New Getter Robo: Volume 1 - Rude Awakenings Review
Go Nagai can be considered the daddy when it comes to transforming mecha anime, in fact he's pioneered many a manga/anime concept. Created in 1974 Getter Robo told the story of three heroes, selected to pilot vehicles known as Getter Rays - their mission is to protect the world from evil. Combining sci-fi, action and violence with a dash of humour the series paved the way forward for later anime. Since that time Nagai's creation has undergone no less than eight incarnations over a span of thirty years. In 2004 we see an all new retelling in the latest of this epic series.
New Getter Robo takes place in modern Japan. Professor Saotome works at a research facility where he and his assistants work at trying to find ways to keep invading forces at bay. Recently spates of attacks led by what are believed to be Oni have taken place, with the only sure fire method of defeating them being Saotome's newly developed Getter Robo. Unfortunately Saotome lacks pilots that are skilled enough to control the Getter Rays that are needed to be combined in order to allow the Getter Robo to function fully. Saotome quickly sends out his men to search for the best fighters, capable of harnessing the power of the Getter Rays, thus being able to protect the world from the invading Oni.
New Getter Robo seems to function on the presumption that the viewer knows what its opposing forces represent, of course being a Japanese series it needn't bother explaining. While it isn't explained in the series the legend of Oni is a famous one in Japan. The Oni is a demonic force, a cannibalistic beast that can hide its true identity and take on human form, often female and can regenerate itself if injured. These are represented almost exactly in New Getter Robo - a series blending traditional myth and all out sci-fi action. What works in its favour is that you needn't have seen a single episode in the past to pick up what's going on here, so don't worry if you're a newbie.
This introductory volume does little to elaborate on anything in particular; it's far too quickly paced to become bogged down in details just yet. Right from the opening we're introduced to a mecha brawl (the original Getter Robo) before things shift in the direction of our main hero, Ryoma Nagare who is having a few financial difficulties but seems to be able to hold his own. It's literally minutes before he's whisked away to Saotome's lab (after perhaps the most unorthodox method of recruiting ever!) and introduced to the Getter Robo. With no time to ask questions he's already piloting it. This approach while forgoing details at least makes for a non stop show, but in the process it leaves it a little less engaging in the character department. New Getter Robo is comprised of thirteen episodes so it remains to be seen how it manages with its cast but in the four episodes here we get quite a threesome.
The three main characters are about the only real interest, despite their backgrounds being non existent in this volume. Their conflicting personalities set up their troubles ahead. Ryoma is a natural born fighter, Hayato is partially insane, while Benkei is a perverted monk - the latter of which is amusing if you know a little about Kyogen performances, which often include slapstick and perverted priests, not to mention a variety of other strange characters and situations. The constant logging of heads and bickering keeps the series lively enough but the lack of development leaves it without much substance.
Being typical Go Nagai material you expect lashings of ultra violence to go hand in hand with the running amok of robots and various nasties. The Cutey Honey/Devil Man creator's work is translated fittingly enough to the screen thanks to director, Jun Kawagoe and extreme is the name of the game. The over indulgence in bloodshed and spleen splattering mayhem takes up far too much space, however well it might be done. This is hardcore, testosterone filled male brutality which serves little other purpose than to charge the senses but after so much head smashing the viewer can quickly grow tired of it all, as nicely animated as it is, leaving the only other thing which is robots!
New Getter Robo serves up a few neat moments of robo action here and there, great in that it never borders on repetition aside from the same theme tune playing whenever the Getter Rays become Getter Robo. After two or three episodes it becomes apparent though that this is all very run of the mill baddie of the week stuff, whereby our heroes must stop arguing and find the evil doer's weakness to cruise them toward victory.
And that's about it really. It manages to entertain and pass by exceedingly quickly but its instantly forgettable stuff with a serial-like retro appeal, which harks back to its 70's origins with shows like Gatchaman. As escapism from some of the more involved series of late it provides somewhat of a welcome break, the kind of mindless entertainment we sometimes miss and I'm not sure it's going to improve any beyond that.
Episode 1: There Goes Ryoma
Earth is under attack from the evil Oni and only Professor Saotome seems to have the key to their destruction. In his laboratory stands the Getter Robo - a machine of immense strength but alas sans pilot. But not just any man can pilot this giant, it must be someone who is truly dangerous, capable of handling its controls. Saotome heads out to find such a man and soon he meets Ryoma.
Episode 2: Hayato is Coming
Hayato Jin, head of a revolutionist group infiltrates Saotome's lab but is confronted by Ryoma. Hayato is a maniac with a lust for violence, crazed at the sight of blood - the perfect pilot for one of the Getter Rays it would seem...
Episode 3: Benkei Musashinobou
When Buddhist, Benkei's temple is taken over by Oni, forcing him to run away he finds himself crossing paths with Ryoma, who helps him dispatch his tormentors. Benkei has gotten himself into more than he bargained for however, when he soon learns he's a good candidate for the final Getter Ray. Saotome finally has his force together.
Episode 4:The Three on the Loose
Ryoma, Hayato and Benkei are now under the same roof. The problem is that they constantly bicker amongst themselves, making matters worse is that in order to utilise Getter Robo to the best of its abilities they must learn to harmonize and work as a team. Easier said than done and it doesn't help when a huge tentacled monster is approaching the lab.
Geneon present New Getter Robo in a standard amaray case, complete with reversible sleeve. On the main side we have artwork that seems to have been taken from the manga as the characters of Ryoma and Getter Robo don't look too much like their anime selves. The reverse side is a little better, featuring Hayato, Ryoma, Saotome and Getter Robo. An inlay card which folds out to reveal some artwork is also included.
Geneon presents the series in an anamorphic aspect ratio of 1.78:1 which holds up very well indeed. Go Nagai's style is bold, thick lined work that poses little problem here. The colour palette has been nicely rendered in CG and throughout the plentiful fight sequences the image retains detail without presenting too many problems in the way of digital blocking, though black levels do show a lack of depth at times. There's a small amount of noticeable compression in the way of mosquito noise but otherwise it looks fine.
Despite offering Japanese and English 2.0 language tracks, the soundstage is often extremely dynamic with the front speakers picking up so much forward detail. The battles themselves are boisterous affairs with huge amounts of effects work and catchy music accompanying them, to make this series very impressive in the sound department.
Optional English subtitles are available. These are excellent, easy to read and well timed. There's a choice of enabling subtitles with or without sign translations - great for those preferring to stick with the English dub, which is an acceptable track in its own right even if it means I have to recommend the Japanese original once more.
The more I hear this main theme tune the more I like it. It's a little cheesy, entirely retro but its fun. Here you can enjoy it with the accompanying animated sequence, sans credits.
Two music clips are available separately in the menu. The first is "Warrior" (2.04), featuring clips from the series and optional green subtitles. The second is "Saga" (2.38), also with series clips and optional subs. Both are presented non-anamorphically and are sung by the main series band - JAM Project.
Mouth watering trailers for the upcoming Appleseed, Samurai Champloo and Texhnolyze
New Getter Robo has literally got off to a flying start but while it delivers action in spades it glosses over almost everything else. Our heroes are placed into situations that don't require elaborating upon and they easily become accustomed to their new life without question, which requires a certain suspension of disbelief. That said, the production values are nice, its style is interesting and it's good for a quick pick up and play. Take it as being a typical Nagai adaptation, with plenty of over the top performances and a non thinking required premise and you're left with something that should satisfy on a brainlessly barbaric level.