Jaianto robo: Animeshon (Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still) Reviews
October 17, 2010
Inspired by a manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama (Gigantor), Giant Robo is a seven-episode OVA series that was planned to be released over a span of 36 months; however, due to budgetary issues it was released on an erratic schedule that spanned nearly six years. To make matters even worse for Japanese fans at the time, the final episode was released nearly three years after the sixth! One can only imagine the buzz that surrounded the release of the seventh episode. These days, one can sit down and watch all seven episodes (and the Ginrei spin-off) at their leisure, but fans in the 1990s certainly had to endure painful waiting. Hopefully they found it all to be worth it in the end.
We ask ourselves that question: "Is it/was it all worth it?" all the time when it comes to anime these days. Giant Robo is definitely worth it. For starters, one can purchase the entire series plus the Ginrei Special-roughly seven hours of material-for under $20. From a monetary standpoint it is an absolute steal, but what about entertainment value? Oh, there is plenty to be had here. Much more than $20 can normally buy.
In the future, mankind is flourishing in the wake of the invention of the Shizuma drive. The fruits of the devastating "Tragedy of Bashtarle" from ten years prior, the drive is a revolutionary, renewable energy source that has ushered mankind into a new era of prosperity. However, the world still has not reached the utopia many dream of. The evil organization Big Fire yearns to take over the world, and are opposed by Giant Robo (a gigantic robot controlled by the young boy Daisaku Kusama) and the Experts of Justice. Both sides employ giant robots and a bevy of human characters, many of the humans exhibiting supernatural abilities ranging from magic to martial arts.
In order to accomplish their world domination plans, Big Fire is looking to recover a stolen Shizuma drive sample, currently in the possession of the Experts of Justice. During the struggle, Big Fire unleashes its ultimate weapon, the Eye of Fogler; a huge sphere which requires all three of the Shizuma samples. With them it can unleash the "beautiful night" upon the world.
As grandiose as the plot may seem, a summary really does not do it justice. It is a multi-layered affair, filled with superb writing, great characterization, humor, action, and thought-provoking themes. The best aspect of Imagawa's storytelling is how he gives the viewer just enough information to keep things ambiguous. Just when the viewer believes they understand what's going on, more is revealed to throw a wrench or two into the matter; yet the series never contradicts itself. For example: the viewer is led to believe that a particular character is to blame for a catastrophic event. Later, it is unveiled that this is not the case. As more light is shed onto the situation everything starts to piece together; making sense of previous head-scratching events as well. This storytelling technique is used most cruelly in the final episode. The ultimate plot twist is one for the ages, albeit a tragic one.
Everything about Giant Robo is grand. It is a sprawling epic, with spectacular action set pieces all over the globe. The animation is fluid, detailed, and the artwork has an appealing retro feel to it. After watching the opening chase sequence, it is easy to see why this series had its fair share of budget problems. Writer/director Yasuhiro Imagawa (Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Tetsujin 28th) set out to make just about every scene as big and attention-grabbing as it can get; putting as much into the animation and backgrounds as budget would allow. He had a mindset akin to "Go big, or go home." Not to mention that Masamichi Amano's (Stratos 4, Urusei Yatsura: Only You) epic, operatic score required the services of the Poland Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. There is so much unique music that the seven(!) soundtracks themselves would take nearly five-and-a-half hours to listen to. That is almost as long as the series itself!
The series is a mash-up of genres and can be a bit campy. The themes do get a little heavy-handed at times, there are some minor plot idiosyncrasies, and the ending is bittersweet. Still, the series makes for a fantastic viewing experience.
Giant Robo is an excellent, yet vastly underappreciated series. It is not talked about much, and any anime fan would be hard-pressed to find another who has seen the series, let alone loves it. More folks should give it a shot. Given that the Media Blasters box set can be acquired for less than the average price of a single DVD, there is not much to sacrifice; however, there is plenty to be gained.