction is still story and characters, and this anime has it. The show has some of the best villains of all time. None of them are simple "I want to destroy the world" assholes. They are real people with complex motivations and desires. Once again, this anime got on my good side for having actually competent military commanders on both sides. All of the main cast are likable, although kind of bland.The story is slow moving, but became very engaging later on, as question like: "Is the sacrifice worth it?", "what is a true victory?", "how much power human have in the course of history?" were asked. Despite looking silly, this anime is very intelligent.
Unfortunately, the Dagram has some serious flaws that caused it to be forgotten. First of all, production value is bad, even by 80s standard. It look worse than Gundam 0079, which is 2 years older. The music is decent, but very repetitive. The story, as I said above, is good, but the build up is too long. In the age where most anime is only one cour long, this old anime took 3 cours to truly get going. Plenty of modern audiences will likely be very bored by this series. There are lots of 80s silliness and immersion breaking moments as well. Sadly, Taiyou no Kiba Dagram didn't age very well.
To sum up, this anime's one of my favorite, but it might not appeal to many. Because of that, I will list the pros and cons and let reader decide for themselves:
[Before reading this article be aware that this is not a complete review of the full anime as I've only watched 25 episodes out of 75 episodes of this series, so this review will most likely change throughout the times and also be aware that English is not my native tongue]
Fang Of The Sun Dougram... a flashy name as most of Mecha series names, especially the old school ones. But if you're into the genre you won't be bothered by it.
[spoiler on the early plot of the first three or four episodes below]
The Dougram series are set somewhere in the future in a space
colony of Earth called Deloyer and starts when Deloyer wants to claim independance from Earth's Tyranny. Due to the fact that Earths not conceding Deloyer independence, there are lots of Guerrilla's action being made in Deloyeran territory against Earths people on that colony. One of these guerrilla kidnaps the ambassador Cashim of earth and demands the freedom of Deloyer, Earth doesn't want to give freedom to Deloyer just like that, so develops a big political scheme in order to control the Deloyerans with some treatys and using important Deloyeran people in search of more power to betray and control their people. In the middle of this, young Crinn Cashim, son of the kidnapped Ambassador, flies to Deloyer in order to save his father just to learn there that his father was pretty well and that it was all one of his schemes in order to raise hate against the guerrillas and an oportunity for him to make his victorious comeback. Young Crinn doesn't understands well the political plays that are taking order but he feels that they are wrong so he ends teaming up with the rebels who have developed an new mobile armour prototype (mecha) called Dougram and settles his goals to fight the tyranny along his new Deloyearan team mates.
[End of the little spoiler on the beginning of the story]
The story, as well as lot of other mecha anime that came in early 80's, is pretty influenced by the original Gundam series and uses a lot of political plays and schemes and sometimes it even makes me wonder how young Japanese kids would have understood what was going on on there back in the early eighties. But it is not Gundam and, dare I say that is is more well thought and more concerned with small details, it mixes more mature elements than Gundam did and the characters are satisfactorily developed, sure there is no Char Aznable here, but the villains are not the "100% evil bastard" and you can get their points and understand their options and decisions for their own survival.
On this record, you can feel Ryosuke Takahashi vibe, the guy that later went to do the manly mecha Votoms. The seriousness of some scenes and topic approached allied with well thought rich dialogues were a strong point of Takahashi back then.
The animation is from 1981, so you won't find a very good animation around here, but it does it's trick, I think the mecha battles suffers greatly from the animation issue so I don't quite enjoy the mecha battles here very much (not that I usually really enjoy them anyway). The character design is pleasant and lets you forget the animation a little bit.
Opening and ending are very epic and have been climbing on my OP/ED sequence of the 80s. They are melancholic and do have a certain 70s influence on them.
I have reached now the 25th episode of this series and am amazed at how detailed some scenes/discussions/dialogues are, unlike other of their contemporaries. It's a mystery why Dougram became such an underground unkwnown series, until this day. Thanks to X-Nebula fansubs, we westerners are able to watch this cult anime. Only the ending of the series will tell why it has become forgotten, or maybe perhaps why it was purposefully forgotten?