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Saturday, February 14, 2009

GUNTOMS - And some first impressions on Dougram

Armoured Trooper Votoms and Mobile Suit Gundam are two mecha series I love excessively, despite the flaws I often find in both franchises. Gundam is (or perhaps, was) a series of brilliant ideas, though with some often shoddy execution. The setting of the Universal Century and the many wars within it is one of my favourite ideas in anime, and I’ll keep watching OAV’s and series made about it as long as their produced. Despite this, I have to admit that the original series is often weighed down by some poor mecha designs as well as the awkwardly plotted scenes and dialogue its director, Yoshiyuki Tomino, has become infamous for.

Votoms on the other hand is the opposite, it’s a series where I adore the mecha, and find the characters a welcome change from the norm. And yet the thing which un-interests me most about Votoms is the setting, despite loving the mecha and technology of the series, the world they inhabit just strikes me as a little bland, or at the very least a bit unexplored.

I think the only way to really please me would be to combine these two shows, take Gundam’s setting of the universal century, the richly detailed history of the One Year War, and mix it with the more believable characters and technology of Votoms. I shall call this masterpiece, ARMORED SUIT GUNTOMS!

C’mon, that’d be a sweet series.

Still, even if I my beautiful GUNTOMS will never see the light of day, there is another show which at least on a surface level seems to fit that description. Fang of The Sun Dougram is a series directed by Ryouske Takahashi who of course also directed Votoms, and was a series which followed on from Gundam and further cemented the popularity of the real robot genre. The plot is pretty standard Real Robot stuff, and deals with a rag tag group of rebels who have to deal with the The Earth Federation who have allowed a dictatorship to reign on they’re home colony (Mecha has taught me that Earth Federations are not a good idea, they are ALWAYS evil!) The designs are what initially stood out to me in this series, their by Kunio Okawara, who did both Votoms and Gundam (Notice the incestuous relationship real robot series seemed to have?) The designs in this series are pretty realistic for the time, they may be huge mechanical juggernauts but so far they haven’t done anything which seems to be too far out of the realm of reality (though there’s still plenty of time.) And it follows Ryouske Takahashi’s general rule of focusing more on grunt units and tactics rather than the super powered machines we’re more used to right now.

Its pretty refreshing when most mecha anime nowadays try to focus on the robots being as shiny and stylish as possible, to watch something where the mecha are unwieldy things, and despite the ridiculousness of giant robots there is a certain degree of logic to how they’re designed. I can’t say I’m very far through, but it’ll be interesting to see where this series goes.

Check it out here. http://xnebula.blogspot.com/2008_09_01_archive.html


Iknight said...

I'm in agreement with your first impressions. Dougram has some odd animation at times, and one rather glaring continuity issue, but that's easily forgiveable for things like the Battle of Algiers aesthetic.

The incestuousness of the genre at the time is an interesting one. I think one of the scriptwriters for Dougram, Hiroyuki Hoshiyama, worked on MSG too, and you can see the similarities in their plots as well as mechanical designs. (Zaku - Roundfacer - Scopedog?)

I think ATV's setting is a bit barebones in places because it's invoking already-familiar ideas: when we're introduced to Uoodo, for example, we're meant to think of dystopia cities like Blade Runner's, and Kummen is obviously riffing on the wars in Indochina (right down to character names like Pol Pot(aria)). I agree that this isn't as satisfying as a genuinely intriguing setting, though. From what I've read on /m/, Layzner has some interesting background, and politics in its 'Fist of the North Star-meets-Japanese occupation of Korea' arc, but of course it's not been subbed, so that's just rumour . . .

regan strongblood said...

To quote Soundwave:"VOTOMS superior Gundam inferior."

IAmZim said...

Both franchises have their ups and down and take a while to get into. Watching the original MSG series isn't something I'd reccomend anyone try, and while the compilation movies are alot better, the first film still drags in places. I haven't finished Votoms yet, but while I'm ejoying it right now I did find the first 13 or so episodes pretty lackluster.

With both franchises I've enjoyed the sidestories and OAV's alot more than the original product. Its unfair to compare the two too heavily though, their both pretty different.