Otaku USA Magazine
Votoms: Then and Now – Part Two

Armor Trooper Votoms: Pailsen Files

Pailsen Files is the most recent installment of the Votoms franchise, released as 30-minute OAV episodes which concluded with vol. 12. The story takes place soon after the events of a late-80s OAV entitled Roots of Ambition, which showed how Chirico came to join the elite Red Shoulders squadron before the original TV series started. However, Chirico is only the partial focus this go around as he is shown marching with Gilgamesh forces attempting to storm a Balarant beachhead in an intense battle sequence. Picture the WW2 D-Day invasion depicted at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan but with all mecha instead of human soldiers.

The purpose of this particular battle may be known only to the series’ other focus, Col Pailsen, who is before a military tribunal because of his activities in the Roots of Ambition OAV, where he employed a practice known as “cannibalism” to make hundreds of recruits kill each other in order to earn a spot in the Red Shoulders unit. Unknown to most, Pailsen had been searching for a particular ultimate soldier who is un-killable for very strange reasons, and over time, he has come to focus on young Chirico, who survives the beachhead invasion (one of three out of 1400 soldiers to do so) and is shipped off to his next mission, a canyon base invasion, despite having serious injuries. Pailsen meanwhile is handed off to another supervisor named Wokkam, who seems to take great pleasure in tormenting the Colonel about Chirico’s existence.

What follows is the type of conspiracy based drama found in many war and sci-fi shows. Everyone has their personal agendas to pursue and most of them seem to involve Chirico, who in this series remains serious and unflinching. He doesn’t really get close to too many people as friends continuously die around him while comrades betray him at every turn.

Pailsen Files represents a return to the world Ryosuke Takahashi created over two decades ago. He once said he didn’t believe in doing re-makes of existing anime so he continues to expand the Votoms world instead with current animation technologies. The problem with this show is the use of CG for all the action scenes. While the non action scenes are decently animated, the action itself looks severely out-of date compared to works like Aquarion and Macross Frontier. Many of the combat scenes look like they were done in early 2000 for the Playstation 2 or something with very stilted and sometimes repetitious movements. They’re decently conceived but poorly executed for the most part, except for the opening invasion battle.

Even still, the series itself is rather entertaining and is a well paced mech drama. I’ve been collecting anime for a good while now, and I’ve more or less fancied myself a fan of anime featuring mecha, a connoisseur in fact. There’ve been many I’ve enjoyed, and others not so much. In all those years though, I never really took the time to watch the series Armored Trooper Votoms too closely until just before time to do this review.

I was familiar with it to some degree from conversations with fellow fans, and from seeing the mech designs appear on Battletech board games some years back, but my only real exposure to the Votoms world previously was through an OAV spinoff called Armor Hunter Mellowlink, which was a decent show in its own right. I am now enlightened, however, and I’m going to suggest you check out this show and its originator as well.