The Heroic Ladder
One of the conceits of all robots series, real or super is the technological progression of the materials involved.
In Super Series, the introduction of ever more outlandish opponents and special moves served to highlight the emotional development of the series protagonist, and their increasing comfort with their own power (being reflected through the power of their robot).
This is not an unusual conceit, and not even one rooted – as many seem to think – in the modern gaming industry.
Indeed, this notion of increasing challenge, risk, and reward has been with us for as long as we have recorded tales about our own development as human beings.
It is part and parcel of the hero’s journey, as Joseph Campbell might have had it.
As our hero overcomes obstacles and challenges she or he rises up to subsequent challenges armed with the experience, and perhaps loot, which they have acquired on the way. It makes a grand and appropriate narrative progression which leads the consumer of such tales down from early struggles to ‘the final boss’ with great vigor.
It does not matter whether we are dealing with Homer’s “Iliad,” Luo Guanzhong’s “Romance of Three Kingdoms,” or Go Nagai’s “Mazinger Z,” the increasing profundity of the conflicts serves to hold the attention of the reader, demonstrates the increasing confidence of the protagonist, and highlights that progression by contrasting each success with the ones before. They also, and quite unintentionally I assure you, play very nicely both into the episodic nature of anime and manga and the way such things can be merchandised to impressionable fans (young and old) who externalize their passion for such narratives in a completely understandable desire to BUY ALL THE FREAKING MERCH!
Art for Heart’s Sake?
Back in 2001, I was on research leave and staying for a while in Toshima, Tokyo. On a daily basis I would go and read in a little cafe and engage this kindly old regular. He seemed always a little amused that I was so fond of anime, and especially of ‘Giant Robo’ – as I was saving from my allowance for the DVD set which was upcoming in that time.
In one of those surreal moments which seems to have characterized my life in Japan, I had no idea that I was speaking to Yokoyama Mitsuteru himself about the virtues of his own creations, and about the importance of the fighting robots genres in general.
I’ve had brighter moments, to be sure.
Still, the old master was very kind to an unruly fan who was – as I certainly was – so deeply embedded in the fandom and the lore of the machines and the heroic qualities of the concepts that I did not give even a thought to what it all meant.
One day – the day I was to leave for Kobe, and my further research – he brought in a little box of stuff to the cafe, and we talked about the things which meant so much to us both. Long story short, it surprised me that a creator would have such mixed feelings about the material which he created, specifically the way in which he seemed to blame himself for the sort of merchandising which came to define mech anime in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
Today it is something of a joke – the idea that series like ‘One Peice’ will only finish when Bandai, Good Smile and Alter run out of merchandise to sell.
However, even in the 1950s the same imperative was there. It might no have been the same degree (for today, publishers will calculate projections of rights sales into their overall cost/return balances), but the potential for even early series, such as Tetsujin 28, to earn money on the back end of the story could not be denied. I doubt if anyone would really blame Master Yokoyama for being unwilling to let good money go as a professional, but it cannot be denied that the desire to spin out a series until it has been drained of all money is a powerful one.
We did not talk of Dougram that day, but we did consider the way Mobile Suit Gundam, as a TV series got out of Yas and Tomino’s control, with regard to its episode count and mech load – with Bandai, as the series sponsor insisting on a sufficient number of mech designs around which they could build a profitable toy/model line. This is something which Yokoyama indicated that Tomino had always disliked, and took great pleasure in undoing to some degree, when the series was stripped back into the now-classic and perhaps definitive three original Gundam movies.
It seems it was not just the US and the UK that used animation, comics and pop culture in general as toy adverts…
And Dougram was no exception.
As the Deloyer rebels pressed their attacks, week after week, there were always enemy mechs of new (and priced to own) mech designs ready to roll out against them.
Do not get me wrong here. This is not an attack. I too am a willing victim in this whole business. I merely wish to make it clear to the readership that the background to this ‘villain of the week’ mentality which seems to affect so much anime has sound narrative, and economic reasoning behind it.
I suppose it is one of the reasons I and so many fans love Dougram so much… A grand, sweeping narrative of personal struggle and growth married up to a series of kick-ass mech fights.
What more could one ask for?
Other than a Six Demon Bag, of course…..
Thunder of the Sands – Blockhead
I was a little worried about this kit, having so many issues with the material construction of the Dougram itself.
However, after a bit of testing, I was able to assure myself that the same issues were not so pronounced on this kit (different colours maybe) and I was not going to have kittens to the same degree.
Still, I decided again to follow the same basic plan as before. Snap fit the kit, undercoat only using clear compounds and weather the kit up.
As you can see, it has come out very well indeed.
As before, I relied on a matte coat varnish to provide the base coat for this build. Once again, it did the job of taking the ‘plastic’ look off the kit with great effect. This time though, I washed the whole kit down as well using Citadel Nuln Oil (cut half and half with Tamiya X20) to tone the look down further.
Again with the lining markers….?
I know some folks don’t dig them as much as I do, but I want to keep a toy feel to this kit, in deference to my days of youth, and the fiber-tipped pen (I use both Bandai and Staedler) is as good a way as I can think of to get the job done. Some folks use washes, others have a steadier brush hand than I and others use pre-shading alone, as I do on my aircraft and tank builds.
However, for a flashy (if grimy) mech like this… Pens all the way.
What I said for the Dougram itself counts double on the Blockhead. Max Factory has given us the kits which the series deserved and whilst I would still like Bandai to give us a 1/48 MG Dougram itself, I cannot find fault with these little gems.
This has been a real gem of a build.
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