If you’re a fan of giant robot anime, there’s a good chance you’re already aware of Sunrise’s brave series… or at least one title in the series. Run from 1990-1997, the series hoped to keep Transformers relevant in Japan. But it went on to do so much more, to the point that fans are preparing to celebrate the franchise 30 years later.
After Generation One of Transformers was completed, Japan’s love of the U.S. import started to drop off. So Takara Tomy teamed up with anime studio Sunrise to make their own iteration of the robots in disguise. The studio turned to designer Kunio Okawara, who had worked on both iconic 70s super robots and the militaristic robots of Gundam, to bring this new style of giant robot to life.
The result was a blend of Transformers mechanics and Japanese giant robot aesthetic. The first off the line was 1990’s Brave Exkaiser, in which a boy named Kouta discovers that the family car has been inhabited by the soul of an alien hero. Vehicles all over Japan transform into Exkaiser’s allies to fight off the intergalactic villains known as Geisters.
The first series was followed by 1991’s Brave of the Sun FighBird, which you’ve heard of because of this meme:
That aside, it was stylistically similar: young school kids make friends with a giant robot and his friends, and together they save the world from aliens. The brave series would go on to have seven installments in total, capped off with GaoGaiGar, the King of Braves — which, through its sheer hot-bloodedness, is the one that really made good.
If you’re a giant robot fan, you’ll have seen GaoGaiGar and others (1993’s Might Gaine, for example) in venues like massive crossover game series Super Robot Wars. They served the purpose of keeping the Transformers hype train rolling, as evidenced by the continued popularity of Transformers in Japan. But, additionally, they brought giant robot appreciation out of its niche and into the mainstream in Japan.
So it’s no wonder that, this year, the 30th anniversary is being observed in multiple ways. New light novels are coming out based on peripheral material from GaoGaiGar. A big exhibition is going up in December, featuring production materials from the series’s entire run and beyond. And there could be more — we’ll just have to wait and see.
Sadly, brave shows are still a little hard to get hold of in the West. But hopefully with the resurgence of the fandom during its anniversary year, that could change!