Shining in the Sea of Stars: “Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 3” Novel Review

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST AND SECOND GAOGAIGAR VS. BETTERMAN NOVELS

Hakai-oh: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 3 brings the story of the Gaogaigar universe to a close, and what a journey it’s been. 24 years after the original TV series, we finally know the fates of all our brave heroes, and the tension and excitement never let up through this massive third volume. It truly does feel like the end of a long journey.

(Seriously, this thing is a monster compared to the first two.)

King of Kings

To start, since the release of Part 2, something major has happened to Gaogaigar vs. Betterman: It’s gotten an official name! The novels didn’t get licensed; rather, it became one of the titles in Super Robot Wars 30, where it was announced in English as King of Kings: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman. The term “Hakai-oh” is quite tricky to translate without sounding awkward and retaining enough of the meaning of the Japanese, and I find this to be an incredibly good compromise that also makes sure to pair well with the classic King of Braves Gaogaigar English title. It also gets translated as Conqueror-King in dialogue. Note that I call it Hakai-oh in the title mainly for consistency with my previous reviews, but I like these translations enough to use them for this review.

Gaogaigar vs. Betterman being in SRW30 also means that’s how most English speakers are likely experiencing the story, but there are a number of notable differences. So this review (as well as the previous two) might be worth checking out just to see how this plotline was originally handled.

The Story

Part 3 starts off with some of the Gutsy Galaxy Guard restored to their normal selves, with many dangerous and notable exceptions remaining. These “Conqueror’s Thralls” (previously translated as Hakai Servants) are still under the powerful influence of Triple Zero, which Mamoru, Guy, and the rest now understand to be not only the source of The Power, but the energy produced from a dying universe during a Big Crunch. The Thralls seek to bring everything to “provenance”—a reset to oblivion—leading to some fierce and emotionally difficult battles. Meanwhile, the Somniums still act according to their own beliefs, but their mysterious ties to humanity are tested, and their true motives are revealed. Mamoru and Ikumi’s Gaogaigo, Guy’s Gaofighgar, and more must be braver than ever before if they want to free their friends and ultimately fight against the Conqueror-King Genesisc Gaogaigar. But as they discover in their struggle, courage might just be the antidote to Triple Zero.

A Universe Unto Itself

I’m being something of a broken record at this point, but more than ever, the way in which the novel draws upon the entirety of Gaogaigar lore is still one of my favorite aspects. There’s enough explanation so that those who don’t have a degree in Braveology can still follow along, and it never feels overly reliant on nostalgia or old ideas. 

How does Mikoto being part-Zonuda affect her as a Thrall? What does Guy’s evoluder biology say about his potential future? How does the time dilation that impacted the old GGG affect their relationships with their friends and family back on Earth? The Somniums can fuse with each other to form Betterman Cataphract, but how far can they take it? All those questions are asked and answered while never losing sight of the main story, the fight against the King of Kings.

Even the climax towards the end of the novel is a huge nod to the final episode of the original TV series, one that feels like a progression rather than a retread, and builds upon an overall satisfying experience. 

The Best Battles Ever?

If there’s one thing that Gaogaigar is known for, it’s amazing fights. Even in pure prose without the benefit of animation, this still applies. I’m even tempted to call these particular fights the best the franchise has ever seen, and it’s largely because of how each one feels unique from the others, the way the stakes keep building up, and the desperate solutions that they need to find. How can they compete with Commander Taiga, whose stalwart leadership provided the backbone of GGG? The Goldion Crusher was their ace in the hole in the conflict with the 11 Planetary Masters of Sol in Gaogaigar FINAL, so what hope do they have when faced with a Silverion Crusher wielded by a terrifyingly powered-up Conqueror King J-Der? 

In each case, there’s the exciting push and pull so characteristic of Gaogaigar battles, but there’s also the sense that the characters are doing all they can to strategize, persevere, and fight. There’s a moment in one of the later battles where they creatively utilize the technology that allowed Gaogaigar to upgrade its Protect Shade and Broken Magnum into the Protect Wall and Broken Phantom, and Guy’s uncle Liger contemplates how, unlike most everything else they use, this was a purely human invention by Guy’s father, Leo. In Liger’s view, the Wall Ring and Phantom Ring are representative of humanity building upon and contributing to the boon of alien technology they received from Galeon so long ago—a fusion of Earth and Green-Planet science, not unlike Gaogaigo. It’s a beautiful moment.

And perhaps most importantly, the final volume answers whether “vs.” means “team up” in the Dynamic Pro tradition, or “confrontation” in the more conventional sense. The answer is a creative one.

Romance

While there are many couples and would-be couples in the Gaogaigar universe, it’s never been the focus in any real way. Here, though, the topic takes center stage in what feels like a pay-off. Whether it’s Mamoru and Hana as childhood sweethearts, the forged-in-combat bond of Soldat J and Renais, the central romance of Guy and Mikoto, or the more down-to-Earth and relationship of Keita and Hinoki, everything pretty much comes to a head here. All of them are entertaining to read, and I’m especially fond of how J’s versions of care and compassion tie into his warrior ethos—nothing like handing your girl your finishing move so she can wield it herself.

Issues

One criticism I have is that the series is 100% heteronormative in its romances. I’m not saying that they needed to reveal that Ikumi or some other character was gay or anything, and I understand that all of the above relationships are basically tying up loose ends from Gaogaigar and Betterman, but it’s still nevertheless something missing that could show that time has truly moved forward. I don’t think this omission makes Gaogaigar vs. Betterman bad or unenjoyable, but I find it’s worth pointing out.

I also think that the Betterman parts are significantly more confusing than the Gaogaigar sections. This might be because that series is less fresh in my mind, but one big difference is that most of the Gaogaigar-side characters come from the TV series and OVA. In contrast, while the human side of Betterman sees a large number of returning faces, the Somniums (the titular Bettermen) are for the most part new characters, and so it feels like there’s less to latch onto.

The last thing I’ll mention here is that the series has kind of a complex relationship with its portrayal of characters with disabilities. There’s great emphasis on how the scientific and technological efforts made have given those with disabilities the opportunity to lead lives they might not have been able to otherwise, and that what fuels this is largely love and compassion. At the same time, you have characters like Guy who, even in his previous cyborg form, comes across more as a “supercrip.” I’m not an expert in this subject, so I’d be interested in hearing others’ takes on this matter.

Favorite Touches

This is where the SPOILERS abound, so I’m putting a WARNING right here.

I’ve already touched on a number of things that stick out in my mind, but I want to elaborate a bit more on them here. It’s mostly the battles.

The aesthetic of the Silverion Crusher is nothing short of magnificent, with the Crusher resembling a giant flaming King J-Der head like it’s the most terrifying dullahan ever. The battle against it also has many moving parts that feel necessary because of what an overwhelming adversary it is. Gaogaigar fans know the sheer destructive force that is the Goldion Crusher, and the way they have to basically attack the units that spread out to create the hammerhead in order to prevent it from fully deploying, or else it’s game over. The way the fight comes down to Guy and Ikumi battling J and Renais in order to purify them also has a feeling somewhat akin to the final battle in Gurren-Lagann

The struggle against Conqueror-King Genesic is chock full of astounding elements, such as the fact that the fight is led by Gaogaigar (Guy), Gaogaigo (Mamoru and Ikumi), and Gaofighgar (now controlled by Renais) working together to take it on, with King J-Der and Kakuseijin V2 for support. In other words, it’s triple Gaogaigar vs. Genesic. As they fight, they manage to break apart Genesic’s Final Fusion, but then have to fight the separated but individually sentient Genesic Gao MAchines all at once, resulting in an additional challenge.

You may be wondering how it’s possible that vanilla Gaogaigar is part of this fight, but its core is actually the original Galeon pulled from the past by the Somniums. What’s more this Gaogaigar ends up combining with Betterman Cataphract to form Musou Gaogaigar, or Dream Armor Gaogaigar. The narration mentions that you could alternately call this Gaogaigar’s “Great Gattai,” making a reference to other Brave series combinations like Great Exkaiser and Great Might Gaine. 

Then, in that same struggle, we see the aforementioned use of Phantom Ring technology. More specifically, it’s actually about turning the “Global Wall” that helped restore electronic communications back to the Earth and switching it to a “Phantom Mode.” The very fact that the Global Wall was sitting there as a pseudo-Chekhov’s gun filled me with a kind of fiery joy—it had already played a role, but here was a second and even bigger one that feels both out of nowhere and logically consistent. That’s actually kind of this whole novel series in a nutshell. 


In a similar vein, King J-Der ends up combining with Earth’s technology to form the amazing-sounding Dimension Ten-TImes Pliers, which is King J-Der with Dimension Pliers for fingers. I want to see this in an actual animation so badly.

And during the climax, when it’s time to form Final Gaogaigar for the last battle, it’s not just Guy fusing with Genesic Galeon, but all the Genesic Gao Machines having fusions with other characters. It’s a lot like the finale of the TV series, where the Brave Robots have their AIs installed into the regular Gao Machines because they’ve been disabled by Mikoto-as-Zonuda. Goldion Armor and the Goldion Finger attack (essentially a giant hand consisting of Goldion Hammers for fingers) is amazing, but the thematic full-circle from the fully fused Final Gaogaigar stands out even more.

After all the fighting, we’re treated to an epilogue and an extra story. In them, we see how Mamoru and Hana have a child named Tsubasa (gender unknown), but also that Guy and Mikoto will accompany Galeon and the J-Ark crew to explore the universe. In other words, Guy is going back to his original dream of being an astronaut, and I think it’s such a beautiful way to end his story.

The “FINAL” Word

I love that these novels exist. While I wish this could have been animated from the start and given the treatment it truly deserves, the story told in these pages soars in ways that make me smile and have pride in being a Gaogaigar fan. If Gaogaigar vs. Betterman is a love letter, then it’s one that turns a romance into a marriage, and embodies everything great about the universe of its characters and heroes. In the afterword, both the original director who supervised these novels, Yonetani Yoshitomo, and the series author (who actually wrote for the TV anime way back), Takeda Yuichiro, approached these novels with the sense that they would cap off the story of Gaogaigar as a whole. I would never be against a sequel, but the fact that we the fans even got a conclusion is more than I could have hoped for, let alone having it end so well.

 

Who Dares Interrupt My Corona-tion?!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for December 2021

A low-angle view of the planet-sized Transformer, Unicron.

The end-of-the-year holidays are rolling around, and I feel like I’m in a strange place mentally and emotionally. I think it’s tied to the assumption that this year’s Christmas would be a far cry from the feelings of hesitation and dread that came with COVID-19 and hot off of the 2020 US elections, and how history might potentially be repeating itself. Virtually everyone I know is vaccinated, including many kids, but reports of the new Omicron variant make me wonder if I need to temper my expectations. And inevitably, it just makes me think of a certain planet-sized Transformer.

(Speaking of which, I got the new blu-ray recently. I don’t know for sure when I’ll re-watch the movie, but it never fails to disappoint.)

On a lighter note, I haven’t been looking at as much anime and manga lately, but there’s a very good reason for that: Super Robot Wars 30. It’s supposed to be over 100 hours, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I am enjoying the hell out of getting to use Gaogaigo and the J-Decker squad, though.

I also attended Anime NYC 2021, but due to my blog schedule, my coverage of it will be in December. Look forward to a review of Pompo the Cinephile!

I wish for safe and soul-comforting holidays for everyone, and I’d like to thank my patrons for the month:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from November:

Real Character: Love Live! Superstar!!

My review of what turned out to be the best Love Live! anime—emphasis on anime.

The Best Sports Manga You’re Not Reading: Shoujo Fight

My long overdue general review of thia fantastic volleyball manga.

Imagine Fourteen Balls on the Edge of a Cliff: Ogiue Maniax 14th Anniversary

An anniversary post turned into a reflection on the site Something Awful in light of its founder’s death.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 46 is more serious than silly, and it provides a window into Jin’s inner turmoil.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter involves sharing his thoughts on erotic manga artists.

Apartment 507

Six giant robot anime came out in Fall 2021. Here are my basic impressions of all of them.

Closing

The world is ever unpredictable, and I hope we do what we can as people to watch out and care for one another. Get vaccinated if you can, look out for your fellow humans, and understand that no one is free until we’re all free.

Away with Ads: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2021

Readers may have noticed something different this month: Ogiue Maniax is now ad-free! And right in time for this blog’s anniversary!

I felt that the ads were getting more and more intrusive on the blog if you don’t use any sort of ad block, so I’ve been wanting to do something for a while now.

I’ve also had my Patreon going for more than a few years now, and I wanted the money to go more directly to giving my readers a better experience when reading my posts. I’m thankful to my patrons for allowing me to talk about the new anime season or giant robots or whatever, with special gratitude to the following this month:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from October:

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

I reviewed a lesser known but quite peculiar mecha anime from the 1980s.

The Best Sports Manga You’re Not Reading: Shoujo Fight

My long overdue general review of thia fantastic volleyball manga.

Sora in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Gameplay Thoughts

My personal take on the style and potential of the final DLC character.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 45 might just be my favorite chapter to date. Things are coming to a head between Akira and Jin!

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter has been buzzing with preparation for both his collected-volume releases in September. In a rare treat, he’s actually been retweeting fans who are supporting both Spotted Flower and Hashikko Ensemble, which is how I got retweeted by the man himself!

Apartment 507

A look at the farewell episode for Jigen Daisuke’s retiring veteran voice actor in Lupin III.

Closing

The two things that have my attention as of late are the final Hakai-oh: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman novel and Super Robot Wars 30, which features that very same story. I’m in a constant internal struggle as to which I prioritize. Do I spoil the novel or the game?

This month is also Anime NYC, and I’ll likely end up going. It’s smaller than New York Comic Con, so I predict it’ll be safer, but it’ll still be important to exercise best COVID-19 prevention practices. Remember, vaccinations will be required!

Courage and Experience: “Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 2” Novel Review

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST GAOGAIGAR VS. BETTERMAN NOVEL

The Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman web novel series has been a blessing for giant robot fans. Taking place in the Gaogaigar universe ten years after the cliffhanger ending of the Gaogaigar FINAL OVAs, it tells the story of how the world has changed since the Gutsy Galaxy Guard got trapped in another universe, and the new challenges those on Earth must face. A now twenty-year-old Amami Mamoru has gone from plucky kid companion to a seasoned robot pilot in his own right, working alongside his fellow alien adoptee Kaidou Ikumi to control Gaogaigo, a successor to the King of Braves in the fight against the forces that threaten the world. The series is being collected into print novels, and that’s the way in which I’ve been reading it.

The end of Part 1 saw the triumphant return of Shishioh Guy, the original pilot of Gaogaigar. However, his comeback was not without cos,t as the robot lion Galeon nobly sacrificed itself to free Guy from the clutches of their mysterious god-like adversary, Hakai-oh (“World-Conquering King.”) The second novel, Part 2, picks up directly from that point with a new challenge: a reunion with some old and familiar faces, not as allies but as enemies. Guy and Mamoru must fight across the world, respectively as the Mobile Corps Commanders of the Gutsy Galaxy Guard (GGG Green) and the Gutsy Global Guard (GGG Blue).

Genuine Care for Lore and Characterization Alike

When I read Gaogaigar vs. Betterman, I’m always struck by how much attention is paid to its own history and lore. While it can sometimes get a little too into the weeds, the general feeling that comes across is real affection and respect on the part of the creators for the universe they’ve created, as well as the fans who have embraced these stories. From the way fights play out to moments of character introspection, everything and everyone is portrayed with a robust three-dimensionality that rewards readers who remember both Gaogaigar and Betterman

For example, we’re reminded that Neuronoids (the robots of Betterman) are powered by artificial brains based on neurological patterns of actual species. This novel answers the question of what brain is in Gaogaigo: a dolphin from the Gaogaigar video game who was turned into a G-Stone cyborg like Guy, and who ultimately had to pass when the “Invisible Burst” that compromised electronics before the successful establishment of the Global Wall made it impossible to maintain the dolphin’s cybernetics. During a fight, it’s revealed that Gai-go is actually extremely strong in underwater combat—a product of being based on a marine creature.

There’s also a side story at the end of the novel that takes in the space between Part 1 and Part 2, where Guy and Mamoru visit a transit museum to see the original Liner Gao, the bullet train that becomes the shoulders of the original Gaogaigar. As they converse, the topic of the Replicant Mamoru from Gaogaigar FINAL comes up. While Repli-Mamoru ended up being merely a clone of the real Mamoru, Guy still carries a lot of guilt over killing him—especially because Guy hasn’t aged and still remembers that trauma as if it were mere weeks ago. It would have been all too easy to forget that part of the OVAs, especially because of the grandiosity of its later battles, but both the author (former Gaogaigar staff Takeda Yuuicihirou) and supervisor (the original director, Yonetani Yoshitomo) put in that extra mile. 

As a funny little moment during this side story, Guy is less astounded by the giant “Global Wall” defense system that allows wireless communications to work after a previous disaster than he is by Mamoru’s smartphone. When he last left, beepers (like Mamoru’s special GGG version) were still the norm, and to see the progression of human technology (as opposed to G-Stone technology derived from Galeon) puts a smile on Guy’s face.

Spotlight on Betterman 

Because Gaogaigar is the bigger franchise between the two marquee titles, it gets the (robot) lion’s share of the attention overall. However, Part 2 does devote more pages to the Betterman side of things than previously—while the first novel’s Betterman-focused pages are mainly about the Somniums (the titular “Bettermen”) and the question of whether they would help defend the Earth, this novel explores the original main characters, Aono Keita and Sai Hinoki, in greater detail. In particular, Keita was a relatively minimal factor in Part 1, but here, his romantic relationship with Hinoki is front and center for a significant portion of the book. Keita’s portrayal is interesting because of how humble his situation is. Rather than staying in space with Hinoki (who has since become highly educated and is a science officer for GGG Blue), Keita is without a college degree and works at an electronics store, where his otaku knowledge makes him an ideal employee. But Keita also works hard with the dream of providing a home that Hinoki can come back to, especially because Hinoki tragically lost her family as a young child.

The color insert at the beginning of the novel also has colored design images of Keita and Hinoki courtesy of the original character designer, Kimura Takahiro. As a huge fan of Kimura’s art (and his work creating Hinoki), it’s a welcome addition.

Intense(ly Clever) Battles and the Value of Experience

The real meat and potatoes of Part 2 are the many fights that take place throughout. Because they’re a pretty major surprise and make up such a huge portion of the story, I’m going to put an extra SPOILER WARNING here.


While there’s a bit of fighting between Guy and Betterman Lamia that makes the Gaogaigar vs. Betterman title technically true, the main thrust of conflict in Part 2 comes in the form of the old Gutsy Galaxy Guard members who have now been taken over by the “Triple Zero” energy that comes from Hakai-oh. Now greatly powered up and known as the “Hakai Servants,” Brave Robots and human GGG agents alike now fight against the Earth with the goal of bringing “divine providence” to the universe. 

The first character who shows up to oppose the heroes is actually Hakai Mic Sounders, and I will say that “Evil Mic Sounders” is indeed quite a trip. Still using his characteristic mix of English and Japanese, it’s easy to not take a line like “SORRY, but I have to destroy you” seriously—that is, until you’re reminded of how powerful Mic truly is. With the ability to produce sound waves that can break down anything (if given the right information), Mic Sounders is capable of rendering even the toughest armors useless. The only reason they win is because a Betterman who can control sound herself is able to provide a counterbalance.

That battle introduces the recurring idea in the fights against the infected Brave Robots: GGG is a great asset when on the side of humanity, but beyond dangerous when its powers are turned against Earth. Goldymarg’s signature toughness (enough to withstand the power of the Goldion Hammer when in Marg Hand form) makes him able to withstand just about anything, and it takes a “Goldion Double Hammer” weapon wielded by Guy in Gaofighgar to even begin to even the odds. Tenryujin and Big Volfogg make for similarly intimidating opponents with their own unique strengths, Volfogg’s role as guardian of a young Mamoru in the past providing an extra layer of stakes in that particular fight. But it’s also not just the robots who are a threat—the human members have also become Hakai Servants, and the tactical prowess of Commander Taiga and the genius hacking skills of Entouji provide extra hurdles for GGG Green and GGG Blue. 

Another recurring theme throughout these fights, however, is that the time dilation difference between the old GGG members and the current ones means that Mamoru and the others have ten years of their own experience under their belts. There’s a moment at the beginning of the novel where Mamoru says that he’s willing to relinquish the role of GGG Mobile Corps Commander to Guy, only for Guy to reject his offer and to praise Mamoru for having clearly been through many tough trials of his own, and at this point actually has fought with GGG for longer than he has. He further explains that he was originally just the right man for the moment, having been an astronaut transformed into a G-Stone cyborg to save his life, and wasn’t a born fighter himself.

And so we see that sentiment play out. In the fight against Tenryujin, her younger “sister” Seiryujin, the latter targets Tenryujin’s knees—a seemingly odd move, until one remembers that the individual robots that compromise the “Ryu” series all turn upside down to combine, meaning their chests (and thus their Hakai-infected AI boxes) are located in the legs. When dealing with Entouji’s computer virus, GGG Blue member Inubouzaki Minoru takes center stage. Originally a jealous rival of Entouji’s who became a Zonder in the TV series, and later returned as an ally when the Gutsy Geoid Guard became the Gutsy Galaxy Guard, Inubouzaki shows the progress he’s made the past decade not only in terms of improved skills but also being more at peace with himself and his past.

Just as everything seems to be going Earth’s way, however, the next Hakai Nobility appear: Goryujin and Genryujin (who both have access to THE POWER), as well as Soldat J and King J-Der. The preview of the next (and last!) volume hints at what’s to come with the key to victory: something called “Goldion Armor.”

To the End

The web novel version of Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman has concluded, and the concluding print release is supposed to be out this summer. While I could jump in and start reading it online now, I think I’m going to wait once more. If I could wait close to 15 years before, I can withstand a few months. 

In the meantime, I’ve also been reading the manga adaptation of this series, which provides some of the visual flair that’s inevitably missing from the prose version. I can only hope that we might see an actual anime come out of this someday.

Anime NYC 2019 Hype Post, aka The Craziest, Most Incredible Guests

Anime NYC 2019 is only two days away, and I want to use this opportunity to talk about how amazing the guests are this year. I promise that this is not a paid or sponsored endorsement in any way—these are my genuine feelings, and my feeling is that the guest list this year is just virtually perfect.

First and foremost, you have the legendary director of Mobile Suit Gundam, Ideon, and Zambot 3, Tomino Yoshiyuki. I saw him 10 years ago at New York Anime Festival 2009, and I am eager to see his return. He’ll be showing the first Gundam: Reconguista in G film, and as a staunch defender of that series, I’ve gotta go see it.

Then there’s Kimura Takahiro, animator and character designer on Gaogaigar, Godannar, Betterman, Brigadoon, and Code Geass. He is one of my favorite character designers ever, and I’m so, so stoked for him to be in New York.

Speaking of Code Geass, the voice actor Yukana will be making her New York City debut. In addition to playing C.C. in Code Geass (aka the best character in that series), she’s also Teletha Testarossa in Full Metal Panic!, Li Meiling in Cardcaptor Sakura, and Cure White in Futari wa Pretty Cure!

But Yukana is not the only Cure who will be there, as Ise Mariya (Cure Lemonade from Yes! Pretty Cure 5) is coming to promote The Promised Neverland, where she plays Ray. The director of The Promised Neverland, Kanbe Mamoru, will also be at Anime NYC 2019. He’s also the director for one of my favorite anime ever, Cosmic Baton Girl Comet-san.

Megalo Box is an amazing anime and reinterpretation of Ashita no Joe, Moriyama Yo, and both the director and producer, Fujiyoshi Minako, will be attending.

And the Lantis Matsuri concert Friday night will feature both JAM Project and Guilty Kiss from Love Live! Sunshine!! Having now attended concerts for both groups, I’m pumped to see them again (and again and again in the future, hopefully). Nothing is as fantastic as JAM Project performing “SKILL,” and a part of me is sincerely hoping all the groups involved will join in for a rousing “WHOHhhHHoooHHHooOoooH.”

So see you all at Anime NYC, and I hope these guests get the star treatment they deserve.

 

Super Robot Wars T and Gaogaigar’s Unspoken Plot Change?

I’ve been playing the heck out of Super Robot Wars T (available via import in English for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4), and as always, I’m into the loving fanfictional goodness that the franchise always entails. When you have all of these different giant robot heroes in the same universe, the interactions are an endless source of amusement and head-nodding affirmation.

Of the many crossover moments little and big, however, there is what I believe to be an unspoken story element that significantly alters the course of one particular series: King of Braves Gaogaigar. This might be mere fan speculation on my part, but I think it also makes total sense.

In the original 1997 Gaogaigar TV series, the main character Shishioh Guy uses an attack called Hell and Heaven to finish off monsters. A little into the series, however, he discovers that using the attack too much does severe damage to his cyborg body, and that overusing it could lead to death. In response to this, his team (known as GGG) creates a new, alternative finisher called the Goldion Hammer, which becomes his default decisive blow through most of the series. It’s only in desperate times when the Goldion Hammer isn’t available that Guy will resort back to Hell and Heaven.

But in Super Robot Wars T, when you meet Guy, the Goldion Hammer is nowhere in sight, despite the story being well past the point in the anime where he was supposed to get the Goldion Hammer. And yet, Guy shows no signs of excessive use of Hell and Heaven. On one level, this is likely a gameplay pacing decision, to keep Gaogaigar from having its strongest attack early on, but I think there’s also an in-story explanation: he simply didn’t have to use it as much in the SRWT universe.

Whereas Gaogaigar and GGG alone fought against EI-01 and the Zonders in the anime, in the game, they occasionally received help from Watta and Tryder G7 (from Muteki Robo Tryder G7), as well as Maito and Mightgaine (from The Brave Express Mightgaine). In other words, in SRWT, Guy had enough assistance in his many battles that, by the time we meet him in-game, he isn’t anywhere near as overburdened as he is in the anime.

It’s considerations like the above which make Super Robot Wars T (and Super Robot Wars in general) such a treat. I’m looking forward to seeing whatever other crazy moments are in store.

Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Manga Chapter 1: Go Read It!

Us Gaogaigar fans had long waited for a new sequel, a call that was answered this past year through the Hakai-Oh: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman novel series. In more recent news, Sunrise announced a manga adaptation, and the first chapter has been available online for the past month or so.

Having read through the first novel, this manga seems to be adapting the contents pretty faithfully. This might go without saying, but the key advantage of the manga version is that it’s more visual—a welcome thing given that Gaogaigar as a whole thrives on visual spectacle.  It’s also a lot easier to follow if your Japanese language proficiency isn’t especially strong.

I’m not sure what the schedule is for this manga, but I’m hoping that having it so easily accessible means that Gaogaigar fans will be able to rally around it, and really give it the attention it deserves.

Project Z Revived! “Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 1” Novel Review

Being a fan of Gaogaigar is to know joy and suffering. Its increasingly grandiose-yet-ever-personal story makes for one magnificent crescendo after another. But then, at the climax, fans were left with a bittersweet cliffhanger. The heroes we had cheered for were stuck in another galaxy, the only escapees the two alien boys who found loving home on Earth. For years, fans and characters alike were left in limbo, the one glimmer of hope—a proposed sequel called “Project Z”—dashed by sponsor and studio conflicts.

Then, out the blue, came a new light. Sunrise, the studio behind Gaogaigar, announced their own light novel imprint. From it has sprung The King of Braves Gaogaigar Novel 03: Hakai-oh – Gaogaigar vs. Betterman Part 1, a true novel sequel written by Takeda Yuuichirou, a former staff member on the Gaogaigar anime, and guided by Yonetani Yoshitomo, the original director. The book was created using Project Z as its foundation, so those who kept the fire alive for the Gutsy Galaxy Guard can finally be rewarded.

Note: There is also a two-part novelization of Gaogaigar Final, hence why this one is “Novel 03.” I’ve not read those prequel novels, so I don’t know what may have changed, or what new information might be available in them.

Plot

While there are many parts to Gaogaigar vs. Betterman, the main story focuses on Amami Mamoru and Kaidou Ikumi, the two extraterrestrial boys at the heart of the original anime. Where once they supported the brave robots, however, now they themselves are the pilots. Older and wiser but still full of passion, they pilot Gaogaigo, a combining mecha modeled after the original Gaogaigar with some added new powers. As the heroes of the new “Gutsy Global Guard, ” Mamoru and Ikumi must defend the Earth from old threats (namely the terrorist organization Bionet) and deal with a world where communications are crippled, all while trying to find a way to bring their old friends and comrades home. Looming over everything is a mysterious entity known as “Hakai-oh” (the “King of World-Conquerors”), whose visage appeared in the sky after a fateful event, and who bears an eerie resemblance Genesic Gaogaigar.

A Labor of Love

Thanks to the author and Yonetani’s efforts, the story is just jam-packed full of details from all facets of the Gaogaigar universe. That car above, shown for about five seconds at the start of Gaogaigar FINAL episode 2? That’s Polcott, a transforming robot that becomes a key member of the new GGG. Other new members of the Super Robot Corps reflect the use of Even the Gaogaigo is a “Neuro Mechanoid,” combining the Super Mechanoid technology featured in Gaogaigar with the Neuronoids of Betterman—a robot/occult horror series in the same universe. It makes sense, because without Galeon or Gaofar, they need something that can handle the burden of being the core machine.

Those are just a couple of details that show the unbelievable amount of love and care put into the novel. Whether it’s how characters have grown over a span of nine years, or connecting the mythos of Gaogaigar and Betterman together, or even drawing from all manner of obscure material without feeling forced, it made me happy to step back into its world. Of course, I wanted to know more than anything the fate of Guy and the rest of the old heroes (more on that later), but just seeing how the world has changed is a tremendous delight.

The Betterman side of the story is less prominent, but many of its elements permeate the story. An ongoing plot thread focuses on Lamia warning Mamoru and Ikumi of the threat of Hakai-oh, while also trying to convince his fellow Somniums if they should have a hand in the upcoming fight or leave humanity to their own devices. Many of the Betterman characters are also major players in the story. Chief Akamatsu, the designer of the Neuronoids, is the head of GGG (and apparently, Shishioh Liger’s son!). Sai Hinoki, the heroine, is a science and research officer at GGG as well. Seeing Keita and especially Hinoki at age 28 is wonderful in its own way.

Favorite Moments

Here are two of my favorite details from the novel. First, is that Mamoru still carries around his old GGG beeper. Second, is Gaogaigo’s use of Hell and Heaven. Much like in the real world, Earth in Gaogaigar is now filled with smartphones and the like, but 19-year-old Mamoru still holds onto that memento out of hope, and to keep his conviction to rescue everyone. That one item just says spades about where Mamoru is mentally and emotionally.

As for Hell and Heaven, fans of Gaogaigar might recall that the way this finishing technique worked was by combining the protective powers of Gaogaigar’s left side with the destructive properties of its right, allowing Gaogaigar to remove Zonder cores without harming them in the process. Gaogaigo’s works differently. Instead, it takes advantage of the fact that its copilots are Ikumi and Mamoru, bringing together the former’s J-Jewel energy with the latter’s G-Stone energy—a combination shown in Gaogaigar Final to create a power far more than the sum of its parts. Working with the technology, resources, and heroes they have, the Gutsy Global Guard have figured out different ways to protect the Earth.

Other Details

The novel comes with a number of extras. There’s a side story all about what happens with Ikumi when he landed in Australia unconscious (as briefly shown in Gaogaigar Final, above). Afterwords written by Yonetani and Takeda are very revealing and informative, chronicling the struggles of the original toyetic Gaogaigar production, the feeling that there wasn’t enough space to do everything desired in Gaogaigar Final, and the long path to making Gaogaigar vs. Betterman happen. The novel also includes an entire Gaogaigar glossary for every obscure term you might need to know, in addition to a timeline stating where every event—yes even the “Silverion Hammer” side story as well as random side stories from drama CDs—occurs within the Gaogaigar/Betterman universe.

Like other novels/light novels, illustrations are included throughout. Character drawings are by the original character designer, Kimura Takahiro (one of my favorites!), with mecha designs by Nakatani Seiichi, who was an animation director on the original Gaogaigar. The mecha drawings seem kind of weak overall, but I think that’s just because they seem a bit rushed or lacking in polish. Nakatani can clearly do good things with robot designs; they just lack dynamism on still pages.

The Big Questions

Now, I know a good chunk of you want to know what actually happens in the novel. You’ve been waiting years and years to find out the fate of Guy and the rest. So let’s get into…

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS (Highlight to view)
The very start of Gaogaigar vs. Betterman has the old GGG crew (plus Soldat J and friends) trying to get back to Earth through special wormhole technology from Galeon. After that first chapter, no trace of them is seen…until the climax at the end of the book. Mamoru and Ikumi, along with the other new GGG members, travel to Jupiter to confront Hakai-oh, who’s been compressing Jupiter into a black hole (or something like it). During the fight, which also includes an ally in an awesome combined Betterman (built from the monstrous forms of the Somniums), Guy suddenly emerges from a rift in space! Apparently, the rest of the old crew had went ahead previously, but their whereabouts are unknown. Guy, meanwhile, confirms that Hakai-oh is indeed Genesic Gaogaigar, but somehow controlled by a primal force that is the original source of THE POWER.
Guy is without a robot of his own to fight, but thanks to the Limpid Channel through which the Somniums communicate (featured in Betterman), Chief Akamatsu is able to talk to his uncle, Shishioh Leo, and bring along the prototype Phantom Gao. This allows Guy to form Gaofighgar and inform Mamoru and Ikumi of his main goal: get to Hakai-oh and rescue Galeon. However, during a grueling battle where they almost extract Galeon, the robot lion actually repels them and sends them away from Hakai-oh, sacrificing itself in the process. Guy is back (albeit the same age as ten years ago due to time dilation), Hakai-oh is still at large, and J and the old GGG are somewhere in the universe.
I have to admit that I jumped in my seat when Guy popped out. What’s even better is Guy hearing Mamoru’s deepened voice and not entirely recognizing him for a second. To Guy, Mamoru’s supposed to be this elementary school kid, and now he’s about the same age as when Guy first started piloting Gaogaigar. I may or may not have shed a tear.

Next Mission

Suffice it to say, I can’t wait for the next one. It truly feels good to have Gaogaigar back in my life.

Keijo!!!!!!!! + Gaogaigar

keijio-heavenandhell

Astute fans of giant robots might have noticed a reference to a certain lion-chested titan in the final episode of Keijo!!!!!!!! For those who didn’t know about the connection, I’ve written a post on Apartment 507.

[Apartment 507] Is “Voltron: Legendary Defender” Copying Anime?

I wrote a post looking at Voltron: Legendary Defender and its transformation sequence compared to that of King of Braves Gaogaigar. You can check it out at Apartment 507.