Mecha Anime doesn’t exactly sell here in the States. Gundam‘s never really taken off, GaoGaiGar‘s release was an uphill battle, Gurren Lagann seems to have been the slight exception to this (arguably) due to its association with Gainax. Surprising then was the news of the newly-christened company Anime Midstream’s licensing of Zettai Muteki (lit. Matchless) Raijin-Oh, a 1990s TV series that nobody could fathom getting a Region 1 DVD release.
Raijin-Oh is part of Sunrise’s Eldoran Trilogy: a series of shows (sponsored by Takara!) that revolved around the Guardian of the Universe, Eldoran, bestowing the power of Giant Robots on elementary school children. They all followed the same basic formula, too: Find the main robot, find one-two other robots, discover they can combine with the main robot and do so for the remainder of the show. That’s not so much a critique as it is a heads up for anybody that cries foul of Monster-of-the-Week formats. The Eldoran Trilogy was conceived as a successor to the then-fading Transformers line, running side by side with the first years of the Brave Series. That and many fans consider it the main target of the infamous mecha deconstruction manga/anime, Bokurano. I’d go on about said story’s premise but you’d end up hating me for ruining your day with something so depressing.
Like the other shows in the trilogy, Raijin-Oh starts out with our token menace, this time being the Jaku Empire—a force consisting of three people in a giant glass space pyramid—who threaten to take over Japa-I mean, the world. Utilizing Akudamas, eggs that hatch into personifications of things that Earthlings despise, they plan to wreak havoc. Lucky for us, Eldoran shows up with his robot Raijin-Oh… and promptly sacrifices himself to stop a missile, plummets to Earth, and crashes into an elementary school. Acting like nothing’s happened, Eldoran converts the entire school into a secret base to launch the three components of Raijin-Oh, giving control of it to a class of third-year students who dub themselves the Earth Defense Class. Hot-Blooded Action, Epic Stock Footage, and Hilarity ensue.
There’s really not too much that you can say about Raijin-Oh that can’t be surmised from just reading its premise. It’s just a fun Super Robot show that sells toys and gets kids wishing that their teacher could flip a switch to reveal the hidden launch bay in the swimming pool. It’s not bad if you turn your brain off at the door but it’s not really groundbreaking material, either; it’s a fun romp with Giant Robots fighting off colossal monsters like the Embodiment of Trash and the Possessed Stack of Test Papers (the villains surmised that people really hate tests, thus it’d be a GREAT idea for a monster). Instead, I’m going to focus on Anime Midstream’s release itself, specifically that of Volume 1 which is currently available via their website. And by that, I mean address the only real issue I have with this. No, it’s not the subtitle translation, the packaging (which are both fine), nor is it me griping on about how Lord Forbid I Should Have To Pay X Amount For [Insert Episode Amount Here] Per Disc. Rather, I hate to say, it’s the dub.
First time out or not, Anime Midstream could have done a little bit better in this area. Throughout the dub, the overall performance by the cast feels repressed. It feels like there’s some kind of forced restraint on the quintessential over-the-top direction needed for Super Robot shows. Even the voices of our main heroes can’t seem to let out a Hot-Blooded Battlecry, instead sounding like they’re mildly annoyed through their teeth. Because of it, nobody really sticks out (save for a surprise appearance by Robotech and VR Troopers vet Mike Reynolds as the Secretary of Defense), defusing any excitement. It’d be easy to fault the cast as a whole but there is potential. Rather, one has to give a wag of the finger to whomever directed this for stopping just short of getting in on the joke. As this is the first volume after all, there’s a chance everyone will catch on in the next volume so I can look forward to hearing the main pilot’s actress actually belt out “RAIJIN-OH!! MATCHLESS COMBINATION!!” with nothing on Earth to stop her.
Dub aside, this is actually a pretty solid release, so don’t let that stop you! (In all honesty, you’ll probably be buying this just for the show itself anyway.) Anime Midstream pulled off a miracle in getting Raijin-Oh licensed; I can only hope they get the bit of polish that they need, and can see this one through to the end.
Studio/Company: Anime Midstream