This may or may not be a show that you’ve heard of before because I know that I came across this by chance since I was interested in the shows where Kaneto Shiozawa appeared as a main character back in the day. If you don’t know who that is, then do yourself and check him out. But after seeing the good comments about this show I was intrigued to see what it was about and so here we have it…
This show is actually an original concept dreamt up by director Takahashi Ryosuke and Sunrise Production Studios. Takahashi has always been involved in mecha-based anime, including Ozma, Garasaki, Cyborg 009 and others, and Sunrise is well known in the anime industry as the mecha specialists. This original concept gave rise to a 4 volume manga, light novels, games as well as around 10 OVAs and 4 recap movies in light of its popularity. The show ran for 52 episodes from 1983 – 1984 and the OVAs have been going since then until the most recent one in 2011 – almost 3 decades of military, sci-fi & mecha action to enjoy!
The story revolves around our protagonist, Chirico Cuvie, and his relentless pursuit of the truth behind the conspiracy that has everyone chasing after him in return. Say what? Okay, so let’s put this into context. It’s sometime in a distant future where man has made it into space and found other planets etc. but this doesn’t stop fighting among the two main nations Gilgamesh and Balarant – a war that had been carrying on for ~100 years before a truce was finally called. At a time near the end of this truce, Chirico (our Gilgamesh hero), was sent to join a new battalion unit for a secret mission – the details of which he was never informed of. While on this mission, he realises that something isn’t quite right because it appears that they are laying siege to one of their own bases and looting the place. It’s here that he comes into contact with a woman who has been enclosed in a chamber. Too shocked to do anything, he closes the chamber and just as he’s about to make his way out, things go a bit awry and his unit pretty much tries to get rid of him, leaving him for dead. But there wouldn’t be much of a story if he had died would there?
The military eventually finds him and begins to interrogate him about the mission he was on. Of course he has no clue, but not like anyone is going to believe that. Having lived his entire life as a VOTOMS (Vertical One-man Tank for Offense and ManeuverS) soldier and belonging to one of the most elite units (Red Shoulder Battalion), Chirico uses his skills to escape from the hands of the military, escaping to a city called Woodo. It’s here that the story really starts to take shape as Chirico tries to figure out what his last mission was all about – what were they trying to do and who was the woman in the chamber? But the more Chirico tries to find out the answers, the more people are on his tail trying to stop him. And this is essentially the main theme/plotline of the show. He goes to various places and meets various people along the way while pursuing this woman – the Perfect Soldier – and trying to uncover the conspiracy.
So why should you be watching this, you ask? What makes it a classic? Well, first off is always,
It might sound a bit simplified – sort of like watching an adventure show where someone is after treasure, but there is actually a lot more to it than that. It starts off as Chirico wanting to accomplish his own goals and find out why he almost died while on this mission – what were they after and what happened after he was left for dead? But as he adjusts to a life without combat he meets various people along the way and while his goal remains as his guide, he does get involved in a number of unexpected situations where his VOTOMS experience is always put to good use. And the more he starts to uncover, the more questions he’s faced with and the more he starts to realise that there is a lot more to this than just a simple theft. It’s one of the things that keeps you watching episode after episode because you too want to find out what’s going on and there are some interesting twists and turns too.
Chirico is unmistakable with his orange suit, blue hair and striking blue eyes – a pure protagonist for sure – and is our foothold throughout the story as we watch everything unfold from his viewpoint. Added to his circle are the mainstay characters Gotho, Vanilla and Coconna – allies who eventually become Chirico’s friends as he goes from place to place. They aren’t always with him but they are always in his life. It’s actually sort of comforting having them around because they’re a crazy trio and it sort of balances out Chirico’s seriousness. And it’s nice having continuity characters because they start to feel like old friends. The other interesting thing is that sometimes it’s hard to tell who the allies and enemies are in this show, e.g. fighting within a unit there are those who despise Chirico and would rather see him dead, or finding out that maybe the Military aren’t the bad guys… The characters themselves are part of the mystery that Chirico has to uncover and it’s great that there is proper character development as the show goes on.
If you like mecha action, you’re going to love this show! The AT units (VOTOMS) are the highlight of the show and are used A LOT in combat situations because of their sheer fire power and manoeuvrability. There are various types with different abilities and are also able to be modified, assuming you have the skills to do so. And trust me when I say that there are plenty of action scenes throughout the show because if Chirico isn’t defending himself from his pursuers attacks, he’s working as a mercenary and putting his combat skills to good use.
It’s sort of ironic to use the word “realism” when talking about science fiction but putting the bigger picture aside, it’s the small details that bring realism to this show. First off, Chirico is probably one of the most realistic characters in the show because he’s a true child of combat, i.e. he was sent off for training at a very young age because it was the time of war and he’s been in warzones and fights ever since. It’s because of this that Chirico feels at a loss about what to do with his life because combat is the only thing he’s ever known and it’s what he’s good at. There are plenty of real life examples of military personnel who retire and feel this same sense of aimlessness. In addition, Chirico actually appears to suffer from PTSD as a result of all the things he’s seen and done. Midway through the season this becomes glaringly apparent in his reactions when Chirico is repeatedly shown a video of his team, the Red Shoulders, wiping out an entire village. So while he is our hero, it’s obvious that he’s actually rather damaged psychologically. This is also why he doesn’t make friends easily and feels unworthy of being loved. Heavy right? That’s why I say it’s realistic. The other aspect of realism here is in the physics of the AT units themselves. I was actually rather shocked to see that bit of attention to detail and it immediately earned extra brownie points with me. For example, when these units are launched from the air and come to ground, rather than just landing flat footed, the mecha actually takes into consideration the impact and adjusts in order to give the pilot a softer landing. Call me a giant nerd, but that sort of attention to the physics of things just makes a show so much better! I’m pretty sure there are other instances that you would be able to find and I think it’s what gives the show a certain amount of depth, rather than just being purely action-based.
It’s a pure slice of late 70s/early 80s inspired sounds and it works really well! When I first heard the OST it sounded like something you might hear from Daft Punk, which for me is never a bad thing. The intro and outro songs are also catchy so listening to it for 52 episodes should be no problem.
It’s actually sort of hard to put your finger on why you will enjoy this show, and I think that part of the reason for that is because rather than it being a pure shoot-‘em-up mecha where the heroes are called to duty, this story deals a lot with people on a personal level, which in turn makes it a more entertaining watch as you see the characters develop and react according to the situations they are placed in. You have to keep track of the various players here and when you don’t know who you should trust, there’s plenty of mystery and intrigue. All these elements come together to create a show that keeps you engaged as you travel with Chirico on his quest to bring the truth to light. So if this sounds like your cup of tea, then I would highly recommend giving this show a spin. There’s a reason that it’s lasted as long as it has and if you’re interested to know why, then get to watching!
Image credits: Sunrise Production Studios
End: Armoured Troop Votoms Anime Review