A Brief History Of Mecha in Mecha Discussions Posted May 18 · Edited May 18 by TezukaSensei The 1980s (Part I) (Quick Note: Sorry for my long absence. I have had some medical issues over the past year, nothing super serious, but I'm finally close to being recovered. This note will be deleted from this post on a later date.) Before we dive into 1980s mecha, at this point in our timeline we need briefly a few developments with anime that occurred in this decade: The first and most important is the beginning and, (almost immediate), explosion of the home video market. This scene was and is a bit more complex in Japan where many more formats saw popularity than in the west. This was really a two phase development, the 1980s brought the birth of home video with laserdisc and video casette formats. While these technologies were invented in the late 1970s, it was in the 1980s that they entered the mainstream and created an entire new section of the market for anime. There were also multiple different types of laserdiscs and video cassettes. The second phase was the mainstream introduction of the Compact Disc, (an evolution of laserdisc technology), and in Japan this resulted in the use of the VCD, (Video CD), format which never saw much use in the western world outside of the obscure CDi system. We'll come back to that phase when we finally get to the 1990s. The second development was a direct result of the aforementioned beginning of the home video market. Because of this there was a literal explosion of anime content in the 1980s, in part because what may never have seen the light of day before now found new life in the home video market if the TV broadcast market first passed on it. This was the birth of a new type of content called OVA or OAV, (Original Video Animation.) In addition to this, the rising popularity of robots in the toy market, (a phenomenon that began in the 1970s), reached critical mass and resulted in an explosion of mecha anime content. This was also compounded by Nintendo bringing a rebirth of the video game industry and at the same time cementing Japan's gobal presence in that industry. Because of this, to say there are way too many mecha titles to talk about in a single post would be an understatement. This flood of mecha continued through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, so the next 30 years of mecha are going to take a little while to dive through! !980 was the calm before the storm, but the high caliber titles that debuted that year set the stage for what was in store for 1980s mecha. Iconic franchises Astro Boy, Tetsujin 28, and Time Bokan all had new series debut in 1980, as well as a new Cyborg 009 movie, and the first Doraemon movie. The 1980 Tetsujin and Astro Boy series, as well as the Cyborg 009 film, would all eventually be fully english dubbed for the west. The Time Bokan series, Otasukeman, like most other Time Bokan titles, remains untranslated to this day. The first Doraemon film, Nobita's Dinosaur was recently fansubbed. Also in 1980 Takashi Ijima and Katsuhiko Taguchi, two important animators from the Super Robot Romance Trilogy, debuted another highly successful mecha title: Space Emperor God Sigma. This would be Ijima's final project with Toei. Despite its success in Japan, God Sigma remains untranslated into english. Also in 1980, two more iconic franchise made their debut: Space Runaway Ideon, from Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, and Space Warrior Baldios. Ideon was actually Tomino's very next project immediately following the cancellation of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. It featured a number of Gundam cameos & easter eggs, and played a significant role in inspiring a mecha classic from the 1990s: Evangelion. Like Gundam before it, Ideon was cancelled a few episodes short of its intended run, but it did spawn two movies to appease fans' disproval of its TV conclusion. (These events would repeat themselves at the conclusion of Evangelion nearly 15 years later.) 30 years later, the Ideon collection finally got a western release, english subtitled only. In 1981, the first seeds of a phenomenon 1980s anime was kown for were planted. It was a common practice in the 1980s for Western companies licensing anime to repurpose anime under a new english title, and for shorter anime titles, splice them together to create titles with a more syndication friendly episode count. The first two titles to be repurposed in this fashion were Beast King GoLion, (which became Voltron), and Demon God of the War-Torn Land GoShogun, (which was spliced into the series Macron 1 in english.) GoLion became Voltron accidentally: American licensor World Events actually wanted a different lion themed giant robot show, but in a cross-language mixup, they were sent GoLion instead. The producers liked GoLion, so went ahead and used it. Two other Voltron "seasons" were planned, but when "vehicle Voltron", (originally 1982's Armored Fleet Dairugger XV) did not fare well in the ratings, the 3rd season was scrapped in favour of commissioning Toei to produce more english exclusive GoLion content. Also in 1981 the J9 Series mecha trilogy began with Galaxy Cyclone Braiger. Each series in the trilogy featured a team of pilots called J9, not unlike tokusetsu/sentai series. While Braiger has been fully english fansubbed, the other two titles in the J9 Trilogy are still in the process of being fansubbed. The award winning Six God Combination Godmars also debuted in 1981, a franchise over which a lawsuit was filed against the short-lived 1980s title Mighty Orbots, (animated by a Japanese studio for western audiences), over the striking similarity between the Orbots combined form and the Godmars mecha. As a result Orbots became lost to obscurity. Other notable mecha titles in 1981 include Fang of the Sun Dougram (created by Ryōsuke Takahashi who would create another iconic mecha franchise just 2 years later), Robot King Daioja (a mecha remake of an older samurai series), and Tatsunoku's Gold Lightan which has only recent been fully subbed into english. In 1982, while the film trilogy adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam was beginning to increase popularity in that franchise, it's creator Tomino released another non-Gundam series: Combat Mecha Xabungle, a series that also served as insperation for modern mecha classic Gurren Lagann. Xabungle has recently been released with english subtitles. 1982 also marked the beginning of two franchises, (technically three), in one show with Super Dimensional Fortress: Macross. American distributor brought Macross to the west with limited modification as the first third of their series Robotech. Macross actually has a bit of a complicated history. In Japan, it was the first of a trilogy of "Super Dimensional Fortress" mecha titles. At the same time, Macross became its own franchise as well, with several more Macross titles over the years. In west, things are even more complicated. Harmony Gold, (the company behind Robotech), locked up the western rights to all things Macross---a contract that is only set to expire within the next few years. However, only one other Macross title, (outside a direct sequel movie), has ever been released in the west. The original Macross series itself has been english dubbed both as the first third of Robotech, and in its original unedited Macross form. As for Robotech, while the second third borrows from the SDF trilogy once again, (SDF Southern Cross), the final third did NOT utilize the last trilogy title (SD Century Orguss), but instead used a completely unrelated title: Genesis Climber Mospeada. All of these Robotech/Macross/SDF titles have been released in english, (subbed at a minimun.) The same year saw the release of Rainbowman, an adaptation of a Tokusatsu series (as yet untranslated into english), the Indiana Jones inspired Achrobunch (recently fully english fansubbed), and Thunderbirds 2086, which was released in the UK as part of the classic marionette tv series. (2086 is not cannon in the official Thunderbirds franchise, and is only loosely inspired by it in Japan.) 1983 was a big year for mecha, the genre brought forth the very first OVA (Original Video Animation, aka direct to video) anime title: Dallos. It consisted of 4 episodes released directly on home video over the course of 3 years, and was directed by first time director Mamoru Oshii, who would go on to create the iconic anime franchise Ghost In The Shell. Another iconic mecha franchise debuted in 1983 with Armoured Trooper Votoms, (from Dougram creator Ryōsuke Takahashi.) While Votoms would only have this one full series, it spawned numerous OVA sequels over the years. Votoms is also one of the biggest franchises largely unknown to the western world until the fansubbing community eventually made it accessable to the english speaking masses. Similar to its creator's previous work, Dougram, Votoms aimed for a more realistic and perhaps more scientifically sound approach to mecha; falling into a similar category to the more well known franchise, Gundam. The same year mecha also spread into another subgenre with Aura Battler Dunbine, the first fantasy (magical) style mecha series, yet another key work by Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino. This wasn't the only Tomino series in 1983, he also created Galactic Drifter Vifam, which featured one of the earliest examples of an anime series using an opening theme song sung in english. Mecha anime legend Go Nagai returned with yet another classic mecha series in Psycho Armor Govarion. Toy based series Special Armored Battalion Dorvack premiered, but the toyline failed and resulted in the company that produced them going out of business. However, two of the figures would later be repurposed as Transformers characters Roadbuster and Whirl. As far as pre-existing franchises: Genesis Climber Mospeada, (used for part 3 of Robotech), debuted; Mission Outer Space Srungle, (spliced into Macron 1 in the west), debuted; the second SDF series Orguss, (unrelated to Robotech), premiered, the J9 trilogy concluded with Galactic Whirlwind Sasuraiger, (as yet untranslated into english), and Lightspeed ElectroGod Albegas was released, which was the planned-but-scrapped 3rd version of Voltron, consequently Albegas has not been translated into english to this day. To Be Continued.....in 1980s Mecha Part 2!