Jul 20
Robodaz

Available from HobbyLink Japan, here:

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Getter Thee Hence…

Getter Robo is one of the most memorable borderline Super Robot anime series created in those transition years between the truly old school and the Real. It was written by Go Nagai and drawn by Ken Ishikawa for Toei Animation in 1974. With 51 episodes, and funded very heavily to go with a series of toys and models, this series was seen not only as something of an inheritor of the mantle of the legacy of Mazinger Z‘s success. As well as the now-expected touches of the Mecha genre, Getter Robo added some of the features (sometimes technological – even reality-defying) which still make it a fan favorite, and all based on it being the first popular series to feature the first mecha to combine from individual parts, something which would come to define many series in after years.

 

The general story was also rather unusual, for though it centered about the usual POV teenage characters, each one of these individuals (martial artist Ryoma Nagare, near insane Hayato Jin, and Judo wrestler Musashi Tomoe) was initially rebellious to the point of outright criminality.

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Of course, part of the conceit of the show was in the idea that individuality, without guidance, was ruinous but when tempered by unity of purpose, they were unstoppable.

In that regard, each character is assigned to a unique fighter craft (styled as eagle, jaguar, and bear) which when combined in different ways, produced a single mech designed for specific combat requirements. They were assembled by the mysterious Dr. Saotome, who created the Getter Robo program, as a means of deep-space exploration, with each machine being combinable to handle as many conceivable situations as possible.

The Getter machines were powered by an energy source known as ‘Getter Rays’ which are said to be manifestations of the pilot’s willpower – and one of the reasons why Dr. Satome selected such outrageous and strong-willed pilots for the program. However, then emerged the Dinosaur Empire, the reptilian citizenry of which are the evolved remnants of Earth’s old saurian lords. Though long content with their lot, they are driven to war, ironically enough by the effects of the very Getter Rays which give power to the Getter Machines. Thus one of the great moral questions of the series is set: who is the real enemy? After all, The Dinosaur Empire seeks, in some ways, to only preserve itself from the radiation which is slowly killing them, whilst the ‘invading’ Humanity naturally does not wish to yield the planet to its former masters.

Getter 1

This is the Grunt version of Getter Robo, designed for balanced ground combat, with good ranged and close combat abilities. The most commonly used and favorite of all the Getter formations, the model under review is based on this variant.

Getter 2

Lighter and less well armored than Getter 1, Getter 2 was designed initially as a drilling unit, but with the rise of the Dinosaur Empire, it became very adept in dealing lightning strikes on key targets, sacrificing ranged combat for improved melee weapons.

Getter 3

Slow and cumbersome perhaps, but Getter 3 is like a bulwark, capable of absorbing punishment and operating in marine environments as well…

As I stated above the genius of the series, both from narrative and branding points of view, was the introduction of the concept of machines combining to form a Super Robot. The individual fighters on their own were potent enough, and could in each episode be relied upon to defeat many of the minions of the Dinosaur Empire. However, at some point the ‘villain of the week’ (either a single powerful enemy, or an especially potent horde) would emerge and require the unification of the Getter machines into one of the three basic variants (most often, of course Getter 1, it being the most popular with fans, then and now).

This was not a new idea though. Go Nagai had considered the possibility when creating Mazinger Z, but could not quite work out the details, spinning off potential Mazinger elements into their own machines (Aphrodite A, Boss Borot, and so on) – with the core concept lifted almost directly from the SF-based team anime Gatchaman.

It has been a staple in the mech genre (real and super) ever since – both in anime and in tokusatsu series.

 

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Three(zero) in One

There is a little confusion in the toy community about the specifics around the ThreeZero company. It was founded by designers Kim Fung Wong (who is ThreeZero itself), it is affiliated with the otherwise seperate entity, ThreeA which is a collaboration between Kim Fung and artist Ashley Wood. ThreeA predates the founding of ThreeZero as a company, rather than as an identity, and has several successful toy/art/clothing lines of its own.

However, Kim Fung has recently been branching out under the ThreeZero brand into a series of licensed toys from an interesting selection of sources (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Titanfall, as well as Go Nagai’s mechs).

Though ThreeZero’s designs have a fascinating industrial look to them and immediately attracted the attention of fans, problems with production and QC (especially on jointing – with my own Mazinger and Aphrodite A simply breaking at shoulders and hips owing to seized POM joints) cast something of a shadow over the company. Thankfully, Kim Fung has always made sure that customer support has been on the matter and, with each release, production has improved in leaps and bounds.

Indeed, I was a little cautious about ordering Getter 1 (and the companion Black Getter, which will be unboxed in part three of this review), until I was able to handle one of the models at an event in Nakano, which demonstrated that the company (perhaps as a result of ThreeZero’s collabs with Bandai) has gone over to heavy use of polyU positive lock ratchet joints, which are capable of taking massive abuse.

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Interim Observations

I heard it said at the ThreeZero event at Nakano that Bandai has done much better for the same price (referring to the recent Great Mazinger DX Chogokin) and that ThreeZero toys are not worth the money.

I think the person misses the point.

None of this stuff is ‘worth the money’ on some level, but considering the work going into the design and finishing of each of these Getters, I cannot disagree strongly enough.

I once said – about the Aphrodite A – that you either ‘get’ the ThreeZero aesthetic, or you do not – and is easy to see why. The toys are homages to to the original works, but still the product of their designer. I can see why purists might have issues with both design and material build, but for me, I’m content.

My one main gripe would be that (perhaps owing to costs), there are not Getter Gatlings in the Getter 1, or ‘Wolverine claws’ with the Black Getter….

These might come in the future, if sales justify them though… I’d buy them.

Mind you, this is not supposed to be the review, so let’s wrap here and pick up tomorrow.

Dr. Robodaz.

 

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