What I Did This Summer: Mecha Edition

I dunno if it’s a cultural thing or not, but summer in my family meant chilling out in your own house before all you vacation-crazy rest of America even mainstreamed the term “staycation.” It’s just always made sense for summer break to consist of doing things you’d normally be doing if you didn’t have any school work to get in your way. And for me, this means chilling out in the house and marathoning.

Usually, this means pitting myself in front of the TV all day and watching reruns on the kid’s big three: Nick, Cartoon Network and Disney. However (and yes, I’m blaming the networks for this, since there is no way I’d ever mature in taste), with absolutely nothing of any interest whatsoever for the most part not being on TV anymore, I figured I’d do some backtracking.

Most will agree that the anime industry peaked in the states around the early 2000s. While subtitled shows were rather difficult to come by and the few manga that were released was still grouped together with American comics at your local Borders, there were quite the plethora of shows that define the fanbase and its roots… which I couldn’t watch ‘cuz I wasn’t old enough to “get” any of it.

So, at the start of the summer, I vowed to backtrack through some of the more popular titles of yesteryear (and maybe even yester-not-so-long-ago-but-I-heard-good-things-about-it-only-to-just-get-to-watching-it-now) in a feebe attempt to get back some of what should have been my childhood. First up: the giant robot genre.

While it was thinks to the quasi-American-disguised Power Rangers as well as giant robot show parody Megas: XLR that got me to dip my toes into the genre a bit, I’ve never really been fully submerged into such an anime series, not wanting to classify myself as a “typie” anime fan. Then I figured living up to my stereotype and hit up the leviathan that is Mobile Suit Gundam.

Giant robots aside, the only other thing I knew of the first series to spawn all other Gundam related shows and games was some kind of war in space with the new pilot being some kid due to something or other preventing any adults from taking over instead. What I wasn’t aware of was the whole theme of “coming of age” combined with anti-war. And while I was willing to look past the former (honestly, it’s a staple of Shonen series), I’ve never been all that big on war pieces, no matter how awe-inspiring some critics may claim them to be. Add to this the crazy fast pacing I got from choosing to watch the first compilation movie over the individual episodes themselves, and you can be sure that I won’t be finishing this Gundam series any time soon.

Though, at least I can now fully appreciate “Glory to the Principality of Zeon!”

Not wanting to completely give up on the franchise, I figured I’d take a look at the fan favorite: Gundam Wing.

Uh… right. Pretty boy main pilot combined with an obvious love interest and bad dubbing made me lose interest before I even hit the double digit episodes. Still, interesting character design makes me want to at least pick up this series in the future.

Okay, so I dabble in what is probably the most well known giant robot anime out there with no luck and what do I follow up on next? Well, if Gundams are Superman, I figured I’d take the Batman direction and watch through Neon Genesis: Evangelion.

Before even watching the series, the only real exposure to it I had was through my old roommate, who would occasionally talk about Unit models as well as its number of religious references etc. And with the movie reboots currently being released, I thought now was the best time to watch it. Going through the series itself, I absolutely love its pacing and some episodes aside, enjoyed how the series initially goes in one direction only to end in a completely different one. Behind the scenes talk of all the hate letters received as well as how poorly the animation crew was doing just made the final episode that much better. The amount of analysis and explanation on each character a fanboy can get into is astounding, though I will say that religious references aren’t as big as fans made them out to be. Sometimes a cross is just a cross.

Doing some further digging, I finally realized which follow-up movie to watch after the series (honestly, compilation movies shouldn’t even exist): The End of Evangelion.

While I can see why fans would want a re-done version of the actual finale to the series, I highly doubt this was what people expected. In short, the film reminded me a lot of those creepy indie films shown at festivals that would go to every possible means to violate your mind. I recommend the series itself for anyone who’s yet to watch it, but as for its follow up movie… well, just watch it with the lights on in the middle of the day while you’re doing laundry, or something. As for the reboot movies coming out now, I feel as if they’ve succumb to fan outcry and are going for a more mainstream approach to the series, but only time will tell.

The last robot anime on the list: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

Talking to an acquaintance who’s as big on Shonen as I am and actually had the gall to tell me that this series replaced Dragon Ball Z as his favorite anime, I naturally had to watch it myself just so I could prove him wrong. And while, DBZ still remains my one true love, I must say that Gurren Lagann is definitely up there if we’re talking story alone (though honestly, who watches a Shonen for story?). I think the term all you cool internet kids say is… “gar?” The series is filled to the brim with the manliest of manly men beating the crap out of each other in robots in a way that only anime can get away with that I couldn’t help but marathon through this the fastest. Its setting in an alternate Earth using as little Japanese references as possible also makes it just as enjoyable to watch through in either language (I’ll admit that as awesome as Yu Yu Hakusho’s dub is, it still takes place in Japan.). Combine this with its seemingly endless amount of quotable quotes and you’ve got hope for the new generation of anime yet. I just wish Bandai would stop being money-grubbing little punks and just release the entire series as one set.

$20+ for each 9 episode set is the biggest load of I’ve ever seen.

About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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