Even if only because of the wild enthusiasm for VOTOMS and its ATM-09-S Scopedog in the ongoing Sai Mecha tournament I’d watch this show, despite being lukewarm to the original Armored Trooper VOTOMS (I’m 32 episodes in) and becoming not altogether pleased with the recent Case; Irvine OVA.
I actually liked VFinder, even if the enemies becomes buddies schtick doesn’t really have much meat in it, and the plot isn’t much to write about, and the world-building seems generic. Why? It’s because I do feel it succeeds as robot anime. This is so because the fights are very well done in the way VOTOMS as a franchise is hyped about: Armored Troopers get wrecked a whole lot.
The thing about Gundam, to use the original real robot show as a benchmark, the Gundams themselves enjoy a high degree of “hero” immunity not altogether different from the traditional super robot shows it breaks tradition from. When a Gundam MS gets severely damaged or scrapped, it is a highly dramatic if not a climactic event. In VOTOMS this is not the case at all. The Armored Trooper is almost just another machine, if the Gundams are fetishized as hot rods or high-performance cars, then ATs are fetishized for its generic quality. It’s a big deal to see not only lots of ATs get shot to pieces, but for the hero’s ATs to be smashed again and again like it wasn’t a big deal (as if to leave no doubt, the main character works in a scrapyard of ATs LOL).
Obviously, the fans make it quite a big deal, and you’ll see quite a bit of it here in VFinder. I find it funny that this makes the VOTOMS franchise “GRIMDARK” to its ardent fans. I don’t mean to say that this is the only reason, as the locales and setting of the original series aren’t exactly light and fluffy havens (Woodoo/Uodo alone is as grim and dark a setting as can be found in anime), but yes I think that any robot the lead uses can and does get destroyed goes a long way. It hints at a vulnerability that disguises the inherent plot-armor the main character must wear.
One thing’s for sure, the combat is fast. You’d think that Code Geass would own the rollerblading robots on high gear category, but VFinder moves just as fast if not faster. What I find so cool is that there is a lot of acrobatics while remaining very grounded. The mecha still feel heavy and not naturally maneuverable – which highlights the skill of the pilots.
One thing that VFinder takes from Code Geass is the weapons on a rope/cable projectiles conceit. I thought that CG’s slash harkens were silly but interesting (almost wholly abandoned in R2 when it looked so out of place with the gigantic swords, and gratuitous beam spam firing all around). VFinder does a lot with this. I’ll try to think through what makes it interesting.
Projectiles with cables attached form natural contrails that simulate/evoke visually stylized missile attacks popularized by Macross’ action director Itano Ichiro. I may be quite mistaken but I think it was ∀ Gundam that did the cable version first 1999 (and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann even did it with drills in 2007). In VFinder there’s a remote weapon that fires cabled projectiles… almost like a funnel from Gundam but instead works like a mine.
I think VFinder is the robot anime Code Geass didn’t want to be, and this isn’t a condemnation of the many faults CG annoys us with (in terms of being a robot show); that horse is as dead as fuck and won’t be pulling carts anymore. It’s not like VFinder is noteworthy apart from specific robot fanservicey things. But for those robot fanservicey things, I wholly recommend Armored Trooper VOTOMS: VOTOMS Finder.