Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Apr 11th 2008
Super Robot Wars OG Divine Wars
Given a mandate by the government to take on the DC at their base on Aidonius Island, the Hagwane sets sail in a hail of gunfire as DC troops stage an attempt to capture the Federation's newest flagship and its cargo of robotic warriors. When the enemy decides to cut its losses and just blow the ship into very, very small pieces, Ryu and his partially functional mecha might be the crew's only hope of survival. Once on its way, the Hagwane decides to practice its island-invading on a DC-occupied base manned by prototype artillery-fighters. Ryu, unable to use his new mecha thanks to issues with its T-link system, is again saved from almost certain death by the green-haired Masaki and his mysterious, bird-like mecha, the Cybaster. As Ryu's commander tries to convince lone wolf Masaki to join their campaign against DC, Kusuha, Ryu's airheaded childhood friend, tries to find her place on the crew while handing out lethal energy drinks like liquid hand grenades.
If you need a Litmus test to determine your compatibility with Super Robot Wars, try watching the opening sequence. Just sit and watch as the cast about-faces in perfect time with the opening riff, as the characters sidle up to the screen with their mecha blazing in the background, as the villains loom over the entirety of space, larger than life. Don't worry if you laugh while the JAM Project shamelessly shouts lines like "Howl, red-hot soldier!"" and "Hard, strong, hot!," you're probably supposed to. And the real test is at the end anyway. If you can walk away from the preposterous spectacle of that opening without a smile on your face, a curious lightness in your heart and an inexplicable spring in your step, then you probably aren't susceptible to the series' peculiar brand of muscle-headed magic.
And that magic, that childish, unselfconscious revelry in all things big and loud and mechanized, is all that SRW has going for it. There's a reason why the 3D CG used for the mecha is superior by an order of magnitude to the inflexible two-dimensional character animation, and why the often apocalyptic soundtrack is so much better than the shallow content would seem to warrant: unsubtle music and slick-moving mecha are crucial in fetishizing robots and creating spectacular battles, while characters and plots are secondary at best. So, if you aren't susceptible to the predatory lines of a giant spaceship or the heroic design of a super robot, then the appeal of the series will be entirely lost on you. Director Hiroyuki Kakudou knows that: he wastes little effort on the animation of anything that isn't exploding, focusing the budget and his not-inconsiderable skill with imagery on scenes like the Hagwane plowing out of the sea into the sky and a series of swift aerial dogfights.
The downside to a laser-focused approach such as this is that, even for its target audience, the series fails utterly when outside the area of its focus. With nothing capable of competing with the Antarctic and space colony battles of the last volume, most of this volume falls into that category. The majority of these three episodes are spent introducing characters like cute but clueless Kusuha, and Masaki, who between the two of them have a total of two prominent traits: a bad sense of direction and a penchant for creating awful energy drinks. Three episodes is a long, long time to learn that. Oh, to be sure, there's plenty else—all of the various factions spend a lot of time maneuvering around each other to little or no effect and even incidental characters have mysterious pasts to be hinted at—but it all slips from the brain as if Teflon-coated, leaving nothing but those energy drinks and that bad sense of direction.
The dialogue continues to exhume old dead clichés that would have been better left to molder in their graves, including undead oldies like "we may be cousins, but next time I will kill you," as well as pretty much everything that comes out of Masaki's hot-headed mouth. The show's intentional humor is laughable—and not in a good way—and as the show lets up on the action pedal, delving only into inconclusive skirmishes, there's time even to turn a critical eye to the all-important mechanical designs, making all the more apparent the debt Ryu's R-1 owes to the Gundam, Masaki's Cybaster owes to Dunbine, and Shu's Granzon owes to every impervious wall of mecha evilness ever designed.
That's a lot of sagging between-battles filler for a bad sense of direction and a nasty energy drink to carry, and as might be expected, they aren't quite up to the task. Even without Bandai Visual USA's 9-volume release schedule, fifty-dollar price point, and complete lack of extras this is beginning to look like a bad bet. Though when the Granzon breaks out its ball-o-purple sparkly destruction, fanning again that magical juvenile spark that lives deep in the recesses of some men's hearts, suddenly another volume doesn't seem like such a chore. Dammit.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Occasional glimpse of mecha coolness; mildly funny joke involving an emetic energy drink.
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