Tag Archives: Mecha

Special Features Presents: Macross

When I was a young boy (and wow this makes me sound really old), my favorite cartoon and toy was Transformers. I just loved it. Robots that could transform into cars, planes, weapons: it was just a seriously awesome concept. But then I was introduced to a series called Robotech. And that series took the concept of transformable robots to a whole new level. I did not know at the time that Robotech was made up of three totally unrelated animeseries. These three shows were completely rewritten into a new storyline that tied it all together. Robotech will always be holding a special place in my heart, as it introduced me to the wonderful world of anime.

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Yes this ship is seriously awesome.

One of the most popular segments of Robotech was the Macross saga. Macross has always been regarded as one of the anime series that laid the groundwork for the Mecha anime genre. In this special features post I intend to give a bit of an overview of the entire saga so far, although I will only be focussing on the tv series and OVA’s. There have also been a few movies, but as this post will already be pretty long, I decided not to include those. Before I start I will begin by talking about a few things that have always been common to pretty much every new series of the franchise.

Macross: common themes

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A love triangle can be very hard indeed.

One of the coolest things in Macross are the transformable fighter planes known as the Valkyries. All of these planes can transform into a robot, but also a hybrid version of the robot/fighter, known as the Gerwalk. With every series released there were new versions of these planes that were introduced. Another common theme in every show was the love triangle. Yes, romance is definitely a factor in Macross, but luckily it is usually not romance of the sappy kind. Lastly music is also very important to the Macross franchise, and in every series to date there has been some kind of singer or band, that takes the fight to the enemy. So now that I have adressed the common themes let’s start for real with the overview.

The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982)

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Just in case you are wondering, that is planet Earth these ships are firing at.

The show that started it all, tells the story of a gigantic spaceship crashlanding on Earth. Ten years after the crash, humanity has rebuild the enormous ship, now known as the SDF-1. But then the original owners of the ship return, the gigantic beings known as the Zentradi. Their mission is to retrieve the ship at all cost, and thus begins the first intergalactic war. With a cast of great characters, truly amazing fight sequences, a terrific story, and some heroic deaths, this series is still very much worth the watch. This 36 episode series is definitely your starting point. Even though it is a very old anime, don’t let yourself be held off by that, as it is has withstood the test of time very well.

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers again (1992)

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Sometimes you just get bored by it all and fall asleep.

Ten years after the original series, this six episode show takes place 80 years after the events of the original anime. We are introduced to a new enemy called the Mardook, who seem to be invulnerable to mankinds most powerful attacks. A young reporter is thrust right in the middle of the new war that is about to begin, and may eventually hold the key to stopping the conflict. This series was highly anticipated, but eventually was not well received by the original Macross saga fans. I quite liked it myself, but it definitely is not as good as the show that started it all. In the end this series is now not considered to be part of the Macross timeline anymore.

Macross Plus (1994)

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Who put that helmet on my back….seriously…..

With Macross II being dismissed as a sequel, Macross Plus was henceforth recognised as the first official sequel to the original series. This 4 part anime tells the story of two testpilots that have a deep rivalry between them, and also happen to like the same girl. Meanwhile a powerful A.I. has some very bad intentions when it plans to take over the battlefortress Macross itself. This series was pretty cool. It featured some truly terrific fightsequences, and great animation. The opening tune composed by legend Yoko Kanno, I still consider to be one of the most beautiful scores for an anime series.

Macross 7 (1994)

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I get annoyed just by looking at that guy….

To date this is the only Macross series that I have not completely finished. With 49 episodes it is also the longest. It takes place on the colonyship Macross 7, that is exploring the galaxy, when it encounters the hostile alien force called Protodeviln. I have seen the first few episodes of this series many years ago when I was attending an Animecon. All I remember from it, is that I got seriously annoyed by the rockband Firebomber, that played a major role in this series. I can’t really say much about this series, but from what I have read about it, it is regarded by most fans of Macross as not one of the best installments.

Macross Zero (2002)

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If you only knew what this guy was looking at….

This series is a prequel to the original Macross saga. As I have recently done a review for this anime, I won’t say too much about this one, but instead I will provide a link to my review, which you can find here.

Macross Frontier (2008)

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This picture was just to cool not to include. 

This new 25 part anime series was made for the 25th anniversary of Macross, and it is truly awesome. The best way to describe this one is as a kind of reboot for the entire series, and you can pretty much watch it, without ever having seen any of the previous shows. A Frontier fleet comes under attack by a strange new enemy, and a group of young fighter pilots get caught up in the middle. It featured some of the best characters and music from the franchise, and it has truly become one my favorite Macross anime series to date.

Macross Delta (2015)

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Spice girls: the reboot. 

This is the final series that has been made so far. It was unfortunately not as good as Frontier, and this was mainly because the plot was at times hard to follow and it featured way too many characters. I have also done a review for this series, which you can find here.

Final thoughts.

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Can’t we all be friends? 

Macross is still one of my favorite anime franchises to date. While not every installment is good, there is always something included that makes it worth watching. One of the best things about it will always be the music, and the incredible fightsequences. Those are pretty much the trademarks of the entire franchise. If you like science fiction space opera, than I highly recommend these shows. I hope this post will serve as a handy reference for you, whenever you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the enormous amount of shows that are out there. Currently work has begun on a new series to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Macross. There has so far been very little news about it, except for the fact that it will be released in 2018.

So over to you! Have you ever watched Macross? If so did you enjoy it? Do you have any favorite series or characters? Let me know in the comments section below. As always thank you for reading, and see you at the next post!

Macross Zero, Anime tv series (2002)

Prequels. It is a concept that the past few years has been introduced in novels, movies, and tv series. The question I have always asked myself is what is precisely the point of a prequel ? Sure it is nice to find out some backstory about certain characters, or some kind of clarification about events that were not fully explained in whatever the prequel is based on. But because a prequel can ofcourse not change the events of the established story, I always find that it lacks excitement. You know the story of what comes after, and ofcourse which characters will be in the original so they can’t be killed off in the prequel. If done well however, it can occasionally be fun to find out what led up to certain events happening in the original story. Honestly though, I am not a big fan of prequels. I do watch them,especially for franchises that I really enjoy like for instance the anime series Macross. Just like Gundam Wing it has now had so many different shows, that it is hard to keep track of it all. I might do a post for the entire Macross saga in the future. For now, all you need to know for this one, is that Macross Zero is a prequel to the series that started it all.

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I believe I can fly….

It is the year 1999 and a gigantic alien spacecraft crashlands on Earth. At the time the world is engulfed in a global war, but with the realisation that mankind is not alone, an uneasy peace is established. Nine years later, a lot of new technology has been realised with the help of what is found within the bowels of the alien ship. Most notably the transformable Valkyrie fighters. Even though the war has pretty much died down, there are still a lot of skirmishes between the new U.N.Spacy and Anti-Un forces. During one of these fights, we meet up with the young pilot Shin Kudo, who gets shot down by a strange alien craft. Crashlanding on a Mayan island he manages to survive. When he meets up with the inhabitants of the island, he soon realises that they have a secret that ties them to the alien ship. Deep under the ocean there resides an alien weapon that has been buried for over 10.000 years. A weapon that may result in the end of mankind when released……

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Nothing can keep us apart, except maybe a pink bubbly thing.

One thing that Macross has always been good at, is showcasing transformable fighter planes that beat the crap out of each other. And in that regard Macross Zero certainly does not disappoint. This 5 part series showcases some of the coolest Mecha fight sequences in this franchise to date. This being a prequel it was nice to see a lot of the old craft from the original series returning, most notably the Skull One. But there were also some new Mecha that we did not yet see in any of the other series. These fights were definitely the highlight of the show.

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Kind of gives a new dimension to the word overkill.

Another thing that has always been a trademark for this series is the love triangle arc. This time it is between the hero of the story Shin, and two sisters from the island on which he crashlands, Sara and Mao Nome. The characters in this franchise are usually one of the strong points, but in this prequel I found them to be rather dull. I did not establish any kind of attachment to them whatsoever, and that usually is a bad thing. What I did like was the return of the tragic hero from the original series Roy Focker. Even though he played he a small part in the events for this series, it was an important one. As Roy has always been a fan favorite character, many will enjoy seeing his return.

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Yep, that really is Roy Focker.

The story for this prequel was rather confusing. It contained a lot of mythical mumbo jumbo, that I at times could not make heads nor tails of. This being a prequel it does ofcourse contain some interesting ties to the original series, and I guess that makes it somewhat worth it. Has it changed my view on prequels though? Nope, I can honestly say that it did not. Macross Zero is worth the watch for the incredible Mecha fights that are contained within these five episodes, but ultimately I found it to be a rather disappointing entry into the Macross mythology. If you like Macross though, this is one you at least want to watch once, if only to see a few classic things make a reappearance. If you have yet to discover Macross, I would recommend starting with the original tv series from 1982, which is still every bit as groundbreaking as when it was first shown on television.

I give Macross Zero a 6 out of 10 score.

Kishin Corps, Anime tv series (1993)

Ah, classic anime. Sometimes it can just be nice to rewatch something that you vaguely remember that you enjoyed at the time, but most of the details for it have become a distant memory. Kishin Corps was a series that I owned on videotape (you know, those black boxes that contained tape and that you put into a machine called a VCR to show videos). A couple of weeks ago I visited the Dutch Comic Con, where my eyes fell on the dvd boxed set for this 24 year old animeseries. I could not believe my eyes to be honest, and I decided to buy it. I just simply could not resist. But is this series still as great as when I first saw it, or has age caught up with this one?

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Kishin Corps takes place during the Second World War, albeit a very different one from the one we read about in the history books. We first meet up with a young boy called Taishi who is entrusted with a mysterious black box by his father. The train on which they are travelling together suddenly gets attacked by the Kanto army. While fleeing for his life, a second party appears, but this one of extraterrestrial origin. A furious battle ensues, in which Taishi only just manages to escape, but then gets cornered. Just when things become extremely desperate, the heroes of the series appear: the Kishin Corps. Taishi then gets caught up in the middle of an adventure the likes of which he has never experienced before in his life. The black box that he has in his possession, contains alien technology, that becomes the focal point for a power struggle. With both the Aliens and the Nazis trying to achieve world domination, the only hope lies with the members of the Kishin Corps and their powerful robots. Will they be able to stop the tides of war?

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Kishin Corps is a very unique series. While this anime is set during the WWII era, we get a very different take on it. This is a Mecha series, but we don’t get the fast robots that you might be used to. No, instead we get towering robots that move slowly, and let the ground shake with every step they take. The robots are seriously cool and gorgeously designed, and those alone make this anime well worth watching. Most of the characters are very colourful, and one of the highlights of this series. It is really fun to see how Taishi grows from a very innocent young boy, into a more mature man by the end of the show. The members of the Kishin Corps themselves also each have their own unique traits. I do have to say, that I would have liked to have seen some more background for them. There are real life figures that also make an appearance, like Albert Einstein and even Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress. Although most of them are completely different in the way that history remembers them.

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This being a 24 year old series, the animation style is pretty dated. This is old school anime and it shows. It did not detract me in any way from the series itself though. The soundtrack for this anime is very cool, and often reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones if I were to make a comparison. As far as the storyline goes, it starts off pretty well, but towards the end, things were rushed a bit. As such I felt the ending was poor, and honestly was not as good as I remembered it. It is funny how your mind can play tricks on you, with things such as this. Still, if you like classic anime, and also enjoy alternative history storylines, this series most certainly is a treat. With a cast of cool characters, high speed action, and big robots that smash the life out of each other this classic is still worth the watch. If you prepare yourself for an ending that could have been handled better, you might get a kick out of this 7 episode series.

I give Kishin Corps a 8 out of 10 score.

Knights of Sidonia Season 2, Anime tv series (2015)

I watched the first season of Knights of Sidonia quite a while back. (You can find my review for it here). While the series started off pretty slow, and was definitely not without it’s flaws, it eventually started to grow on me. Now recently D from Dtalksanime has started on this show, and I thought this would be as good a time as any to start watching season 2. First though, if you have not yet subscribed to the fantastic blog of D, do that first. They have great reviews on anime, post that are always a joy to read, and not only that they are great to talk to, so seriously what is there not to like: subscribe….now. So for those of you who are not exactly up to speed as to what this series is about I will give a very short discription. Obviously this anime takes place in the future. Humanity is on the brink of extinction fighting an alien race called the Gauna. A gigantic colony ship called Sidonia, is pretty much all that remains of the human race. Think Battlestar Galactica, but with subtle differences.

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The second season of this anime continues the story that began in season 1, and picks up almost right after the end of the first season. Garde pilot Nagate Tanikaze is out with his group about to engage a new and gigantic Gauna, that threatens to destroy the Sidonia. But just when the fight is about to start a new enemy enters the scene. As if one Gauna is not enough, two are more than a handful. It is right at that moment that something strange happens. The second Gauna engages the first one, and destroys it completely. Utterly baffled by this strange behaviour, the crew of Sidonia don’t know what to make of this. Is this new Gauna friend or foe? The answer to this question lies within Sidonia itself, and might hold the key to winning the war against the Gauna once and for all.

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So…Knights of Sidonia season 2. Where to begin? The first season of this anime was often criticised for it’s lack of character development. You never quite felt an emotional attachment to them, and that makes it hard to get invested in a series. With this second season it almost seems like they are trying to remedy that flaw, as the series spents much more time with the characters themselves, and focusses less on action. This would not be a bad thing were it not for the fact that this often resulted in a few pretty boring episodes, where not much of anything happened. I don’t mind slow, if it is going somewhere, but often there were just some things in the series that I felt could have been left behind.

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The series shines in the episodes that featured action, and it was during those episodes that I really enjoyed it. There were a couple of very cool Mecha fight sequences, especially during the last few episodes of the series. In the end though I found this second season not quite as good as the first one. The pacing was at times simply to slow, and I felt my mind starting to wander off, which is usually not a good sign. I had hoped that this season would answer every question that was still left unanswered, but the series ends without a resolution. There is still no official confirmation that this series will get a third season. But I honestly wonder if I will even bother watching it when it does get a release. I was pretty disappointed by this second season. Still, there are enough moments that do make it a worthwhile watch, especially if you liked the first season. Just be prepared to not see anything really surprising though.

I give Knights of Sidonia season 2 a 6 out of 10 score.

Special Features Presents: Childhood Cartoons

A few months ago I published a post about Childhood Movies (you can find it here). It featured a lot of my favorite movies from my own childhood, and that I really enjoyed back in those days (and to be perfectly honest, I still enjoy watching them). But one of the really great things of the 80’s were the fantastic cartoons. I remember getting up early on saturday morning, switching on the television, and just sitting back watching all of your favorite cartoons back to back. So I thought it would be nice to make a post that brings us back to those days, and feature some of my alltime favorite 80’s cartoons. Most of these are now available on dvd boxed sets, to relive your childhood. The thing that may surprise you the most when you rewatch these great cartoons, is the amount of stuff you still remember from certain episodes. Even though most of these are almost 30 years old now. So without further ado, here they are counting down to number one.

8. Gi-Joe

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Gi-Joe was my least favorite cartoon. The story about a special group of soldiers fighting against the evil forces of Cobra, was for me never as much fun as the other series on this list. It was a highly popular show though, and the toyline also made a lot of money. Still, I did watch the series, when nothing else was on, and kind of enjoyed it at times. It certainly featured some great characters, and a cool villain in the form of Cobra Commander.

7. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

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One of the cartoons that probably everyone who grew up in the 80’s remembers. From the powerful theme song, to the fantastic characters, this cartoon is a true gem. Taking place in a fantasy world called Eternia, the most powerful man in the universe has to protect the planet from the evil Skeletor. This series was incredibly popular, and even spawned a live action movie featuring Dolph Lundgren in the role of He-man.

6. She-ra Princess of Power

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Because of the success of He-man a spinoff series was made which featured his sister She-ra. And honestly I liked this series even better than He-man. Also taking place in a fantasy world, She-ra had a great nemesis in the form of Hordak, who actually was once the mentor of Skeletor. The series was a bit lighter than He-man, and featured some great humour as well. There were, ofcourse, also a lot of guest appearances by her brother He-man.

5. M.A.S.K.

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Mask was a truly terrific cartoon. Matt Tracker who always lead the mission and the hero of the show had assembled a team of men to fight against the evil organisation of Venom. Equipped with special masks that gave them all kinds of powers, and transformable vehicles, every episode was packed with action and featured some memorable characters and some great storylines. Unfortunately in the second season of the series, the storylines were gone, and instead it became a pretty weird series where the heroes had to race against Venom in order to win the day. Still, I have fond memories of this great cartoon, and I still enjoy watching it to this day.

4. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

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I think this series is one of the first truly great science fiction epics I have seen in my life. Even though most of the episodes could be watched on their own, it had a storyline that progressed throughout the series. The hero of the show Jayce, went in search for his missing father Audric together with his friends. Opposing them were terrible monsters that were mistakenly created by his father in an experiment that could have prevented starvation, called the Monster Minds. Led by the terrifying Saw Boss, the creatures stopped at nothing to prevent Jayce from finding his father. A very underrated and in my opinion still utterly fantastic cartoon.

3. Inhumanoids

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Now this was a very shortlived cartoon, which, when looking back on it today I still find very strange how this could ever have been found suitable for children. The series featured truly terrifying monsters that preyed on the human race. Opposing them were the Earth Corps and a few benovelent creatures. With a narrative that progressed from episode to episode, this was one of the more unusual cartoons from the 80’s. This series is still very enjoyable to watch, even though it has only a few episodes.

2. Transformers

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One of the most popular cartoon series of the 80’s it will always be one of my alltime favorites. The story about the two robotic races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, is one of the few franchises that is even today still very well known. And ofcourse the toys that the series was based on are still incredible to look at, and are highly coveted by collectors. When the cartoon was cancelled in America, the show continued in Japan. Also known as the Takara series, it continued the storyline,and went in a very different (but no less enjoyable) direction. Transformers will always be a fun watch, and one of the true highlights from my childhood.

1. Robotech

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My number one series, and one I have been a fan of for more than 30 years now, is called Robotech. An Americanised version of three totally unrelated Japanese animeseries, it featured three generations of humans that had to deal with the threat of an alien race. With main characters dying, a storyline that was truly powerful (especially the first segment of the show: the Macross saga), it was a unique series. Robotech has a very strong and loyal fanbase, and that is the reason that Robotech still lives after all these years. This year will see the release of a new comic book series, and a live action movie is supposedly still in the works. If you have yet to see this magnificent series, try to track it down in any way you can. It is an awesome cartoon, especially if you like Mecha anime shows.

Final thoughts

And that brings us to the end of this post and this trip down memorylane. Now ofcourse this list is not complete. There are a lot of cartoons from the 80’s that I have not featured, such as Visionaries and Inspector Gadget to name a few. That is not to say that those were not fun to watch, but I did not find them good enough to include in my personal top 8 shows. These are the series that I enjoyed the most, and the rest just fell short.

So that brings me to you. What childhood cartoons did you watch? Are any of these included on the list above? Are there any others you might have enjoyed, or maybe you have never heard of a few that are included above. Let me know in the comments section. As always thank you for reading, see you on the next post!

 

 

 

Bokurano, Anime tv series (2007)

“Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them”. This quote from the famous Jedi Knight Obi Wan Kenobi, can be applied to a lot of things. Take Anime for example. With the enormous amount of shows on offer, there are definitely going to be series that might on the surface look like another familiair or even classic show. It might even seem that it would try to cash in on the succes of such a show, instead of being original. However, that this might not always be the case, and that sometimes you just need to look a bit further, is definitely proven by the anime Bokurano.

It is summer vacation when a group of 15 children go to the beach in order to enjoy themselves. Not before long they discover a strange and mysterious cave, where they meet a man called Kokopelli. He tells them that he is a designer of videogames, and that he is currently working on his latest game. In it, a giant robot will take the role as defender of the Earth, against 15 other enemy robots that will appear. Kokopelli asks the children if they might be interested in testing the game. All they have to do is place their hands on a device, and with that they sign the contract as exclusive gametesters. Ofcourse thinking this is a truly awesome chance, they are more than happy to agree. Soon after though, they discover that this “game” is the real thing, and they become locked in a struggle for the very survival of Earth….and themselves….

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When Bokurano first started, I found it to have more than a striking resemblance to a certain classic animeseries called Neon Genesis Evangelion. However as the series progresses, it became something completely different indeed. This is without a doubt one of the darkest animeshows I have seen to date. Without spoiling things, let me just say that the stakes in this series are very high, and that you at times might not believe what these young children are put through. The cast of characters is awesome, but besides that being one of the shows greatest strengths, it is also one of it’s greatest weaknesses. Because the cast of characters is so large, it is at times hard to keep track of who everyone is. Stick with it though, because that definitely improves with each episode. The mecha in this show are pretty oldschool, and not as sleek as for instance the robots in a series like Gundam Wing. These are giant lumbering behemoths, as shown in the picture above, where the ground shakes with every step they take.

Speaking of oldschool, the animation of this series has a bit of a classic feel to it. As I highly enjoy the classic Animeseries such as Macross and Starblazers, I found this only added to the dark tone of this series. The opening music is one of those songs that pretty much will stick around in your head all day after you hear it. I have included it here for your listening pleasure (and to make sure it will stick around in your head as well). All kidding aside, this series will not be for everyone. It’s dark tones, and sometimes truly depressing episodes, will not be enjoyed by people who at least would like to have a few bright points in a show. That said, overall I liked this series. It certainly had a few episodes where the pace slowed down a bit, but this also served to shed a good background on some of the characters. Before I give the final grade, I want to thank Karandi from 100wordanime , who recommended this series in the first place. If you have not yet discovered her amazing blog, do so. It is truly awesome!

I give Bokurano a 8 out 10 score.