The future has shone upon us with its glorious brilliance...
Giant Robo is one of the oldest franchises in Japanese comics. It first appeared as a manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama that ran for nearly a year from 1967 and 1968. It was adapted into a live-action Toku series that same year, and the show gained a mild cult following in the 1970s when it was aired in the US as Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot.
But history be damned, when somebody mentions Giant Robo today, they're not thinking of either of those. They're thinking of Giant Robo The Animation: The Day The Earth Stood Still, one of the greatest - or at least the most completely insane - works to come out of the anime industry in the last 20 years.
An (unholy) amalgamation of Wuxia, Superheroes, Richard Wagner, Mecha Anime and pure insanity, Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still is notable for being an early and rather impressive example of the Massive Multiplayer Crossover, formed when director Yasuhiro ("G Gundam") Imagawa was told that he couldn't use any of the supporting characters from the manga or TV versions of the Giant Robo story. Struck by inspiration, he instead decided to instead take characters from the rest of original creator Mitsuteru Yokoyama's work, including Babel II, Sally the Witch, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Akakage and many others. To add to the effect he decided to draw them all in Yokoyama's classic 1960s style, along with a retro-futuristic world set in an alternate 1920s populated by Ninja, ancient Chinese warriors, Sharp Suited Businessmen and Badass Longcoats walking side by side.
Amazingly, it works.
Oh and don't pay any attention to the synopsis above, or let the art style and Kid Hero fool you into thinking this is a kids' series in the vein of G.I. Joe or M.A.S.K.. Giant Robo's plot starts off slow and deceptively cliché-ridden, with a blatant Mad Scientist and McGuffin driving the first half of the plot, and then we get the Wham! Episode, rewriting the entire premise, beating the snot out of the good guys and resulting in several major characters getting Killed Off for Real. It's not the first, or even the most dramatic.
A new anime, GR: Giant Robo, premiered in 2007 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original manga; however, it was not related to the OVA series, and many fans considered it a disappointment.
On the brighter side, Imagawa also scripted a new Giant Robo manga, "The Day The Earth Burned" that started publication in 2006. While this version is also an Alternate Continuity, it does act as a Spiritual Successor to the OVAs, with the same tone and many of the same characters.
See also: Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-hen, another great Super Robot series by Yasuhiro Imagawa. Like Giant Robo, it is a revival of a classic series and involves heavy crossover from the original artist's entire body of work.
A series that loves its tropes, twisting them and playing them straight with the same vigor, the Giant Robo OVA features examples of:
- Action Bomb: Silent Chuujo, apparently. As the Sphere floats towards the last Shizuma Drive bastion, there's Chuujo on a bluff. He loosens his tie and shirt, takes a few practice jabs, then flies up to punch the Sphere. That dialogue in episode 2 makes far more sense when you know this.
- Action Girl (Ginrei, Youshi)
- All There in the Manual: Since most of the Massive Multiplayer Crossover characters lack in-universe backstories fans have ended up taking inspiration from the stories they originated from.
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The last act of the first OVA episode.
- Arc Words: "Beautiful Night!", "Can happiness be achieved without sacrifice?"
- Anti-Villain: Hanzui the Evil Messiah, leader of the Magnificent Ten. Never actually does anything evil, proves extremely honourable and is a great deal nicer than most of the good guys.
- Anyone Can Die: Murasame repeatedly, a few others as well. Alberto the Shockwave... BWA HA HA HA HA HA - best twist ever.
- Badass: A lot of the cast, but Alberto the Shockwave practically takes this to Memetic levels when, in Super Robot Wars Alpha, he battles one of the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion to a standstill whilst on foot.
- Badass Finger-Snap: The Fabulous Fitzgerald, who can cut anything in half by snapping his fingers at it.
- Badass Longcoat: Murasame. The twist? It's BRIGHT PINK!
- Badass Normal: Daisaku. Sure, he owns "the world's strongest robot," but he's still the only normal human in the cast. Everyone else can fly, transform, use super strength and other bizarre powers.
- Big Guy: Tetsugyu and Youshi both fit this role. In a slight subversion Youshi is a woman, and certainly not a Cute Bruiser either.
- Big Damn Heroes: Giant Robo's introduction, and several other examples.
- Bilingual Bonus: Tetsugyu's name roughly translates to "Iron Ox", one of the nicknames of Li Kui in Yokoyama's manga adaptation of Water Margin.
- Bittersweet Ending: And how!
- Boisterous Bruiser: Tetsugyu, Taisou, Youshi.
- Broken Pedestal: Zigzags with Vogler to one of his assistants. It goes back-and-forth at least 5 times, finally resulting in subversion. Vogler really meant for the best for the world.
- The Brute: In the BF there's Jujoji who has some devastating magic powers. The Fabulous Fitzgerald loves to carve up people with his snapping fingers.
- Canon Immigrant: When Tetsujin #28 was remade in 2004, the Murasame Kenji that appears there isn't the original characterization - it's this one. He even calls himself "the immortal Murasame Kenji" just before going down in a hail of bullets and encouraging Shotaro... then getting up and wiping off the ketchup. Additionally, Tetsujin uses Robo's growl rather than its original sound.
- Character Development: Numerous but Tetsugyu has a great moment in the fifth OVA.
- Cool Big Sis: Ginrei, Youshi.
- Cool Old Guy: One of Big Fire's Magnificent Ten is actually called Old Man Kawarazaki. His fellow Magnificent Ten colleague Shocking Alberto also has a lot of the traits, exchanging taunts with the early twenties Big Bad over their respective ages.
- Death Is Cheap: It is very cheap for Murasame Kenji, since he just revives despite several violent deaths, and since he can apparently do so in an area he couldn't get to corporeally, it's part of his strategy. He even shoots himself in the head to drive home the point, noting that he "can't die."
- Empire with a Dark Secret: In Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still, the Shizuma Drive, which provides clean, cheap energy, is completely recyclable and looks cool too was built upon a foundation of the deaths of billions at the Tragedy of Bashtarle. A little Locked Out of the Loop as well, seeing as Daisaku's the only character (except maybe Sunny) who doesn't know -- it's just that we only find out when he does.
- Enemy Mine: Shocking Alberto in the Finale, as he considers the IPO a Worthy Opponent and the Big Bad an annoying, grandstanding brat trying to steal Big Fire's thunder.
- Evil Counterpart: It seems that was going to be the case between Daisuke and Big Fire. One in charge of a giant robot, the other having three amazing guardians. Both very young. Though we don't know just how evil Big Fire really was.
- Evolving Credits: "Earth, the terrifying world of our future! This is the Shizuma Drive, now broken and useless, the great energy revolution undone in just ten days!"
- The Dragon: Ko-Enshaku serves as an all purpose Dragon for Genya and Cho-Katsu Komei, neither of whom like to get their hands dirty if they can help it. Ivan to Alberto.
- Eviler Than Thou: Genya screws over apparent Big Bad Shocking Alberto early on, and towards the end Cho-Katsu Komei does it to the rest of Magnificent Ten.
- Evil Genius: Most obviously Vogler or so it seems. Old Man Kawarazaki seems to be an inventor. Zangetsu, if epileptic tress turned out to be true.
- Expy: Most characters of the OVA (who aren't from the original manga or anime) are Expys of Yokohama's other works, such as:
- Taiso (Dai Zong), Tetsugyu ("Iron Ox"/Li Kui), Youshi (Yang Zhi), Issei (Gongsun Shen), Koushin, Kaei (Hua Rong), Kaihou and Koshin (Xie Zhen and Xie Bao), Shutsu, the Fishermen Brothers (Ruan Xiaoer, Xiaowu, Xiaoqi), Hanzui (Fan Rui), Goyo, Kosonsho, and Jujoji all hail from Suikoden (Water Margin).
- Cho-Katsu Komei is from Yokoyama Mitsuteru Sangokushi ("Records/Romance of the Three Kingdoms"), better known as Zhuge Liang.
- Big Fire (Babel II/Koichi Yamano), Achilles (Lodem), Garuda (Ropross), and Neptune (Poseidon) were originally created for Babel II. Also, Chujo the Silent, Cervantes, and Fitzgerald were modeled after various characters in the series.
- Likewise, Alberto the Impact was based on a character in Mars.
- Sunny the Magician is the original name of Sally the Witch.
- Red Mask bears similarities to Kamen no Ninja Akakage.
- Kenji Murasame is a Canon Immigrant from Tetsujin-28, and Dr. Vogler and Dr. Montalblan hail from there as well.
- Ginrei is from Sononawa 101 and Okami no Seiza.
- Genya was originally from Iga no Kagemaru.
- Eyes Always Shut: Professor Go. And Doki about half the time. The other half has one eye open.
- Falling Into the Cockpit: Daisaku was forced to take command of Giant Robo when his father and Murasame were mortally wounded trying to escape (and Murasame wouldn't heal in time.)
- Fan Fiction: A popular review and synopsis of the nonexistent Grand Finale fooled a lot of people. In its defense it would have indeed made a kickass episode.
- Five-Bad Band: The five members assembled at the BF HQ and eventually oppose Genya and Komei.
- George Lucas Throwback: Daisaku's flashback on his origin plays a lot more like a typical giant robot show.
- Murasame: 'Daisaku! Use Robo's bazooka launcher!'
- Good All Along: Vogler.
- Happily Married: Taiso and Youshi.
- Haunted Technology: Giant Robo appears to contain Professor Kusama's spirit/will, as hinted at throughout the series and seen in the last episode.
- Hidden Depths: Many characters like Daisaku, Tesugyu, Ginrei, and others. Really the entire OVA series itself as it first looks like a typical giant robot series.
- Hot Amazon: Youshi
- Humongous Mecha: In the main OVA, Robo and the Big Fire robots are of the more old-school, "vaguely sentient yet highly suggestible and obedient" variety, while the Ginrei Robo and neo Tetsujin-28 are more modern, directly piloted versions.
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: Murasame Kenji.
- I Love Nuclear Power: Somewhat averted - it doesn't get significant screen time, but pretty much everybody who's around is shocked and aghast when it is revealed that Giant Robo is nuclear powered. This is ultimately the reason Robo is able to fight against Genya in the first place, because he isn't powered by Shizuma drives.
- Implacable Man: The silent, armored Ko-Enshaku fills this role for the bad guys, enigmatically surviving everything thrown at him before turning up unharmed the next episode. The good guys on the other hand have Murasame, whose tendency to survive getting gaping holes blown through him becomes almost comical as the series goes on.
- Informed Ability: Tetsugyu is remarkably ineffectual in battle, despite frequent reference to his strength. We see him take down a swarm of Big Fire Mooks just fine, but that's about it. To be fair it's more like the world around him is overpowered rather than him being weak.
- I Want Them Alive: Happens in the last episode to Daisaku. He manages to get away and make it to Robo though.
- Karma Houdini: Cho-Katsu Komei gets away with everything, despite arrogantly declaring himself The Chessmaster and having none of the sympathetic motives of his fellow Big Bad. As a result he generally has a very poor survival rate in fan continuations.
- Kick the Dog: Murasame skips between this and Crowning Moment of Awesome so quickly his teeth must rattle.
- Killed Off for Real: Played straight and averted, especially later on when everyone was expecting Anyone Can Die. The anime still manages an impressive body count though, even with the odd couple of extremely unlikely Not Quite Dead.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Cervantes points a gun at Daisaku, despite the fact he can generate enough heat from his hands to melt a thick steel door.
- Line in the Sand -- Subverted. Our hero (recovering from a Heroic BSOD) never crosses the line, but the battle crosses it from the other direction. And the "line" is a crevice deeper than he is tall.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Ginrei is revealed to be Von Vogler's daughter, and Genya's sister.
- The Kid with the Remote Control: Subverted, slightly. Robo has its own will apparently that of Dr. Kusama and usually only follows the general gist of the commands.
- Example from the last episode, at the Monster Sphere: "Shoot, Robo!" *Robo fires everything it has, plus one of its booster rockets*
- Mad Scientist: Dr Von Vogler who eventually turns out to be a kindhearted and inspirational man who for PR reasons was blamed for the disaster one of the other scientists caused. After all, as far as anyone knew, he had died in said disaster and couldn't say any different!
- Mooks: Made an art form. The basic IPO mooks at one point spontaneously form a human pyramid in order to block an energy blast.
- Mook Maker: To a degree, Doki, who commands a whole army of warriors instead of general BF mooks.
- More Dakka: Giant Robo carries enough firepower to wipe a couple of cities off the map.
- Nice Hat: Zangetsu, who has a five second role yet still manages to prove a fan favourite due to his very nice hat. And he might be the main character's father.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Averted! Just barely, though. In the final episode you find out that the Shizuma drives were actually creating a poisonous gas that would have destroyed all life on earth within days of the events that make up the series. The anti-drive was actually created in order to eliminate this threat before it destroyed all known life. All of the "normal" drives would have reactivated once all of the anti-drives had been activated. At the last minute, despite the heroes' efforts all of the anti-drives were activated, thus saving the world.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: It turns out that when the three anti-drives are together they fixed the 2% problem or else they all would have exploded.
- Ninja: "Mask the Red" of Big Fire's Magnificent Ten.
- No Indoor Voice: Everyone, especially as everything goes to hell. The dialogue of the final episode consists of nothing but EPIC SPEECH!
- Norio Wakamoto: Taisou
- Not So Different: Daisaku and Genya.
- And Daisaku and Tetsugyu the latter saw Daisaku's expression when he damaged Robo's arm. The same feeling of pain as when Tesugyu slew his own father.
- Oh Crap: Genya when Alberto absorbs the heat energy from the sphere leaving it completely vulnerable to attack from Giant Robo. The look on his face as Robo prepares to launch one of its rocket boosters as a missile is particularly priceless.
- Omake/Filler: The three Ginrei Special OVAs, ranging from a reasonably well-executed prequel Side Story to pure animated Crack Fic, were created to maintain interest and raise funds during the main OVA's production delays.
- Clip Show: Most of the first Ginrei OVA.
- Crossdresser: Somehow, "Ginrei the Mighty" comes up with an excuse to have all the Experts wearing Ginrei's trademark Chinese mini-dress. Also, the first Ginrei OVA has Murasame completely disguised as Ginrei for most of the episode.
- Evil Twin
- FemBot: The "Ginrei Robo".
- Go-Karting with Bowser: The Experts and the BF organization drinking together in "Ginrei the Mighty".
- Mood Whiplash: The third episode is completely serious
- Shout-Out: Ginrei Robo is a parody of Aphrodite-A from Mazinger Z, and Daisaku also gets to pilot an ersatz Tetsujin 28-go, revamped in the same way Giant Robo itself was in the OVA series.
- Daisaku even wears Shotaro's signature plaid jacket rather than his own drab grey while piloting the redesigned Tetsujin 28.
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Ginrei pulls a full-sized bazooka from her cleavage in "Iron-armed Ginrei / Ginrei the Mighty".
- Once More, with Clarity: The story behind the Tragedy of Bashtarle changes multiple times over the course of the OVA.
- Overclocking Attack: this is what the Monster Sphere actually does to the Shizuma drives. Except the resulting energy can be harnessed...
- Papa Wolf: Giant Robo has a Auto-Guard Circuit allowing it to activate and act of its own will when its controller's life (sensed through the wristwatch) is in danger. Robo breaks out of its maintenance dock and takes off for Daisaku (who doesn't seem to be aware of it) the first time, where it's noted that Robo was running at 50 times its usual power.
- Subverted slightly, when Robo crashes into an unbreakable barrier - it can't control its output while in full-on Papa Wolf mode, and runs the risk of melting down if allowed to continue for too long.
- The Plan: Cho-Katsu Komei claims several times that he is pulling one of these off, though it is left ambiguous whether this is actually true.
- Pet the Dog: The scene in the 5th OVA where Genya comforts a delirious Daisaku and then learning about his motivation for revenge. Also Ivan mentioning how his home was destroyed from the Bashtorle disaster.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Murasame's overcoat and Hanzui's cape. Are you dumb enough to mock them?
- Refuge in Audacity: And how.
- Roof Hopping: You know an organization is bad ass when all of its support staff / engineering mooks can roof hop onto a zeppelin to clear off before an attack. No really, Daisaku is the only normal human in the show.
- Samus Is a Girl: Ginrei's introduction as the Badass Longcoat "Iron Mask" during the prologue of the first episode.
- Sequel Hook: *Cries*
- Shaggy Dog Story: What it kind of boils down too when the three anti-drives are together at long last. A shame that the IPO were so good at their job. Even sadder that if Genya hadn't shot Ginrei then humanity would have been wiped out.
- Shotacon: It's... it's really, really, really easy to see subtext along these lines between Ginrei and Daisaku.
- Shout-Out: The subtitle of the OVA series is a shout out to the classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still.
- GR-2 sure seems like an antagonist Mazinger. Over sized lower jaw and rocket fists. One of the robos to appear several times in the opening appears to be an evil Getter 1.
- Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Robo has a certain "growl" in lieu of a voice. "Crush them, Robo!" "GROWL"
- Super Robot/Real Robot: The robots stray the line. On the one hand they're clearly very powerful and can sometimes pull weapons out of no where, like Robo's bazooka gun. On the other hand the robots clearly need a lot of maintenance. On top of that the fights are actually quite short and even a single hit can take a lot of the fight of the enemy. Take the complex snake-train robot being paralyzed after one hit in the first OVA. Though in SR Ws Robo has been strictly a super robot.
- Super Robot Wars: Alpha and 64.
- The Call Has Bad Reception: Dr. Vogler had good intentions. Originally, his son had good intentions. The only problem was that by the time Dr. Vogler tells his son what needed to be done, he didn't have a very good vocabulary...
- Unexplained Recovery: Numerous characters. On the villainous side Alberto. Jujoji and Zangetsu sure acted dead in the sixth OVA but are fine in the seventh.
- Vasquez Always Dies: Youshi
- Victoria's Secret Compartment: Currently providing the page image.
- Villainous Breakdown: Genya, several times during the final episode. While he normally finds a way to salvage the situation the last one truly breaks him, and not without reason.
- Villainous Rescue: Alberto the Shockwave.
- What Could Have Been: Lots and lots. Original Magical Girl Sally the Witch only really shows up as a cameo and plot device, falling prey to the dark gods of story compression.
- World of Ham: This series's universe seems to work purely ON HAM!!!
- Worthy Opponent: Big Fire considers the IPO to be one of these, and at least a few of the good guys feel the same. Also Alberto the Shockwave's entire reason for faking his own death.
- Wrecked Weapon: Daisaku orders an extremely unwise attack on the Eye of Volger during the Wham! Episode, resulting in Giant Robo getting itself seriously damaged. Cue an Oh Crap reaction from just about every single good guy on the field.
- X Marks the Hero: Tetsugyu
- Yosuke Akimoto: As Alberto the Shockwave.
And the toku includes examples of...
- Bragging Theme Tune
- Big Bad: Emperor Guillotine
- Bittersweet Ending: One that traumatized a number of childhoods in the 60s and 70s, both in America and Japan.
- Calling Your Attacks
- Compilation Movie: Several episodes of the American import were edited together into the movie "Voyage Into Space".
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Hardcore Toei enthusiasts may recognize Mitsuo Ando who plays Dr. Over, as Gill-Hakasei from Kikaider and Black Cross Fuhrer from Himitsu Sentai Goranger among other things.
- And Hideo Murota is famous for being a regular in yakuza movies.
- Monster of the Week
- Rocket Punch
- Transformation Is a Free Action: Played painfully straight -- before he performs any attack, Giant Robo has to first go through a variety of stances, yet remains unmolested by the Monster of the Week. This is most evident during Robo's missile attack, which features Stock Footage of him swinging his forearms side-to-side and up-and-down, then holding out his hands while missiles sprout from his fingertips... all while the monster waits for the routine to finish.
And the second manga "The Day the Earth Burned" includes examples of...
- Black and Gray Morality: The BF group are terrorists, the IPO are only a little nicer Smug Snakes. Daisaku and Fei Long's splinter group are the only nice people it seems.
- Call Back: A lot of robots that appeared in the opening finally get names or even return. The fifth robo that appeared in each opening is Gaia. And the black pointed one strolling through the city is Big Ox. And others.
- Composite Character: Zangetsu is a combination of his old OVA design and Genya, mysterious new BF member. With a few more drops of Psycho for Hire instead of stoicism.
- Good Is Not Nice: The IPO comes off much more antagonistic and gleeful compared to the OVA.
- Jerkass: Just about everyone who isn't Daisaku, Gen, Fei Long, and a few others.
- Ms. Fanservice: Gen's been reduced to being a fan service character. At least she's one of the few nice ones.