Otaku USA Magazine
New Getter Robo

Disclaimer: It’s the same disclaimer as my Getter Robo: Armageddon review, which I’m just going to assume everybody reading this has read, only with the added statement of “all I am talking about in this article, by and large, is the anime described in the title.”

You know the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”? For anime, that statement is false 99% of the time. In most cases, I can take one look at the main promotional image for a given anime title and determine if that’s something I would enjoy watching, and while many people will deny they do this as well, “because it’s shallow-minded,” I assure you it’s commonplace. This logic often extends to within the show itself as well. You ever look at a character and say “yep, they’re definitely going to turn out to be evil” based solely on how they’re drawn? Ever notice how often you’re right about that? With this in mind, can you tell who the bad guys are based on the cover of New Getter Robo?

See, it’s a trick question because ALL those guys are the heroes, despite the fact that they all look like psychopaths. But don’t worry. The rule still holds true, because as I noted in, the heroes in Getter Robo don’t merely LOOK the part. They ARE all psychopaths.

New Getter Robo is far easier to get into and follow along with than Getter Robo: Armageddon, and there are no chaotic production shakeups this time either. For ever since he managed to [eventually…mostly] salvage Armageddon, Jun Kawagoe has directed every new Getter Robo anime since. Between his work there and on directing other classic anime revival projects such as Cyborg 009: The Cyborg Soldier (as once seen on Toonami), Mazinkaiser SKL, Lupin the Third: Operation Return the Treasure and Kotetsushin Jeeg (crossing my fingers that Discotek will release those last two someday!), I consider Jun Kawagoe one of the most underrated anime directors out there, capable of successfully fusing classic sensibilities with the modern. Every single one of those titles mentioned is worth owning.

Don’t worry if you’ve never seen any of the Getter Robo anime produced prior to this. New Getter Robo is a clean reboot with no continuity ties to anything whatsoever, but it still follows the same general premise as the previous Getter Robo titles that I mentioned in the last article. Here, the evil forces terrorizing humanity are the Japanese demons known as the Oni. No tiger-striped bikini babes here, though: these horned devils will totally feast on your entrails, and in zombie-like fashion, if they infect you with their bite, you’ll turn into one of them yourself. There’s only one course of action: to obliterate their heads and/or carve them into kibbles and bits… and Dr. Saotome has rounded up the most qualified people for the task of (mostly) robot-assisted Oni-slaying. No, not soldiers who’ve trained all their lives! Those guys are too weak! It’s going to take the combined efforts of deranged teenage karate master Ryoma Nagare, homicidal yet slightly less-deranged terrorist Hayato Jin… and of course, a fat tubby guy! Previous fat tubby guys, Benkei and Musashi, have been combined into a new character, the warrior Buddhist monk Benkei Musashibou… whose loincloth doesn’t always adequately contain his nether regions in times of strife…

As New Getter Robo was a 13-episode direct-to-video OVA production from the mid-2000s, it was made during a time when traditional hand-drawn cel animation was being phased out in favor of digital cel animation. The signs of this transitional phase of anime occasionally pop up by way of digital pans and such, so while the animation may not be quite as fluid overall as Getter Robo: Armageddon and the transformations not quite as slick, the violence and general offensiveness factors are ratcheted up a notch to compensate. As you’ll recall, those were already dangerously high in the first place!

This is not just a “blood splatters everywhere” kind of cartoon. This is a “blood along with intestines and fragments of brain matter splatter everywhere” cartoon, the kind that makes you realize that the mortality rate of giant robot laboratory scientists is roughly 99%. In a way, this take on Getter Robo is meant to more accurately capture the general “spirit” of Ken Ishikawa and Go Nagai’s original manga in a way that children’s television anime of yesteryear never could. That doesn’t mean it adheres strictly to the plot of the comics. Rather, New Getter Robo encapsulates all that “shonen” meant in days of yore… which just make it a little TOO crazy for even most anime fans.

See, one of the many key reasons why the original, uncut Getter Robo has never been released in America to this day is that here, the content would be deemed entirely inappropriate for the “kids to teenagers” demographic it was squarely written for in Japan. What’s more, the thick lines and giant sideburns used to draw the men and women alike are about as unfashionable to American anime fans as… well… giant robots. Furthermore, in stark contrast to the popular hit series of today, there’s absolutely nothing deliberately put in place to appeal to the ladies. I imagine that’s a big part of why no matter how many times I correctly point out that “without Getter Robo there would be no Gurren Lagann (or if you’re a little older and remember Martian Successor Nadesico, the parody series Gekiganger 3), and without Ryoma Nagare there would be no Kamina” it falls on mostly-deaf ears. I believe the most commonly shared image online for conveying this point is this observation from Ryoma regarding whether or not they should venture towards a just-materialized dimensional rift:

The other big part impeding its US appeal is more inherently fundamental. A recurring trend often brought up in passing at some point during the various old-school super robot revivals—typically within the final moments of the final episode—is the notion that these characters are eternally static, fated to fight an infinite supply of vile creatures until the heat death of the universe, at which point their infinite alternate universe variations will continue fighting on. Meta-textually, they’ve already been viciously slaying monsters for roughly 40 years. They haven’t gone anywhere, and even though there has yet to be any more Getter Robo anime since this OVA series, some incarnation of the Getter Team is guaranteed a spot in each yearly(-ish) installment of the Japanese Super Robot Wars video games. But it says something that even when textually, in-story, informed of this fact, there is not even so much as a hint of hesitation or regret in the eyes of our maniacally impetuous heroes. No sad contemplation that “hey, if our existence is nothing but endless battles, then we’re never going to experience anything else that life has to offer.” There is only jubilation at the thought of having more abominations to cleave asunder, followed by charging gloriously forward with an insane grin. These dudes don’t NEED anything else life has to offer, because they’ve already got a transforming super robot decked out with all sorts of wicked blades and incendiaries.

That’s New Getter Robo in a nutshell: the glorious excess of the Viking Valhalla of Giant Robots (the Machine Robo discussion will have to be another time) and the pure, unlimited, reptilian id of the human boy/man-boy psyche given cartoon form…and for most fans, that’s just not cool enough. People want development and character depth, or at the very least the illusion of same. Such perceived advancement is but another ingredient of the modern mecha masala that ensures our contemporary giant robot anime bear more resemblance to Star Driver than this. (No offense to Star Driver.) New Getter Robo doesn’t permit the luxury of bonding through verbal interplay. This is the type of anime for which mere episodes after the central cast is introduced to one another, they’re inadvertently sent back in time and separated to fight the most famous onmyoji of all: Abe no Seimei, a historical figure whom you may have recently seen in the just-concluded Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. TRUE TO HISTORY, the “yin-yang master” commands a robot demon army and the only thing that can stop him is precise application of magical swords, rocket launchers, and—oh yeah!—the giant energy beam-hurling robot. Next thing you know, our heroes are back in the present day, hurtling themselves off into subterranean space so they can punch out God[s]. And then… it’s over! What drove these guys? What’s their underlying motivation? “To be ill mother-F’ers on a mission to save everyone from everything, as our theme song plays” is reason enough for me. (Pass the corn dogs.)

It was not enough for everybody else. New Getter Robo was a massive, MASSIVE financial disaster for Geneon USA. The rumored figure I always heard without a shred of real evidence (which I shall now irresponsibly pass on to YOU, dear reader!) is that the licensing fee for this series was $75,000 per episode. Because hey, Getter Robo is a huge property in Japan and Italy and stuff, right?! If true, that means the license alone cost $975,000, and on top of that there were limited edition box sets that included, of all things, a bandana. Nobody in the show wears a bandana per se, and if they did they sure as heck weren’t wearing THAT. Whether those numbers are true or false, it’s for certain that manufacturing physical extras and boxes doesn’t come cheap. New Getter Robo would’ve had to bring in oodles of cash just for it to break even, and it’s plain to see that it certainly didn’t do that. The logic of the decisions behind its US release evades any shred of common sense, which I’ve long accepted means “the Japanese branch of the company must have been behind it.”

As with ADV Films, Geneon USA is no longer in business. But at least ADV would release brick collections of their stuff. Geneon didn’t, and the result is that while you’ll probably be able to easily get the first 3 DVD volumes for literally a dollar or two each, good luck finding the fourth and final disc because they didn’t produce quite as many of those. (Heck, they didn’t even bother to run spell-check on the covers…) But it’s not too big a deal. The series probably could have just as easily ended on the third disc, and to be honest it might have benefited from doing so. If there was one flaw to New Getter Robo, it’s that this series which is supposed to be about a team and how the full power of the robot can only be utilized if everyone works together ends up being “actually, Ryoma is the only one who matters; everyone else is just along for the ride.” That becomes even more apparent with the final episodes, but much as I love that crazy screaming lunatic Ryoma I’m always rooting for more of that crazy screaming lunatic Hayato.

New Getter Robo isn’t confusing the way Getter Robo: Armageddon is. But for first-time viewers or those uncertain of whether they’d even like this whole “super robot” thing, it’s still four discs and 13-episodes. As such, I stand by my belief that Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo is the best introduction despite Ryoma and his crew serving mostly as background players. It’s all on just one disc, only lasts four episodes, and you’ll be able to get it from Discotek Media without much trouble once it’s released next month. I say buy that one if you’re curious about getting into this insanity, then if you enjoy what you see track down the other ones. I honestly don’t know how successful any of these modern remakes of classic anime are at bringing in new fans. Much like the difference between for whom I write these articles and who actually reads them, the only people I personally know that watch these revival series and get excited for them are fans that already know the originals inside out. But hey, at least they’re out there.