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August 14, 2012 / Bradley

The Memory Conspiracy: Dangaioh OVA

Dangaioh wants to stroke the lizard brain of mecha anime fans. This is an 80’s super robots cartoon that aims to please in a shallow, immediate and pleasant way, with lovingly animated baroque robot designs from some of mecha anime’s superstars- Koichi Ohata! Shoji Kawamori! Masami Obari?- and anime girls who are close to the Platonic ideal of cute eighties cartoon girlfriend. This feels like a cartoon that fans in the nineties could point to and say, “This is anime! This is why it’s so cool!” And even today, you could tweak that a bit to say, “This is mecha anime! This is why it’s so cool!” But today, that would only make sense to the already converted, and everyone else would shrug. Because, in the end, Dangaioh only wants to stroke the lizard brain of mecha anime fans. The word for this show “serviceable;” it’s fanservice; it wants to serve you.

I came out of the anime feeling good about it, but when I sat down to write about it, I quickly soured on it. There isn’t much to write here. I could sum up the plot, but it’s thinner than an old bedsheet, and works out its characters in fits- “I am the daughter of the pirate!”- and starts- “the pirate king is bad! I don’t want to be the daughter of the pirate king!” The story is only background noise to the robots, anyway. May as well know why they’re fighting.

But the robots! They’re muscular and angular, with sharp edges and blades at their elbows, wrists and jowls. Dangaioh is a sleek hulk of humanoid metal, piloted by psychics. Its ultimate attack can compact bigger robots, crushing them and their occupants into scrap. You could be mean and ask why it doesn’t open every fight with that attack, but the buildup is part of the fun. The enemies’ robots aren’t as impressive, unless we’re talking about the space pirates. Those are giant monster-robots, metal and flesh piled onto more metal and flesh. They seem to be powered by their disembodied heads. It’s too bad we never see them fight Dangaioh.

It’s pretty clear AIC wanted to do more with this property, but never did. Great Dangaioh doesn’t count, guys. This feels like a larger story stuck in its opening stages, building towards the really cool stuff- space pirates versus psychic giant robots, natch- but it never gets beyond that first, underwhelming storyarc. But it doesn’t quite have that sense of momentum a larger story would. Dangaioh just kind of sits there. It’s a neat artifact, another display in the museum of Very Eighties Giant Robots. It’s all cream and no bread, the anime equivalent of the KFC Double Down. I was delighted when I was the midst of watching it, and then felt vaguely guilty about enjoying it.

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2 Comments

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  1. r042 / Aug 15 2012 10:37 am

    Sums it up perfectly. You watch it, get the same sort of pleasure as playing an all-spectacle video game or something and then that’s that. As you say it’s purely “why we like robots” and as a result is otherwise entirely forgettable.

  2. supper8888 / Nov 5 2012 9:47 am

    The reality is they ran out of money and the show had no real writers behind it. The art and aesthetics is what makes us enjoy dangaio, if it had proper writers that knew what the hell they were doing. All the art assets could have been put to good use.

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