Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights December 2021

Every month, I collect highlights from Genshiken author, Kio Shimoku’s, tweets. This month’s provide some interesting insight into Kio’s work history beyond the manga he’s known for!

Professional Work

Kio started filling this bookshelf back when Rakuen: Le Paradis (home of Spotted Flower) began, and now it’ll be full in two years.

Later, he remarks (while promoting a half-off sale) that he only does three chapters a year, but somehow it’s reached the point of having so many.

Kio doesn’t know how to use the Stream Lines tool [for making Speed Lines] in the art program Clip Studio Paint.

Color proofs of all the covers from the Genshiken Shinsouban Edition!

The announcement that next month’s Hashikko Ensemble is the final chapter. “I hope you’ll all stick around to the end.”

Other Work

Kio quotes a tweet about a special one-shot manga in Monthly Afternoon by Samura Hiroaki (Blade of the Immortal, Wave, Listen to Me!) about the life of the renowned second chief editor of Afternoon, Yuri Kouichi—a man who, prior to Afternoon, was responsible for bringing hits like Akira and Ghost in the Shell to publication. In the manga, Samura mentions his interactions with the famous manga artist Takano Fumiko, and Kio says in his quote tweet that he once worked as an assistant for Takano. He only did screentones for her, but she smiled and said to him, “I don’t care whether you’re a rookie who’s yet to debut—you did a good job.” The moment stuck with Kio.

3 out of 4 of the CDs for his 2010 doujinshi work seems to not be working. While he has the original 350-page paper manuscript somewhere (for a Star Wars parody called Sister Wars Episode I), he doesn’t know where it is. A fan mentions wanting to buy it, but Kio’s not sure what format he should sell it in. He also feels a desire to make Episode II. He’s had plenty of ideas for it, but he feels like he’s been forgetting them lately, so he probably needs to get it done sooner than later.

(Kio mentioned Sister Wars in his interview with the Vtuber Luis Cammy. You can read my summary of that interview here.) 

Interactions

Oguro Yuuichirou, the chief editor at Anime Style, gives high praise to Hashikko Ensemble and its characters, story, and visual presentation of music. Kio tweets being happy about it, to which Oguro re-expresses how genuinely good he thinks the manga is. Kio gives a thank you.

December featured an online extra for Spotted Flower that focuses on the editor character Endou. Kio responds to fan feedback, including from a fellow Ogiue lover and Twitter mutual of mine!

Kio is done with the last rough drawing, whose expression he changed around four times. A fan (who’s a huge Jin from Hashikko Ensemble fan) asks which character it is, to which Kio responds “the ostensible protagonist, Fujiyoshi,” and then reacts to the fan’s Jin profile picture.

Kio gets excited over fellow artist Ikuhana Niro making good on his word and getting a new car.

Other Media

Kio got his copy of Pompo the Cinephile (you can read my review of the movie).

Kio bought another Motorhead figure from Five Star Stories.

Ikuhana Niro mentions that a new doujinshi of theirs is out, and Kio comments that he remembers how “that doujinshi” is under a different pen name.

Miscellaneous

Kio makes a cryptic tweet about not being able to ride the turbulent waves, and says, “See you tomorrow.”

We’ll come to know what “fogged glasses” looks like in the winter. I think this refers to Spotted Flower, but I’m not certain.

He took some kind of online quiz, I think, and the result it gave him was that he lives life on “hard mode.” Kio responds with “What the?” The test also apparently says that someone like him wants a life where they love and are loved. He thinks this might be fitting for a manga artist.

Kio got a back-support corset for when he has to do heavy lifting, like taking out tons of garbage.

Kio retweets Kotobuki Tsukasa (character designer for Saber Marionette J, Gundam: The Origin) talking about turning 50, and realizes he himself turns 50 next year.

Next month is going to be the end of Hashikko Ensemble, so I suspect there is going to be lots of reminiscing on Kio’s timeline. Here’s hoping!

Daitetsujin 17 and the Wonderful Clunkiness of Tokusatsu Soul of Chogokin

The latest Soul of Chogokin figure was announced last month, and it’s Daitetsujin 17 (pronounced “One-Seven”) from the 1970s tokusatsu series by the same name. It was created by the very father of tokusatsu, Ishinomori Shotaro, and features the classic “little kid remote-controlling” giant robot motif that began with Tetsujin 28. Prior to its release, I never watched any Daitetsujin 17, but I decided to check out the first episode, and what I noticed is that the promo images for the SoC version really capture how the toy is designed with a kind of live-action clunkiness seen in the original program itself.

There’s no doubt that this is highly intentional, as the Soul of Chogokin line is famous for trying to get as close to “show-accurate” as possible. Japanese toy reviewer wotafa stated in his look at the POSE+ METAL Gaogaigar that one of the big things differentiating it from the earlier SoC release was that the latter is more faithful to the anime, while the former looks like “Gaogaigar came back from studying abroad in America.” But in contrast to the myriad anime-derived Soul of Chogokin figures, adapting tokusatsu giant robots like Daitetsujin 17 seems to present another sort of challenge. 

Whereas the anime robots have to reconcile the contradictions between the (mostly) two-dimensional drawings with the three-dimensional realities of the toys themselves, a different conflict is in play. Tokusatsu shows typically have their mecha appear in two different ways: as a model for transforming and such, and as a costume for a suit actor to fight in. A figure whose goal is to bring the source material to life has to balance these two dominating visuals, and from what I can tell, Daitetsujin 17 looks like it succeeds on that front.

But Daitetsujin 17 is not the only live-action robot to get the SoC treatment, and so I started looking at past instances to see if that characteristic tokusatsu-ness is still present. What I found is that, while not as strongly flavored as Daitetsujin 17, that feel is still present to varying degrees. 

The recently released Daileon from Juspion comes from a different era than Daitetsujin 17, but the premium it places on poseability goes to show just how important it is to capture that “guy-in-a-suit” element of the show. Comparing the 3DCG trailer they released to the live-action footage, you can see how much emphasis was put on making sure Daileon could strike all its signature poses, as if to say the very acting of posing defines the feel of Juspion as a whole:

A more popular SoC figure, at least among English-speaking countries, is the Megazord (or Daizyujin) from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. This one looks more like it emphasizes a cool, stocky appearance that’s a bit removed from how the Megazord usually looks in motion. 

However, when compared to a similar figure released around the same time—Voltron (aka Golion)—the contrast in proportions between the two really drive home how the Megazord was made with different considerations in mind. It’s notable that the SoC Voltron has lankier proportions than its original toy from the 1980s to be more in line with its iconic pose from the anime’s opening.

This trend continues all the way back, whether it’s Leopardon from Toei’s Spider-Man, Battle Fever Robo from Battle Fever J, or King Joe from Ultra Seven.

The Daitetsujin 17 figure seems to most greatly embody the concept of  tokusatsu-faithfulness, and I think that speaks to how far the Soul of Chogokin line has come. Every year, it seems to get more and more impressive, and I have to wonder what they’ll tackle next. Although the Daitetsujin 17 and many of the tokusatsu-based figures aren’t my priority, I find I can appreciate the lengths they’ll go to making the biggest nostalgia bombs possible.

Kio Shimoku Twitter Highlights November 2021

Another month of Kio Shimoku tweets. The real highlight this month is his opinion on ero manga artists.

Hashikko Ensemble

Kio promoting Hashikko Ensemble Chapter 46. He doesn’t like how Kurotaki Maki is cut off here, so he retweeted his old drawing of her as a bunny girl. Kio also remarks how he’s noticed that all the girls are pretty stacked (with one exception).

Here are the specific chorus/glee club versions of the songs from this month’s Hashikko Ensemble.

Anime and Manga Impressions

Kio saw the anime film Sing a Bit of Harmony. As the creator of a manga about singing, he noticed the realism with which the main character of the film, Aya, breathes while performing.

He didn’t know a Zombieland Saga movie was on the way.

Kio thinks the Zombieland Saga first ending theme sounds like a graduation song.

Kio drunk-reviewing the latest chapter of Five Star Stories. He doesn’t remember lines or story details, but it made an impression on him—particularly the character  Auxo’s expressions.

Hobbies and Model Kits

There are official water-based Gundam model kit paints now, and Kio comments that he’s had cases of the paint going all over the place using water-based acrylics. It was still fun, though. He’s painted a Juaggu and a Z’Gok that way.

Some old Gundam model kits that Kio built.

Kio finally managed to store a ton of manga in boxes. At least some of the boxes are from 20 years ago, and there are about 25 boxes with 30 books each. 

Health

Lately, Kio’s knees have been hurting after walking.

He used a saw for the first time in a long while, and now his arm aches.

Kio drinks the Japanese energy drink Lipovitan D Super to start working on a new manga manuscript. He also decided to take an outdoor bath because it’s not that cold outside, and finds it’s actually good for work.

Thoughts on Ero Manga Artists

Kio has much respect for ero manga artists because of how much they have to master: poses, anatomy, camera angles, etc. Apparently, one thing people say is “If you want to get good at drawing, do porn.” But Kio also respects those porn artists who aren’t trying to make a career and just want to draw horny things. He actually drew some in middle school, but he stopped because he was afraid of his family finding out.

Mama Is a 5th Grader???: Galaxy Express 999’s Maetel in Shinkalion Z

I don’t necessarily feel obligated to write about every crossover character in the Shinkalion franchise, but when she’s a rendition of one of my favorite heroines from one of my most beloved anime, I just have to say something.

Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion Z has continued the propensity for surprising cameos by introducing a new character based on the mysterious Maetel from Galaxy Express 999. Given that she comes from a manga that prominently features a space vehicle shaped like an old steam locomotive, Maetel is arguably a more sensible guest character than Shinji from Evangelion or Hatsune Miku. However, the fact that she turns out to be a Shinkalion pilot feels like an even bigger (but still welcome) twist.

Maetel, in this case, is not the charming and motherly figure who gives an orphan boy a train pass to go on a never-ending journey to the stars. Rather, she’s an 11-year-old from Hokkaido who has trouble talking in person but likes listening to ham radio and 70s enka. In the story of Shinkalion Z, she learns about Shinkalions through a broadcast by a confused and forlorn antagonist from the first series, and discovers the existence of the Shinkansen Ultra Evolution Institute that commands the Shinkalions. Key to this is someone who’s clearly the commander of the Institute from the first series, thinly disguised. Having made a handful of appearances since Episode 20, she reveals her own Shinkalion in Episode 28: The Shinkalion Z H5 Hayabusa.

It’s pretty much impossible for Shinkalion Z to have kept any of Maetel’s original backstory, so I understand why they went a very different route. Her Shinkalion is also the spiritual successor of Hatsune Miku’s, the latter of whom has a connection to Hokkaido through the annual Snow Miku festival—but I’m not sure if there’s any such relationship this time  Somewhat like Miku (who uses a different kanji for Hatsu-ne in this anime), her name is slightly off in Shinkalion Z: Her full name, Tsukino Maetel (“Maetel of the Moon”), is a sideways reference to Hoshino Tetsurou (“Tetsurou of the Stars”), the main character of Galaxy Express 999

While the aesthetic of Shinkalion is quite different from Galaxy Express 999, I hope they can incorporate the latter somehow. The gimmick of Shinkalion Z is that the bullet-train robots can combine with other trains for upgrades—could the H5 Hayabusa get some steam-locomotive arms?

Shinkalion Z episodes are typically only available for free on YouTube for a week or two, so that’s why I’m posting this now. In a rare moment, Episodes 21 through 27 are available until the 30th of November, so if you want to see more of Tsukino Maetel, now’s your chance.

A Tribute of Violence and Reverence: Getter Robo Arc

Getter Robo Arc is one of the most unusual Getter Robo anime ever, doing what none of its predecessors even bothered to try: Be a generally faithful adaptation of the manga. This choice is all the more unusual because 1) the manga never finished, and 2) watching any (or even all) of the previous Getter Robo anime only prepares you to a certain degree. But Getter Robo Arc has different priorities than many anime, including its predecessors, and that’s to be a letter of love and gratitude to the original creator of Getter Robo, the late Ishikawa Ken.

Getter Robo Arc is the story of Nagare Takuma, son of the original head pilot of Getter Robo, Nagare Ryouma. Having experienced tragedy and now filled with a desire for revenge, he travels to the Saotome Research Institute (the home of Getter Robo) to get some answers. However, heading the Institute is his father’s old co-pilot, Jin Hayato, and the old scientist recognizes in Takuma the same fiery spirit as Ryouma. Hayato draws Takuma into piloting the mighty Getter Robo Arc against a mysterious force from beyond the cosmos bent on wiping out humanity known as the Andromeda Stellaration, and joining him are Takuma’s friend Yamagishi Baku, a psychically gifted monk whose older brother also has ties to Getter Robo, and Shou Kamui, a half-dinosaur descended from the first Getter Robo’s enemies. As they battle, their struggle takes them to the core truths of what the mysterious “Getter Energy” is.

It’s difficult to exaggerate how varied the Getter Robo anime prior to Arc have been. Sometimes they’re approximate counterparts to manga versions with the edges shaved off a little, like with Getter Robo, Getter Robo G, and Getter Robo Go. Sometimes they’re heavily reimagined sequels and reboots that play with elements of the franchise like Lego blocks, as is the case with Shin Getter Robo Armageddon, Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, and New Getter Robo. So while Getter Robo Arc is supposed to be the last manga entry and the direct sequel to every manga version before it, watching literally every anime that has come out before will give you a rough preparation for what’s going on, but there will inevitably be a lot of blank spaces to fill out in terms of understanding. Someone coming in with this as their very first Getter Robo anime may feel lost for at least two or three episodes.

Yet, even with this confusing aspect of the series and animation that comes across in the best of times as desperately trying to make the best of limited talent and resources, I really enjoyed the ride that Getter Robo provides. Even if Takuma, Kamui, and Baku can never stay on-model from scene to scene, the anime conveys their intensity in spades. Though the story feels like a rickety minecart, the franchise’s general emphasis on the positives and negatives of limitless human potential ring loudly here in a way that shows the original manga’s undeniable influence on works like Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann. And while the battles aren’t quite as gorgeous as the ones found in the 2000s OVAs like Armageddon, they’re still impressive and exciting. 

I didn’t go into this show knowing what I’m about to mention, but I think it can be important for fans to know an important SPOILER about the Arc manga:

It never finished.

Similar to Miura Kentaro’s recent passing and Berserk, Getter Robo Arc and Getter Robo as a whole are in a state of limbo because of Ishikawa’s death in 2006. While the question of whether Berserk will continue is still unknown, the anime version of Arc barely adds anything extra to the cliffhanger that greets viewers by the end. I can’t say I’m entirely satisfied with that approach, as I think it wouldn’t have been a terrible idea to at least try—the manga’s still there, after all. But much like with Miura and Berserk, it might not have felt appropriate to take a generally faithful manga adaptation to a conclusion not envisioned by an author like Ishikawa, who clearly had an entire universe of Getter in his mind.

Overall, Getter Robo Arc comes across as crude and inconsistent in execution, yet filled with love and passion. In a way, it perfectly encapsulates the Getter spirit. It does make me wonder if we’ll ever see more Getter Robo anime, but I think that’s, in a way, an inevitability.

Sakura Wars, Super Robot Wars 30, and the DLC Hype Train

Sakura Wars is in Super Robot Wars 30. That means, for the second time in history, a Sega giant robot video game series is debuting in Super Robot Wars as a newcomer—16 years after Virtual On broke new ground in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3. I find this to be an important moment in SRW history, and not only because Sakura Wars has been long anticipated by fans. The other big factor is that Sakura Wars is the first new series to come in as DLC, and the concept of continued hype via shocking entries reminds me a lot of one of my other favorite game franchises: Super Smash Bros.

Super Robot Wars as a whole predates Super Smash Bros. by almost a decade, but they’re built from a similar concept in terms of promotion: Show all the varying franchises that are in each game, and have players freak out over the fact that what was thought to be impossible is, in fact, real. Even on Youtube, Super Robot Wars 30 has been getting the reaction videos common to Smash, albeit on a smaller scale. But SRW has long done it in one giant cannon fire, releasing one massive preview video, as opposed to the drip-drop approach that Smash has utilized since the Brawl website days. While there are only two batches of DLC for Super Robot Wars 30, I like the idea that there are still surprises on the table after we thought things were done. I don’t necessarily feel this way about DLC in general, and the difference is that SRW and Smash alike are generally already filled to the gills with content.

It’s also funny to think about how the series that go into SRW are collectively older than what shows up in Smash. The oldest mecha manga dates all the way back to the 1960s (namely Tetsujin 28), while the Duck Hunt light shooter game (before video games even really existed) came out in 1968. While Nintendo and video games in general are bigger business these days, one could argue that the resources that make up Super Robot Wars are bigger and more legacy-defining in their own way.

Super Robot Wars 30 comes out in a couple of weeks, and I already have my Ultimate Edition pre-order. Unlike previous games, this one is officially available in English in an easy-to-obtain way via Steam, which is where I’ve purchased it. I’ll be eager to try out the Sakura Wars units, and everything else the game has to offer. Most importantly, we’re gonna get some sweet-ass Sakura Wars music.

It might be about time for me to work on another Gattai Girls post too…

The Anime THEY Don’t Want You to Know About: Makyou Densetsu Acrobunch

For many years, the only impressions I had of the anime Makyou Densetsu Acrobunch were 1) that it has a fantastically beautiful and catchy opening and 2) the vague sense that it’s about a group of adventurers traveling the world in their giant robot. After finally getting the chance to watch the series in full, I find that it simultaneously falls short of and exceeds my expectations.

The premise: Acrobunch follows Rando Tatsuya and his five children on their quest to pursue clues about the legend of “Quaschika,” which is said to be the key to a mysterious treasure. Traveling in their combining giant robot, Acrobunch, they must also contend with the Goblin Society, an ancient underground race that is tens of thousands of years old and seeks the power of Quaschika to take over the surface world and supplant the human race. The characters travel to prominent ancient landmarks/sites (Atlantis, Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines. etc.), get into battles, fall in love, and discover that the secrets they’re after are far beyond what they could have predicted.

Acrobunch is, in a word, inconsistent. From story to animation, the quality swings wildly from meh to marvelous. When you look at the visual presentation, the secondary hero is supposed to be Tatsuya’s youngest son Jun, but he rarely gets plotlines of his own and is often overshadowed by his handsome older brother Hiro. On top of that, he looks anywhere between 10 and 20 years old, depending on who’s drawing him (see also Da Garn). The four Goblin Demon Generals are who the Randos fight the most, and every so often the series reveals a glimpse into their characters, only to hardly build on them further. Examples such as Hiro’s romance/rivalry with the beautiful White General Cera, Black General Groizy’s desire to make Cera his own, or how Blue General Bluzom seems to have a bit of a noble streak all get brought up and then left underexplored. All the storylines involve the search for Quaschika one way or another, but there are definitely some that are more compelling.

Even the robot itself suffers from this, sporting a nice-looking but rather complicated design that results in either Acrobunch looking fantastic (as in the aforementioned opening animated by the endlessly influential Kanada Yoshinori) or terrible (like a Ginguiser reject). That same opening also contributes to the false impression of Hiro’s importance and age. Overall, it’s not even that Acrobunch is too episodic, but just that sometimes there are episodes that hit and sometimes there are ones that miss, regardless of how much each one advances the main story.

Aside from the amazing opening, the main thing about Acrobunch that lingers in the memories of Japanese fans is actually the final episode, and so I think it’s important for me to discuss the big reveal of the series. Stop reading now if you wish to avoid spoilers. 

In episode 24, the characters discover that Quaschika is actually the spirits of a civilization that came from beyond our universe, and who are responsible for starting life as we know it. Whenever a planet’s sentient life-forms get too evil overall, the world and/or universe are destroyed, and the “good souls” are taken by Quaschika to start over again. It sounds like the perfect recipe for a true antagonist that could potentially unite the humans and goblins against a common foe—except that Tatsuya actually enables the world’s destruction and reset to happen! Without blinking an eye, he triggers the transformation, and in the end we see our six heroes and even one of the Goblin Demon Generals spirited off to a new universe as the rest of Earth’s inhabitants are wiped out!

Although it’s a hell of a twist, it doesn’t seem like Tatsuya’s actions are meant to be a kind of villainous reveal. Rather, because Acrobunch’s story takes so much from conspiracy theories, the anime’s curveball finale ends up feeling more like a cousin to the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens mixed with the kind of apocalyptic prophecies you get from cults like Heaven’s Gate or Jonestown. In a sense, Acrobunch is like a cousin to the grimmer works of Tomino Yoshiyuki like Ideon and Zambot 3, but with a further touch of paranoia. The abruptness of it might also be the result of the series getting cut short, and it wasn’t that unusual back then to cap off a canceled anime in the most traumatic way possible, as with Baldios.


Makyou Densetsu Acrobunch doesn’t exactly come out of the gate swinging, but it can be an interesting experience that does enough to build on itself. That doesn’t necessarily prepare viewers for the end of the series that basically explodes everything we knew thus far, but at least it means Acrobunch is hard to forget once you know about it. And as always, there’s that irresistible opening to re-watch over and over.

Let’s Talk Evangelion in Shinkalion Z

Shinkalion Z 500 Type EVA, a robot that's a combination of Shinkalion and EVA-01 from Evangelion

It’s incredibly strange to go from the finality of the fourth Rebuild of Evangelion movie to seeing Shinji and Gendo characters show up in Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion Z, the fun-filled sequel anime about kids piloting bullet-train robots. What’s even more bizarre is that there’s a kind of thematic resonance between the two. The portrayals of the Eva characters in 3.0+1.01: Thrice Upon a Time and their Shinkalion Z appearances actually feel like they fit together.

Possibly due to its transportation and tourism connections, Shinkalion is famous for its unexpected pop culture cameos. A version of Hatsune Miku is a recurring character in the original Shinkalion. The franchise also makes multiple explicit references to city pop legend Yamashita Tatsuro, has Godzilla in a feature film, and showcases a Hello Kitty Shinkalion. It even just had a tiny Maetel from Galaxy Express 999 show up. Evangelion is just one of many pop culture icons to appear, but the sheer tonal difference between it and Shinkalion makes its presence all the more jarring on paper.

Ikari Shinji turning to face the viewer/the Shinkalion pilot Arata Shin.

Shinkalion already had a crossover with Evangelion in the first series, but whereas the main character back then (Hayasugi Hayato) visited Tokyo-3, here we have Shinji showing up in the world of Shinkalion. What really stands out about Shinji here is how gentle and reassuring he is in this world. The Shinji we see greeting the new protagonist, Arata Shin, has a calming presence that feels closest to the version of him we see towards the end of 3.0+1.01, as if parallel Shinjis arrived at the same place, only one had to go through some of the most dire trauma possible. The next closest would be the Shinji often found in Super Robot Wars after the positive influence of hotblooded pilots has rubbed off on him.

Not only does Shinji come across as a mature ment figure to Shin with the aura of a mentor, but he specifically mentions that he’s met a Shinkalion E5 pilot before. In other words, not only does the series acknowledge the previous Evangelion cameos within the world of the story, but we’re also likely seeing a Shinji who’s a little older. In a previous episode, it’s revealed that Shinkalion Z takes place in the world of the original Shinkalion after its climactic final battle, and reuniting with a Shinji with memories of what has come before actually creates a kind of anticipation for Hayato to return at some point.

Gendo sitting on a train platform bench next to some Shinkalion Z characters. The background is red and eerie, and Gendo's signature glasses are reflecting light.

As for Gendo (featured in the image at the beginning), he’s mostly played for laughs in terms of how incongruous he is with the relatively lighthearted world of Shinkalion. He says all the things you expect (“Shin, get in the Shinkalion”), but delivers it all with such a straight deadpan that it veers straight into parody territory. At the same time, his presence and demeanor feel reminiscent of a key scene in 3.0+1.01 involving trains, which makes the aforementioned resonance between that film and Shinkalion Z all the more noticeable. 

Ultimately, both Shinji and Gendo seem to be in better places in Shinkalion Z. While there’s nothing concretely saying so, I like to believe that the Shinji and Gendo of Shinkalion are better people because they have robots that are also trains—the kind of thing both father and son would probably enjoy, given their personalities and histories. 

Rei from Evangelion points at something, encouraging Asuka to take a look. Both are in their school uniforms.

Episodes are up on the official Youtube only until the following Monday EST, so anyone who wants to check out Shinji and the Shinkalion Z 500 Type EVA should do so as soon as they can. Unlike the last series, this episode actually has “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” for the streaming version.

It’s a Secret to Everybody: Giant Gorg

Tagami Yuu, a young boy in an explorer outfit and a beret, looks back at Giant Gorg, a large blue robot, in the background

In many ways, 1984’s Giant Gorg feels like an “anti–giant robot” anime. Sure, it has Yasuhiko “Yaz” Yoshikazu (one of the chief visionaries of Mobile Suit Gundam) as both director and character. And it’s indeed about a boy and his mecha guardian in the middle of a conflict that stands to change the entire world. But where most giant robot series before and after would aim for some combination of bombast, gritty science fictional realism, and/or gripping human melodrama, Giant Gorg often comes across as more concerned with atmosphere and conveying a sense of place in the world.

Giant Gorg follows 13-year-old Tagami Yuu, a Japanese boy who travels to New York City following clues about the death of his father. This takes him on a whirlwind adventure, all the way to the mysterious New Austral Island, where he learns about a mysterious organization named GAIL that seeks to discover the island’s secrets. There, he encounters a massive robot—Gorg—that seems to obey his every command. With a group of allies by his side, as well as the might of Gorg, Yuu works with the natives to push back GAIL, but he may have an even closer connection to the truths of New Austral Island than he realizes.

I enjoyed Giant Gorg for its moody feel, its excellent artwork and animation, and the fact that it feels more like you’re jumping into a specific time and place in world events. On the other hand, I would not call it “riveting.” While I had the ability to watch many episodes in one sitting, I rarely would watch more than two or three because the anime doesn’t really set itself up to compel viewers to keep going. Events that finish a given episode in Giant Gorg feel like the half-way point for an episode of Mobile Suit Gundam. Whereas the latter might leave you off with tears and shouting, the former more often hits the ending credits with the reveal of a hidden cave or something. 

Because of this, Giant Gorg feels unabashedly Yaz. Whether it’s a manga set in the dawn before the Russo-Japanese War or his retelling of the Gundam story in Gundam: The Origin, Yaz tends to focus on giving his stories the same feel as a fascinating but dense historical text. This makes it all the easier to see what he and Gundam director Tomino Yoshiyuki each brought to that franchise—Yaz’s attention to detail and physical realism contrasts with Tomino’s chaotic energy and far-reaching visions. It’s like Yaz is a master baker who can produce incredibly well-made cakes, but never quite got the hang of how to do amazing icing. Giant Gorg, in turn, can feel both like a distillation of one man’s style and half an anime.

As a final note, I want to end off by recounting a sort of “personal history of Giant Gorg”:

I was studying abroad in Japan in 2005 when I saw a commercial for the upcoming DVD release of Giant Gorg. I had heard of the series before, but was mostly struck by how fantastic the robot itself looked. It’s an aesthetic that stayed with me for a long time.

Ten years later, I found myself sitting near the front of the Sunrise anime studio panel at New York Comic Con 2015, alongside my friend Patz. The presenter was going through a list of Sunrise series available in the US, when Giant Gorg came on-screen. The series had been licensed for US release just months before, and as mecha nerds, both Patz and I began shouting with excitement. We were sitting close enough to the presenter that she noticed and, with a surprised look on her face, asked, “Really?” The two of us responded by shouting, “GOOORG!” in unison. We were just excited for the opportunity to own such an obscure and gorgeous piece of anime and mecha history. While Giant Gorg won’t go down as one of my all-time favorites, its flavor is unmistakable and appreciated.

PS: There’s an antagonistic group in the show called the Cougar Connection led by Lady Lynx. The jokes are silly and obvious, but I can’t help chuckling every time it comes up.

Standing in a Whirl of Confusion—Gundam Reconguista in G Part II: Bellri’s Fierce Charge

The G-Self in combat

Gundam Reconguista in G compilation films Part I and Part II are currently available on the official Gundam Youtube channel. Having previously seen the first film at Anime NYC 2019, I wondered if the smart changes that made Part I significantly better than the TV series would also carry into the sequel. I’m happy to say this is indeed the case.

Gundam Reconguista in G Part II: Bellri’s Fierce Charge continues where Part I: Go! Core Fighter left off. In this era of the classic Gundam‘s Universal Century timeline, the massive space wars of the past are ancient history and the nations of the Earth are managed by a central mediating body known as the Capital Tower, home to a space elevator that receives energy batteries from space and distributes them across the world. Bellri Zenam is the son of Capital Tower’s leader, but after the Tower’s defense force, the Capital Guard, starts to be supplanted by the more militaristic Capital Army, Bellri gets caught up in the middle of a new conflict. As the pilot of the mysterious G-Self, he ends up traveling with what is ostensibly a pirate crew as he tries to figure out his place in the world.

Bellri in tears while in combat

This film continues the trend of being far more understandable compared with its source material, though that’s not to say it’s easy to follow—merely easier. Director Tomino Yoshiyuki’s style can be famously obtuse and bombastic, and that’s the case here as well. However, Bellri’s Fierce Charge establishes the characters more solidly and allows them to act as a focal point for the story. So while the complex and sparsely explained politics of the G-Reco setting can still be a recipe for confusion, viewers can anchor themselves to the emotions of those characters who are often equally confused. If there’s anything viewers might get mixed up on that the characters take for granted, it’s the distinction between the Capital Guard and the Capital Army, which reflects an ongoing debate over the role of the Japan Self Defense Force and Japan’s constitutional anti-war stance.

This is especially the case with Bellri himself, who in the TV series could sometimes unintentionally come across as carefree at best and a sociopath at worst. Here, what should have been a major turning point in his life in the original version gets a proper amount of attention, and you can see the degree to which there is a clash between Bellri’s ideals, his frustration at adults for making the world a worse place, and the decisions he feels forced to make.

Barara Peor next to a wall

Other characters shine as well. Whether it’s Captain Mask, Aida Surugan, or even Bellri’s mom, the strong portrayals of their personalities—facilitated by great animation—give Part II an extra oomph that keeps it memorable and shows the complexity of their world. Yoshida Ken’ichi’s character designs are always excellent, with side character Barara Peor (above) being an especially strong design.

I think the Gundam Reconguista in G movies are well on their way to becoming the definitive version. The new edits and footage take what were excellent but obtuse ideas and criticisms about humanity’s current relationship with war, and convey these ideas much more solidly and emotionally. I would have watched the entirety of the tetralogy already, but now I’m really looking forward to seeing the end again.

One final note: The main theme of Bellri’s Fierce Charge is by the famous Japanese group Dreams Come True, arguably better known internationally as the composers of the first two Sonic the Hedgehog games. The theme, shown above, can be found on their official channel.

Speedwagon from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure shouting "Gaaaaah! Even Shakespeare is afraid!" in reference to lyrics from the Dreams Come True song, G.