Rather than a review, this is more of an inspection of my own experience, as a viewer who really wanted to get into this show the same way I got into the games. While it was airing, I had yet to complete a single SRW game, which I credited for my conclusion that the whole show was an unintelligible mess. Not only had I completed both J and Alpha Gaiden, I made sure I spent a lot of time with the likes of Great Boota who is the biggest mecha fanboy I know (whose power levels easily exceed mine), and source of immense Super Robot Wars lore.
So yes, I was ready to watch this show; not as a raving fanboy, but as an open-minded viewer who wanted to like it to pieces. The result is: The show is now intelligible to me, therefore it’s much easier to see how much it sucks.
What Super Robot Wars Original Generation: The Inspectors purports to be is a story of how a group of soldiers, warriors, scientists, and factions fight for the survival of their respective sub-groups using giant robots with amazing powers. Aliens and alternate dimensions are involved, wherein versions of both main characters and robot units exist and come into play.
However, I got hung up by several things:
The presentation of the narrative as a set of game stages, which means the narrative is build around battles. On the surface this is all well and good, and desirable even given that this is indeed a robot action anime. However, centering each episode on a battle as if it were a game stage forces almost all meaningful conflict to play out in the battlefield. The worst example is the recruitment-counter recruitment saga of the alumni of The School (of Newtype Expys). Every time both sides are present in a battle, they spend most of their time not fighting and instead shouting recruitment pleas at each other (calling each other liars, being lied to, sermons about war and fighting, etc.) it’s just atrocious melodrama. The show simply can’t help itself. When this finally resolved, it had the lead characters go through this plot ‘twist’ and require the lead to turn/counter turn the face turned heel other main character. Lots of shouting at the expense of fighting was involved.
Thus, the decision to center the episodes around battle stages did NOT result in more or better anime battles. It just turned what could’ve been entertaining battles into utter shit.
Appeals to Rule of Cool, tend to establish a Rule of Lame. While ‘real type’ units are almost always welcome in a ‘super type’ show – and Super Robot Wars must be a super type show, it must follow real type dynamics. But since shows like Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, and Code Geass pretty much ‘superfied’ real robot anime, there’s really no incentive to behave like VOTOMS ATs or Macross VFs. ‘Real types’ just strike their poses, fire their faux-scientific package of missiles, lasers, and machine guns while they’re at it (with no real sense of tactics except that the show thinks the attack looks cool), and tag themselves as ‘real robot.’ Lame.
‘Real type’ units must follow the ff. rules (as I mentioned in a recent Sacred 7 post):
- Damage the super type enemy early on, but ultimately fail at fighting it (but looking cool and awesome anyway)
- Defeat a super type enemy (ultimately a minor one in the food chain) during a special episode dedicated to the real type character/unit. Here s/he can even save the main’s life, etc.
- Defeat a super type enemy mid-boss during the finale/approaching the finale.
- Of course, fight and beat any other real type characters/units.
In this show, ‘real types’ are ‘super types’ half the time. Supers are given real type production model codes (type x, unit y etc.). The supers have awesome moments, but the reals tend to be lame almost always because they basically fight like supers anyway.
The Superhero Mashup style ultimately fails. They’re all stars, that except for a very few (and always in a heroic sacrifice kind of way) nobody is really threatened with death. They just have appearances and reappearances that are just juggled as if by a publicist or a talent agent. This is the very thing:
Characters and mecha units are treated by the narrative as stars and the show itself is some kind of variety show or revue wherein the ‘stars’ make their appearances and showcase their trademark moves/tics/attacks as a service for the fans.
It’s a very otaku database way of doing things. It’s easy enough to compare it to Fractale only that the ambition of SRWOG:TI is far more narrow and modest.
Here are some rants I made in real time with a few friends (and defenders):
SRWOG:TI why you need an involved targeting system when your target is the size of a mountain and your beam is the size of 3 mountains what—
(@ghostlightning) July 05, 2011
Hundreds of mooks show up… to stand there and be shot at, cleaved in half, and whatever mooks do to pass the time in a big battle.—
(@ghostlightning) July 06, 2011
SRWOG:TI finale: How many versions of Devil Gundam can you cram in two episodes?—
(@ghostlightning) July 06, 2011
Bottom line: there’s a few things that I really enjoyed, and there are probably quite a few things for many robot fans to enjoy. This is pretty much how I suggest you watch ‘the show:’
I may not agree with the actual content (I may think some of these scenes suck, and that ep 15 was the best bit in the whole thing), but this is probably the best way to consume this show for the casual (i.e. non-SRW Original Generation fanboy) viewer. Someone can make a better set of clips, but you get the idea. Or, one can just watch this:
…and nothing else, then leave happy.
If they make another Super Robot Wars Original Generation show, would I watch?
As if I really could stay away!