She agreed to watch Armored Trooper VOTOMS with me. I’ve been meaning to see this show for some time, given it’s reputation as a dark, gritty-as-hell, /m/anly plate of GAR. Yeah sybilant is a Ouran High School Host Club-loving girl who I marathon Aria with, but she saw all 110 episodes of freaking Legend of the Galactic Heroes with me too. That Mazinger Z shirt I’m wearing in the photo (taken 2005, Armed Forces of the Philippines GHQ Camp Aguinaldo shooting range)? She gave that to me. The Mazinger Z you see in this post? She gave that to me too. My VF-25 Messiah? She built it (I helped), that’s what. I am so pumped right now because Armored Trooper VOTOMS is bad ass.
In 1983 while Kawamori Shoji’s SDF Macross anime was proving to be a smash hit – the successor (in smash hit status terms) to Tomino Yoshiyuki‘s Mobile Suit Gundam as a mecha show in the ‘real robot’ tradition (which sputtered as a TV series first before its compilation movies started winning fans over in droves), Takahashi Ryousuke quietly put together 2 shows that took the ‘real’ in real robot towards ‘hard’ science fiction realms: Fang Sun of Dougram (ended 1983), and Armored Trooper VOTOMS.
If Gundam at that point still had many elements that are part of the ‘super’ robot anime tradition (some elements persist even in contemporary Gundam shows), and Macross had a fun and campy feel throughout its narrative, VOTOMS immediately plunges us into a universe awash in bloody, bloody war. Everything is dark; nothing and no one looks glamorous: not the mecha, not the character designs, nothing.
I’ve seen the first episode, and while the setting presented is that of a large ongoing war I get the impression that this will be a personal story. I feel that instead of a story about the conflict great sides and factions the focus of the narrative will be that of the survival – yes, the survival of one Chirico Cuvie — a soldier caught in the midst of treacheries and conspiracies that he may not truly feel passionate about, at least at the start.
The first thing that really grabs my attention is that almost everyone is trying to get Chirico killed, inside and out of his Scopedog. As robots go, these boys are little more than suits of armor; you wear them almost as much as you pilot them (even though they’re technically walking tanks). They’re the not-so-mobile suits in mecha anime. I mean, Gundams can get very fast (even those who don’t transform into ValkyriesWaveriders) – and behave more like piloted craft. Scopedogs really are suits of armor that merely amplify the combat ability of a trooper.
From Mecha Anime Headquarters:
During the Hundred Years War between the Gilgamesh Confederation and the Balarant Union, military technology takes great leaps forward with the introduction of humanoid “machine troopers” and later “armored troopers” (code named VOTOM: Vertical One-man Tank for Offense and Maneuvers). However, the creation of the ATM-09-ST Scopedog in Astragius Year 7198 marks the turning point in the war. With its compact design, the Scopedog is suitable for various combat environments, including space, terrestrial battlefields and urban environments.
Note the mentioning of the compact design. At under four meters tall, they stand up to a Gundam’s knee. I think the Scopedog matches the Zentraedi Regult (Macross) as the most GAR-inspiring mecha in real robot anime. It really takes a some guts to ‘pilot’ these mobile coffins. I mean, they’re supposed to be suits of armor right? However, the destructive capabilities of the contemporary weapons in their respective shows usually results in a fatality after a single hit on the torso section of the mecha, the largest target on the accursed things.
The episode is all questions. We don’t really know what the fighting is about, nor the mission that Chirico is involved in despite not being filled in about its objectives (apparently he was on a need-to-know-basis). This same mission is what his captors are interrogating him about. We do know that he escapes, and his trying to survive while trying to find out what’s going on will probably serve as the meat of the narrative for now.
Armored Trooper VOTOMS is not brief. It’s a 52 episode anime with a good number of related shows that flesh out a universe (here arranged in the chronological order of its storyline):
- OVA Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Red Shoulder Document: The Roots of Ambition (レッドショルダードキュメント 野望のルーツ)
- OVA Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Pailsen Files (ペールゼン・ファイルズ)
- TV Anime Armored Trooper VOTOMS episodes 1-13, Uoodo storyline
- OVA Armored Trooper VOTOMS: The Last Red Shoulder (ザ・ラストレッドショルダー)
- TV Anime Armored Trooper VOTOMS episodes 14-27, Kummen storyline
- TV Anime Armored Trooper VOTOMS episodes 28-39, Sunsa storyline
- TV Anime Armored Trooper VOTOMS episodes 40-52, Quent storyline
- OVA Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Battle Of The Heterogeneous Species (ビッグバトル Big Battle)
- TV Anime Armored Trooper VOTOMS episode 52, epilogue
- OVA Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Heretic Saint (赫奕たる異端 Shining Heresy) (set 32 years after the television series)
What am I expecting out of this show? If I sometimes find Gundam and Macross too fanciful, I came to VOTOMS for the grit and blood of violent robot combat. No silliness, no called-out attacks, no shiny sparkly stuff, no underage pilots with puberty issues, no weaponized pop music, no funny physics wherein standardized weapons deal variable damage contingent to the needs of the plot (I’m looking at YOU Macross 7, and YOU Zeta Gundam). While these aren’t necessarily peeves (after all I mentioned my most favorite shows in both real robot franchises), I am looking for the ‘realest possible realness‘ in real robot anime here in VOTOMS. I have a taste for mechanical violence in military science fiction and I look forward to enjoying this with mai waifu.
- The Animanachronism has a few posts on the series starting with this one, which will give you a fuller immersion into the universe of the narrative.
- OGUIE MANIAX reviews the whole anime in three parts, part 1 covers the first 13 episodes.
We Remember Love is exactly six months today! For a blast from the past, here is our very first post [->]
A complete digression, feel free to ignore: It’s supposed to be utter fail to relate to oneself as weaboo, but here I am surprising my Japanese guest at how I happily admit to being otaku. And while mai waifu is indeed GAR, I feel moe anyway:
Follow our adventures in Neo Venezia ^_^