King of Braves GaoGaiGar

My favorite giant robot show is “King of the Braves GaoGaiGar”.

Originally aired in japan in 1997, fansubbed somewhere near the early 2000s, released in 2006 and 2007. It’s truly an awesome show, but its English release is such a shame. The first half of the series was released in its full glory, with a pretty good English language cast, but poor sales caused the second half to be released only with the Japanese audio track. It is highly unlikely that we’ll ever see its sequel OVA.

Rumor has it that ADV’s release of GodSoul Merged Godannar lead Media Blasters to believe that the market was ready for this sort of show. Well, that would be half-true. Both are good mecha shows that attempt to revive the spirit of the 70s robot anime while giving it a slightly more modern approach, using the animation style of their time. Godannar, however, is rife with fanservice, so it appeals to a broader audience. Furthermore, Godannar is inherently faster in pace; GaoGaiGar takes a good number of episodes to really get started with the awesomeness. Also, there was a stark difference in the advertising campaign. Maybe I missed something, but what I saw from GaoGaiGar’s marketing was incredibly lackluster. Most of the trailers were just clips from the show, the playing of the theme, and text on the screen talking about how it was better than Voltron, etc, (this company was also working on the re-releases of voltron). Godannar had a fully-voiced trailer talking about all the things that were going on in the first episode, how zany it was, and emphasized the fanservice elements. It made it a lot easier for a person not knowing anything about the show to tell what it was about, and whether or not they would like it. GaoGaiGar was being sold entirely as another super robot show, and rather a bland one at that which people were rather generically telling you was good. Furthermore, fans of the original Voltron are not necessarily the same as modern super robot fans or vice-versa. There’s a strong nostalgia factor within Voltron thanks to its release so long ago.

Let’s move on to why I like it, though. The reasons are many and disconnected. The show is all about the power of courage and not giving up. After all, it was made as a kids’ show while trying to have an older audience appeal. So, there are two main characters, to match this. 8-year-old Mamoru is intended for the children to relate to, while 20-year-old Gai Shishioh is an all-around awesome and courageous fellow for the older audience to relate to. Gai is a pilot, and does the fighting, so anyone who ever thought “man, I’d like to drive a robot” would even further relate to Gai. However, Gai is a cyborg, but it gives him good motivation. Sure, there are pilots who want to save the world because the world needs saving, but two years before the beginning, the boss nearly killed Gai. So, there’s both a revenge factor, and the fact that since he was given a further lease on life, he wants to use it to fight to protect people. AI-driven robots made by mankind aid Gai in his fight, and they’re all individually pretty awesome. Of specific note is the ninja robot Volfogg and the American-made rock-and-roll sound-based-combat robot Mic Sounders. The enemies are decently well-developed characters as well. In each story arc there’s a leader and several generals along with the monsters of the day. You don’t terribly get a feeling for the generals’ motivation in a way you can identify yet, but they are unique and impressive.

The show just seems simple at first, like it’s just another show, but as it goes on in episodes it just begins to feel more complicated and unique. The awesomeness and epicness factors increase over time as well. I really don’t want to spoil it for people, so I’m sorry for being vague here. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it more mature later on, but it’s neither immature nor mature. There are immature moments, of course.

The message of the show is that courage and guts can change the balance, that friendship can conquer, etc. The emphasis on courage is pretty high. You could call it unrealistic in its optimism, but it should also be noted that this was made two years after Evangelion, which put a very gloomy and depressing spin on the show. This show sort of stands in the face of that. Evangelion was trying to create a revolution compared to how giant robot shows were in the 90s, bringing back the angst and seriousness that were had in the mid-80s, and I feel like GaoGaiGar tries to combat that new wave by calling back to the good old days of the 70s

I like how things are organized and presented in the show, from an aesthetics point of view. The organization in charge of the good guys works under the approval of the UN and has several branch bases. This isn’t just some crazy Japanese scientist with a research center. They try to be scientific about things too, not just leading us to imagine there’s some science behind it, and they are also practical. In order to reduce damage to the city, GaoGaiGar has a tool which uses dimensional warping to create a subspace to have a battle limit in. It certainly sounds scientific when presented, even if it’s all pseudo-science. Also, the subspace has a time limit of 30 seconds, and the enemies try to exploit this. And I’m sure everyone wants to know, as it’s a combiner, why the enemies don’t attack while it’s combining. Well, the first step to this process is the creation of a sort of protective typhoon to force enemies away. If the combination takes too long, there’s a chance that the enemy will force its way in, and will need to be pushed back out before the process is over. You can tell that a lot of thought was put into everything going on.

Before I finish, I am going to speak a little about the English dub. First of all, Mike Sinterniklaas is amazing as the main character, Gai, and really feels like he’s giving it his all. When he yells attack names it really feels authentic. He also gets props for being the only person in the series to be able to properly pronounce the title robot’s name. It’s more of a gaoGAIgar, where most of the rest of the cast goes by GAOgaiger. Dan Green, playing commander Taiga, is mostly doing the Yami Yugi voice, with a little alteration, but it’s enjoyable and fitting for his character. Everyone else did a fine job, too, of course. I almost feel bad for singling him out, but the narrator was just meh. I mean, the voice of the narrator in Japanese felt truly epic, and the English voice just didn’t try to emulate that. I can’t blame him either, for it’s a voice that’s difficult to compete with. Some voice talents are just that unique. It’s really a damn shame that it was never completed, but budget issues are budget issues and the industry has been rather down as of late.


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