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.

Getter Robo Arc and the True Ishikawa Style?

When I was first really getting into anime, it seemed as if the classic 1970s giant robot franchise Getter Robo was in the middle of some sustained renaissance. Whether it was 1999’s Change! Shin Getter Robo: Armageddon, 2000’s Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, or 2005’s New Getter Robo, it felt as if another anime was always just around the corner. But then the well dried up (albeit not necessarily for other popular classic robots), and it’s been 16 years since. But finally, in 2021, we’ll be seeing a new entry: Getter Robo Arc, based on the manga by Nagai Go and Ishikawa Ken. Notably, this might also end up being the first fairly straightforward adaptation of a Getter Robo manga, and the first to try and really get close to Ishikawa’s art style.

The funny thing about the various Getter Robo anime is that there has never been a straight adaptation of any of the manga. You might be thinking of a long shounen fighting series ending up with a filler arc or three, but I’m not even talking about that. Rather, since the original inception of Getter Robo, the relationship between the many manga and anime have been an odd one. The first Getter Robo manga and the first Getter Robo anime debuted around the same time in 1974, but whereas the former depicted its heroes as virtual psychopaths, the latter portrayed them as relatively kid-friendly good guys. 1991’s Getter Robo Go took similar diverging paths with Ishikawa’s drawings being relatively unchanged and the anime adapting its character designs to a late 80s/early 90s look. 

The later works were not much different. Change! Shin Getter Robo: Armageddon and Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo both take elements from throughout the franchise’s history and try to show a more action-packed style reminiscent of Ishikawa’s art, but neither quite goes all the way, balancing 21st-century anime designs with a throwback feel. What’s more, the two aren’t even meant to be connected to each other. New Getter Robo is in a similar boat, being a reboot of sorts that brings some of the insane personalities from that original 1974 manga, but changing just about everything else. This trend is par for the course with Dynamic Pro properties, be it Devilman, Mazinger, Cutie Honey, or anything else. “Canon” and “faithfulness” are distant concepts in this arena.

However, that’s also what makes the initial images for the Getter Robo Arc anime stand out all the more. Both the promo image and the trailer seem to exude a roughness that immediately calls to mind Ishikawa’s aesthetic, where trying to create eye-pleasing shots comes second to pushing a kind of gritty intensity. It’s understandable that anime want to try to grab audiences with more appealing character designs, but here we have Gou, the guy on the promo image, feeling like he almost fell straight out of the manga and onto a poster. If the animators at Studio Bee can really pull off making the anime adaptation look Ishikawa as hell, I will give them all the props in the world.

PS: Kageyama Hironobu was a guest at Anime NYC 2018, and during the Lantis Matsuri concert he actually sang “HEATS,” the opening to Change! Shin Getter Robo: Armageddon. Now, the Getter Robo Arc anime is bringing the song back as “HEATS 2021,” and I have to wonder if Kageyama knew back then that he would be called upon to revive that old banger.

Jyushin Thunder Liger: The Impossible Gimmick

January 6, 2020 marked the end of an era as beloved Japanese wrestler Jyushin Thunder Liger retired. His achievements are many, from innovating the Shooting Star Press (now seen in wrestling matches all over the world) to being perhaps the greatest junior heavyweight ever. One thing that stands out to me in his long career is how insane it is that he managed to embrace his ridiculous gimmick, his outward identity as a wrestler, and elevate it to the point of world-wide recognition.

Jyushin Thunder Liger’s name and look is taken from a manga and anime by Nagai Go, creator of Mazinger Z, Devilman, and Cutie Honey. This by itself isn’t unusual. After all, the wrestling manga character Tiger Mask became a real-life wrestler as well. But Jyushin Liger the fictional work isn’t about wrestling or even athletics—it’s about a boy who can summon and fuse with a “bio-armor” to fight evil. The anime isn’t even considered a memorable classic, and yet, Jyushin Thunder Liger somehow made it not just work, but took it over. Now, when you say the words “Jyushin Liger,” you’re probably more likely to get someone who knows the wrestler than the source material. His entrance theme is just the theme song to the Jyushin Liger anime (and makes zero sense in the context of pro wrestling), but rather than being considered hokey, it brings out raucous cheers.

Imagine if a 90s American wrestler was saddled with a Street Sharks gimmick—not even a big property like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—and still wrestled as a Street Shark thirty years later until his retirement brought literal tears to people’s faces. Picture this guy coming out to “They fight, they bite, chewin’ up evil with all their might!” to a standing ovation. That’s basically what Jyushin Thunder Liger accomplished. The closest real equivalent I can think of is the Undertaker, who has played some form of undead wrestling zombe lord (and briefly a American motorcycle rider in the early 2000s) for the majority of his career. Or maybe if RoboCop’s cameo in WCW saw him transition into a regular wrestler who consistently put on great matches.

So here’s to Jyushin Thunder Liger and his global legend. Now let’s see if any new wrestlers come out as Bang Dream! characters.

Operation Bring Devil Curry to the World

So it turns out that one of my favorite places in the world to eat, Go Go Curry, is teaming up with legendary manga creator Nagai Go to create a new super spicy curry. Called “Devil Curry” in honor of the 40th anniversary of Devilman, it is going to be a permanent fixture on the Japanese Go Go Curry menu.

These days, however, Go Go Curry is international, with stores in New York and Singapore. I know I want Devil Curry where I live, and for those of you who feel that Go Go Curry, while good, isn’t quite spicy enough, I’m sure you’d like to try it out too. The only choice then is to campaign for the international release of Devil Curry.

Every time you go to a Go Go Curry, tell them you heard about Devil Curry and want to have it on the menu.

For the times you’re not near a Go Go Curry, they also have twitter accounts: GOGO_CURRY and GOGOCURRYUSA

The only concern I have is that it might end up losing its Devilman connotations upon going abroad. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

That One Show that Will Never Get into Super Robot Wars

When it comes to the Super Robot Wars series, there tends to be an unspoken rule. For the big-budget main games in the series, such as the Alpha series, the cast lists are for the most part breadwinners and series that people have been anticipating to be in SRW, while for the games on other platforms they don’t expect to do really well with, they let the cast lists run wild and free, as is the case in the recent Super Robot Wars Neo, as well as Compact 3.

So I was thinking, “What series has practically NO chance of getting into SRW?” It’s getting kind of difficult to determine, with more and more shows managing to find their way in. Then I remembered one.

Getter Robo Go, Anime Version

The Getter Robo Go anime, adapted loosely from the manga of the same name, came out in the early 1990s and centered around a team of new Getter pilots in a new Getter Robo which didn’t use Getter Energy as its power source. The concept alone isn’t the problem, however, so much as the show is really, really lame.

Some will complain that the original Getter Robo anime was de-fanged compared to the manga, where Ryouma and friends are all literally violently insane people, but even with a nicer cast they were still pretty extreme, and they don’t compare to the character neutering that happens in Getter Robo Go. You don’t even have to read the manga to know that something is amiss here. It looks and feels like a failed attempt to bring Getter Robo into the 90s.

That opening I posted up there can be misleading, because with the vocals of Aniki the show seems awesome. Let me show you the FIRST opening (which people mistakenly label the second opening).

It’s no wonder they changed the opening!

So, the reasons Getter Robo Go has no chance in SRW (at least in its anime incarnation) are thus: Practically every SRW has Getter Robo in it, and with so many Getter anime available, why would producers pick the lamest one? On top of that, if you want that same robot design but awesome, you can just go with Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo, which is a sort of retelling of the Getter Robo Go plot but with characters more in-tune with the original Ishikawa manga vision of them.

Of course, in the end, I would be glad to see Banpresto prove me wrong. C’mon guys.

Hey You, Watch Shin Mazinger

Episode 1 of Shin Mazinger aired in Japan, and I am telling you right now: Watch it, watch it, watch it.

Some of you I can convince to watch Shin Mazinger when I say it’s Mazinger Z as directed by Imagawa Yasuhiro, director of Giant Robo the Animation and G Gundam.

For you others who are unsure, or may not be familiar with Mazinger at all, let me explain it this way:

You know how a lot of shows, especially giant robot shows, have like 20 minutes of setup per episode to lead to a 5-minute climactic fight at the end? Shin Mazinger replaces all of that setup with MORE FIGHTING. Or rather, to put it more accurately, every moment in this first episode is SIMULTANEOUS SETUP + FIGHTING.

Things are HAPPENING in this show, and they’re happening on the field of battle where a boy can become a god or a devil. Whether you’re a big fan of Mazinger or you’ve never even heard of it, know that this show has potential to go places and the visionary force to take it there.

Mazin is Go

2ch rumors abounded a while back that Imagawa Yasuhiro, famous for his work on the Giant Robo OVA, was being taken off of the upcoming Mazinger anime. It’s now been proven otherwise, but with the new announcement also comes a new title for this update to Nagai Go’s most famous giant robot: Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-Hen or True Mazinger Impact!! Z-Arc. The “Shin” by the way stands for “True,” so like the Shin Getter in Armageddon and not the Shin as in New Getter.

Now, prior to this announcement, we all thought that the new Mazinger anime was gonna be based on Z-Mazinger, i.e. Mazinger with a Greek mythological influence, and it was touted as such. And even before then, there were interviews with Nagai where he talked about how he wanted to finish off the Mazinger saga he never could back in the 70s due to various difficulties. And now we have what looks to be a total original Mazinger Z remake. What a crazy journey for this show!

But then you notice that last crucial part of the title, “Z-Hen.” Hen means volume or compilation, I translated it as (story) arc, so I think the potential implication is that after these 26 episodes are up, we might get a 26-episode Great Mazinger series, and then possibly more and it actually might finally close out the Mazingers forever. Or until the next remake.

Also, Kabuto Kouji has a new voice actor. Much as I wish the great Ishimaru Hiroya to take the title role again, I’m fine with getting newer blood as well.


Factoring Time into the Visual Aesthetics of Anime

Having spent yesterday and today hesitating on whether or not to buy the special edition Cardcaptor Sakura movies, I decided to sit down and watch some episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura, to see if it would swing my decision one way or the other. As of now, it’s still undecided, but just like every other time I’ve decided to re-watch Cardcaptor Sakura, I was reminded of how good the show looks. Years from now, the show will still look good. And this got me to thinking about the way time relates to an anime’s visuals.

In animation, there is a race to see the visual quality of animation improve over time. Though it’s not as drastic or hotly contested as the race that video games have gone through, it’s not uncommon to hear from people that a show looks outdated. This is a dangerous way of thinking, as it assumes that the shows you like today will be considered inferior in ten, twenty years. One might say then, that “timelessness” is the ideal to pursue, but at the same time I don’t think “timelessness” of visuals is necessarily a good thing. Much like how making anime for an international audience can take away some of the uniquely Japanese aspects of anime, I think a similar problem can occur when the creators of a show try to isolate it from its own time. At the same time, this isn’t an excuse for a show to look bad or have poor art direction and using either “timelessness” or “representative of its time” as an excuse.

Different shows seem to approach this issue of time and its relation to the animation quality. In Cardcaptor Sakura, it’s the well-thought-out “camera” angles, transitions, and just the way the show flows naturally from scene to scene and action to action that makes it stand the oft-mentioned “test of time.” Koutetsushin Jeeg and Re:Cutie Honey, both updates of 70s Nagai Go works, merge the visual cues of 70s anime with a modern sense of perspective and consistency towards animation. Casshern SINS, a current show, takes an interesting approach. Its main character is said to be immortal, and to show this the design of Casshern references anime throughout the decades. Casshern himself is a 70s anime character, while his hair and musculature are similar to 80s characters, his figure and facial features are reminiscent of 90s bishounen, and the overall aesthetic of the show is very modern. Anne of Green Gables, a 1979 anime series directed by Grave of the Fireflies director Takahata Isao (with Miyazaki on staff as well), is an adaptation of an already well-known novel, and though there wasn’t a lot of resources in animation at that time, they worked with what they had to make the show very engaging.

“Working with what you have” may not always produce the best or most well-remembered shows, but I think it’s an important step in making a show whose visuals will be well-remembered years down the line when what was once cutting-edge will become as old-hat as wearing a skinned sabretooth tiger. One thing that Cardcaptor Sakura, Koutetsushin Jeeg, Re:Cutie Honey, Casshern SINS, and Anne of Green Gables have in common is that you can see the sheer amount of effort put into these shows. Judging “effort” is tricky business, and might even be scoffed at as impossible or even arbitrary, but when there’s this much effort involved I think you can’t help but notice. And when people, year after year notice this, that’s when a show’s visuals can be called “timeless.”

Though if you don’t aim for “timeless” art direction, that still doesn’t mean your show cannot be great.