In a future to come humanity enjoys a new age of prosperity thanks to Dr. Shizuma's invention of a revolutionary renewable energy source: the Shizuma Drive. But this peace is threatened by Big Fire, a cabal seeking world domination. Against Big Fire the International Police Organisation dispatches a collection of superpowered warriors and martial artists, together with Daisaku Kusama, inheritor and master of Earth's most powerful robot, Giant Robo.
By capturing an abnormal Shizuma Drive which is essential to Big Fire's plans the IPO ignites a desperate conflict between the two groups. The coming battle will test Daisaku's resolve to the utmost, reveal the ghastly truth behind the creation of the Shizuma Drive, and bring human civilization to its knees!
Giant Robo is a character-driven adventure in a retro-futuristic setting, drawing on influences from opera, kung-fu cinema, wuxia stories and classic mecha anime. It incorporates characters from the works of the manga author Mitsuteru Yokoyama but it is designed to be a stand-alone story.
Take a good greek tragedy, add some Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (or a similar wuxia based tale, throw in a bit of steampunk, and add a dash of giant robots. Mix together for 8 years, then serve to the public.
A recipe for disaster? One would normally think so, but Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still defies all expectations to that end.
The brainchild of Yokoyama Mitsuteru (Tesujin 28-go, Babel II, Outlaws of the Marsh), the manga first appeared in 1967, and immediately spawned a live action production in that same year. Over 20 years later, the series was "reinvented" for release as an anime
OVA, however the original form had been drastically altered due to restrictions on the use of characters from the manga and live action versions. The director, Imagawa Yasuhiro, being a self confessed fan of Yokoyama's work, approached the mangaka for permission to use characters from his other works.
To many this may seem like a haphazard approach to an anime adaptation however this OVA stands as a testament to how good a re-envisioning of a story can be (I'm looking at you in particular NGE). The fact that production for the entire series took 8 years in total, an average of just over one year per episode, should highlight how seriously Imagawa and his staff approached the project, especially as he wrote the screenplay for it.
The story centres around Kusama Daisaku, a young boy who is a member of the International Police Organisation, a quasi=superhuman group of individuals who have come together under international charter to protect the earth from the ravages of the shadowy syndicate known as Big Fire.
At the time of the story the world has undergone an energy revolution with the invention of the Shizuma Drive, a device that makes nuclear power and fossil fuel dependency obsolete. The drive is a clean, renewable source of energy, however the development of it came at a huge cost. The tale begins with the creator of the drive, Professor Shizuma, on the run and fearing for his life. The IPO is charged with his protection, and whilst the group members may all have superhuman abilities, Daisaku is simply a normal boy who inherited his father's greatest creation, the most powerful robot on earth - Giant Robo.
As far as anime goes, Giant Robo is one of a select few titles that can literally be said to have everything. Love, war, tragedy, action, friendship, revenge, rage, desperation, sacrifice, and much more. Watching this show is quite literally a rollercoaster of emotions, all leading up to an extremely bittersweet ending, with a twist that you'll never see coming.
The animation is excellent given today's standards. The action scenes are very simple, extremely fluid, and have a visceral edge that is lacking in shows like DBZ. Given that this is a show with giant robots, it's wonderful to see that the majority of action centres around the humans instead. Most of the combat is hand-to-hand in the best wuxia style, and the addition of "super powers" can sometimes make this seem a bit like Dragonball (without the lengthy power ups I hasten to add).The background visuals are nicely drawn, although they are sometimes very stylised to reflect the origins of the OVA.
The character designs were purposely made to emulate the style of Yokoyama's manga, and as with everything else in this anime, they have a certain "retro" feel to them because of this. That said, the characters are well animated, and are sometimes very expressive in their actions.
The score used for the series was composed by Masamichi Amano, a reknowned composer and Academy Award nominee, and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. The music is often very grand and operatic, however there are some lighthearted pieces, as well as Giant Robo's own version of Dies Irae (Days of Wrath), entitled Tragedy Strikes Again. The sound effects are extremely good throughout the series and, barring a few events where the expolosions drown out everything else, are well used and add to the atmosphere.
The voice actors for both the English and Japanese dubs are extremely good. Yamaguchi Kappei, who always plays Inuyasha, dramatically brings to life the character of Daisaku, especially through his trials and tribulations as he strives to find out if happiness can be achieved without sacrifice. Similarly, Michelle Newman, who takes the role of Daisaku for the English dub, also manages to convey Daisaku's anger, fear, love, despair, and a whole range of other emotions. The other voice actors are just as good as these two for both dubs, and Giant Robo stands as one of the few anime that I will happily watch in either Jaanese or English.
Given the emphasis on combat and the inclusion of giant robots it's easy to think that characterisations or development play a minimal role in this show, however nothing could be further from the truth. Giant Robo is as much a character driven piece as Maria-sama ga Miteru or Kare Kano, something which is highlighted by the enormous amount of growth Daisaku goes through during the course of the series. The viewer is treated to something rarely seen in anime, and barring Clannad, I can't think of another show from recent years where the audience can see the boy grow into a man.
One thing I should mention is the naming conventions used in the show. Imagawa was followed Yoyoyama's naming tradition in Outlaws of the Marsh, as well as other wuxia tales where names are given based on skill, appearance or demeanour. Hence, names like "Shockwave Alberto" and "The Immortal Kenji" abound in this show, a nice change from the norm to my mind.
So, will you enjoy this? To say I was blown away by the show would be an understatement. I had the opportunity to watch it on it's first release in the UK, and scenes from it have remained in my mind ever since. From it's retro stylings, in particular the black and white depictions of the tragedy at Bashtarle, to the fights to the death (no resurrections here - one life is all you get), to the epic and tragic storyline with it's scorpion sting at the end, Giant Robo has remained a firm favourite of mine for over a decade.
Fans of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann will find themselves warming to this show in a way that is familiar, as this series is in many way the spiritual older brother of TTGL. Likewise, fans of mecha or giant robot shows should check this out as it literally contains everything, including the coolest Frenchman since Lupin III.
If you're after some extremely well rounded characters, and you don't mind the odd punch up here and there, then this may also be right up your street.
The anime does have it's detractors, as purists would have you believe that this is inferior to the manga. I prefer to view this as an alternative to the manga, especially given the fact that Yokoyama was consulted at length about the series.
This has all the hallmarks of a classic in the retro style, something which TTGL has tried to duplicate in recent years, with some success I might add. It's a show that has everything, and it should be no surprise that it appears in my top five anime.
Try it, and see for yourself what I'm talking about.
Story - 10/10
The events take place in the near future, ten years after the advent of the Shizuma Drive triggers the third energy revolution. The series follows the master of the titular Robo, Daisaku Kusama, and the Experts of Justice, an international police organization locked in battle with the Big Fire (BF) Group, a secret society hell-bent on world domination.
Art/Animation - 10/10
Started in 1992 and finished in 1998, Giant Robo's animation is just absolutely amazing. For being made in the 1990's, it felt like it was made just in the last year. It's some of the most beautiful and clean animation I've ever seen from
Sound - 10/10
Giant Robo's music/sound was composed, arranged and conducted by Japanese Academy Award nominee Masamichi Amano and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. The music ranges from grand pieces to more light-hearted tracks. The music of Giant Robo has been called one of animation's crowning achievements.
Character - 10/10
You'll fall in love, I guarantee it, with many of the characters and the noble heroism they bring to Giant Robo. You'll fall in love with the heroes of the Experts of Justice or the villains of the Big Fire Organization. All of them are likable. Giant Robo is considered to be a character drama, as each episode passes, you'll fall deeper and deeper into the character's depth.
Enjoyment - 10/10
Giant Robo is considered one of the true classics of anime. With each episode varied in time(35-60 minutes each), each episode is like a movie, it sounds and feels like one. It's over-the-top action and adventure will leaving you grinning cheek to cheek. It was so over-the-top, those who watch the last episode after watching the first six, have known to spontaneously combust - it's that good and enjoyable!
Overall, I give this a 10/10. This is a must-own to any and all anime fans. Truly a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
A few of the things in my review have been covered by others already, but I wrote all this anyway so I might as well just post it. The first thing I would say is that Giant Robo isn't as bad as you might be led to believe. The second thing I'd say is that Giant Robo also isn't as good as you might hope. It is heavily dependent on your perspective, preference, expectations and experience.
Sure, it's epic and has plenty of action and drama and charm, but it's far from flawless. It's about as long as 14 regular episodes, and though I personally enjoyed
it, I would not recommend it without several caveats. It's very up and down and hit and/or miss.
Giant Robo definitely has the feel of classic anime. Most of the recognizable staples are there, making it a good choice for an introduction to anime perhaps, but if you are an anime veteran, what may be considered classic by someone may come across as cliche to someone else. The story isn't bad, but not much about it is really innovative or unique. It has good foreshadowing and does a good job of gradually resolving mysteries in the main plot. However it also can be quite absurd at times, not to mention deceptive.
Most notably, for a show called Giant Robo, you would expect, well, more robots. Every episode teases you with this opening presenting different possible robo-nemisis but robotic combat actually plays a very small role in this anime. In fact, the robots are largely overshadowed by the characters incredible special abilities. Their powers are so fantastic, it doesn't really make any sense why robots/mecha are even involved at all. People can practically fly, destroy buildings, carry several tons of weight, and are ridiculously hard to kill. It makes the whole robot angle superfluous at best, and arbitrary at worst.
The overall plot is pretty good, it reminded me almost of Fullmetal Alchemist, and the twist ending is so ripe with irony it's almost redeeming. I really wish the story would've just jumped right away to and revolved around BF vs IPO. Unfortunately, the show gets really melodramatic and over-the-top towards the end which almost completely undoes its merits. There are also little annoyances like characters being able to talk to each other from unbelievable distances. The character's are extremely overpowered, especially the villains. It's a wonder the world isn't half destroyed from their conflicts and supersonic voices alone.
Did I mention at some point Robo cries? Apparently he was programmed for two things: to fight... and feel pain? There's nothing wrong with machines having emotions, it's a common plot device, but it's out of place here. He doesn't have steam vents to show when he gets angry, so not only is this inconsistent, but there's no possible logical reason for adding this feature.
The worst part of the story is probably how much they overplay Daisaku's importance. The way the character's bend over backwards for him felt really forced. Giant Robo isn't even the biggest or strongest robot really, he's just a big robot with something "unique." Their whole presence in the show felt like it was a token they were contractually obligated to include amidst the real story.
The ending is a mixed bag. Some parts of it are touching, surprising, and gratifying. The rest is just contrived and ridiculous. Some of it gets so cheesy your eyes may roll right out of your head. As if that wasn't bad enough, everything but the main story arc is left kind of up in the air. So after watching about a season's worth of episodes the end result is basically one big "To Be Continued..."
Some of the characters like Alberto or Ko-Enshaku or GinRei are kind of cool and central to the story, others not so much. Some of them had a lot of potential to be cool but most are just so sudden and random they aren't much more than cameos. With a few exceptions, the "bad guys" aren't even that bad, you almost want to root for them instead.
The tragedy in this is that it feels like they're trying way too hard to convince you Daisaku/Giant Robo are more important than they really are. I think I probably enjoyed them least of all. You could probably remove Daisaku and the few robots in it and have a better show.
The names are classicly generic. "So the Magnificent Ten are on the move again." Then there's "Big Fire" or the "Experts of Justice" and of course "GIANT ROBO." One guy might as well have been called Fingersnaps McDoom, it would've fit in just as well.
The mech design is very much like Big O, and the art's pretty good. It's bright and full of color and nice and clean for the most part. I'm not a big fan of the older anime style/look. Such as the tight modelesque Astroboy look or the weird long-nosed Cyborg 009 character designs, but something about this still felt kind of fresh.
The music's also pretty good. I thought the whole orchestral sound fit pretty well and probably wouldn't mind having the soundtrack. The English dub is ok, and it certainly sounds a lot better than the older English dub. I still prefer the sub (of course).
Fanfiction is not something I ever got into. I did try it, but the ratio of dross to quality was far too high, and even when you find something that is well written, it's almost never created in the spirit of the original; another person's vision and ideal has inevitably crept in and improved/tweaked/changed/adulterated/spoiled/messed up/ruined it - circle your preferred response.
Giant Robo OVA is, when you come right down to it, fanfiction. If I read wikipedia right, all that remains of Mitsuteru Yokoyama's original Giant Robo is Robo itself and its operator, Daisaku. Cropped from Yokoyama's highly
varied other works and stretched or shrunken to fit are the entire remainder of the cast; to create a world that fits this elaborate homage is the basic reason for the shape and nature of the world that is created in Giant Robo OVA (as opposed to traditional things like the story dictating the setting, for example). What that world basically amounts to is a peculiar blend of retro sci-fi, superhero and chinese kung fu legend; any resemblance you may see to our world is purely coincidental, and fairly rare.
From a personal perspective, Giant Robo OVA is fundamentally difficult to deal with. The reason? It is trying to be something that I don't actually like but I can at least appreciate it, and at that aim it is succeeding spectacularly.
Let me elaborate. That this has not only been made in the first place but in fact hailed as a classic is a pretty amazing achievement for something that basically amounts to a gigantic cut and paste manoeuvre. However, the key thing to consider when pondering whether to watch this OVA is this: how much you enjoy this is likely proportional to how important consistency and logic are to you, or rather how important superpeople and giant robots fighting each other are over the former. This is because, looked at from one viewpoint, you can consider this a masterpiece of old-style giant robot action with a remarkably well-crafted cast and an epic yet affecting story, while from another point of view Giant Robo is a cliche-ridden, overblown mother of all messes, with a hodgepodge of ill-assorted and basically unbelievable characters, a formulaic and nonsensical storyline, and no sense whatsoever of its own ridiculousness. Both of these are right, neither is mutually exclusive.
The narrative approach, for one thing, is interesting, if basically a bit misleading. For something called Giant Robo, there is in fact remarkably little of Giant Robo. The scale is epic in the literal sense, with huge numbers of people involved, clashes of armies and chaos and destruction on an enormous scale. Despite this, in actual fact, character interaction is the soul of the thing, and therein lies the quality of the piece, and the trouble. The tone is unremittingly fantastical; all the heroes are death-defyingly heroic, all the villains death-defyingly villainous, harking straight back to classical heroic pulp fiction, the Golden Age of Comics or chinese Wuxia novels (Yokoyama's manga adaptations of which many characters are lifted from) when supermen were Super, had named attacks, needed to be killed at least twice, flew faster than a speeding simile, etcetera. All the values are old-fashioned and absolutist - good is good, bad is bad and the ethics gradient is a cliff.
There's a large number of people who will lap that sort of thing up. However, the reason that this harks back to classics, in the past tense, is that the prevailing style has moved on. Suffice it to say that I can see what the creators of this OVA are trying to do, I even think they've done it, but while it delights existing fans, this does nothing to convince non-believers of the fun they are missing out on. Logic or common sense is notable by its absence from the story; at no point did anyone give any kind of reason why the good guys don't simply destroy the piece of doomsday machine they have hold of and foil the naughty plot; nor is any attempt made to explain the soopahpowahs that the characters have. Now, the likelihood is that either you're reading that and going "Hmm, good point", in which case I suggest not watching this, or you're going "but who cares about that stuff?" in which case this is an OVA for you.
Characters are similarly problematic. You could argue the case for these characters being tried and true heroic/villainous archetypes fairly convincingly. But for me, the characters are unbelievable despite their careful construction, ridiculous despite their sincerity, and above all, anachronistic despite their archetypicality. A character driven story needs complex and credible characters; without them, in my estimation anyway, it's a basic failure. The script is far from genius, frankly, which doesn't help. I was unable to take anyone seriously, which made the whole thing fall down on the serious level it wanted to be taken at, and doing things like suddenly introducing characters called Mr Wonderful who splits things in half by snapping his fingers at them (I'm not joking) does not improve this situation. The world has mostly moved on from such old-fashioned, one-dimentional characterisations, and for me at least, Giant Robo acts as a regrettably faithful tribute to the bad parts alongside the good parts of the old days.
On the up side, however, I did feel that if I didn't already find the whole thing too essentially ridiculous to get over, I might enjoy the breadth and richness of the universe that was being shown to me. The villains, for example, were every bit as diverse and sympathetic as the heroes, and thanks to its good direction, unlike many such things, despite its flaws , it felt like a universe imagined as a whole system.
However one feels about the story or characters, however, one has to give high praise to the animation, which is of a consistently excellent quality, smooth and richly coloured. Direction is also thoughtful and highly atmospheric. Alongside this is the highly elaborate orchestral soundtrack, that rivals the best the world can offer. Here too, however, I have reservations; the art may be immaculate in quality, but I'm not really a fan of the 1970s art style, I find the design ethos unco-ordinated and incomprehensible, and while the music may be of the highest quality, it nonetheless sounds unpleasantly overdone and of a hackneyed and eclipsed style in my ear. Everything about Giant Robo, in fact, harks back to an era that began and ended well before I became interested in anime. However, the massive respect some have for this series is all that stops me from saying it is outdated - while I personally prefer more modern things in terms of style and narrative, it is fair to say that mine is not the only perspective.
Perhaps I'm suffering here from my constant search for an Evangelion successor; highly regarded mecha series are few enough, and while such a combination of cool stompy robots and grown-up seriousness as Eva gave us is unlikely to come around again any time soon, the continuing apparent inability of anyone or anything to compete with Evangelion on that ground and claim a slice of its pie is baffling to me. This is a fundamentally different beast to Eva and makes no attempt to cover the same ground.
So, getting back on track, for me, I don't much like it, to be honest. However don't go believing that I consider it a trainwreck, because I don't; I simply dislike what it is trying to do more than I enjoy the high standard of work it employs to achieve it. If you enjoy old-fashioned superhero stories, or want exciting without having to worry overmuch about logical, this is very much up your street. I may not like it much, but I am highly impressed by it.
Plenty of games are sitting on store shelves, download sites, and your personal game collection that have yet to receive the anime treatment. We're going to look at some of them and find out why they're just begging for anime adaptations!