- Super Robot
nihongo|Super Robot|スーパーロボット|Sūpā Robotto is a term used in
mangaand animeto describe a giant robot or mecha, with an arsenal of fantastic super-powered weapons, sometimes transformable or combined from two or more robots and/or vehicles usually piloted by young, daring heroes, and often shrouded by mystical or legendary origins. This is distinct from a Real Robot, which is a mecha portrayed as a relatively common item, used by military organizations in the same manner as tanks or aircraft.
Beginnings: Tetsujin 28-go and Mazinger Z
The idea of a robot controlled by a young hero was first used in 1956 with "Iron Man 28" or
Tetsujin 28-go(dubbed and released in the US as Gigantor), by manga artist Mitsuteru Yokoyama, which featured a giant robot piloted by remote-control by a young boy named Shotaro Kaneda, who used it to fight against evil. However, the first anime to use the phrase Super Robot and the one that set the standards for the genre was Mazinger Z, created by Go Nagaiand making its debut in manga publications and TV in 1972. The main difference between Mazinger Z and previous robots was that the hero, Kouji Kabuto, would pilot the robot from the inside in the same manner as one would drive a car. This anime show was hugely popular and spanned numerous sequels and imitations during the 1970s, and revival shows later during the 80s and 90s.
The Super Robot anime shows are usually named after the title robot (
Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Combattler V, etc), and tend to use a "monster of the week" format in that the villains introduce a single antagonist at the beginning of the episode that the heroes usually defeat by its end. While some have levelled criticisms at the super robot shows for having this format, it must be noted that a vast number of series, both Japanese and abroad, engage in exactly the same plot structure, introducing minor antagonists while slightly developing the main struggle between the chief protagonists and the major villains. In the 70s, with a common episode count around 50 (or often, 52) episodes for many series, more if especially popular, a more minor chief conflict would be resolved at the end of the first 'season', around episode 26, with another developing directly afterwards and leading, in the final episodes of the series, to the ultimate confrontation with the chiefest of antagonists. This remains a trend in animeand, despite what casual critics of super robot shows might claim, is not unique to the super robot genre.
Antagonists tended to come from either outer space or ancient civilizations, with common elements being a monstrous appearance or an entirely strange, occasionally even beautiful, one. Many foes employed robot or
cyborghenchmen, whom they often sent against the heroes in their robot. The goals of these antagonists varied, although many were megalomaniacal or outright genocidal in their ambitions.
In the 1980's the
Real Robotgenre spawned by the Gundamfilms and the popular " Space Battleship Yamato"-style space opera films enjoyed a comparatively brief dominance upon trends of the mecha anime in Japan, and new Super Robot shows were less frequent for a time as space opera and militaristic mecha became popular. However, in the 1990's a renaissance in the Super Robot genre occurred, due at least in part to the economic problems of Japan which led many TV stations to rerun numerous series popular in the 70s. Of course this included classic super robot series, which renewed the public's interest in them and spawned rejuvenation of the Yuushaseries. All these may have had some influence upon subsequent anime series and OVAs like Giant Robo which combined the basic concept of Super Robot shows with storylines rife with attempts at profundity and occasionally philosophical or political messages.
Many remakes and updates of old Super Robot shows, such as
Getter Robo Armageddon, Tetsujin-28, and Mazinkaiserand others were produced, sometimes using complex plots while others remained with simple "Good vs. Evil" stories. Super robot shows were not the only ones to receive this attention however, as so many classic series enjoyed a resurgence in popularity due to the reruns leading to a new generation of fans now directly familiar with the material.
Inevitably, there are some types of mecha that are difficult to classify as either a real robot or a super robot. Some of these include the Aura Battlers from "
Aura Battler Dunbine" or the Evangelion units from "Neon Genesis Evangelion", which follow the general motif of real robots, but their origin and abilities are more like the typical super robot. The Mortar Headds from " Five Star Stories" are unique artifacts, treated like individual works of art by the fictional society present in the story, and their power often borderlines on super robot. However, their intricate engineering and the motif of their weaponry is often scientifically explained by series creator Mamoru Nagano which makes them very real robot-esque in other ways.
Mecha which employ both Super Robot and Real Robot principles are referred to as Hybrid Robots; since the production of "Evangelion", this approach has gained some popularity and developed into its own niche, as evidenced by shows such as "
Brain Powerd", " RahXephon", " Overman King Gainer" and " Zegapain". Nevertheless, several pure Super Robot series have been produced in modern times, such as " GaoGaiGar", " Gravion" and " Godannar". The 2007 anime " Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann" is notable for featuring 1970s-inspired Super Robot protagonists (Spirals) in conflict with Evangelion-inspired Hybrid Robot antagonists (Anti-Spirals) in the second half of the series. [ [http://wtf.animeblogger.net/?p=140 Meaningful Symbols, Optimistic Messages, and the Hero’s Journey: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Analysis] , Anime Blogger.]
If examined in depth, the differences between Super Robot and Real Robot series may at times seem purely academic or moot at best. Some critics have voiced the opinion that the only difference between the two is that Real Robot shows are supposedly less exciting and the characters supposedly less heroic; conversely critics of the Super Robot shows have cited unrealistic designs and silly situations. Others have voiced the opinion that the Super Robot is a symbol or embodiment of Righteousness, Justice, Courage, Friendship and Love while Real Robots are merely a weapon or tool; thus the defeat of a main character in Super Robot genre usually has a much more disastrous effect compared to those that occur in the Real Robot genre. The topic remains a lively subject of debate between fans of the two camps.
Possibly the real success expected from a sci-fi giant robot show would be the toys and merchandise sales they can produce. In fact, the Super Robot genre spawned a new type of toys that became the defining items of the genre.
In late 1972, a Japanese toy company called Popy released a die-cast metal version of
Mazinger Z, whose series was airing at that time. The figure was about 4 inches tall, it launched spring-loaded fists like the robot "Rocket Punch" on the series and was quite heavy, being made of metal.
This toy revolutionized the Japanese toy industry, spawning lots of toys for almost every Super Robot show that was aired on Japanese TV. Sometimes the case was the opposite: a TV anime giant robot show was created "based" on the toys produced. The "Chogokin" line of robots (the name given by Popy to the toyline), eventually lost its popularity in the early 80's after its rival company,
Bandai, took the industry by storm with their Gundam franchise and their new plastic toy lines. The original die-cast Popy SR toys have become rare collector's items, with those in mint condition fetching thousands of dollars in the collector's market.
Ironically, it was Bandai itself that revived the Super Robot die-cast toys in recent times. Having acquired the Popy toys rights, and due to the renaissance in popularity of the giant robot of the past, Bandai began release a line of solid, highly detailed and quite expensive models made of die-cast metal. This line is called
Soul of Chogokin, and is currently producing a fine line of toys that is aimed primarily at collectors. One of them, a super deluxe model of the Super Robot called Grendizer(complete with the die-cast robot, a flying saucer, four ships and other accessories), which currently is out of production, is known to reach over US$400 in specialized stores and auctions.
A good quantity of "Soul of Chogokin" toys from different Super Robot series of the past have been produced, like
Mazinger(which has over 12 models based of different robots from the anime), " Gaiking", " Dancougar", " Tetsujin 28-go", and a few others.
uper Robots abroad
Apart from "Gigantors cult-classic status in the United States, the only true impact Super Robot shows made in the States before the 1980's was in the form of the
Force Fiveseries, which was a compilation of different Japanese giant robot shows, and with the Mattel Shogun Warriorstoyline. Super Robots are much more likely to be known in the United States by way of ' (1984), a translated and edited compendium of two earlier Japanese series, "King of the Beasts, Golion" (1981) and " Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV" (1982), which became the top-rated children's show on U.S. television and a 1980s pop-culture icon in America.
Largely due to "Mazinger Z" and redubbed versions of other Super Robot series, the Super Robot genre garnered much more visibility in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe, Latin America, and the Arab world. "Mazinger Z" also had a short-lived U.S. TV broadcast in the mid-1980s under the title "TranZor Z", but was regarded by many viewers as a rip-off of "Voltron", despite the fact that "Mazinger" preceded the first "Voltron" series, "Golion", on television in Japan by almost a decade. However, the series proved much more popular abroad, especially in the Spanish-dubbed version in
Mexicoand other Latin American countries.
Another Super Robot show which was shown in America but had a more significant impact in Europe was another Go Nagai creation, "
UFO Robo Grendizer". In the United States, this series was part of the "Force Five" package. However, in France, "Grendizer", retitled "Goldorak", became a major hit in its initial broadcast there in 1978, three years after its Japanese premiere, and paved the way for other successful European dubs of the series (such as "Goldrake" in Italy); in fact, in 2005, Toei Animation and Go Nagai's Dynamic Planning won a substantial judgment against a French company selling pirated "Goldorak" DVDs. One European country where the Super Robot genre has been particularly successful is Italy, where a number of Super Robot series not shown in any other territory outside Japan (such as "Zambot 3") have been screened on TV.
List of Super Robot shows
Other examples of the Super Robot genre from different eras are:
Tetsujin 28(Known in the US as Gigantor) (1963) by Mitsuteru Yokohama
Mazinger Z(Known in the US as Tranzor Z)
Go Nagaiand Ken Ishikawa
** Koutetsu Jeeg (Steel Jeeg)
Go Nagaiand Tatsuya Yasuda
** Yuusha Raideen (Brave Raideen)
Yoshiyuki Tominoand Tadao Nagahama
Getter Robo G(Known in the US as Starvengers)
Go Nagaiand Ken Ishikawa
** UFO Robo Grendizer (Known in the US as Grandizer, known in some European countries as Goldorak or Goldrake)
** Daiku Maryu Gaiking (Great Sky Demon Dragon Gaiking)
Gowapper 5 Godam
** Choudenji Robo Combattler V (Super Electromagnetic Robot Combattler V)
Blocker Gundan IV Machine Blaster
Magne Robo Gakeen
UFO Warrior Dai Apolon
** Wakusei Robo Danguard Ace (Planet Robot Danguard Ace)
** Gasshin Sentai Mechander Robo
** Choudenji Machine Voltes V (Super Electromagnetic Machine Voltes V)
** Chogattai Majutsu Robo Gingaizer (Super Combining Magical Power Robo Gingaizer)
** Chojin Sentai Balatack (Superman Squadron Balatack)
** Muteki Chojin Zanbot 3 (Invincible Superman Zambot 3)
** Tosshou Daimos
** Muteki Koujin Daitarn 3 (Invincible Steel Man Daitarn 3)
Yoshiyuki Tominoand Hajime Yatate
** Uchuu Majin Daikengo (Space God Demon Daikengo)
** Mirai Robo Daltanias (Future Robot Daltanias)
** Tōshi Gordian (Gordian Warrior)
** Muteki Robo Trider G7
** Uchuu Taitei God Sigma
** Space Runaway Ideon
** Space Warrior Baldios
New Tetsujin 28
** Saikyo Robo Daiohja
Golden Warrior Gold Lightan
Six God Combination Godmars
** Hundred Beasts King Golion
** Sengoku Majin Goushougun (Go Shogun)
** Ginga Senpuu Braiger (Galactic Whirlwind Braiger)
Kikou Kantai Dairugger XV
** Makyo Densetsu Acrobunch (Ruins Legend Acrobunch)
** Ginga Reppuu Baxinger (Galactic Gale Baxinger)
** Aku Dai-Sakusen Srungle
** Kosoku Denjin Albegas (Lightspeed ElectroGod Albegas)
** Ginga Shippu Sasuraiger (Galactic Hurricane Sasuraiger)
** Psycho Armor Gobarion
** Chou Kosoku Galvion
Video Warrior Laserion
** Choriki Robot Galatt
Mighty Orbots(Produced for the U.S. market)
** Star Musketeer Bismark
Voltron(US TV show incorporating footage of Golion and Dairugger)
** Chojuu Kishin Dancougar (Super Beast Machine God Dancougar)
** Ninja Senshi Tobikage
Macron 1(US TV show incorporating footage from Go Shogun and Srungle)
Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs(US version of Bismark)
** Top O Nerae! Gunbuster
** Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru (Spirit Hero Wataru)
Hades Project Zeorymer
Mado King Granzort
Getter Robo Go
Brave of the Sun Fighbird
Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh
Tetsujin 28 FX
Brave Fighter of Legend DaGarn
Genki Bakuhatsu Ganbaruger
The Brave Express Might Gaine
Nekketsu Saikyo Gosaurer
Red Baron (anime)
Mobile Fighter G Gundam
Brave Police J-Decker
Golden Brave Goldran
Brave Command Dagwon
King of Braves GaoGaiGar
Getter Robo Armageddon
The Big O
The King of Braves GaoGaiGar FINAL
Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo
** GEAR Fighter Dendoh
** Top wo Nerae 2! Diebuster
New Getter Robo
Megas XLR[American production]
Genesis of Aquarion
** Heroic Age
Jūsō Kikō Dancouga Nova
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
* [http://www.japanhero.com/super%20robot%20images/rimages.htm List of Super Robot shows along with images and reviews]
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