Giving Classic Titles a Chance (Old)

(Blast From The Past Article):

With the rise in the digital age and the vast increase in anime entering this country, it seems discouraging to me that many newer Otaku shy away from older series. Obviously many of these fans have never seen much beyond what has been available on US TV; broadcast, cable, or satellite; and as Cartoon Network has stated rating are key. And it is known that ratings for dated looking shows are lower than more contemporary looking shows. For example Cartoon Network never finished airing (either time they attempted airing the show) the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, but did show all of Dragonball Z. Obviously this is not the best example, as both are actually older series (would it surprise most people that Dragonball Z is over ten years old) and Dragonball Z is far less plot oriented than Gundam, and in all honest looks more recently made. The problem is that age does not mean a show is worse than a more contemporary title.

Sometimes the most amazing stories and characters can be found in series from thirty years ago. Just look to shows which have created vast numbers of spin-offs and sequels such as Getter Robo, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Captain Harlock. All of these have produced numerous others, Getter Robo has at least 5, if not six series (and a number of movies), of which 2 are or will be available in the United States within the next year. Gundam has something along the lines of 17 series, and more are being produced, such as the upcoming Gundam Seed 2. And the Captain Harlock franchise is one of the mack-daddies of this trend because the creator drops him into half of his series, including Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato. This does not detract from watching the series, many American fans saw Gundam Wing without ever having known of the original series. The point is that while these new spin-offs and sequels are being made, it only adds to the experience if one knows the previous world. Many of the fans of the original Mobile Suit Gundam will quickly point out the similarities with the new Gundam Seed.

For example both deal with a young man who is thrust into a role he does not want as the pilot of a mobile suit. Further he ends up piloting one of the most powerful suits ever, built on a neutral colony which gets destroyed by the end of episode 5. As such he and his friends are forced to crew the new experimental ship built specifically for this new weapon. From here the list can go one, but the point is that knowing all of this does not detract from watching Gundam Seed but allows for a different take on the show.

Remember the anime produced today is, in part, built from all of the shows which came before it. And this is even in part true of American cartoons. Dexter’s Labratory, Powerpuff Girls, and Megas XLR are full of anime references and jokes. For example, in Dexter’s Lab there is a Speed Racer parody episode, and also episode where Dexter goes to Japan. In that episode he ends up getting into a Mecha showdown with two Japanese students, where both are using Mecha from old anime shows, one being Mespeada, the third series used in Robotech. In the first episode of Megas XLR the giant mecha has the front of the Yamato pop out and fire its Wave-motion gun into a horde of enemy robots. In a later episode there is a great parody of the old show Gatchaman, otherwise known as G-Force to the younger crowd.

In addition often when watching older titles you can see hints of some of the creator’s later projects. A great example is with the series Armored Troopers Votoms, where the director and his team went on and later made both Blue Gender and Gasaraki. In Votoms we first see the mobile suits, in this case both Gasaraki and Blue Gender are closely linked. All of the suits in these shows are bi-pedal but also contain wheels, to allow for quick movement on suitable terrain. In addition the suits in Votoms have the point of a pivot spike in each leg, such as seen in Gasaraki, to allow well a quick turn, or an additional weapon in combat. Even the plot of Votoms gives hints towards what would happen in Gasaraki with both dealing with internal power play struggles and two outsides capable of extraordinary skills when piloting a mobile suit are able to help stop the nefarious plans.

Another good example is the shows of Go Nagai, the creator of Devil Man, Getter Robo, and Cutey Honey (to name a few). A simple example of the parallel structures found in his works would be the yelling out of attacks, and even more prominent would be the specific titles of some of the attacks. In Devil Man to call forth his wings our main character shouts “Devil Wing”, while in Getter Robo the same sort of phrase is used, “Getter Wing”. His mecha all look slightly similar and very odd, anyone who has seen Mazinkaiser should know this. In addition, many of his shows have seen recent revivals, such as Getter Robo and the upcoming live action films of Cutey Honey and Devil Man. The simple mantra “If it’s Go Nagai, It will not die.” may be an appropriate concept, and in all honesty his work really created much of what we think of as Mecha shows. Even in the most recent round of fansubs one of his new works was being done, Shin Getter Robo, and also a number of groups were subbing a parody series, Panda Z, of Mazinger Z.

In closing, the revival of older series should be seen to cause a second golden age for fandom, allowing a greater link between the older generation of Otaku and the latest one. As we move forward into an age where more contemporary titles make in into the realm of American television, it is necessary to remember the shows of the past, which have helped to build the backbone of these stories. As more series become licensed earlier in their development and as the generation in Japan who grew up watching shows such as Astro Boy and Tetsujin 28 (Gigantor to the American crowd) become those responsible for producing new shows, it can expected that there will be more re-makes or retellings of classic shows, and it would be a shame for Otaku to miss out on the originals.

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