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Scope Dogg’s Mecha Showcase: Getter Robo: Armageddon

This is part of a series of reviews I plan on doing on various mecha franchises. The only rule is that I’m not touching the three franchises I think are the most well known (Gurren Lagann, Evangelion, Gundam) in an effort to spread the love towards some series that I feel fly somewhat under the radar for non-mecha fans. Any spoilers will only be very minor and will typically only concern the very beginning of the story.

Why you should watch it, in brief:

A standalone, alternate-universe adaptation of one of the best chapters of a truly classic super robot franchise. Flawed storytelling fails to put a damper on its striking presentation, or it’s stylish and brutal action scenes that remain true to what the Getter Robo universe is all about.

The setting:

Humanity came under threat from an alien menace known only as The Invaders, who struck upon the moon and menaced Earth itself. However, they were stopped by the Getter Robo, the creation of the genius scientist Dr. Saotome, and piloted by three heroes - Nagare Ryoma, Jin Hayato, and Tomoe Musashi. While the invader threat seemed to be defeated, not all was well. Shortly after, Dr Saotome was murdered, and Hayato framed Ryoma for it, for reasons unknown. Now, things take another mysterious turn, as Dr. Saotome seems to have risen from his grave, and appears to the world once more, this time with sinister motives in mind, as well as a menacing new creation - a supremely powerful Getter machine called Shin Dragon. As humanity scrambles to stop him, even releasing Ryoma from jail in order to attack Shin Dragon, The Invaders appear once more to threaten humanity. The events that are about to transpire will push humanity to the brink of extinction, and Getter pilots both new and old must take up a desperate struggle to rescue mankind.

Why you should watch it, in full:

Despite being relatively unknown outside of Japan, Getter Robo is one of the most venerable franchises in the entire mecha genre. The series is sometimes mistakenly attributed to Go Nagai of Mazinger Z fame, and while uncle Go did have some input on the series, it’s ultimately the brainchild of his close friend Ken Ishikawa, who created Getter in the form of a long-running and very well-regarded manga series, sadly cut short by Ishikawa’s death in 2006. Getter’s creation was roughly contemporaneous with that of Mazinger, but it stands apart in several ways. The most obvious is the overall tone of the work - while early Mazinger is typically fairly upbeat and with an unambiguously heroic protagonist and ridiculous villains, Getter is much, much more hard-edged, with borderline psychotic “heroes”, scenes featuring some pretty nasty and intense violence, including the brutal deaths both of likable protagonists and innocent bystanders, and enemies that are sometimes silly but sometimes nightmarish, who usually have genocidal aims in mind. If Mazinger is the father of the mecha genre, Getter is kind of like it’s creepy, slightly unhinged uncle. Of course, that’s not to say that Getter is any less influential - it introduced so many common tropes into the mecha genre that they’re hard to count. Consider what people typically like about Gurren Lagann, for instance. Hot blooded combinations? Getter invented it. Glowing green energy that’s a manifestation of the pilot’s fighting spirit? You might be talking about Spiral Power, but you could just as easily be talking about Getter Rays. What about Gurren Lagann’s most distinctive trademark, the giant drills? Well, those were Jin Hayato and Getter 2′s signature weapon long before Simon, Kamina and the gang got their hands on them. I could go on and on.

While the Getter Robo manga saga is uniformly revered, it’s had a rockier road when it comes to being adapted to animation. There was a long-running Getter Robo anime in the 70s, but much like its competition of the time it’s aged poorly, and arguably didn’t capture the real hard edge that the franchise is famed for. The later anime adaptation of Getter Robo Go, one of the manga’s most loved installments, is universally reviled for more or less the same reason. In more modern times, there are three good animated Getter productions, each taking place in their own continuity. I had to weigh up which one I was going to recommend, because they all have their own pros and cons. There was 2007′s New Getter Robo, which is a mini-reboot of the original story, with solid art direction and strong characterisation, but an odd storyline that I really didn’t care for. There was also Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, which is a fairly loose adaptation of Getter Robo Go spliced in with plot elements from the original installment of the manga. That’s a good but slightly silly outing that I feel is trumped by the production I’m about to recommend, Getter Robo Armageddon. Opinions of Armageddon vary quite wildly, and while I’m a big fan of it for many reasons, I also recognise it’s far from perfect. However, it’s flaws are trumped by it’s truly memorable presentation, and while it’s an alternate-universe work I feel like it’s the series that captures the spirit of the source material the best. More details after the break.

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