Nov 15
Robodaz

Available from HobbyLink Japan —
Daisaku Kusama: http://hlj.com/product/MEDUDF-262
Ginrei: http://hlj.com/product/MEDUDF-263
Shikoutaihou Taisoh: http://hlj.com/product/MEDUDF-286
Alberto the Impacter: http://hlj.com/product/MEDUDF-285

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Crush Them Now, Giant Robo!

This release (which seems to be projected well into 2017, and will seemingly include Robo itself) really caught the market on the hop, much like Bandai’s release of the Chogokin Giant Robo earlier in 2016.

I’ve adored this series since it was released, largely because I was a fan of many of the component series from which it was assembled. However, over 25 years after it was conceived, it amazes me how well this limited budget OAV (made in the teeth of all manner of legal constraints) still remains popular enough to warrant intriguing releases like this.

As I said in my earlier Chogokin review, it is a terrible state of affairs that when Yokoyama Mitsuteru died in 2004, he had rather fallen out of favor with most of the fans of the time, but was regarded in the industry as the Father of Mecha and the Godfather of Magical Girls.

When i lived in Toshima, I used to frequent the same cafe he did and was able to speak with him on a variety of issues related to his works, and why he found his invisible status in the fandom as so amusing.

To quote from the earlier review:

“Each day I was there, one of the old regulars seemed to take a kindly interest in my obvious fascination with anime (I was in hardcore Robodaz mode then, wearing a coat painted by an old friend from Sheffield [a picture of Nadia] and covered in more badges than a thirty year combat veteran) and was always asking me what I thought of ‘Giant Robo’ as I was always listening to the Amano Masamichi OST at the time, and buying anything Ginrei I could get my grubby little fingers on…

As I have said elsewhere, this was one of those serendipitous, surreal moments which have made up my life: as it transpired that this old lad was in fact the chain smoking Yokoyama Mitsuteru himself and seemed happy to hear me waxing geekical about the virtues of his own creations, and about the importance of the fighting robots genres in general.

Surprisingly though, it was a good way to begin something of a friendship, the short course of which taught me a few important things about the way in which media often eclipses its creators if they are not careful.

When, in 1990, Yasuhito Yamaki contracted Imagawa Yasuhiro to create a new version of Giant Robo, the production was stalled from the very outset by the fact that a number of different, Japanese and US, agencies claimed ownership of the trademarks/copyrights on the Giant Robo series proper. The reasons are not important. What does matter is that, rather than let the matter rest, Imagawa, having established that he could use the actual robot itself (for reasons which pass my understanding), went directly to Yokoyama. He explained the situation and, as a fan to a master, pleaded the case for the creation of a ‘paean to Yokoyama’s work’. An amused Yokoyama thought the idea insane enough but freely gave his assent and handed over creative use of ALL the characters and series which remained in his hands for this portmanteau of an OAV.

As a result we have Giant Robots, Big Fire, the IPO, heroes from the Water Margins, Super Spies, ninja and all manner of things which on the surface should not work at all.

But did…

When discussing with Master Yokoyama why I liked the show so much and why folks in Japan seemed so attached to it, his answer was linked to his laconic view of his own lack of place in his work. People knew the tropes and the characters and when they were blended together they still had that nostalgic resonance for which older fans seek and from which younger ones draw their own sense of understanding.

Its popularity in the West certainly touches on this.

It appealed to hardcore, old school mech fans because it breathed new life back into the shows they had loved as kids. For younger fans it was the beautiful, crazy apogee of what anime represented, and perhaps hit a niche that had not yet been filled with other titles (as, when it was optioned by US Renditions and then Manga Video, few other series existed to stand against it in the open market). This was especially so in the West, and master Yokoyama seemed to love it. Though not being an English speaker himself he did say that he rather liked the tone and the ‘sound’ of the original English dub, as it gave the series an over-the-top, Republic Pictures, B-movie feel. This is certainly true, with (possibly inexperienced) voice actors chewing every bit of furniture they could get their hands on. He especially seemed to like the way Prof. Von Folger, Ivan, and Lord Alberto were voiced… That should tell you all you need to know.”

Everything Under the Sun

In my view, this is why the series worked. Not the mechs, but the characters, whose individual origins were not sacrificed when translated into the newer OAV. Retronew might be a good way to describe them, but whichever way you turn it, these folks (especially in the original, insane and insanely appropriate English dub) reflected a world of fan culture.

The fans knew it; they could see the archetypes which were buried in their very hearts, and eternal.

There’s not a single character to dislike in my view – from the irritating Daisaku to the scheming Zhuge – and these figures, small though they may be, encapsulate their design perfectly.


The Magnificent… Err… Four

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PVC molding has come a long way in the last 30 years, as has the painting and printing processes used in their manufacture.

Considering each figure in person it is easy to see why these little beauties have been so popular.


Daisaku Kusama

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Plunged into the battle between Big Fire and the IPO when his Father, the designer of the GR series of robots was murdered for turning to the police, Daisaku becomes the only person to whom GR1 (AKA Giant Robo) will respond. This figure depicts him in his most commanding, assured moments - confident in his giant friend, and assured by the role he is playing. Using a combination of spray, offset tampo printing and hand finishing, the detail, though naturally sparse, is right on the money - even down to the watch aerial.

Plunged into the battle between Big Fire and the IPO when his Father, the designer of the GR series of robots was murdered for turning to the Police, Daisaku becomes the only person to whom GR1 (AKA Giant Robo) will respond. This figure depicts him in his most commanding, assured moments – confident in his giant friend, and assured by the role he is playing. Using a combination of spray, offset tampo printing and hand finishing, the detail, though naturally sparse, is right on the money – even down to the watch aerial.


Ginrei / Falmel Von Folger

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Everyone’s favourite IPO agent and the key to the whole narrative, Ginrei is molded here in the classic dress she wears in Episode One, in which she is introduced to the audience as both the IPO’s top sharpshooter, and possessing powers that are considered so potent that they cannot even be used safely. A sister figure to Daisaku, it is not surprising that these two were released as the first pair in the Medicom run.


 Thundering Taisouh

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Resplendent in his classical Chinese atire, the Thunder of the Big Nine, Taisouh represents the main fighting force of the IPO. Perhaps not as physically potent as Tetsagyu, or insightful as Ishii, but – like his wife, Yoshi – he is that balance of fury and control with which he controls the battlefield – even against his oldest, and most potent adversary, Lord Alberto, his opposite number in the Magnificent Ten.


 Albert the Impactor / Shockwave Lord Alberto

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A cross between Carey Grant and Basil Rathbone, it is no wonder that Albero was so popular with the original fans of the series that the creators gave him an ending which saw him almost turn face (but not quite) to bring down The Eye of Folger, without sacrificing even a shred of his potency, dignity, and style. The only character to have two death sequences – and both of them epic. Again, it is not surprising that he and Taisouh were released together, as their conflict opens, closes and defines the fight with Big Fire. My own favorite character, by a long sea mile.


Final Words

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Do not underestimate these minor masterpieces. They are not perfect, of course (indeed, I had hoped each would have some sort of scenic base, for example), but I’m just happy to have good GR figures available at last.

Some folks look at this sort of figure as little more than UFO catcher fodder, with all the crowns going to companies such as Good Smile or Alter for their high value/high detail figures.

However, as you can see, for the money, these little beauties capture the feel of the Giant Robo OAV perfectly, and with both the Magnificent Ten and Big Nine scheduled for release over the next couple of years, this is the big score for Giant Robo fans.

I’ve not been this stoked in a long, long time and certainly not over something so seemingly ‘trivial’. These might be a little niche, but if you are a Giant Robo fan, get on these things, like now!

Dr. Robodaz
 

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