In the Pentagona System, a young man by the name of Daba Myroad leads a rebellion against Pentagona's leader, Oldna Poseidal. Daba's not alone however, meeting a large number of allies along his journey and having in his possession the powerful L-Gaim, a white Heavy Metal left to him by his father.
One of my favorite movie critics once wrote, "if a movie is this entertaining, can it really be considered BAD?" He was talking about the film "Dreamcatcher", but I think that sentiment could easily be applied to Heavy Metal L-GAIM.
I will start off by saying that no, L-GAIM is not really a good anime. But it IS entertaining, and if you are a big fan of either Yoshiyuki Tomino or Mamoru Nagano, I would consider this a must-watch series. L-GAIM was the series that Sunrise released right before Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and some of the characters (Daba Myroad and Fanelia Amu for example) superficially
resemble characters that would later appear in Zeta Gundam. And many of the characters and aspects of the world they appear in are recycled by Nagano in his first manga, Fool for the City, released in 1985 right on the heels of this series. It was the very beginning of his epic Five Star Stories manga. L-GAIM mostly feels like two very different creators with very different ideas dueling it out.
The story itself really suffers a lot from the poor pacing and direction of the series, but I agree with a friend who described it as "Star Wars on crack". L-GAIM takes place in a star system called "The Pentagona System" and the main character, Daba Myroad, is the last surviving ruler of a civilization that was exterminated by the empress Poseidal. The list of characters in this series would make your head spin, and they all have crazy names and ridiculous hairstyles and clothes courtesy of Mamoru Nagano. Every other episode ends with a title card that says NEXT DRAMA, NEXT CHARACTER or NEXT HEAVY METAL to give you some idea of what is coming next. All of this makes for very entertaining viewing especially if you have some people over and enough beer for everyone.
On to the show's actual strengths. First of all, the mechanical designs are, for the most part, really good, which is only to be expected of Nagano. I think the actual L-GAIM itself is one of the best mechanical designs I've ever seen in a mecha anime. Secondly, the characters have a lot of personality and are really what keeps you watching the series. A lot of people complain about the humor and slapstick and whatnot (this show has more animation smears that any other mecha anime I have ever seen), but first of all, it succeeds in actually being funny, and secondly, it endears you to the characters so that later in the show when the conflict intensifies, you actually CARE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM. I won't spoil it, but there is a scene in one of the last few episodes where a character I had grown to love is stuck underwater and I was actually on the edge of my seat worried about whether he would live or not. That's not something that happens in most Tomino-directed series (sadly) because in most series he's directed, the characters feel more like action figures there to warm the seat of the model kits -- I mean, robots. This strategy of using humor to facilitate character development would be re-employed later in Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam to great success.
The other aspects of the series, animation, music/sound, etc. are par for the course for a nearly 30-year old television anime. Nothing really to write home about but nothing that really impedes your ability to enjoy what's going on. And the two opening theme songs are really quite catchy. If you're like me, you'll be at work the next day singing "SAY MARK TWOOOOO" under your breath hoping nobody can hear you in the next cubicle.
In the end, I feel I can only recommend L-GAIM to mecha enthusiasts. A novice probably wouldn't appreciate it as much as someone who has already seen at least most of the classic, more well-known series, and you really need to be familiar with both Tomino and Nagano to get maximum enjoyment out of it. But if you've already seen MD GEIST and Garzey's Wing a million times and need a new anime to watch on the weekends with your friends while you're getting blazed you could do a lot worse than L-GAIM.
Heavy Metal L-Gaim was one of several mecha series director Yoshiyuki Tomino created during the mid-80’s before Sunrise had him working on Gundam practically full-time. As such it provides you with an original story that while sharing certain similarities to his other works, is completely self-contained and can be watched at any time.
L-Gaim takes place in the Pentagona system, a system of several planets, ruled by the immortal Oldna Poseidal. The show focuses in particular on Daba Myroad, a teenage boy who pilots the titular mecha L-Gaim, and his various friends including the goofy Mirao Kyao, the aspiring actress Fanneria Amu, former member of the
Poseidal military, Gaw Ha Leccee and the fairy Lillith. One of the few still living members of the Yaman Clan, a group of people wiped out by Poseidal, Daba takes a key part in rebel movements, with the overall goal of someday overthrowing Poseidal’s rule.
Tomino’s shows typically alternate between being dark and depressing and lighter hearted and this show is more in the latter camp. While the show is not on the level of say Xabungle or Gundam ZZ, it has a lot of comedy and fun to it. For example the characters are designed as if they are from an 80’s heavy metal band. Kyao and Amu are often providing a lot of comedy relief, as does Gavlet Gablae, a common antagonist for our heroes; the conflict arises because he stole their soup. Yes, that’s right, a series long rivalry comes out of something as incidental as that. Stylistically the show is a lot of fun. There’s not just the design of the characters, but also the music, the mecha, and several different worlds all coming together. As another reviewer pointed out, each episode features a brief shot of an upcoming character, mecha or other plot point, which is unique for a Tomino show (and often treats us to some hilarious engrish).
From the other side though the show features a plot that is one of the more complicated from Tomino’s works, especially toward the end of the series. The show features numerous factions, all with their own intentions and each hoping to come out on top. The number of characters is massive, and since this is a show that doesn’t feature a lot of death, the cast just grows bigger and bigger over the course of the show. Plot twists are both intriguing and deserved.
Supposedly the show had a lot of conflict behind the scenes between director Tomino and character/mecha designer Mamoru Nagano. I think the influence of Nagano on this show is quite notable and you will find many similarities with his later work, Five Star Stories. Nagano doesn’t have the strongest character design, but his mecha designs are almost without fail quite beautiful and he’d continue to work with Tomino in Zeta Gundam. A great addition!
The show does have a few flaws. Like many 50+ episode Tomino shows, the pacing can be tough at times, especially in the first half of the series. Although I think there generally isn’t a stretch of more than 3-4 episodes where the plot doesn’t start moving in a new direction. Certain characteristics can be annoying to some. Daba having multiple female characters after him throughout the entire series, when he never shows much romantic interest in any of them can get old to many. And while I love how complicated the story gets later, I can certainly see that as a turn off for some people. It’s highly unlikely you’ll fully get everything your first viewing.
Overall though, this is a show where the good side outweighs the bad by far. Both fun and intellectually stimulating; I can’t recommend this show enough.
There's hate, and then there's the white hot, seething hatred anime fans have for CGI anime. Look, none's denying there have been some atrocious missteps in the past when it comes to CG in anime, but it can be done right!