From deep within the Earth's surface, the Dinosaur Kingdom make their move to wipe out mankind and conquer the planet with their mechanical dinosaurs. After a prototype Getter Robo is shot down by a mechanical dinosaur, the Saotome Research Institute decides to use the real Getter Robo, which is combat-capable. Due to a lack of pilots in the institute, Ryo Nagare goes to his college to persuade martial artist Musashi Tomoe and outcast Hayato Jin to join him and pilot the Getter Machines to combat the new threat and protect mankind.
Hey, does anyone remember watching "Force Five" when growing up? Oh. Just me then. Damn I feel old. Well, sit thee down, young whippersnapper, and let me tell thee a tale while slowly stroking my bumfluff.
A long time ago (the 70s) in a land far, far away (Japan).... there were four unrelated super robot anime series and one not-super-robot anime series which got an English adaptation. The adaptation mashed them all together and presented them as an anthology under the umbrella title "Force Five". The show would air during weekdays, with a different series being shown each day. The version I watched had "Force Five:
Starvengers" on Wednesdays, and that was my favourite. "Starvengers" was cobbled together from the anime "Getter Robo G", which was the sequel to "Getter Robo", and thus we finally get to the subject of this review.
[Note: "Getter Robo G" is mostly similar to "Getter Robo", even sharing the same opening theme, so all the direct comparisons I make between "Starvengers" and "Getter Robo" in this review are valid even though the former is technically not an adaptation of the latter.]
I hunted down the original "Getter Robo" in a bout of nostalgia, and like with most shows you remember watching when you were young, it turned out to be (to take a quote from "Zatch Bell",) "very shit".
In fact, it's so shit that the first episode is one of the funniest I've ever watched - it had me rolling on the floor as soon as the bombastic vocals "GAN GAN GAN GAN!" hit the opening theme. (It seems the English adaptation had wisely removed the vocals.) The entertainment rarely lets up from there on. You know all those anime tropes that gets parodied, like characters' heads rising from the bottom of the screen when they speak? Well, "Getter Robo" seems to contain all of them… it's practically a museum of old anime cliches.
The premise, comical in its absurdity, is that the dinosaurs have not gone extinct - they've just been hiding underground, biding their time to overthrow humankind as the master race of the planet. They've decided it's time to strike, sending a mecha dinosaur or two every week to wreak havoc upon human civilisation. And the only thing capable of stopping them? Getter Robo of course!
After being thoroughly entertained for a few episodes, "Getter Robo" starts becoming a bit of a drag. Once you get used to its ridiculousness, the show doesn't have much else to offer. The formulaic dinosaur-of-the-week gets tiring quickly, and there's rarely anything more to the story beyond that. Even the action is boring by today's standards: this was, after all, one of the earliest super robot shows that ran for 50+ episodes on a limited budget, so it's full of cheap tricks like re-used animation and long, static pans.
There are other reasons why "Getter Robo" failed to hold up to my memory of "Starvengers". For one thing, "Starvengers" was based on the sequel "Getter Robo G" in which the robots had been upgraded. Even with the upgraded robots, the arsenal was already underwhelming compared to the other "Force Five" robots, and here in "Getter Robo", the robots' attacks are so few in number that even when they do something ordinary like a jump, the pilots would pretend it's a special move, and be compelled to shout "GETTER JUMP!"
One of the things that made "Starvengers" my favourite was the characters. Unfortunately, these don't hold up either. The main three pilots are very archetypical characters: the leader, the cool mysterious dude, and the dumb comic-relief fat guy. There's also Michiru, who's mostly there to add a pretty face and to play the damsel in distress role every so often. Perhaps having these archetypes in combination was rare back then, but when put alongside modern works, these characters really lack depth.
But there is one aspect of "Getter Robo" which has stood the test of time, and that's the robot designs. "Getter Robo" is the brain child of the legendary Go Nagai, who pioneered many areas of anime/manga - he pretty much invented the super robot genre. Being one of the very first super robot shows is probably why the robots of "Getter Robo" are so lacking in special moves, but it also means the show contains a lot of innovations. Astoundingly, some of them still remain fresh today. "Getter Robo" is known as one of the first works to feature combining robots. But while combining robots won't raise many eyebrows these days, there are still hardly any anime that combine the way Getter Robo did.
The way Getter Robo worked was: the three main characters each pilot their own ship, and the ships combine into a giant robot. The interesting part is that they can combine in three different ways into three distinct giant robots. But wait! There's more!! These giant robots - uninspiringly named "Getter-1", "Getter-2", "Getter-3" - each uses a different lead pilot, and have different specialties (amusingly they even look like their respective lead pilots). For example, "Getter-2" is really fast and can fight underground; "Getter-3" is physically strong, and specialises in underwater combat. This means that, given vastly different situations, the pilots can use different robots to get the job done. How cool is that?! This is probably the main reason why "Force Five: Starvengers" was my favourite - having lots of special attacks may be cool, but multi-combines are even cooler!
But even though the awesome designs of the robot sustained my enthusiasm as a child, it's no longer enough to salvage the show for me now. Getting through the 50+ episodes of "Getter Robo" was a painfully boring experience at times, and I suspect most audiences today would feel the same. I can perhaps still recommend "Getter Robo" to super robot enthusiasts, and certainly as a historical artefact because it's such an important and influential work. But everyone else should just watch a couple of episodes to get a good laugh, then move on.
The ultimate fantasy for any anime fan is the anime crossover. How cool would it be if one of your favorite anime characters teamed up with another one of your favorite characters to make animated magic? Very, indeed. Let's explore some of the most creative anime crossovers of all time.