This is a review of episodes 1-13 (or was that 14?) of Armored Trooper Votoms.
Armored Trooper Votoms is the story of a soldier gone AWOL named Chirico Cuvie. Chirico is the pilot of an “Armored Trooper,” essentially a giant robot used for military purposes, but without any of the flash or style of a Gundam or a Valkyrie. Having found himself an unwitting accomplice in a conspiracy to attack a friendly space station, Chirico is betrayed by his fellow soldiers, but not before discovering their most important secret: A mysterious, expressionless woman inside a capsule and the target of capture by his former allies. Barely escaping with his own life, Chirico runs into a higher-up in the military, a man named Rocchina, who believes Chirico’s accidental treason to be anything but. Chirico is tortured mercilessly, but manages to escape and ends up in a city of scoundrels and gangs not unlike the entire planet in Hokuto no Ken. That city is named Uoodo.
In Uoodo, Chirico manages to make some friends, though none of them are by any means innocent, given the nature of Uoodo. Chirico must deal with a corrupt police force while still running from the military who believes him to know more than he actually does. As Chirico tries to survive, he begins to learn the secrets of the mysterious woman he met at the space station, referred to as the “Prototype,” and the viewer is shown that the conspiracy that got Chirico running for his life in the first place runs much deeper than anybody ever suspected.
Armored Trooper Votoms, as I mentioned, has giant robots, and not fancy ones at that. The result is that, while the action is not exactly completely realistic, it has a very gritty feel to it. An Armored Trooper is not made of super alloys, it does not have any fancy weapons or serious technological edge. It is basically a tank with legs. In fact, Chirico frequently switches Armored Troopers because the previous one got wrecked beyond repair in battle, though he prefers a specific type called the Scope Dog. In one battle, his Scope Dog was taken down by heavy fire from people on foot and in cars and helicopters. They are far from invincible, and this is the basis of the combat in the show.
As for the plot, this is what is meant whenever someone says that you have to give a Sunrise mecha series chance to set up, that they generally have a 13-episode test. This entire first part, aptly entitled the “Uoodo” arc, is ALL setup for what’s to come. I can feel it, I think anyone watching can feel it, the whole point of this first part is to set up the characters and the basic setting, and to establish what is “normal” for the show so that the show can then be turned on its head. These first 13 episodes for the most part feel fairly episodic. They sometimes revolve around Chirico’s friends trying to strike it rich, or Chirico escaping from danger, or a combination of the two, but along the way hints are dropped and characterization is expanded. My only complaint is that the show has a very Tomino-esque way of introducing relationships, which is to say unrealistic and rushed in order to make a plot point. Other than that, the show is on its way to success.
I have been set up. Now it’s time for the show to begin knocking me down.
PS: One amusing aspect of Votoms I should mention is the next episode previews, which are usually serious expositions of what will happen to Chirico. Best of all is that they all end on some extremely dramatic and cryptic message of what’s to come. The one that stands out in my mind is “NEXT TIME, CHIRICO DRINKS HIS COFFEE BLACK, AND IT IS BITTER INDEED.” It kind of makes the show hard to take seriously sometimes, but that’s okay.