I want to say it was about a year ago when I was bored out of my mind looking for some entertainment I came across a certain anime. The show was called Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu. (Which is now available to watch for free in Japanese with English subtitles on Hulu) I have to say it was quite a fun little Mecha show. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Going off the retro vibe the show gave and the down right 70's design of the main Mech I had a hunch that the show was a remake or at least an homage to some Super Robot show from the 70's. Surely enough I was right. It was based on the original Gaiking. A 1976 anime by Toei Animation that aired on Fuji TV. But what really surprised me was the the man behind the show was none other than Go Nagai.
It's actually funny though. There's a bit of a scandal surrounding Go Nagai and the Gaiking anime. Toei originally credited Akio Sugino for the original premise of the series while in fact it was Go Nagai who was responsible for it. Toei did that in order to avoid paying royalties to Go Nagai. Well it goes without saying that Go Nagai was upset and ended up suing Toei over this. The legal skirmishes lasted for more than ten years and it soured the relationship between Go Nagai and Toei who at that time were quite close. Toei was an animation studio that adapted many of Go Nagai's mangas. Over the years Toei and Go Nagai have since started to collaborate again. But for a long time there was a period in which Toei produced nothing of Go Nagai's. But what's that? I can already hear some of you asking. Who is Go Nagai? Well shame on you is all I can say.
For those of you not in the know Go Nagai only happens to be one of the biggest names in the Japanese Entertainment industry. He has created such classic mangas and anime series like Getter Robo, Mazinger, Cutie Honey, and Dororon-Emma-Kun (which currently has a remake airing right now). Besides those though Nagai has also helped to create countless Tokusatsu shows and movies as well. Go Nagai is one of the bigger names in entertainment. Ironically though he's not that well known in countries like the US. Most of his work has just never really made it over here in the US and and the few that has is often ignored because of how retro it is.
Younger anime fans always seem to gravitate towards newer things. Animes made in the 60's and 70's just don't have the fighting power as something like Naruto. Because of that Go Nagai has become a bit of a enigma in the west. He's well known and respected by those of us who are familiar with his work but practically not even a blip on the radar of your average anime fan. It is a shame really considering the impact he has had on the industry and how well written and produced his material really is. For me I'm the rare breed of anime fan, being that I'm in the middle. I respect Go Nagai for all his work and of what I've seen of it I've been pleased with. But I'm not a Go Nagai buff. I haven't even seen a fraction of his work and I don't know if I ever will sit down and try to track it all down. That being said of what I have seen I like a whole lot.
As I mentioned earlier I've only seen the 2005 remake of the Gaiking series and not the original 1976 show. Being at least a little interested I came across this movie. It was produced by Jim Terry and made some time in the late 70's early 80's. I can't get an definitive date. You see back then, there was a company by the name of American Way. They would dub and syndicate animes for a limited TV audience. They mostly broadcasted in New England and Virgina but they also broadcasted in other places such as Toronto. They had a line of anime they would broadcast called Force Five. Each weekday they would show one episode from a different anime.
On Monday they showed Gaiking, on Tuesday they showed Dangard Ace (Wakusei Robo Danguard Ace), on Wednesday Starvengers (Getter Robo G), on Thursday Grandizer (UFO Robo Gurendaiza), and on Friday Spaceketeers (Esu Efu Saiyuki Sutajinga). It was rumored that originally they were going to show Great Mazinger instead of Spaceketeers but that the deal fell through and they picked up Spaceketeers instead. American Way received a lot of their funding from toy companies like Mattel. Mattel had a toy line around then called Shogun Warriors. It was a line of Imported Japanese Super Robot toys they sold in the United States. You can kind of view the Force Five line up as nothing more than the advertisement for these toys. Kids watch the shows and then go out and buy the toys. It was a win-win situation.
American Way also took all the footage from some of the TV shows in the Force Five line up and cut them into movies.The movies are just the TV show episodes cut-up and compacted into one big epic. This is what I watched. The Gaiking movie. It's about 100 minutes long and covers the entire 44 episodes of the TV show. So without farther ado let's talk about this movie. I found that the pacing and editing left something to be desired in the final product. Some transition came out of nowhere and some felt force. The pacing was also boring at times. So much happens in the movie it made my head spin a bit and eliminated any sense of danger. It often dulled the excitement and made this movie feel way too long for it's own good.
The pacing and editing choices also confused me a bit because the movie barely explains anyone's back story or relationship to each other. We're thrown into the story at what feels like the half way point and the movie never stops to explain why or how these things are happening. The voice acting was a mixed bag. Some actors such as the main character Aries Astronopolis (Sanshiro Tsuwabuki) had a really great actor while some of the alien enemies had bad voices. They all tired to do that stereotypical robot voice and came off very poor and super annoying. At times the film would go silent and for long periods too. I found this bizarre. The music would just abruptly cut out. Moments felt weird without music and I couldn't help but be taken out of the movie by that.
On the bright side of it all is that this was done by Go Nagai and it's obvious. The action scenes are intense and fun to watch even if the movie has way too many of them. There was some Americanization done to the script making people and Robots names change, such as the main spaceship of the series the Daiku-Maryu (Demon Dragon) being renamed the Great Space Dragon. But even with these kinds of edits the movie never ceased to deviate from what I can only assume the original script intended. Many many people died in the movie. Lot's of civilians. Even some side characters died too. Nothing felt kiddie or ruined. The main villain Darius was well rounded and had a good chunk of character development. He ended up being really likable. In fact that is true for a lot of the main cast as well. The American script was very likable and I have no problem with it. With what music we did get I found enjoyable as well. It had that 70's-ish vibe to it. The music felt fitting and I was excited whenever they played the Opening theme during big dramatic battles.
So now all that's left to tell you about is the story. Well it's the usual Super Robot Go Nagai affair and I loved every minute of it's camp. The main character Aries Astronopolis is a young pitcher who just made it into the major leagues. He starts playing his first game when strange incidents begin to happen. Long story short he ends up injuring his wrist and can never play baseball again. We learn that Aries was once a member of an elite team trained to fight with a new battleship and Robot. Aries; only dream was to play baseball and he doesn't want to go back to fighting. But there is no choice as he is told only he can pilot the Robot Gaiking because he has a special gift. The Earth is in brave danger because of alien invaders from planet Zela. Over the past couple years they have been killing off people who have been the biggest threat to their invasion. This includes the incidents at Aries' baseball game where they tried to kill him. Aries is upset that they ruined his chances at baseball but there is no time for that because the Zelaions invasion is starting now!
The story does have good emotional value on both the good guys and bad guys side. The characters who do get developed past their initial character traits are well written and you'll find yourself routing for them. There is plenty of good character arcs to be found in this movie. Like I said earlier the leader of the invading Zelaions Darius is by far one of the coolest villains I've seen. He was smart, and cunning, but also came off as a little caring. He has a real reason for what he's doing and you can sympathize with him. There are some honest to god moments where I felt like crying over some characters death and the final battle of the movie is truly one of the cooler battles I've seen with one cool (but kind of predictable) twist.
In general this movie's greatest problem is that 44 episodes in 100 minutes is almost impossible to do. It gets long winded and it gets painful at times. Not only that but I'm going to have to assume that lots of stuff was cut out. But even with that the genius of it all still shines through and it was an enjoyable experience. The movie is campy. In fact it's campier than all hell but that's part of it's charm. If you ever do come across this VHS or can find the original show and you enjoy your Super Robot action I think this is worth a watch. I got some cheap laughs out of it, some excitement, and some honest melo-drama. It has it's flaws but I liked the movie.
Over all I'd give it a 3/5
Not perfect and real campy but it was a good effort on American Way's part and the show they used to make this film with was of good quality. So in the end all I have to say is that this was a pretty nice peak into the past and helped to remind me of all the good shows that came out before my time. For that I thank you American Way.
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I'm nothing more than just a poor college student who still lives with his parent. I'm interested in anime, manga, & video-games but I have other interest besides those three. If anyone wants … more
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Back in the late 70's and early 80's a company by the name of American Way dubbed and released the anime Gaiking. They then cut the episodes together and created a movie from it. It is about 1 hour and 40 minutes and covers the majority of what happens over the course of the show.