The Summer 2021 Preview Guide
Getter Robo Arc
How would you rate episode 1 of
Getter Robo Arc ?
What is this?
The story centers on the conflict against the Andromeda Country, the new enemy of humanity that seeks to destroy the source of the getter rays that has devastated its civilization. Hope rests on the titular Getter Robo Arc robot, but the appearance of another mysterious Getter robot, piloted by the son of Ryoma Nagare, introduces another complication to the conflict.
How was the first episode?
Even though I'm a big fan of tokusatsu shows like Super Sentai and Ultraman, the mecha/monster anime boom of the 1970s and 80s is one of my biggest blind spots as a fan and critic. Since Getter Robo Arc is the latest entry in a long line of adaptations for Ken Ishikawa's Getter Robo franchise, I was hoping that Arc would make a good jumping on point for a relative neophyte such as myself.
To its credit, Getter Robo Arc does a passable job at establishing the fundamentals of its story and world. A bunch of nasty-ass bug monsters have made a habit of invading the Earth, and human society is now a bit of a mess on account of apocalyptic disasters on top of all that. Our heroes are Takuma and Baku, a wandering punk and a monk who has precognitive powers, respectively. I'm honestly not entirely clear on what their motivations are, outside of a vague quest for revenge and/or redemption, though I imagine their who deal would be a lot clearer to me if I were familiar with the previous Getter Robo stories.
Still, it's enough to get Takuma in the Getter robot so he can punch some spooky bug-alien-robot-things, and that's good enough for me. I'd honestly be okay sticking with Arc for a few episodes to get myself up to speed, or even doing some internet sleuthing to fill in the gaps while I kept up with the current story… except for one thing: I absolutely can't stand this show's art style and animation. Now, I know that the series is probably keeping very faithful to Ishikawa's old-school style and sensibilities, and I know that the roughshod animation is probably meant to be a part of Arc's throwback charm. I just really, really do not like how the characters look and move. The CGI used for the robot fights was better, I suppose, but even then it felt kind of weightless and chintzy for modern anime standards, lacking in that oomph that a good giant robot show can provide with its mechanical throwdowns.
Beyond my personal distaste for the show's aesthetics, the production for Arc's premiere just feels all over the place, in general. The editing is jarring, cutting across flashbacks and character perspectives in a manner that is frankly confusing, and scenes seem to just begin and end with little purpose or momentum. The last third of the premiere, where Takuma gets to fight in the Getter bot, is significantly more entertaining than everything that led up to it, but I'm not sure one moderately fun action scene is enough to convince me to stick around for whatever Getter Robo Arc has in store. I might still check out the manga someday, but I'm going to give this adaptation a pass.
Getter Robo Arc features a new team of mecha pilots, but it does kind of want you to remember the events of Shin Getter Robo and Getter Robo Go. Mostly that there was a guy named Ryoma Nagare who was a very talented pilot, because this series stars his son, Takuma Nagare, who immediately proves his pedigree by hopping into a downed mech (after dragging its dead pilot out and just sort of dropping him into the surrounding trash piles) and making it work. Since that's definitely not as easy as turning the key and pushing a button, this feat is incredibly impressive to Commander Hayato Jin, who is overseeing the current Getter Robo mission. It's also pretty foolish on Takuma's part, but when giant buggy monsters are invading an already battered Tokyo, doing the smart thing isn't always an option.
Most of this first episode is spent establishing the world the story takes place in and showing us how awesomely risk-prone Takuma is. He and his buddy Baku, a sort-of monk with a few psychic powers up his sleeve, are trying very hard to get to a specific place within the ruined section of Tokyo: Trash Island #14. The reason for this becomes apparent when a mech crashes down, its pilot having just died at the controls. Takuma is, for reasons not yet explained but probably to do with his dad, determined to get himself in a Getter Robo to get high command's attention. Baku seems to be along for the ride, but it's clear that without him Takuma would be sunk. It's not that he's unable to function alone and more that their skills complement each other; right now that translates to “Takuma's the brawn and Baku's the brains.” Since they have to outwit guards and suffer the slings and arrows of various thugs, that works out pretty well for them.
How their partnership will continue isn't entirely clear, but given that technical talk in the command center reveals that they need a set of three specially skilled pilots to fly their newest and most ambitious mech, it isn't hard to guess. Commander Jin already has Kamui, an alien of some kind, and now he's got a more-than-willing Takuma in his sights. Presumably Baku will make up pilot number three; that's what the opening theme with its shot of three burly youths in skin-tight flight suits implies, anyway.
As setups go, this is a solid one. The three main guys have distinct designs and personalities, the technical jargon isn't over the top, and it isn't unforgiving to viewers new to the franchise. The thick lines and classically shōnen look of the art are very appealing in conjunction with the story (although one background character suffers from a severe case of muppetitis), and this just has that high energy feel you'd get when you ate four too many pixie sticks as a kid. It's good old-fashioned mecha fun, and sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered.
I'll admit upfront, I feel pretty out of my element here. I know virtually nothing about the Getter Robo series, and while this premiere isn't entirely incomprehensible for newbies, there's a very definite sense that I'm missing out on a lot of this show's potential appeal by not recognizing every reference, continuity nod, or direct callback. So folks more acquainted with this long-standing franchise and its greater history should feel free to take my opinion with a giant-robot-sized grain of salt. Because I really didn't like this premiere at all.
For one, the visuals are just a mess. Personally I'm all for preserving the old-school character designs – especially since they were already a throwback when the manga ran in the early 2000s – but making such retro designs work with modern animation and especially while integrating them with CG robot designs takes a lot of finesse that just isn't here. Heck, even the fully 3D elements don't look like they mesh, with the titular Getter robots clashing terribly with the weird insect...thing they fight for this episode's climax. The human designs also just never look the same twice, varying wildly between edits in ways that only vaguely resemble their model. I'm inclined to assume this is intentional, warping and shifting the designs in big ways to capture the energy of any given moment, but it's just not executed well here. Pretty much every visual feels half-baked, as if the animators weren't sure how to make these exaggerated and cartoony designs move, and wound up winging it with little success.
The story isn't much clearer. I gather from context clues that this is a distant sequel to some other franchise entry, with main character Takuma presumably being the son of some equally important robot pilot that all the old scientists know. But the particulars of any of this flew entirely over my head, and all I really retained are the broad strokes: post-apocalypse, alien bug fighting, something called “Getter Rays” which do something or other, and also one of our other pilots is also an alien. Takuma is searching for the central scientist guy because of something to do with his family, and the scientist guy needs him because he's really good at fighting robots. Everything else is largely a mystery and not one I'm particularly inclined to look into. If the character writing or animation were stronger I might be inclined to do some more research and figure out what all this means, but as-is I don't have much impetus to stick around.
It's a shame, too, because I'm totally down for this kind of old-school super robot action. While I'm a neophyte, I did come into this with an open mind hoping for a possible entry point to such a historically important franchise. But this just isn't that, and I'm willing to just call this a wash. While this series is at least partially marketed as standalone, its appeal is quite obviously directly squarely at existing fans and people generally familiar with this franchise. And that's just not me.
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