The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Armor Hunter Merowlink

Title: Armor Hunter Merowlink aka Leechers Army Merowlink
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Sunrise
Format: 12 OVA
Dates: 21 Nov 1988 – 28 Apr 1989

Synopsis: In some civilizations, social class is so important that one’s place in it is worth far more than human lives. This is a sad truth that private Merowlink Ality experiences first hand when his superiors sell out his battalion during a smuggling operation. He survives, but none of his comrades do. Now, he is on a mission of vengeance to kill those responsible for his comrade’s deaths, but this will not be easy as Merowlink will have to triumph over armies of VOTOMS with nothing more than an old anti-AT rifle.

The Highlights
Appropriate VOTOMS grittiness.
Plot: Starts off as revenge, but develops onwards.
Action: Man thrashing machines makes me happy.
Characters: Back story rich though a little one-dimensional.
Conclusion: Blood and conspiracy, yay!
Deus ex Machina: For god’s sake, somebody shoot this guy.

I think it has been established that I love mecha anime. A sleek, five story tall piece of hardware with a gun can beat the crap out of anything else any day. Due to my infatuation, some have even accused me of having a mecha fetish. While my love seeing giant robots kick ass, I enjoy seeing them get thrashed just as much. Luckily, this reverse massacre is one of the perks of mech combat, and it feeds into the more amazing eternal battle of man versus machine. This is where Armor Hunter Merowlink comes in.

Based in the VOTOMS universe, this production is one of – if not the only – series that doesn’t star Chirico Cuive, but rather Merowlink Ality. Revenge huh? Real original Einstein. Thankfully, the franchise this OVA is part of guarantees enough conspiracy and betrayal to infuse innovation into even the most banal plot. Sure, director Kanda Takeyuki may not be Takahashi Ryouske, but he still manages to pull off the later’s trademark tale of government corruption with some competence.

Of course, VOTOMS wouldn’t be VOTOMS without the ugliest animation and mechs this side of Initial D. Everything about it yells out “war torn world”, something that cannot be easily expressed using modern drawing techniques. And as usual, what is a war torn setting without some hardcore fight scenes? This is where the OVA really delivers. With combat that emphasizes uniqueness over style. No two battles are ever the same. They are intuitive, unpredictable, and somewhat groundbreaking. The original VOTOMS took real robots further by turning them into vulnerable, almost practical armor; and Merowlink takes the next step by showing how they can be defeated by, well, just about anything. The epic struggle of man vs. machine is emphasized, with man finally taking the lead. Relying on traps, position, and enemy tactics, the battles are far more interesting on so many levels. Though for all of the bullets fired at Merowlink, not nearly enough of them hit, making some of his victories seem a like a product of deus ex machina. Thankfully, this problem is addressed in the last episode, and not with some lame excuse.

Sadly, despite all its accomplishments, Merowlink is the one of the few VOTOMS story not directed by Takahashi Ryouske, and it shows. No offense to Kanda Takeyuki who worked by Takahashi‘s side for years, but he just can’t do the same down to earth, politically driven saga with the same magic. As for the story, I admit that it starts our as your run-of-the-mill vigilante tale with our protagonist spending most of his time killing his ex-superiors, but fortunately, the political conspiracies spice things up. As people’s actions and intentions get revealed, things start to heat up, and the selfishness rears its ugly face. It’s all compelling, but not a single character strong enough to hold up the load. The good thing is that the protagonists are given adequate background information; the bad thing is that each one is limited to one, maybe two personalities. This subverts the show, but the overall product still a nice ride.

Actions junkies and the fans of post-apocalyptica will get a buzz out of this anime’s distinctive style and setting. Most other people may find it rather boring. However, for those interested, there are few other anime that have mechs that are as vulnerable as here. Merowlink was my first exposure to VOTOMS and it certainly has convinced me to keep on.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx

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