Gear Fighter Dendoh (or in Japanese GEAR戦士電童 which is read as Gia Faitah Dendou) is a 38 episode anime that aired between October 2000 to June 2001. Gear Fighter Dendoh was created by animation Studio Sunrise and Bandai. Perhaps the biggest names attached to this project are Mitsuo Fukuda and Chiaki Morosawa as the writers and directors. This husband and wife duo is best known for what they'll go on and do next; that being the direction and writing for Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny. Gear Fighter Dendoh is a show made in the vain of the old Super Robot shows from the 70's. It's meant as a throwback. A fun fact for you guys. The premise and some character aspects of this show was originally meant to be used in the next Braves show but since that show was scrapped the writers used those premises here. Well anyways with all the introductions out of the way now, let's see if this throwback does the originals any justice.
The series begins with a musical number as a young blue hair girl and mechanical animals fall to the Earth and cause a big explosion. A rich man near by goes to investigate as the young girl wobbles out towards him and falls unconscious. We skip to 17 years late and are introduced to our main characters Izumo Ginga and Kusanagi Hokuto. These two young boys are in 5th grade and yes they both have weird names (Ginga being Galaxy and Hokuto being North Star in Japanese). Hokuto has just moved in and is Ginga's new neighbor. It's now that after the boys have just met for the first time that the Galufa Aliens (or Garufa because of how L and R can be interchangeable in Japanese. Sometimes translated Kirufa but most of the time called Gulfer by fans. I will address them as Galufa though) begin their invasion on Planet Earth attacking multiple bases around the world and landing their base of Operation "The Spiral City" on our own Moon. The city the boys live in is under attack and panic breaks out. The Boys run for the Shelter but are sidetracked when they try to save a little Girl during this process they are attacked by a Galufa Mechanical Beast. The two boys are scared but out from the ground emerges Earth's greatest weapon to fight the Galfua, Gear Fighter Dendoh. Dendoh has chosen the two Boys as it's pilot and and places them in it's own cockpit. It's from here that the story begins.
The show is 38 episodes long, it consist of the length of 3 TV season. Each season pretty much covers one Story Arc. The first story arc of the series covers all the need to know aspects of the show. It explains what GEAR is; the origination which fights Galufa and the main character's allies. It also serves to explain why Galfua is invading and sets up the villains for the series. But at it's core the first arc mainly consist of the main characters Hokuto and Ginga trying to obtain The Data Weapons (The mechanical animals we saw falling to Earth in the beginning of episode 1). There are 6 in total. Each Data Weapon represents an animal (be it real or mystical). The Data weapons are Gatling Boar (Ozy Boar), Leo Circle (Lion Ring), Flare Dragon (Lighting Dragon), Unicorn Drill (Drilling Unicorn), Bull Horn (Horned Ox), and Viper Whip (Supersonic Snake). These mechanical animals are Dendoh's ace in the hole. By making a contract with them they transform into weapons that Dendoh uses to unleash massive damage. Both GEAR and Galfua wants the Data Weapons. And so it's a mad dash to obtain them on both sides.
The first Arc also introduces Altair the show's main rival character for the majority of the episodes. Altair is a human but fights on the side of Galfua. What's more he is addressed as the son of the Galfua's Emperor. Altair wears all Black and has his face covered in a mask. He seems to have a connection with the masked character on GEAR's side Vega. Altair is both Hokuto's and Ginga's worse nightmare. He pilots a Gear Fighter as well. The Gear Fighter Black Night Ogae (Sometimes called Ogre and in other Translations Phoenix). Altair and his Gear Fighter can also make contracts with the Data Weapons thus increasing Galfua's power. Altair doesn't work alongside Galfua's current invading army inside of The Spiral City. He is independent and doesn't have to take orders from them but can order them around. After awhile it's obvious that tensions rise between both Altair's faction and Galfua's main invading Army.
At the end of the first arc all the data weapons are found. But then we learn that there is a legendary Seventh Data Weapon that has the power to destroy or save the universe. The focus shifts to each side trying to find a way to bring about this mysterious and unknown weapon. At first the second arc was very episodic and more jovial but picks up pace midway through when things come to a boil. One of the main characters is kidnapped and brought back to Galfua's base. This cause great strain for everyone especially the two main characters who have a deep connection to this character. The main characters' are stressed and thus lose a battle with Ogae very badly. Dendoh is wrecked and Ogae steals all their Data Weapons. With GEAR's backs are up against a wall their forced to watch their home city get destroyed since Dendoh is out of commission. The two boys can take it no more and in a daring attempt fly out the newly repaired Dendoh to The Spiral City and begin their final offensive against the entire Attack Force of Galfua's invading army. At this point the war is no longer a two sided battle as the remaining members of Galfua's invading Army is fed up with Altair. He has treated them poorly and has sacrificed their men without a second thought. Once more the current invading force is vying for the emperor's attention. In the heat of the Final battle for Earth's future Galfua's current invading army turns on Altair's faction and It becomes a Full On 3 Sided Battle Between Dendoh, Galfua, and Altair.
After the second arc the show changes permanently and shifts focus again. Nothing is ever the same after it's end. While I outlined the first two arcs I won't be outlining the Final Third Arc only because if I even explained it vaguely it would spoil too much of the show. So instead I'm skipping ahead to an analysis of themes and character development. The main function of the titular robot Dendoh is that it's piloted by two people at once who have to be in synch. The two main characters Ginga and Hokuto are the pilots of Dendoh even though they are still just kids. While they may act a bit more mature than your average kid at times and this series doesn't try to focus to much on psychological aspect of putting children into battle, the two characters do still feel like their children and not like their just drawn that way. They have their bouts of selfishness and they have times were their utterly scared. The writing for both Ginga and Hokuto feels believable.
Once more the writing between the two characters has a very good dynamic behind it. Ginga is the tough Hot Blooded character. His mother runs a dojo and he's trained in Martial Arts. He's the Bran. Hokuto is a smart and talented young man. He's able to quickly adapt and mimic others which is how he's able to keep up with Ginga as a pilot of Dendoh. He's the brain. They have a good dynamic behind them. As the series starts they don't know each other and aren't really on good terms ether. But over time they bound and by the end their nearly inseparable. But that's not to say there wasn't complications along the way. Ginga has a very interesting character arc in the first arc of the show. He becomes jealous of Hokuto who has all the answers and seems to be talented at everything. He watches Hokuto as he succeeds both academically and in battles while he feels less than him. It's when the both of them are in big trouble and Ginga feels that all is lost that Hokuto replies to him the motto Ginga has always told him; "If you think you're gonna lose before you start then you already lost. Don't give up." This sign of friendship is returned in the second arc when Hokuto is hurt Ginga almost goes Berserk. Hokuto is more of a wreck then Ginga because of the events in the second arc and it's Ginga who is able to motivate Hokuto and brings him back to his fighting spirit again. Whats more the entirety of the third arc goes to show the lengths of which both friends go to for each other. Dendoh doesn't have a main character. Both Ginga and Hokuto are the main characters. They are given equal time in the spotlight.
GEAR (Guard Earth and Advanced Reconnaissance) is the name of the good guys. This government facility exist in every country and was founded in Japan. 17 years ago when the Data Weapons came to Earth with the Blue Haired girl the Governments were warned of Galfua's eventual approach to Earth and had created GEAR to prevent Galfua's invasion. GEAR houses the Robot Dendoh which was brought to Earth by the Blue Hair girl. The members at GEAR provide the majority of the characters you will see and are the people who Ginga and Hokuto interact with the most. Speaking of gears that's kind of the main motif of this show. Gear Fighter Dendoh has a Gear on each of his arms and legs. Well there actually turbines the show even calls them that but for the namesake let's call them Gears. By spinning the Gears Dendoh can pull off attacks or move faster. Dendoh has no real weapons to speak of other than it's Gears. By using Martial Arts and the Gears' energy Ginga and Hokuto are able to pull off attacks. Dendoh has GEAR Commanders that house the Data Weapons. These commanders are used to input the way the pilots want their gears to spin as well as used to initiate a Final Attack (use their data weapons). Dendoh itself is battery powered. It has a limited energy. The show keeps finding new ways to make up for that weakness as it goes on. After Dendoh uses a Data Weapon's Final Attack it's battery is drained totally and Dendoh needs replacement batteries fast.
The theme of the show is about the power of hope and friendship. Dendoh being piloted by two and the ultimate Seventh Legendary Data weapon's name are prime example of this aspect. When things seem hopeless you can count on your friends to help out. Dendoh often release on this motto in storytelling. The show isn't the darkest and has plenty of light hearted antics and slice of life moments between all the fun robots battles. For the majority of the first and the first half of the second arc the show is a monster of the week show where Ginga and Hokuto fight whatever is the monster of that week. But the story does have a greater focus and there is often lots going on as well.
The animation in Dendoh is minimal but not bad. It's never going out of it's way and uses all the tricks there is to imitate motion instead of actually moving. I hope you like recycled launching sequences too because there's a lot of them. But when the animation does move it moves and looks fluid for the most part. For a show with not that big of a budget Dendoh looks pretty good and has some really good explosions and battles as well. The music is pretty average though. The best part of the musical score being the Ending Theme and Opening theme playing during really sad or really intense and crazy parts respectably. While not the best in these regards Dendoh is still a bit above average and should never look or sound too terrible to make you not want to watch it.
Overall Dendoh is a blast from start to finish. Mecha fans should really be able to get behind it. The action is really fun, the characters developed well and are interesting, the story is well thought out with many fun twist and turns, and Dendoh just has a lot of heart. I had tons of fun with this show and can easily recommend it to anyone out there. It was just really good. I give Dendoh a 4/5. I can't say anyhting more than it's a fun throwback show that captures the heart of the old 70's Super Robots series while still being able to attract the modern viewers. Thre was gonna be a sequal to Gear Fighter Dendoh but it was scraped. The animation studio was nice enough to leak the images of what they had work on for it though so if you're ever curious you can check that out.
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