Thursday, August 21, 2008

GaoGaiGar: Become Light, Bitch

Over my summer break from college, my younger brother introduced me to GaoGaiGar, a giant mecha anime with enough hot blood and toyetic design to choke even the most seasoned whore. Notably, the show is widely accepted to be an homage to classic giant robot series like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo.

The series stars (among others, who arguably matter far less) Shishiou Gai, a man with crazy hair and no body. Note that he is not a crazy man with no body hair, as that title is reserved for Hyuuma. Gai was an astronaut (at the age of 18, perplexingly) until his ship was smashed to niblets and an intergalactic robot lion saved him from certain death. The technology inside the giant mecha space lion enabled Gai's scientist father to build his son an awesome cyborg body that is so neat that I could flap on about it for several paragraphs. I won't. I will end the topic now.

The giant, transforming mecha that Gai pilots (fuses with, whatever) is excessively toyetic. For the unaware, the word 'toyetic' implies that the item or character described would make for excellent merch. GaiGar and its assorted forms and robot pals all have the level of flashy googaws and attention to detail to make fantastic toys and models. This doesn't change the fact that they're totally sweet to look at; in fact, that's kind of the point.

I could continue to go on about the characters, the mechs, who's awesome, why Hyuuma is the Incredible Hulk, and so on, but I shan't. As far as I'm concerned, the main issue is the nature of the show itself. It's an unflinchingly cliche giant robot series, which is not surprising in and of itself. What is surprising, however, is that it was created in 1997, only a year after the deep ripple of angst and edgy whininess that Neon Genesis Evagelion brought to the genre first started its trip to the edges of the pond. GaoGaiGar was a cheesy, hot blood-fueled orgy of yelling and giant hammers conceived and released in an era when that just wasn't the cool thing to do. Further, the series is so extreme in its regression to happier times that it comes off as a six story-tall middle finger to all the posturing emo bollocks that Eva and its ilk stand for. There's nothing even remotely psychological or deep about it, and that's great. Even better, it makes no apologies for this.

One of the charming features of the series is that, while it may not apologize for the crazy shit it does, it often has a stunning degree of self awareness. Instances of characters taking a little breather in the middle of their shouting are a good example of the kind of lampshade hanging done. One episode featured alarmingly equal-rights fanservice culminating in a short scene of an enormously muscled naked man going to town on an unfortunately placed joystick.

It's refreshing to see 90s mecha that isn't riddled with angst and dramatic 'fuck you's to the audience. There's just so much (for me, at least) to enjoy in this series. I think that, for some, a lot of the entertainment value may be lost if you don't 'get' the jokes and references. One character, for instance, becomes ten times as tolerable and interesting when you realize that he's basically Cyborg 002/Jet from Cyborg 009.

The best part, for me, is that the series is fun. It's got great robot design, it has consistently upbeat and cool music, the fights are numerous and entertaining, and it doesn't fuck with you. Gai is not the demons, the characters don't walk around with signs on their chests reading, "I will die or turn evil," and none of the fights end in an elaborate 'fuck you' in order to keep viewers so nervous and depressed that they continue to tune in in lieu of leaving the house and finding a girlfriend.


A BUTTON said...

I will look kindly upon anything that takes the guts out of Evangelion and sings the praises of my manchild fantasies

Blast Bigfist said...

My thoughts exactly.