Exo Squad

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"Humans are great creators, Lieutenant, though often unaware of consequences of their gift."
Marsala

A Western-made Humongous Mecha series produced in 1993 by Will Meugniot, Exo Squad takes place sometime in the 22nd century, when Humans have fully terraformed and colonized Venus and Mars. The Neosapiens, an artificially-engineered race, have Turned Against Their Masters and launched an invasion of Earth and Venus.

The story focuses on the ExoFleet, the Homeworlds' space navy, in particular, Able Squad, a group of Exo-frame (Mini-Mecha) pilots led by Lieutenant J.T. Marsh.

Exo Squad has been commonly compared to Mobile Suit Gundam, both in quality and the maturity of the themes portrayed in the series. In addition, Will Meugniot himself made a direct comparison to the Gundam series, saying that Gundam is similar to the Pacific Theater of World War II, while Exo Squad is the European Theater. Among animation fans, it's often compared with Gargoyles, Batman: The Animated Series, and Avatar: The Last Airbender as an example of how Western animation can be every bit as mature and well-made as the best Anime. Surprising, considering what studio was behind the animation

A division of DVD and airing rights between a few companies, including Disney, prevented Exo Squad‍'‍s release for quite some time--long enough that many fans thought that it would never happen. Releases finally began in April 2009, and there was much rejoicing (yay). The entire series is also currently (9/29/2011) available on Hulu for your viewing pleasure.


Tropes used in Exo Squad include:


  • Accidental Aiming Skills
  • Agent Provocateur: Captain Barca is one, constantly enticing younger Pirates to rebel against Simbacca, while on Phaeton's payroll.
  • Air Vent Passageway
  • Anime Hair: Although not as outrageous as regular Anime hair, the hairstyles of the 22nd century Earth are really weird. Random strips of people's (both male and female) hair are shaved. Hairstyles that are a random mix of mohawks and mullets? Weird mixes of crew cuts and Afros? It defies description.
    • Justified with military personnel. E-frames are operated by having the pilot connect through a port located at the base of their skulls. Shaved strips and caps provide easier access. Even Kaz Takagi required one despite the rest of his hair being a mullet.
  • Anti-Villain: Captain Marcus. He's not strictly evil, nor even particularly villanous by the standards set by the Neo Sapiens, he's simply an incompetent Jerkass who is desperate to save the Homeworlds before the Neo Sapiens solidify their hold on them.
    • Even when he was in open disagreement with Admiral Winfield, Captain Marcus chewed out a fellow captain for questioning the Admiral's courage, which he considered above reproach.
  • Anyone Can Die: For a Western Animation show, a shocking number of people die. Including James-Nara's younger brother and Alec Deleon, both of which were very shocking.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The pirates' Dark Matter cloaks, the GRAF weapon.
  • Artificial Gravity: The first episode had it disabled on a cargo vessel that had been attacked by Space Pirates, though the animators apparently couldn't decide whether to go with no or full gravity (or magnetic boots). The GRAF (GRAvity Focus) shield is a weaponized application of gravity, in spite of its defensive-sounding name.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Marcus' default strategy
  • Badass Bystander: From time to time, we see what would normally be Red Shirts kicking rather impressive amounts of ass when Able Squad isn't around. Many of them still die, of course, but they never go down like chumps.
  • Bad Boss: Captain Marcus and Phaeton. Phaeton much more so than Captain Marcus.
  • Beast and Beauty: Nara Burns and Marsala, slightly subverted as Marsala is a very dependable individual despite what Terrans might think of him.
  • Benevolent Boss: Admiral Winfield
  • Big Eater: Wolf Bronsky.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Wolf Bronsky.
  • Big Good: Admiral Winfield.
  • Black and Gray Morality:
    • The Humans enslaved the NeoSapiens for a long time. They were only freed because they revolted and took their freedom. However, since then, humans have been reasonably amicable (well, some of them) to the Neos. Also, the humans are being driven to extinction; they're fighting only because they have to. So Gray.
    • The NeoSapiens were slaves for many years and had to fight for their freedom. They constantly have to prove themselves to many humans, and some never see them as equals. But they are launching a war of annihilation against humanity; the current slave status of humanity is temporary until more Neos can be born. So Gray, with some bordering on Black.
    • The Pirates, given their backstory, are barely surviving out in the vast emptiness at the edge of the Solar System. They prey on ships for survival. Gray.
    • Phaeton, however, is what really puts the Black into the series. In the first NeoSapien rebellion, he sold out the rebel leadership (including Marsalla) just to save his own skin. His current war is all about himself and what he wants, not about the overall NeoSapien cause. He's willing to engineer anything from super-strong Neos to a new race of super-smart ones (that were likely going to do to him what he did to humans) Personal loyalty to Phaeton is what keeps you alive, not loyalty to the NeoSapien cause. Phaeton is using the general feelings of his people to propel himself to power, nothing more.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Nara Burns, Rita Torres, and Maggie Weston, respectively.
    • Except that both Torres and Weston have reddish hair and Maggie's is actually a darker shade.
  • Body Horror: Auto-Mutation Syndrome. Some of Ketzer's plant-people too.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Wolf Bronsky.
  • Book Ends: In the first episode, Sean Napier saves Phaeton from an assassination attempt, even though he's prejudiced against Neo Sapiens (he even refuses to shake Phaeton's hand). In the last episode, Shiva saves Napier's life, and Shiva refuses to shake Napier's hand.
  • Brain Uploading
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Not only are Nara and Marsala both unable to express their feelings for each other, they each have instances where they unknowingly slap the other down.
    • There's shades of this with DeLeon and Weston too, though it's more subtle and doesn't get as much airtime as Nara/Marsala.
  • The Captain: Admiral Winfield and Jonas Simbacca.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: People travel between Earth, Mars, and Venus, as if it were to another country.
    • Actual travel times are never given, but the Exofleet travels back and forth between the inner planets, and even makes a foray to a planet beyond the orbit of Pluto, over the course of a war that lasts three years. So yeah, those ships are pretty fast.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Marsh: "Frame up!"
    • Torres: "Can it, Bronski!"
    • Butler: "Any heroes in here?" "No, sir!" "Good! The only heroes I've ever seen were dead!"
    • Bronski: *belch*
  • The Chains of Commanding
  • Cincinnatus: Admiral Winfield becomes a rancher after the war. Marsh planned on leaving the Exofleet to "build things," presumably architecture or construction, but when the show is Cut Short, he's still in the Exofleet.
  • Cloning Blues
  • The Commies Made Me Do It: Diana.
  • Communications Officer: Alec DeLeon, with his specialized Communications E-Frame.
  • Color Wash Orange and purple.
  • Cool Ship: The Resolute II, the original Resolute, as well as Phaeton's flagship in Season 2... before it's destroyed going up against the Resolute II.
  • Convection Shmonvection
  • Cut Short: The series ends on an unresolved Cliff Hanger: strange alien ships appear out of nowhere, steal Mars, and disappear again.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: At lot these occur on both sides of the war. When Admiral Marcus was in control of the exofleet it taken Up to Eleven.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Oddly enough, DeLeon's E-Frame, when Bronsky is piloting it. At Bronsky's expense.
  • Death Notification: Butler personally records a message to the family of every jump trooper who dies under his command, despite the fact that he has no way to deliver these messages, or even to know that the trooper has any surviving family left on the Home Worlds.
  • Defector From Decadence: Marsala, a Neosapien who fights for the ExoFleet.
  • Designer Babies: The Neo Sapiens, and their various spin-offs.
  • Drop Pod: Small ones for the Jumptroopers, and larger ones for the E-Frames.
  • Drop Ship: For the Jumptroopers.
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: Mars (it got better), Earth (attempted only), and "tenth (COUNTING PLUTO!) planet" Chaos).
  • Eat the Dog: There aren't any dogs on Venus. Not after the famine.
    • Most likely Parental Bonus as well since kids would assume the animals starved with the humans.
    • Strange I haven't even heard a bird in a year. Even the pigeons are gone. In the ruined New York City.
  • Eighties Hair
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Colleen O'Reilly's graduating class, wiped out during the Neosapiens' initial assault.
  • Evil Genius: The Neomegas, Praetorius, Ketzer.
  • Evil Overlord: Phaeton.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Ketzer.
  • Executive Meddling: The writers wanted the ExoFrames to be fully-enclosed, but the executives insisted on being able to see the characters' faces inside.
    • Tropes Are Not Bad. While it doesn't make a lot of sense to have the front of the E-Frames so poorly protected, being able to see the pilots does do a lot from a dramatic standpoint.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Captain Marcus

Go back and tell Winfield to watch. Tell him... Matthew Marcus... knew how to die.

  • Face Heel Turn: Phaeton was a trusted governor-general of Mars and former collaborator to the humans. And Captain Marcus was a loyal, if Hot-Blooded and incompetent, officer before he mutinied against Admiral Winfield.
  • Fake Defector: Episode 12.
  • Fantastic Racism: There's a fair amount of prejudice against the Neo-Sapiens (as witnessed by the derogatory term "Sapes") even before the war.
  • Final Battle: Starting from Episode 48 in the The Fall of the Neosapien Empire part 2. The Exofleet arrive on Earth to retake it from Phaeton. From then on to episode 51 We see Exofleet fighting from space, Earth resistance forces from America to Austrialia fighting, The Abel Squad and C5 Jumptroop fighting in their areas. Any Characters that we have seen are shown at least once. One scene we see the whole earth with little explosion to show the Final Battle is everywhere.
  • Foe Yay: Even though he's asexual, Phaeton seems to spend a lot of time obsessing over Marsh.
  • For Science!: Professor Algernon
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Neosapiens- two fingers and two thumbs.
  • General Failure: Captain Marcus.
  • General Ripper: Also Captain Marcus.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke
  • Gentle Giant: Marsala.
  • Good-Looking Privates: All three female members of Able Squad.
    • The males as well. Perhaps even Bronski, if you're into that kind of thing.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Averted. The female Neo Sapiens are neither attractive nor sexy.
  • Heel Face Turn: The Pirate Clans, Professor Algernon.
    • This is also Marsala's backstory-- he was a rebel leader in the first war. He seemingly does it again, turning the squad over to Phaeton once they arrive on Mars, but it turns out to be a Batman Gambit.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Several voice actors latter became well known. Lisa Ann Beley goes on voice Relena, Murrue, and Sumeragi. Teryl Rothery and Gary Chalk appear on Stargate SG-1 as major supporting characters. Most of the other VA's could be heard in anime, cartoons, or video games.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Humans in this show are exclusively referred to as Terrans.
  • Hurl It Into the Sun: How Neos "exile" dissident humans.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • Humongous Mecha: The occasional example turns up, though they are rare. The ExoFleet has at least one that comes complete with its own torso-mounted hangar bay for launching E-Frames.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Or rather, If You're So Evil, Mind Rape your commanding officer. He does. Otherwise, he would have been found out as a Fake Defector.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: In one episode, a member of The Resistance is talking trash about the ExoFleet and how useless they've been during the war (mind you, ExoFleet had spent much of its time up till this point fighting the Neo Sapien fleet, helping the Resistance cells on various planets, and doing covert ops on Mars). Marsala walks up to the man and drops a tray of food on him, apologizing and claiming that he's "All Thumbs" [1]
  • In Space Everyone Can See Your Face
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The second season. Listen to it here.
  • Insufferable Genius: Professor Algernon
  • Invisibility Cloak
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship: The Resolute and most of the ExoFleet. The Pirate vessels have more elaborate tribal decorations and colors, and Neo-Sapien ships are built to nonhuman aesthetics.
  • Killed Off for Real: Subverted multiple times with Neosapien cloning and memory-transfer technology.
  • The Ladette: Sgt. Rita Torres.
  • La Résistance: The Earth Resistance, The Venusian Resistance.
  • The Lancer: Alec DeLeon to JT Marsh, sometimes Marsala to Marsh and Marsh to Admiral Winfield.
  • Latex Space Suit
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Mayor of Chicago/Phaeton City, Diana, Amanda Connor, Professor Algernon initially.
    • Phaeton was a collaborator for the Terran side in the first war.
    • One sign of the show's complexity (at least, for a Western cartoon) is that each of the collaborators above had their own reason for helping the Neo Sapiens. The Mayor of Chicago Phaeton City was trying to save his own neck, Diana's family was being held ransom, Amanda Connor genuinely bought Phaeton's propaganda, and Algernon cared nothing for who was in charge, only being allowed to follow his own pursuits.
  • Lego Genetics: Neo Warriors and Neo Lords.
  • Likes Older Women: Kaz Takagi, always chasing after Maggie Weston.
  • Literal Cliff Hanger
  • Male Gaze: When Alec comments that Phaeton can't appreciate the finer things in life, he (and the camera) focus directly on Maggie's posterior.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Algernon for Xenobius.
  • Merchandise-Driven
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: The experimental equipment installed on the Able Squad suits mid-series, including a cluster missile launcher, cloaking systems and a Hologram projector.
    • The Neo-Warriors and Neo-Lords are a biological example.
  • Mildly Military: Not as bad as some shows, especially considering this is a cartoon, but Able Squad sure does get away with a lot. They got thrown in the brig once for a year, which is pretty harsh, but after that, they could have flown past the Resolute mooning Admiral Winfield, and wouldn't have even gotten a slap on the wrist for it. Also, the rank system seems a bit vague at times. Able Squad has three lieutenants in it, one sergeant, and the rest are presumably Exo Troopers (which is probably equivalent to Private). Maggie Weston is a technician, and therefore probably not in the normal chain of command, but that doesn't explain why both Marsh and Burns are lieutenants. This gets cleared up later in the show when Marsh is promoted to Commander. To add to the confusion, in one episode, a character talks about when Lt. Marsh was an Ensign, which is the only time a Naval rank is mentioned in regards to an E-Frame pilot.
  • Military Alphabet: Able Exotroop squad, Charlie Six jumptroop squad, etc.
    • Interestingly, the show uses WW 2 alphabet instead of modern one, probably, to further emphasize the historical parallels between it and the Neosapien War.
  • Mind Probe
  • Mind Rape: After Phaeton's chief finance minister discovers his invasion plans and refuses to go along, Phaeton forgoes simply killing him for something much worse:

Phaeton: "Take him to the neural research center. If he thinks like a slave, we will give him the mind of one."

  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Neo Warriors and the Neo Lords.
  • The Mole
  • The Mutiny
  • My Brain Is Big: The Neo Megas
    • Perhaps justified. It's shown that aside from improved intelligence, Neo-Megas have other abilities that Terrans and regular Neo Sapiens lack. This could translate into Neo-Megas having an extra lobe or two in their brains.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Livia, when she finally realizes that Phaeton is an Omnicidal Maniac, and stares in horror at the enormous anti-matter bombs he's set up.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: While the vast majority of the Neosapiens fought to conquer the homeworlds, aside from Marsala, there were other Neosapiens who served with Exofleet (mentioned but rarely shown), and there were Neosapien sympathizers like Mardek providing intel to the Exofleet.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Deliberately paralleled.
  • The Neidermeyer: You guessed it, it's Captain Marcus.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: The Terrans use either "Neos" or "Sapes" for Neosapiens. The first one is PC, while the second is a Fantastic Slur, as Marsh points out once.
  • No Delays for the Wicked: In "Mindset", Napier and the Able Squad abuse Neosapiens' flawlessly functioning infrastructure to covertly move across Earth's surface.
  • No Indoor Voice: Rita Torres. Justified Trope, as she's a sergeant.
  • Nonuniform Uniform
  • Oh Crap: Phaeton's reaction to having his E-Frame dropped into lava is understandable.
  • Only Six Faces: Neo Sapiens have limited physical variety, so they use facial tattoos to distinguish individuals.
    • This is played with in the show; it's stated that the broodmarks are there because Terrans can't be bothered to tell the difference.
  • People Jars: Neosapien brooding labs.
  • The Plan: Marsala, despite his Neo-Sapien programing, is a master of this. He even fools Phaeton who had become The Chessmaster.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Simbacca, and all the Pirate Clans. Justified, the dark matter they use for their cloaking technology affects their brains, making them aggressive and reckless.
  • Psychic Powers: Livanus, Nara Burns.
    • The Neo-Megas can communicate with each other across large distances using super-sonic frequencies. Functionally, it's indistinguishable from telepathy except dogs can hear it too.
  • Powered Armor: Most of the Exosuits are Mini-Mecha, although there are types resembling conventional spacecraft, and the multi-seaters border on Humongous Mecha-- the Jumptroopers' armor fits the classic Powered Armor mold best, as does Phaeton's personal powersuit.
  • Puny Earthlings: Neo Sapiens are stronger, tougher, have sharper senses, can survive in more extreme environments, need less food, live longer, mature faster, have Photographic Memory, and don't have to sleep. Human's only advantage is adaptable thinking, which the Neos are somewhat lacking.
    • And of course, numbers.
  • The Quisling: Several, but the one that fits the trope to a T is the mayor of Chicago Phaeton City.
    • Dude was brown-nosing Phaeton before the Neosapiens even invaded.
  • Ramming Always Works: Subverted
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Admiral Winfield.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Captain Marcus
  • Red Shirt: At one point a new member joins Able Squad, and is killed less than a minute later. She gets better... in a way.
  • The Remnant:
    • For most of the length of the show, the Terran ExoFleet.
    • After Terrans retake Venus, some of the Neosapien garrisons become guerrillas, hoping that Phaeton would send more reinforcements to rescue them. The reinforcements never reach the Venusian surface.)
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Sergeant Rock:
    • Rita Torres. "Who are you, somebody's mother?" "That's SERGEANT Mother to you!"
    • In the same episode, when she gets called Sir, she fires back "You got sand in your eyes? I'm a Sergeant! I work for a living!"
  • Scout Out The ExoScouts Troop 119 were on a camp out on Mars when the war broke out. Their Scout Master went for help at some point but was never seen again, presumed dead. They have been relying on their scout skills to stay alive on Mars until such time that they can be rescued. Ironically, the first time they encounter any ExoFleet forces, they end up having to rescue Sgt. Torres.
  • Shout-Out: The Jumptroops are an homage to the Mobile Infantry from the Starship Troopers novel.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The extremely serious and epic closing credits theme song, superimposed over the giggling airplane cartoon logo for Universal Cartoon Studios.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Averted. In space battles, the E-Frames zip around like angry bees, and the ships move in on each other at all directions.
  • Space Pirates: The Pirate Clans.
  • Sphere of Destruction: Marsh's Super Nova.
  • The Squad: Able Squad and, in season 2, Jumptrooper squad Charlie 5.
  • The Starscream: Draconis and Typhonus.
  • Stealth in Space
  • Story Arc: Both a major one for the series (the struggle between the Terrans and the Neo Sapiens) and smaller four or five episode arcs, with each arc typically centering on a particular planet.
  • Super Prototype: Phaeton's command E-Frame is far more powerful than others, capable of shrugging off attacks that would destroy a mass-produced model.
  • Super Soldier: The Neosapiens, while not bred for war, are built pretty well for it. Later, they make actual Mix-and-Match Critters Super soldiers of their own.
  • Supporting Leader: Sean Napier.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Phaeton usually blames military failures on the incompetence of his Generals. Fair enough, but he also acts surprised when clones of those same Generals fail him again.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: A TV reporter has unfettered, unescorted access to the bridge of the ExoFleet's capital ship during military operations. Winfield insists the camera be turned off the second he noticed it, however, at least reducing the potential for a security leak.
  • Thememobile: The Exo-Fleet, which has Exo-Carriers, Exo-Cruisers, and Exo-Frames (called E-Frames for short).
  • Trojan Prisoner
  • True Companions
  • Turned Against Their Masters
  • Unstable Genetic Code: The Auto-Mutation Syndrome.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After being being defeated by J.T. Marsh in the first season finale and developing Automutation as a result, Phaeton gets this but good.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Captain Marcus
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In a brief scene in the final episode of season one, it seems like The Squad's E-frames somehow became self-aware, prompting Marsala to quip the opening quote of this article. It is never explained.
    • When Marsh is promoted to Commander, he is given command of two squads, counting Able Squad. This second squad is almost never seen.
  • The Windy City: As mentioned elsewhere on this page, Chicago is renamed Phaeton City and becomes the capitol of the Neo-Sapien Regime.
  • Worthy Opponent: Thrax and Kaz Takagi.
  • Wrench Wench: Maggie Weston.
  • You Have Failed Me...: Not surprising, seeing as how Phaeton could easily replace an executed general... with a clone of said general. Mind you, Phaeton does tend to give them several chances first.