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by ADV Films

There are some things that pretty much everyone knows about anime, even if they’ve never seen anything more than Toonami or Saturday morning cartoons. These things include big eyes, spikey hair, melodramatic dubs, and big robots. Big robot anime from Robotech to Transformers has made its way to the US for decades now, and there is a decent following. The recent Transformers boom is evident in any large public place where you’ll almost always see one person with a Decepticon or Autobot head on their t-shirt. Given the staying power of the genre, it’s no surprise that big robots still rank high on the list of anime subject matter. Current series like Neon Genesis: Evangelion take the serious route in the genre, but more mainstream hits like Giant Robo and even the American produced Iron Giant have made huge retro robots huge hits.


Getter Robo Armageddon is another entry on the list of retro giant robot series. Based on the 1970s Japanese television series, as well as the original manga by Go Nagai, Getter Robo Armageddon Volume One: Resurrection attempts to do just that – resurrect an old story for contemporary viewers. Unfortunately, the new series relies too much on knowledge of the old series. We are provided with a brief description of how there was a war on the moon between humans and aliens (creatively known as the Invaders). The Getter Robos were created to defend Earth, and they did a good job. The alien menace was eradicated, and lots of our favorite characters died. The Getter Robos disappeared, in some way connected to the fact that the people of Earth felt threatened by them. Now, at the beginning of Armageddon, the Invaders have returned, as have most of the old characters (many of whom mysteriously appear from the dead), and the game is, once again, afoot.

If you were a fan of the original series, odds are you’ve already checked out this latest incarnation. However, I figure most folks, even many anime fans, will not be familiar with the original series, and that causes some problems. While the animation is good, and the action has some definite highpoints, the story is a haphazard mess. In order to fully comprehend what happens in this series, you’ll have to consult an outside source. And as with so many things in the anime world, your outside sources are often going to be other fanboys and fangirls who are piecing together the puzzle in their own way. Consult three different sites and you’ll find three different interpretations of just what happens.

Lest you figure that I’m one of those reviewers who couldn’t figure out Akira, let me say that the issue of continuity here is not restricted to background information. Actually, understanding the gist of the backstory isn’t tough at all. But following the current story of Getter Robo Armageddon is very difficult. Characters are rolled out as if from an assembly line. They are introduced, dismissed, reintroduced, killed, resurrected, and disappear again, all in the course of an episode or two. The basic plot revolves around Benkei, a former Getter pilot who is sent to collect something from somewhere with his buddy Musashi. Invaders attack, trying to steal the big box of whatever from them, and a Getter Robo appears to save them. It turns out that Dr. Saotome (who was dead at the end of the previous series) is not really dead, but he is insane. Apparently (although not explicitly stated until much later in the series) the something Benkei and Musashi are collecting is the remnants of Saotome’s last experiment, and apparently Saotome is eager to get back to it.

The UN (of course) decides to call out the remaining Getter Robos and releases Ryoma (known in the earlier series as Ryo) from prison where he has been serving a term for killing Saotome (a crime for which he was framed) because he is the best Getter pilot. The government who locked him up releases him in order to commit the same "crime" he was locked up for. He pursues Saotome, aided by Benkei, and eventually kills him again. The Invaders attack again, Saotome reappears to unleash his new Getter Robos (which he was apparently building in the interim between the two series), and the whole thing pretty much repeats itself. In the third episode of the series, "Armageddon," we discover that the UN has an automatic nuke-Japan system that cannot be stopped. Indeed, Japan is nuked (possibly in order to stop the Invaders, but who really knows?), and the fourth episode of the series jumps to some undisclosed amount of time in the future in post-apocalyptic Japan.

The series continues, and perhaps more questions are answered in volumes two, three, and four, but I’m not reviewing those. As it is, Getter Robo Armageddon Volume One: Resurrection is only for the most hardcore of diehard big mecha otaku. The animation style is catchy (Go Nagai’s designs have been melded with a deep reverence for Osamu Tezuka to create a unique and appealing visual style), and the action is unrelenting, but without a story it just doesn’t matter. The Getter Robos are transforming robots, which makes them somewhat more interesting, but, again, your concentration will be sucked away from admiring the robots in order to piece together the completely thrown together plot. At least in Voltron or Transformers you know what the heck is going on, even if the plots are simple. And don’t even think of looking for a documentary, audio commentary, or anything else to help you make sense of everything. Extras on this DVD are limited to the clean opening and closing sequences, a few production sketches, and a bunch of trailers. Hardcore fans may want to check it out, but otherwise stay away from the Getter.

Shawn Rider   (01/15/2002)


Ups: Cool, retro, transforming robots; hardcore giant robot fans should dig it; great animation style.

Downs: Incohesive plot; no significant extras.

Platform: DVD