Code Geass vs. VOTOMS: The Mecha Roller Derby of Destruction!


[Amazingly, NO SPOILERS!]

I had a moment of existential doubt approaching the end of Armored Trooper VOTOMS. It wasn’t the show I hoped it would be. This is not entirely a bad thing. Thanks to reading The Animanachronism, particularly the post on the final arc, I’ve come to appreciate the contemplative simplicity in this show. It invites thinking, despite its incredible action content – there’s far more fighting and battle here than anything Gundam. This is no mean feat, and I’ll say more about this later.

I found myself lost in the post-apocalyptic city, the jungle, space, the desert, and through time as I tried to keep up with the narrative. It’s not that it’s confusing, it’s like I kept expecting something big, grand, and important to happen, and it largely didn’t until the very end, where the final boss wasn’t someone I expected in the least. Instead we see rather simple, small stories punctuated with lots and lots of fighting and destruction.

On the other hand, there’s Code Geass, which if we consider both seasons, is almost exactly the length of VOTOMS, they’re effectively both 4-cour shows, with Code Geass having the more over-the-top story, plot, and characters. For these reasons I find it more exciting than the older show, and for one other thing that confounds me, and this is very important: the roller-skating robots.

VOTOMS had the standard pilot seat kind of cockpit and Fyana contort herself for us to see her bits. In Code Geass, they made sure Kallen would have the best cockpit for our sakes.

Code Geass had a very interesting treatment of the roller-skating real robots. It gave them a unique short range weapon: the slash harken. This allowed for interesting dynamics when the Knightmare Frames got close to each other. The slash harken is a claw that’s shot from the torso of the KMF and is attached with a strong cable. Presumably this limits the mobility of the target making it easier to hit by surrounding allied units.


However, I didn’t see much use of the slash harken this way, as the show was more interested in portraying flashy exchanges where the harkens directly break apart the target, though most of the time the harkens miss, are dodged, or even parried, or cut.

More importantly, however… the fighting potential of the KMF went through the roof as technology developed at lightning speed resulting in obsolescence of most units from the beginning of the show. The latter half of the show resulted in the deployment of super prototypes that unveiled very powerful exotic weaponry that changed the landscape of combat, resulting in the tactical deployment of KMFs to be futile, as each of the super prototypes can fight entire battle forces. Also, the battles have ultimately taken to the air, leaving the interesting rolling ground-based combat behind.


As a result, the show’s mecha combat was reduced to super units pairing off in duels. For me this is a very disappointing outcome as a mecha fan. Clearly, the show gave left its roots from VOTOMS and instead embraced the tradition indulged by the likes of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, and Mobile Suit Gundam 00.

This is ultimately underscored by the fact that Code Geass is much less a mecha battles show than any of the Gundams, that its final resolution occurs outside the final battle. Gundam shows resolve whatever the conflict is during the final fight. This is true for most mecha anime (Eureka SeveN, Macross Frontier, hell even Star Driver). Thus, the mecha battles exist more as features, or fanservice even. Thus, it can be forgiven for not making its mecha style much more than a showcase of toy products wherein each new unit gets to deploy its special attacks.


VOTOMS, on the other hand, devoted itself impressively to combat. I roughly estimate that a full third of the footage seen in all the show is that of mecha combat. This is insane. There’s always fighting, and it’s prolonged small-unit skirmishes every single time. Even more impressive, as far as I can tell, there is no recycling of animation. Sunrise never tired of animating ATs blowing up in so many different ways. It’s because the combat here consists of mostly ATs eating shots, fists, grenades, missiles, punches, kicks, and blowing up.  

The fights consist of a bunch of ATs rolling around, firing rounds, and getting shot to pieces by Chirico, Fyana, and Ypsilon – the three super soldiers in the show. What’s interesting and also impressive is that none of them are immune to being shot down. They spend their respective turns getting blown out of their ATs. No super prototypes here. The things get shot up and blow up. The pilots move on.


But for all that – and this is the wasted thing here – there is a stupefying sameness to almost all of the battles. There is no real tactical innovation, despite changes in the environment: space, urban wreckage, jungle, desert, ship interior… it’s all the same. Dozens of ATs find their way into (mostly)Chirico’s line of fire and get shot to pieces. The style of combat is to simply rush the opponent using the roller wheels, firing the whole time. When in a defensive position, the defender just stays long enough under cover and fires when the opponent rushes. Or, takes its turn rushing at the enemy.

Combat prowess is mostly demonstrated by getting hit far less and landing more shots. There’s no cleverness or guile, or at least there’s none apparent. The lesser combatants just miss more, and get hit far more easier. And there’s sure to be a lot of them – almost a hundred to two ratios of combatants at times.

Sure there’s a novelty to the grim destruction of what usually would be flashy hero mecha. There’s almost zero flash, no fancy moves. Everything is done within the relatively limited capabilities of the humanoid tanks. Even the one on one duels just feature more evasion, circling around, and melee – but are otherwise the same kind of fight. The novelty, dried up for me very quickly.

(G_P) Votoms (Remastered) Stage III - Deadworld Sunsa.mkv_snapshot_01.05.07_[2011.08.17_09.04.24]

I’ve seen one other Takahashi Ryosuke work: FLAG. In terms of mecha combat it is far, far, far more stingy than VOTOMS, but my god what battles it had was so incredibly satisfying. It went all out in portraying military operations very similar to how they’re portrayed in the Hollywood adaptations of Tom Clancy military thrillers: very coordinated, and operates on the level of high scarcity – every little thing matters.

The tension is provided by limited visibility, resources, and operating time. This more than compensates for the lack of continuous action, as whatever action is shown, it is portrayed incredibly well.

But let us take FLAG aside and see what has greater appeal between the two rollerblading mecha anime. Before anything else, I want to make it clear that I do not wish to see either style be adhered to by future anime. There’s so much in both that I dislike and have to put up with.



Code Geass

Tactical/Strategic elements No Yes Code Geass
Beam Spam No Yes VOTOMS
Force Fields No Yes VOTOMS
Flying No Yes VOTOMS
Combat Scenes Stupendous, staggering amount Lots Code Geass
Fighting while damaged Oh hell yes No VOTOMS
Mecha Design variety Some, but very subtle Lots Code Geass
Shouting debates while in the cockpit Rare to never Lots VOTOMS
Most outrageous move Flipping another AT with a kick from below Spinzaku Code Geass
Indestructible Pilot Chirico Cuvie Kururugi Suzaku VOTOMS

VOTOMS Scopedog Code Geass Gurren SEITEN

It would seem like VOTOMS is the clear winner, but like Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, it did what I consider a most grievous sin: it made a staggering amount of mecha combat boring. What I would otherwise consider a crowning asset to the show becomes a cloying, tiresome thing. This frustrates me to no end, and despite my many complaints about Code Geass, it emerges the better show in this showdown between roller-skating robot anime.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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74 Responses to Code Geass vs. VOTOMS: The Mecha Roller Derby of Destruction!

  1. schneider says:

    That table is so hot it would give Nina Einstein a dozen orgasms.

    One more difference I can find between the two shows:

    Gritty vs sanitized combat. VOTOMS employs a lot of black smoke and flaming explosions to an extent that I could almost smell the carnage. Sure, they’re not particularly well-animated, but their inclusion adds mood to the show. These ATs aren’t running on Minovsky reactors that provide pretty pink explosions, they explode in the grimiest possible ways. Gritty. OTOH, Code Geass was smart enough to fit its KMFs with ejection mechanisms, making the “death” just that of the machine’s, and not its pilot’s. There’s a different feel in a mecha show when pilots are able to live and fight again after getting blown up in previous engagements. The second season also placed heavy reliance on beam weapons, which kind of made pilot ejection obsolete (lol), and made for very clean kills.

    Have you seen Armor Hunter Mellowlink? I think it improves the mecha combat from its mother show. It has a level of thinking that VOTOMS didn’t have, and each AT shot down is particularly satisfying.

    • This is another difference that makes me like votoms a lot more. In Code Geass KMF’s where really advanced fighting machines that made a pilot nearly all powerful. In votoms an AT is in all honestly a metal shell that lets you carry a bigger gun and move faster. An AT can be defeated by a foot soldier if one is not careful.

      In fact, the cockpit is the least armored part of an AT (the arms and feet have the most amor because 1: shot punch, and two: there’s a reason AT’s brake using metal spikes). and a lot of the time one can simply kill the pilot inside and just take his AT if you have to. In the series and OVA’s you see at’s with a couple holes in the armor but just sitting there because the pilot was killed, meanwhile the AT itself is in basically perfect working order, except for the hole in the armor.

      AT’s can also be killed by setting off the polymer ringer fluid. A fuel so volatile it’ll go up from contact with atmosphere. Those explosions are so gassy because we don’t have superscience in the votoms world, what we have is essentially just a newly discovered fuel that allows us to build this.

      While KMF’s are built to be unstoppable fighting machines to turn the tide of a war, AT’s are built so that a soldier doesn’t feel naked on the battlefield. An AT is so simply built a soldier with a minimal amount of training can service it on the battlefield if he needs to. In fact, the reason AT’s can go into space isn’t because the AT is airtight, it’s because pilots have orange suits (like chirico’s). I find this both hilarious and a huge drawpoint of votoms for realfags. DARK AND GRITTY DARK AND GRITTY.

      Honestly this sort of realness and simpleness makes me like votoms mechs a lot more, even though I’m 10 times more likely to die in one.

      • Karry says:

        Strangely enough, this same “realness” to Votoms also has a flipside : more realistic setting shows much more clearly how weak and pointless the ATs really are. I can buy the premise of a “super elite prototype unit” like any Gundam, but in VOTOMS…just use a damn tank, who really needs an AT ?

        • AT’s are more mobile, being on two legs and not relying on treads. Also they’re cheaper. Whereas tank turrets and armor is expensive, an AT’s machine cannon is cheaper and the AT itself is cheaper to build. It also has a lot more versatility (amphibious, can go into space)

          • Matt Wells says:

            They still explode way too easy though.

          • @Matt Wells: Dangers of Polymer Ringer fluid, I guess. It’s still a really efficient fuel source if you’re careful with it.

          • Mitch H. says:

            They’re also taller, making them easier to hit, and can’t possibly carry a heavy enough gun to make up for the fact that they’re essentially tin eggshells. This is the point which made me choke on Gasaraki, which is similarly an extreme Real Robot show, at least in the first half-dozen episodes. Modern tanks are *fast*, and body-armored foot infantry are more nimble on broken ground, have better all-round tactical awareness, and can carry about the same level of “punch” as your average Real Robot Scopedog-style mech.

            The “realer” your Real Robots, the closer you skirt to the sad fact of reality – big man-mounted robots are kind of pointless in direct combat. Who would have thought that funnels would turn out to be the only practical aspect of Gundam-style warfare?

      • Huntsman says:

        I’d say KMFs, in and of themselves, aren’t really as unstoppable nor invulnerable as you’re making them seem. Early examples can be blow up or disabled rather easily and Mmst of the standard models we see during the show do suffer greater or lesser amounts of damage, but even the two most powerful mecha end up tearing each other to bits during the final battle. It’s not quite on the same level as what Votoms did with ATs but there is a little more resemblance than what the description suggests.

        • Mitch H. says:

          Lalouche is constantly riding around in half-blown-to-hell KMFs in the first season, at least partially because Lulu’s at best a crap pilot. He might as well be driving one of those WWII-era command tanks with the dummy cannon covered with camouflaged radio antennae. Then he goes and gets himself a The O with the serial numbers burned off in the second season… presumably from Paptimus Scirocco’s estate sale?

      • It’s because it’s a shitty universe where overtechnology that led to Variable Fighters never existed. Sucks to be there.

    • Karry says:

      “Armor Hunter Mellowlink? I think it improves the mecha combat from its mother show”

      That may be so, but there is little actual war going on, is there ? Its all post-war, with occupation forces, military bases on low alert, etc. Its not even a proper guerilla warfare, to be frank. To me it reminds more of heist movies or something of that sort.

    • Yes, I agree completely on the mood. If mood were the most awesome thing in anime, then the grim and gritty, desensitized mood of VOTOMS would be enough to make it top-tier. Code Geass is more puerile in that it indulged a younger, more childish sense of sex and violence. It titillates you with character designs and flashy combat. VOTOMS has no problems showing Fyana’s naked ass and tits.Ironically I sense far less sexualization in VOTOMS though the characters are physically adult. This is also applicable to the kind of violence in the show. It’s not like Code Geass will skimp on the violence, but it will use it for very heavy dramatic effect: e.g. Bloodstained Euphie.

      In VOTOMS this is just another day in an AT.

      I have Mellowlink, but I don’t think I’ll move it up my backlog list. VOTOMS clogged that queue for years LOL.

  2. The thing about Votoms is that there is quite a bit of Military strategy going on. That’s how Chirico manages to get surrounded and enemies seem to pop out of everywhere. The only problem is is that all of it is told from Chirico’s perspective, when chirico doesn’t have any numbers to speak of, and therefore needs no strategy. all the strategy is on the other side of the table and you see none of it (with chirico’s skills in an AT, they need strategy to be able to take him down as many times as they have). While this doesn’t necessarily relieve the problem, at least I take solace in that it’s there.

    Also, consider that while surprising, the main point of votoms (imo) isn’t the stupendous amount of mecha battles. The fights are merely there to underscore what the show is trying to portray, and that is it’s trying to provoke thoughts and feelings about the tragedy of Chirico himself. The lonely soldier that JUST WANTS TO BE LEFT ALONE. And so while Sunrise shows care for the battles by not reusing animations, the monotony of the battles (imo) is actually there to punctuate the sort of drumming sameness that chirico feels when he is forced into battle over and over and over again, punctuated with the occasional duel with Ypsilon or some other destined adversary. Chirico (and others) actually remarks on this several times with monologues about this man being forced into battle again, will he ever be able to escape? Can he even live where there is no conflict? etc. I can actually probably talk more on this topic, but it’s not coming to me and also I feel that my comment is rather long as it is…

    Also of note is that the most scintillating battles aren’t even in the main tv series, but in the better animated OVA’s :P.

    btw, how does votoms having more battles with no reused animations have Code Geass win?

    • Nope, that’s too much credit for the “bad guys.” There’s no drilled, systematic approach to targets. Ypsilon just tells them to rush, fire, stop firing, clear out, etc. It’s basically watching Lebron James play with the Cavs in his frist 5 seasons in the NBA LOL.

      At best, it’s like watching Rambo, or Commando, or any of these generic ’80s action flicks before Die Hard happened (Predator, Aliens, and Terminator, are exempted). Mooks rush out to be shot at.

      As I said in the post, there are merits to the quite contemplative story. I just prefer the more exciting plot and story of wild and crazy Code Geass. Had VOTOMS’ battles not bored me out of my skull, I would probably like it more…maybe.

      But between the two shows there are many, many things I don’t like. But then VOTOMS is the show that enjoys the adulation for its action and mecha battles, so my expectations are much higher.

      I believe Code Geass did more with what battles it had than VOTOMS did with its stuperfyingly large number of mech battles.

      • Mitch H. says:

        I don’t think I ever got far enough into VOTOMS to get annoyed with the sameness of the battles. The flat animation style, the garish and ugly character designs (jodhpurs and orange afros, really?) and the unlikeable characters just made me go find something more fun after less than halfway through the first cour.

        • I can take a lot of “ugliness” that I can easily chalk up to period sensibilities (I was born in the late 70s), and I actually find that Chirico’s “Nakama ex machina” are a very likable set of characters. They are unsavory at first, no doubt about it, but as a whole the narrative did a good job of presenting their charms.

      • soloista says:

        In that case, how about an article where you look at VOTOMS through the lens of 80’s action flicks?

  3. Karry says:

    “Clearly, the show gave left its roots from VOTOMS”

    Well, both Geass and VOTOMS have shit endings, so at least there’s that bit of commonality. x|

    • Matt Wells says:

      Hey now, Chirico killed God at the end of VOTOMS, blew up a planet, got the girl, and found the peace he’d searched for for so long! You call that a shitty ending?! Geass only killed God (aka EMPEROR WAKAMOTO) halfway through, hence the suckage onset. Also table fucking being a plot point. And Pizza Hut product placement. Naaaaah, Geass just sucked out loud.

      • Huntsman says:

        That ending was awesome, but too bad Takahashi himself eventually took Chirico’s story in another direction. You can pretend it never happened, of course, if that makes you happier.

        PS: I thought Code Geass sucked about as much as it ruled, so there.

        • Matt Wells says:

          True, but we’re not talking about how badly Takahashi fucked over Chirico in the sequels. We’re talking about the ending to the TV series itself, and that was a pretty satisfying ending.

    • I found the ending of Code Geass tremendously satisfying, and made up for a lot of the frustration I had with the second season. That is, if who’s supposed to be dead is actually dead. If not, it’s shit.

  4. Matt Wells says:

    You want decent Scopedog action, stick to the VOTOMS OVAs. VOTOMS is a first and foremost an action series, or a war series. The mecha come second every time to the plot and the characters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the best battle in VOTOMS is about 10 episodes in, when Chirico holds a one man assault on Uoodo police headquarters. What makes it so great is that it exhibits the kind of tactical planning that you rightly point out is absent for the rest of the series.

    Chirico sends out a wrecked Scopedog, programming it to distract the police and take out the floodlights. He then ambushes them in his tricked out Scopedog Red Shoulder Custom, which barely qualifies as the traditional Ace Custom Unit of a real series. Its no better than the average AT, its merely got a load of extra weapons slapped on. It gets him most of the way before attrition wrecks it, and he finishes the battle in a THIRD Scopedog, which his friends drove around the back while he distracted a small army!

    Can’t imagine a Gundam series where the lead goes through three mobile suits in a single battle. A perfect example of VOTOMS philosophy of Mecha as disposable rustbuckets as opposed to highly tuned mechanised death machines. You have to understand the biggest influence on the design of the Scopedog was, according to the Takahashi himself, the innumerable Jeeps left in Japan during the American Occupation; hence why so many of them drift into civilian usage in Battling Rings and the like.

    Versatility and adaptability are its design ethos. I find it a nice contrast to the Super Prototypes of Gundam and the aesthetic beauty of the Valkyries. The world needs shitty robots just as much as cool ones you know. They make the protagonist awesome by comparison. Case in point Chirico 🙂

    • Reid says:

      All this is so close to what I was going to say that now I’m just going to say “cheers.” Hat’s off to you sir. I love the bit about “the world needs sh*tty robots just as much as cool ones.” I mean, honestly, it’s all about what kind of a mech one could hope to pilot were he a mecha pilot in a given fictional mecha anime ‘verse. We’ve had to talk before about which universe would be the best one to be a pilot in, but if you took it by a case by case example, a Scopedog really isn’t that bad of a choice…though my preference will forever by Ypsilon’s pimp blue Strikedog. Looking at this from a Gundam-centric viewpoint, there’s no way a rank-and-file pilot is going to get their mits on a Gundam or a massive newtype-use mobile armor. Personally, I’d take a Rick Dom or a Gelgoog and not a fancy ace pilot one either (better to get targeted by the enemy if you stand out in your red paint).

    • I considered all these fine points of the VOTOMS francise. However, I won’t be clogging my backlogged anime list with more VOTOMS after this show dominated it for over 2 years.

      I had rewatched the battle you talked about as I wrote the post. Yeah there’s token tactical elements here, but ultimately it’s Chirico being a 1-man army. Who needed tactics were the larger combat units who fought against him. They’re all just like, “LET’S GO RUSH THAT GUY, AND DON’T FORGET TO KEEP SHOOTING. OH SHIT HE GOT ME!”

    • soloista says:

      The fight you described sounds like something from those 80’s Chuck Norris flicks.

  5. Baka-Raptor says:

    Wheels are so much more efficient than legs on smooth surfaces. I’m surprised we don’t see them more often.

    • You would see them more often. The two ongoing Sunrise shows Tiger and Bunnny and Sacred SeveN both feature VOTOMS/KMF-style wheeled mecha. The proportions are the same as the VOTOMS units, which are thicker and not sculpted like some narrow-waisted freak of technology.

  6. Huntsman says:

    Interestingly enough, Goro Taniguchi himself is rather open about where his influences came from. Not only did he work with Ryosuke Takahashi on Gasaraki as assistant director, he has also expressed his love of Armored Trooper Votoms more than once.

    Also, I believe he asked Takahashi to do some Chinese calligraphy for a Code Geass R2 episode, which is totally pointless trivia but also totally awesome and a sign they’re still on good terms.

    No matter how much Votoms purists may hate Code Geass, or vice versa thanks to superficial new fans who don’t have an appreciation for mecha history or the genre as a whole, at the very least the actual people responsible for both shows don’t share that scorn and hatred. To a greater or lesser extent, depending on how you want to look at it, we could even apply that saying about how “imitation is the greatest form of flattery” here. If you aske me, I definitely would say so myself.

    Also, Code Geass actually did feature several KMF units in both seasons that fought while damaged, including both grunts and super prototypes. And not just once or twice either, but a fair number of times. Particularly in some occasions the damage was caused by the Slash Harkens too, even as late as the final battle of R2. So the presence of battle damage wasn’t quite as frequent as in Votoms, yes, but I don’t think its absolute denial is justified here. Hell, this makes me want to look for pictures of damaged Knightmare Frames in order to prove my point, but I’m feeling just a little too lazy right now.

    Finally, I can only hope that Code Geass Gaiden helps swing the pendulum back a little bit and we’ll be able to see KMF combat in Europe that resembles the better moments of the property instead of its worst. I’m sure there will be a few super prototypes and such, but they can be scaled back a little and the role of grunts will end up receiving some attention once again.

    • The hate indeed has less to do with the shows, but rather the moronic jockeying for “who’s more awesome as a fan/elitism” bullshit.

      I’ll grant you that there is some battle damage. However, just as in my response to schneider above regarding the grim, bloody violence content in Code Geass, the battle damage examples are played as heavy drama, though perhaps not as extreme as the example of the RX-78-2 in the battle of A Baoa Qu. These are events that are special, and call attention to themselves as such. In VOTOMS it’s just another fight against a whole bunch of other ATs.

      Yeah I’m looking forward for Gaiden, but I can’t expect that much because this style is dominant for a reason.

  7. WhatSht says:

    If only gundams and valkyries get roller skates.

  8. animekritik says:

    Sweet post. The thing about Geass is that it’s such an excessive show. It’s excess upon excess, and it somehow works (for many fans at least).

    I’m fascinated by the way different shows handle mecha combat because it’s a truly open field. I don’t think anyone can really assess with certainty how mechas would transform combat, what numbers would be required, would they fight individually or in formations (and of what size), how would you handle armor vs. firepower etc. It’d be like trying to come up with a story about tank warfare as a writer in the year 1900, what are the chances you’d get it right?

    A common view of the tank war in North Africa (I don’t know if it’s true or not) is that when faced with superior tactics from the German Rommel, the Brit Montgomery decided simply to amass such a huge superiority in units that he would crush his opponent no matter what. I don’t know that this resolution gets used often in anime, especially since the Japanese like to blame “numbers” (of units, of production) for their loss in the war.

    • Thanks, and you’d be quite right. I do think that’s the basis of the whole militarization of mecha anime, which indeed started with Gundam. Prior to Gundam, the heroic robot is a singular savior against a world dominator like Dr. Hell, or an alien invasion… and for the most part attack with their champion robots of the week.

      Code Geass used the same premise as Gundam, that the KMF was a deciding development in war technology and was credited with Britannia’s rise to power.

      In the first Gulf War, Saddam fielded a stupendous number of tanks to overwhelm the technologically superior US M1A1 Abrams in what he billed as “The Mother of All Battles.” It ended up as one of the most, if not the most one-sided debacles in armored warfare. Tactics in this case, was very much the product of technology.

      I can recommend that you watch only the FIRST episode of Gundam MS Igloo (the first series). It’s a short OVA on how the Principality of Zeon tried different technological silver bullets to win the “One Year War.” The first episode is interesting because the main cast were portrayed as the ones pushing for an obsolete method of warfare (wave motion gun style cannon… HAH) in the Battle of Loum, where Zeon debuted the mobile suit corps. I think it’s definitely worth watching and requires no prior experience with the franchise.

        • Stormshrug says:

          First Half of the OYW:

          Federation: Reports of giant robots dominating battlefields are extremely oversta-
          Zeon: Hey guys, check out what we just built!

          Second Half of the OYW:

          Zeon: When the Big Zam is mass produc-
          Federation: Your rebellion is invalid; I have a million expendable GMs.

  9. Stormshrug says:

    You’ve got all these weird pictures of KMFs that never appeared in Code Geass in here. It almost looks like they made a second season of Code Geass from all of this. But we all know that never happened.

  10. vendredi says:

    “There’s so much in both that I dislike and have to put up with.”

    In a sense I think this sort of tension marks all mecha shows. Giant robots inevitably pull very hard at the suspension of disbelief in highly military sci-fi focused shows. F.L.A.G. and Gasaraki certainly handle themselves pretty well on that front by choosing to use more limited camera views (“mecha obscura”, to use the term Animanachronism coined a long time ago), but the irony is that it’s probably a lot easier to create a military movie without mecha.

    Like animekritik noted, giant robots certainly could change the face of warfare in many ways. Most of the time though, mecha combat in anime is simply infantry combat writ large, after all, and often given the design of many giant robots, a less mobile version of infantry combat. There’s simply less *technical* nuance that can be covered versus other war machines – nothing of the patient tension of tank or submarine warfare, or the acrobatics of aerial combat – which is why I think series like Macross and Gundam often attempt to borrow some aircraft elements.

    • Yes, yes… and the appeal really is an attempt to get the best of three worlds:

      1. Large scale military (infantry/naval… IN SPACE) combat.
      2. Aerial dogfights
      3. Swordplay duels

      I am willing to forgive much even if a show forces all three. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn did so, albeit the scale isn’t that large. But yes, Unicorn is my hero. I know it can be done and I have expectations now from the future.

  11. Kaioshin Sama says:

    Votoms is a really old show though compared to Code Geass. Perhaps a more fair comparison would have been one of the new Votoms OVA’s like Phantom Arc. Still a great read though. Nice to see somebody giving some props to Code Geass while at the same time honouring the accomplishments of it’s predecessors.

    • Nope, it’s a fair comparison due to the animation decisions, and combat style.

      The OVAs would be unfair comparisons because they’re OVA’s — shorter stories with bigger budgets relative to the narrative length. Not fair.

  12. Jack says:

    “The OVAs would be unfair comparisons because they’re OVA’s — shorter stories with bigger budgets relative to the narrative length. Not fair.”

    Well, it’s not always the case that OVA’s have bigger budgets for their length, sadly. It can vary quite wildly. An average episode of Code Geass may have had more money poured into it than an OVA produced at another time. Although I’m not so sure about the budgets of the Armor Hunter OVA’s, because those looked pretty solid and certainly have the finest combat in the whole VOTOMS franchise.
    Anyway, I will also have to disagree about the combat in VOTOMS. Well, not entirely. There is a heck of a lot of combat in the show, and it’s certainly not held to any kind of consistent quality in terms of battle choreography, but I still feel that there’s a number of fights where some amount of tactics were in play. Don’t ask me to list them all though, because I finished this up six months ago. So yes, there the ratio of great fights to average fights is far too skewed in terms of just typical mecha action. However, there are still stand out events in terms of combat that I’ve rarely seen done in any other mecha work.

    For example, the fight in the battle arena. This is involved a fair variety of shooting, dodging, taking cover, shooting directly through cover and tactical positioning. Okay, perhaps that’s cheating a tad because that particular fight was an extreme example of both characters using cover and tactics, but it wasn’t the only example in the whole show. There’s also the police assault as mentioned above.

    Most of the time battles tend to be very fast paced because the AT’s are pretty favourable, especially when you have Chirico piloting. As a result of that, you get a lot of dudes getting gunned down before they can react, which certainly isn’t inherently satisfying. But the important factor is that all of the pilots are still in danger at any time, including the protagonist. He can and will have his vehicle damages and destroyed on a regular basis,as you’re well aware, which is where I imagine most of the fans are drawing their enjoyment from.

    Still, I wasn’t bored with the combat, even when our blue-haired hero was churning through hundreds of thugs. Most of the time he pulled this off by being far faster and more accurate then they were, sometimes to a rather extreme extent, but that was his character, even from the beginning. And at the very least, even in those situations he’d pull out some crazy action, like covering an AT in special weapons to the extent that it can practically level a whole city block.

    In terms of Code Geass, and most mecha anime in fact, I’m a big fan of ground combat but I have little interest about flying robots with barriers whizzing around, which is what really makes me dislike the combat in a fair chunk of Code Geass. Sure, you can do great aerial combat, such as battle at the start of Gundam 08thMS Team, but most of the time that’s not what you get.

    • Well yes, because the Banner of the Stars OVAs look like crap. But in general the OVAs have superior budgets on a per-episode basis.

      When we disagree about the exceptions, it comes down to just that: exceptions which occur rather exceptionally. In general the observations stand. And you being bored with the combat is remarkable.

      Yes, I do not favor aerial combat that isn’t done by Macross, who know how to do it right. Code Geass and much of Gundam just use the vertical space to tilt the swordfights and avoid having to animate running legs for fast passes using melee weapons as if jousting.

  13. Xard says:

    Reading post and discussion here (and trying to avoid spoilers in the latter) has been slightly discouraging to me as I have just started watching Votoms (in delicious remastered quality no less) and I really digged first episode with its intense mood and terrific – esp. for time – action animation. Knowing in high how respect /m/ holds the show I too have gone into it with high expectations

    Given that meaningless mecha skirmishes dragging on and on bothered me in Zeta Gundam I guess I should be somewhat worried with things said here

  14. Hi there, I am new to your blog, but your articles are just great. As a fellow mecha lover, I am having a blasting good time here. 🙂

    I did not read all of the comments so sorry if it was mentioned, but when I see a rollerblading mecha, IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix comes to my mind. The sense of speed, balance and power in this anime is refreshing. Ok, there is no killing and beam weapons here but IGPX is something different amongst all these combat mecha shows.

    Just my two cents. Best regards,
    Burak ‘Isamu’ Aydin
    Istanbul, Turkey

  15. Pingback: Seed Destiny Anime | Anime - Best Stream Anime Episodes

  16. Matt Wells says:

    GUYS GUYS GUYS. I’m going to be at a film festival in Ediburgh in ten days. Why? Beause they’re showing the movie compilation of Paisen Files for the first time in the UK, and they’re having a Q and A with Ryosuke Takahashi himself afterwards. The day after that, they’re having an hour long discussion about his career as a whole. It’s still undecided if I’m going, but odds are 70% I will.

    My only problem is that the only Takahashi series I’ve seen in their entireity are VOTOMS and FLAG, so I’m in desperate need of question material. This is a once in a lifetime sort of deal for me, so if any of you better versed Takahashi fans have any questions you want answered, just leave comments below. I’ll do my best to get them answered. I’d tape it if I actually had camera or knew how to upload a video file to youtube, so this is the best I can manage.

    • The best question I can think of is “if money and market were not a consideration, and you were making a mecha anime for yourself, what would it be like? [format, number of episodes/installments/style/content]”

  17. Matt Wells says:

    Back from Edinburgh, and I had fun. Before they screened the Pailsen Files, movie, Takahashi himself came up on stage to give us an introduction. Also with him was a Sunrise producer who’s name sadly escapes me, though he mentioned working with Takahashi on both the OVA release and movie cut of PF. Takahashi was very nice in person, a bit like that kindly old pensioner everyone has on their street. He made a point of mentioning that he often recieves invitations to foreign screenings, but due to small audiences he usually turns them down. He showed up for THIS one however because he loves golf, and he couldn’t resist the oppertunity to play the green on Saint Andrews!

    Interviewer and giant of the Anime translation business Jonathan Clements joked that he tried to get into the spirit of things by wearing his Scottish University tie. He was therefore a bit put out when it turned out every single item Takahashi wore was made of Scottish Tartan or wool… purchased in Tokyo. He then gave a brief potted summary of VOTOMS: real robots, story of a war weary soldier becoming human again etc. By the sound of the audience I was one of only five people who had even seen VOTOMS before this screening, the others were mostly Japanese students and Sottish weeaboos who came ’cause it was anime. Takahashi drily apologised that we might not like his film due to the complete absence of cute schoolgirls, at which the older proportion of the audience actually cheered. He finished off by showing us his backswing and yelling “FOUR!”. We were informed that we were the first to be shown the film in Europe, and the second outside of Japan (apparently Takahashi showed it in Singapore).

    The film itself was a basic compilation movie. No new animation as far as I could tell except for an AWESOME pre-credits sequence with Pailsen reviewing his Red Shoulder battalion before the Melkian military police come to arrest him. You can see it on Youtube here: They condensed most of the story from the 12 episode series into a scant two hours, hough they left behind a lot of basic character development and a few action sequences. All the stuff with the battle of wits between Pailsen and Wockam was retained, though as I’ve yet to see any of the prequel OVAs of the TV series, a lot of continuity references went over my head. There was some cool stuff with Wiseman in the last half hour that completely went over the heads of the casual audience, but they also confirmed a few details of Chirico’s backstory and showed that one of the main character’s was a prototype for the Perfect Soldier program. A few unexplained plot holes but it still gave the franchise some more depth.

    The movie was good but stick with the full series for the best experience. The subtitles we had were customed made for our screening, and thus were a little stiff in places. Stuff like “Oh No! Seems we I have accidentaly snapped neck his!” had the audeince on the floor laughing. After that there was a short break where the theater showed us the video trailers for the three most recent VOTOMS OVAs: Finder, Case: Irvine and Alone Again, the latter of which was the only one Takahashi had a hand in. An unexpected treat, though they didn’t mention anything about Phantom Arc. We had a very brief Q and A after that where he talked a bit about the background to VOTOMS. He said Sunrise put him in charge of the project after the enormous success of Dougram, giving the public the original, non-manga based robot shows they were clamouring for. He says their designs were very consciously different to Gundam and Dougram; scaled them back from 18 metres to 4, and emphasised their mobility and speed to make the action scenes more dynamic.

    Making them smaller made it easier to integrate battles into the foreground, and the enhanced manuverability made the action sequences much more varied. Not like Mobile Suit battles with robots standing in place and taking pot shots at each other. The rollerskate treads were part of this, not just there to reduce the cost of animating them walking as Clements asked, though that certainly helped. He repeated the old story about a female crew member of the animators being a slalom fan, using her idea of having scopedogs strafe across battlefields. Takahashi said his original idea for VOTOMS combat was the robots dashing only in straight lines on their skates for about 40 metres, then stopping. He mentioned the influence of other sci-fi works on VOTOMS, particuarly Blade Runnder on Uuodo and 2001’s HAL 9000 on Wiseman.

    Clements then said Takakhashi is widely known as the father of real robot anime (the bearded guy in a Zaku II shirt behind me muttered that it was actually Tomino who invented real robot anime, but I saw the point he meant. Takahashi was the first to cut out all Super Robot stuff in Dougram). Takahashi then described what real robots were for all the newbies in the audience who wouldn’t know a Mazinger from a Marasai. He also noted that Pailsen Files was his first attempt at mixing cel animation with CG robots, and he rather thought the results stood up well. He said the realtive cheapness and speed of using CG allowed them to show far greater numbers of robots in the battle scenes, like the Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day influenced beach head landing at the start of the film. Using cel animation for these scenes would have been prohibitively expensive, hence why the franchise has used CG scopedogs ever since.

    When asked to comment on the large number of Korean in betweeners, he noted that nowadays budgets are so small that outsourcing to South Korea and the Phillipines is often the only way to get the work done. About 3000 people maketheir living in Japan as nimators by his estimate, compered to the 12000+ of the 1980’s. Clements asked him how much was the character of Pailsen based on General Douglas Macarthur, to which Takhashi chuckled “About 80% Macarthur!”. He added that his younger production staff saw him more as a German, what with the Nazi regelia and genetic engineering. Clements then began fielding questions at the producer who’s name I sadly can’t remember, who praised Takhashi’s working manner. Unlike a lot of authoritarian directors, Takahashi apparently welcomes input and ideas from even the lower ranking crew members. When asked if he saw the original series, he said he was three at the time the original aired on TV, so he went into Pailsen Files without waching it with the goal of making it accessible to first time viewers.

    With that our brief Q and A ended, with the promise that we would actually get to field our own questions in the free session on Sunday. I’ll post his responses to those in a minute. One final note: during the screening Takhashi and his translation team actually sat a few seats away from me, but I bitched out of saying anything to him. For his part all he did was cough a few times, and wince at the occasional bit of ropey animation. Seemed to be a lovely guy for all the brief time he was on stage.

    • Takahashi was pretty much the nicest dude ever – even if told me he won’t make any more Dougram. Surprisingly down to earth compared to his contemporaries, and who woulda’ thought he spent some time in underground japanese theatre, all because of a story about a hot-tub.

      • Matt Wells says:

        Oh I remember you! I think we were on the same row! I was the kid with the glasses who was dissapointed to find out Takhashi doesn’t actually like robots! Le GASP!

        You said you’ve seen Dougram and Layzer, any other Takhashi shows you would reccomend? I’m watching Gasaraki eventually, but I really like the look of Layzner.

        • Yeah we were! You were the guy jotting down notes. What a small internet.
          Dougram is my personal favourite of his. Its long, 75 episodes, but if you are into world-building and politics in your mecha then Dougram has one of the best fleshed out settings i’ve ever seen in a real-robot setting. Its about as close as you’ll ever get to Takahashi directing a Gundam series. As for other shows, while not mecha he did a fairly good adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s Pheonix, which has a lot of sci-fi elements though its pretty different from his usual fare. Worth checking out.

          What I’ve seen of Layzner is interesting and really well animated, but its not completely subbed yet. Apparently it basically becomes fist of the north star with robots in the second half, which I’d love to see.

          I’ve also never seen Gasaraki, though Takahashi’s comments about how the concept is linked with robots powered by the art of Noh (one step equalling 30 years and all that) has me really interesting.

          • Matt Wells says:

            Dougram, I’ve heard nothing but praise. One guy described it as “Gundam 0079, but it’s actually a real robot series! None of that pseudo-super bullshit, Saturday Morning Cartoon crap!”. I really like the concept of the super prototype’s main advantage over mass produced units being adapted for combat on a desert planet, not to mention the enemy producing robots of a similar if not higher caliber as the conflict escalates. Definitely high on my to do list.

            Intersting to see him return to his roots with Tezuka on Phoenix, but I’ve already read the manga. Not sure how much I’d get out of the anime. Layzner’s also pretty cool for apparently letting the bad guys win halfway through the main story. That’s all I know about the series apart from the awesome brokeness that is V-MAX!, it makes Gundam 00’s GN drives look like shit. When the rival of the series gets his own V-Max, fights do get very Muso Tensei, hence the Fist of the North Star I suspect.

            Gasaraki is DENSE, and it certainly takes it time to tell a story. There a lot of layers I’m worried that someone like myself, ignorant of Japanese theater, won’t get. It’s a shame Takahashi never caught on in the West. His earliest shows are great but to old for the casual viewer, and his later series are too cerebral and political for the same.

    • schneider says:

      This is a heroic effort I applaud. Thanks for the writeup.

      >>He repeated the old story about a female crew member of the animators being a slalom fan, using her idea of having scopedogs strafe across battlefields.

      Oh man!

    • Excellent. I have all of Pailsen Files OVA and I did watch 2 or 3 eps years ago. Will get back to that sooner or later. I’ve seen the 2 non-Takahashi VOTOMS OVAs you mentioned and wrote about them. I’ll also watch Mellowlink at some point.

      I just find it ironic how the action in VOTOMS TV was the biggest letdown for me, but then again back in the early 80s I’d only be able to compare it to Gundam TV which would make it refreshing as Takahashi intended it to be.

  18. Matt Wells says:

    Sorry for the delay, here’s the rest. The morning after the screening of Pailsen Files, there was an hour long Q and A with Takahashi on his entire career, with some questions open to the audience. Though a free event, it was ticket only attendance, so I almost missed out on it due to my stupidity with event booking. Getting up at 7’o clock payed off when I was granted a ticket 30 minutes before the interview commenced; I almost squealed out of joy. The audience was a bit less varied than the screening of the film; the occasional obvious Mecha nerd (like the fat guy in the Zaku II shirt), Japanese students, and hardcore anime fans who actually knew what the fuck Mushi Productions was, and why it was cool to hear about them.

    A fantastic experience, let down only by the fact that half of our once-in-a-lifetime interview was taken up by a screening of the first episode of Flag. FLAG. Nothing against Flag, its an excellent series. BUT. But we can watch it anytime we want, its one of the few Takahashi series that have been fully subbed and widely distributed in the English fan community. We could watch it anytime we liked, we could hardly have a convivial chat with the Defining Director of Real Robot Anime as the mood struck us. Bleh.

    Anyway, Flag went down far smoother than VOTOMS did, and gave the audience more inclined to artsy stuff a good introduction to Takahashi’s oevure, or at least better than a sequel to a 30 year old TV series. Right after that, they screened a few TV promos for Takahashi’s recent-ish 26 episode TV show, the nigh unpronounceable Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto bleh. A name so difficult, even Jonathan Clements just gave up trying to enunciate it. A round of polite applause followed this, and the formal interview began. We were warned that though the candid interview allowed any questions to be answered, legal restrictions meant that we couldn’t record or film it in any way. Note taking was fine though! Please bear in mind I’m going on my own recollections, notes, and what Takhashi’s lovely translator told us he said. Responses may not be wholly accurate, or sensibly phrased.

    Questions for 20 minutes were fired off by Clements, the resident anime industry insider and genral expert, fro his own compiled list. A streak of snark a mile wide in his interview style too!

    What was the sum total of his involvement in Flag? – Flag was a show he shopped around for ten years, trying to convince Sunrise top brass to fund. The question was asked due to the story credited to himself and “Team Flag”. Takahashi told us Team Flag was a placename for the myriad legions of people who supported him during this time. The narrative structure and emphasised style of photography was always intended from the begining. Not that he said this, but this confirmed that my own observation that both Gasaraki and Flag were works he’d been trying to make for years, and were only okayed to tie in with current trends. With Gasaraki it was post-Eva robot anime, with Flag it was the recent spate of Docudrama style “shakycam” pictures, like Cloverfield.

    What was his first ever exposure to TV animation? – As a post-war child, did the style of Kamibaishi performers ultimately influence his directorial style? (think a mixture betwen narrated manga, paper latern shows, and travelling circuses. Google it!) – From what he remembered, animation was always on Japanese television from the 50’s onwards, though they were dubbed American imports like Disney or Hannah Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoons. His first real exposure to Japanese animation came with a series of yearly animated specials by Toei circa 1958. He rembered watching Kamibaishi shows with the other village children, the distance of two metres between the performer and the audience lead him to ultimately strive for immediacy in his work, drawing his audience into the screen with the characters.

    When exactly did he decide to go into animation? – He said with a huge grin the exact date he decided: Autumn 1963. This got a tremendous response from the audience; as Mr. Clements helpfully reminded us, this was the broadcast date for the original black and white series of Tetsuwan Atom, known in the US as Astro Boy. If you know your history, then you know Tezuka’s cheap little commercial to his own manga revolutionised the Japanese model of TV animation, setting the ground for cost-cutting measures, tie-in promotion, rushed production schedules and underpaid animators that we know and love today! In the wake of Atom there was a huge boom in applicants to the feldgling industry, and Takahashi was but one of many hungry yougsters wanting in on that sweet animation money.

    After learning the basics of the biz, he applied to join Tezuka’s production company, Mushi Pro, in the Winter of 1964 (might have the date wrong). There were two parts to the application, a drawing test and a spoken interview. He passed the drawing test well enough, they just asked him to make dozens of identical copies of the same drawing. It was the interview he failed, at least to become an animator. When they asked him on whether he would mind drawing hundreds and hundreds of idetical drawings every week, he said of course he did! That was the impetus for him to become a director, because he said that way he wouldn’t have to draw so much!

    And what was it like working with the God of Manga himself, Osamu Tezuka? – Takahashi gave this one some brief thought, before responding, “You know… he was a wonderful guy… 99% of the time!” He described him as a truly lovely guy, always encouraging the staff to come up with creative, new ideas and concepts. Whenever they presented them, regular as clockwork, he would say: “What is this?! GO BACK AND START AGAIN TILL YOU GET IT RIGHT!”,which was met with more uproarious laughter by the audience. As far as creative input went, he was very accomadating and open to suggestions. In those days the industry was just like a sweatshop, always working non-stop to get that week’s episode done.

    They had no time to go home, so they were allowed to keep footrests underneath their desks. People fell asleep at their desks whenever time permitted. He recalls being nudged awake on occasion, and turning around to see Tezuka staring at him (he sat right next to Tezuka). Not that he meant Mr. Tezuka fancied him or anything he was quick to point out! (I think that’s what his anecdote was. He may have said that he saw Tezuka asleep at the desk, and he stared at him) He was a man who always gave it his all, constantly producing concepts and drawings non-stop. Possessed of a tremendous energy. He said he’s yet to encounter a man who knew Tezuka that didn’t like him in some way. Very personable fellow (and the pupil takes after the master in that regard).

    His first ever experience as a director? – He said it was on a Mushi show called… Wonder Seven I think? The earliest thing he worked on according to ANN was a called Ora Guzura Dado, but this came first. He MIGHT have meant the series W3, the one about three space cops who take on the forms of a bunny, horse and duck, but don’t quote me on that. He said Wonder Seven, so that’s what I’m sticking to. He explained about the two tiers of directors, episode directors and chief directors, on Wonder Seven he ended up directing ten of it’s 52 episodes. One Hundred and Twenty people worked on that programme in total, himself included. Production on a single episode from idea to broadcast was roughly three months, and the schedules for episodes were always overlapping. One day they might film the climax of episode 34, the other they would finish character designs for episode 12. His first show as a chief director was at Sunrise in 1973.

    So in between the well publicised collapse of Mushi Pro and his joining Sunrise, what did he do? – All sorts of odd jobs on anime here and there. Script writing, story concepts and episode direction for Tatsunoko and Toei, amongst others. He had a long spell in Europe where he was involved with Underground Japanese Theatre, if you can imagine such a thing. That came about from an old friend who worked at Mushi Pro, I think his name was Juro Kara (sorry if I’ve gotten this wrong too). He was a scenario writer on Wonder Seven who in time went on to become one of the top three giants in the field of cult, ground breaking Japanese Theatre. He was unique at Mushi for his absolute refusal to check or rewrite his scripts. Tezuka would keep politely requesting he spellcheck his scripts, and Juro would just glare at him and refuse point blank. It got so intense that Tezuka was scared of the man, so Takahashi was the one who ended up correcting his scripts!

    Takhashi was just an audience member at first, watching his friends’ work and getting caught up in the world. As he got to know the cast members and playwrights, Kara encouraged him to produce content for the field. His involvement in the troop was sparked by a certain story of Kara’s. His troupe was on tour in Europe in a raunchy cabaret company, along with his wife and several various good looking young chorus dancers. Part of the show involved them being slathered in gold paint, so when it ended the entire group would jump into a huge bath tub and begin scrubbing the paint off of each other. Upon hearing this Takahashi commented he was struck with a sudden urge to become a dancer and actor! He evetually pulled out of theatre to return to animation, but he mused on how different his life would have been had he decided to commit to acting. His expereince with Japanese theatre later served as inspiration for Gasaraki.

    How did he specfically end up at Sunrise – A lot of Sunrise’s high ranking personel had been his colleagues and senpais at Mushi Pro, and they offered him a job liking his work. Their first show was a respectable hit, Sazedon (again, I might be wrong), which was the adventures of a talking fish. The director on that was someone very famous in the industry (he named no names), but he eventually left Sunrise due to creative disagreements about his methods. Their second show, a science fiction piece called Zero Tester, had been in planning before their debut, and they gave the director’s chair to Takahashi. He sadly didn’t elaborate further on his first experience as a director.

    Given Sunrise’s very market savvy approach, what was the difference between working for them and Mushi Pro? – Takhashi admitted that Sunrise was a far better run comapny than Mushi. With Tezuka, he was concerned with creativity first, profits second. It was this approach that ended up bankrupting his company. Sunrise on the other hand, was very sensible about it’s fiscal policies. They made animation to make money, and creativity sometimes took a backseat to that. He defended the reputation of both companies, noting that Sunrise’s heavy use of tie-in merchandising was a policy invented by Mushi itself, they just geared their shows towards it more. He also commented that Tezuka, while wonderfully creative, could be intimidating in his sheer artistic purity, often to the detriment of his company. His own affinity with Robot anime came about when the market for Robot toys exploded with Mazinger Z, Sunrise exploited this trend for all it was worth. Hence their enduring legacy by playing to the market. He was very careful not to criticise the current Sunrise administration, given that one of their producers was sharing the interview with him, the same as Saturday.

    Given the pedigree of the young creators at Sunrise and Mushi, did these future giants of the industry go around trying to intimidate each other? Were he and Tomino rivals like the Western fandom imagines? (Not sure where Clements got this idea from. Tomino and Takahashi are oranges and apples, they’re hardly competing with the other to make a “realer” robot show) – Takhashi grinned broadly at this, saying those young guys are now old contemporaries who know each other very well. He gets on fairly cordially with Tomino actually, they play Golf together sometimes, but that’s as far as their “rivalry” goes. He said with great humility that Tomino is a Shining Star of animation, he sees himself like a little street lamp. Baaaawww! You would not believe how sweet this man was in person.

    Could he describe the exact influence of Japanese theatre on Gasaraki – Oh boy, this one went weird fast. Clements referenced how Takahashi’s experience informed much of Gasraki, which he also said was much better recieved in the UK than the USA! IDidNotKnowThat.jpg. Takhashi launched into a lengthy explaination that left out the influence on the ending itself, about how the entire plot has been one of misdirection and deception, just like actual Japanese theater (Which reminds me: I really need to watch Gasaraki). What he ACTUALLY told us was explaining that in robot anime, one of the biggest problems he finds that plagues a director is coming up with an explination for what powers these colossal robots. Early on they just made up terms and concepts, like Getter Rays, Photonic Energy and Choudenji Power, but as time went by series became more sophisticated, and these explainations seemed silly. Hence the need to come up with more… UNIQUE forms of energy to drive mecha.

    Takahashi said that even as a native Japanses person, he finds Noh theatre to be a truly BIZARRE art form. The traditional Noh saying of “30 years in three steps” fascinated him; the idea that slow, controlled motions represents the passage of an enorous period of time. In those three steps, the human heart beats roughly 200 times, enormous potential, power and emotion focussed into a few simple movements, and all of it concentrated and repeated ad infinitum in a tiny circle on stage. The idea of concentrating energy in this singularly unusal fashion was a major influence upon Gasaraki. With this mind blowing explaination the audience members sort of had a dazed look in their eyes, and I was one of them. No wonder it took him a decade to sell the show on Sunrise, huh? 🙂 With that the floor was opened up to the audience for a glorious, if brief, 15 minutes. For the ease of reading, I’ll post them seperately.

  19. Matt Wells says:

    Jesus, sorry about the wall of text up there. Here are the handful of questions submitted by the audience to Takahashi. There would have been twice as many if they skipped on showing us an entire episode of Gasaraki, but beggars can’t be choosers. First to get their hands up was yours truly, postulating the very question Ghost himself asked.

    1. If you had the oppertunity to direct a robot series without concessions like a budget, advertising and sponsor deals, what would it be about (format, length, subject etc.)? – Takahashi said in a rather apologetic tone that he actually doesn’t even LIKE robot anime that much! 😦 He only really became so famous for making mecha anime because it was a genre he felt comfortable in, and the support for tie-in merchandising allowed him to explore the kind of stories he actually wanted to tell. Animation budgets aren’t that big a deal as they used to be, so he reckoned that he could complete a show on a failrly modest budget. He’d personally like to tell a story indulging whatever subject he wanted, though he didn’t have any ideas currently. He said he’d like it best tot tell this story over the course of a year, so it would be a 52 episode series at least.

    2. (As posited by blogging contemporary and Tetsujin 28 fan, Andrew Graruru) Given the enduring popularity of VOTOMS in Japan and its myriad sequels, would he consider ever revisiting some of his older shows, making sequels to SPT Layzner or Fang of the Sun Dougram? – Takahashi personally prefers making brand new properties and series to revisiting old ones. In the case of VOTOMS and Galient, he made sequels due to both enormous fan demand for them, and for what he personally felt was room for expanding or improving upon the original story. If he thinks a sequel is necessary, he said he’ll do it.

    3. Does he think that recent tends indicate that hand drawn animation in Japan will be inevitably replaced by CG animation, given his own reliance upon it in VOTOMS and Flag? – Takahashi said that the Japanese animation industry still treats CG as a shortcut above all else, not the next big thing. He thinks old style animation is too heavily ingrained upon the industry for it to ever completely die out in favour of CG animation. Bit of an old timer’s answer, but what do you expect?

    4. What is the greatest difference between making a mecha show today compared to how it was in the 1980’s? – Back then it was all a matter of making the robots as unique as possible compared to theri contemporaries. The better you could make the robots, the better it would reflect on toy sales and serve to move your story forward. Today, he said robot anime has very few original concepts, characters or designs. 90% of everything is either a rehash, remake or sequel to something that already exists. He believes that if a director can come up with a truly fresh concept for his show, the Japanese public would immediately make it a hit, as they did with Gundam and VOTOMS.

    5. (Last Question) About his brief time as an episode director for the Mushi version of The Moomins… – His reply was along the lines of “I WAS HUNGRY AND I NEEDED THE MONEY!!!” No, seriously. 🙂 When the laughs subsided, he said he would love to see a moomin style race of creatures in Japanese culture. Alternating between his house in Tokyo and his place in the countryside, he often imagines little moomin like beings running around the mountains (sounded very Miyazaki here!). He joked that an old man like himself is much more suited to tell a story about such magical folk rather than a younger director!

    With that our time was regretfully up. Takahashi and his associate politely expressed their thanks for their kind reception at the festival. Many rounds of applause for the Edinburgh Filmhouse for forking out the cash to bring him there, and for his excellent translator who was able to convey all his responses to us. I heartily apologise for being unable to remember her name. I’m glad Takahashi was able to get a few hours playing St. Andrews, if nothing else from the trip, and he thanked us all for the warm reception. One of those once in a lifetime oppertunities as an anime fan, I’m glad I even got to experience it. The only shame was that I didn’t bring anything for him to sign, and that we didn’t get to pick his brains any longer. Takahashi truly is one of the nicest guys in Japanese animation, and I’m glad I was able to confirm that in person. Here’s hoping Scotland Loves Anime is even bigger and better next year, and that they forward their prints to a Newcastle cinema like they will this month!

    • Reid says:

      This is amazing stuff, Matt. Just incredible. I’m so jealous that you got to see and hear all that. Takahashi is truly one of the most gifted minds in the industry and he had a lot to do with shaping my appreciation for real robot anime (after I learned to distinguish it from super robot stuff, that is…gee thanks, Gundam Wing XD). Reading all this was an absolute treat. Especially insightful was the thing about the Noh movements being the power source of the TAs/Fakes/Kugai. In a way, it all makes sense to me now: the focus on Noh’s “30 years in three steps” even carries over into the very slow pacing of the mecha battles. It baffled me why combat in a TA was so intense (the pilots looks like they’re about to pass out all the time while not really appearing to DO much, most of the time), but now it makes more sense.

      I recently got done with FLAG, and though the characters themselves were not that memorable to me, the mecha aspect had me floored! I’d love to see what could be done with expanding the focus more toward Havoc/Longku combat. Sure, some may view this as taking a step backward, but I think it would be possible to tell a more engaging “traditional” story without the gimicky (if pretty groundbreaking) “through the camera lense” approach. If nothing else, the show convinced me that HAVWCs are probably the best representation of a real-real robot that still retains its “anime-ness.” They’re definitely a new favorite of mine.

      I still need to watch Dougram and finish up all the Votoms OVAs, and of course Layzner isn’t completely subbed, so there are still plenty of opportunities to explore more of what makes Takahashi’s work so great. Thanks very much for your report of what happened at the convention!

      • Matt Wells says:

        Not at all man. I went there not just for my own curiousity, but out of a desire to share Takahashi’s views and answers with the whole community here. The positive response it’s garnered made the enire trip worth it to me, not to mention the cost of living like a hermit for a month to cover travel expenses of the trip!

      • That’s a great, really detailed summary, way more than I could remember. Well done.

    • Thanks for the mobile report. I’m kind of bummed at how he said he doesn’t even like robots in particular, but thanks for asking my question! Getting to ask first is all kinds of manly and epic.

  20. Pingback: Matt Wells on VOTOMS creator Takahashi’s Talk in Scotland | The Ghosts of Discussions

  21. Zeroragnarok says:

    i´m go to made a comparison video about this. i think that VOTOMS is better anime than CODE GEASS

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