The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Getter Robo: Armageddon

Title: Getter Robo: Armageddon aka Change!! True Getter Robo – The Final Days of the World
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Bandai Visual
Format: 13 OVA
Dates: 25 Aug 1998 – 25 May 1999

Synopsis: Dr. Saotome returns from the dead after being seemingly murdered by Getter pilot Nagare Ryoma and threatens the world with his ultimate creation: the Shin Dragon. Ryoma reluctantly teams up with his former co-pilots Jin Hayato and Tomoe Mushashi to combat Dr. Saotome. The pilots must also deal with the mysterious Invaders, aliens that have the ability to possess humans and warp their flesh to form hideous creatures.

The Highlights
Beginning: The first three episodes, directed by Imagawa Yasuhiro, are incredible.
Middle: Not nearly as strong; Imagawa left the project, and it struggled to find its footing.
End: A fantastic, universe-spanning conclusion that perfectly fits the spirit of Getter Robo.
Monsters: Many truly disgusting, fascinating designs.
Violence: Truckloads of it, all beautiful.

Getter Robo: Armageddon had an unfortunately troubled production. The OVA was originally helmed by robot master Imagawa Yasuhiro (Giant Robo, G Gundam, Tetsujin 28 (2004) and Shin Mazinger Z), and it shows. Armageddon‘s first three episodes are up there with everything else Imagawa has directed. The tone is as apocalyptic as the title promises; from the moment Dr. Saotome enters the scene, the stakes rise to impossible heights. The characters seem a bit older, more worn, their designs harder-edged and more crazed. Every few minutes it seems a new surprise leaps out to keep the audience on its toes; the mystery is deep, and the intrigue is palpable. Episode 3 concludes with a twist that would probably be the ending of most series.

Unfortunately, that is where Armageddon briefly heads in the wrong direction. Behind-the-scenes turmoil led to Imagawa either getting fired or leaving the production of his own accord. Nobody is quite sure. What is certain, though, is that he took all his plot ideas with him, leaving the remaining creative team with no idea of the direction in which he intended to take Armageddon. The result of that is not pretty, at first. In episode 4, the OVA’s entire tone shifts. Despite the world being worse for wear, Armageddon turns into more of a traditional alien battle story than the labyrinthine dark conspiracy of the first three episodes. The world is dingy, but not quite as ominous. The music pumps the viewer up rather than fill them with dread. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s radically different, and it doesn’t help that the story and new characters for the first four episodes or so following Imagawa‘s departure are not nearly as interesting as those in the episodes Imagawa directed.

What helps keep the OVA afloat during the rough period is the visuals. The animation never dips in Armageddon; it’s a sleek looking production, and the battles are gruesome in just the right way. Despite being voiceless and, well, alien, the Invaders are memorable antagonists because their designs are beautiful — and by “beautiful,” I mean “gloriously disgusting.” Each Invader the heroes fight feels distinct; there’s always something new and terrifying around the corner. Many of them remind me of my favorite movie monster: the terrifying alien from John Carpenter‘s The Thing, a vicious shape shifter whose skin melts and distorts as it changes shape, whose limbs could be lopped off and would warp into something grosser and more horrifying than its original form. What is perhaps scariest about the Invaders, though, is that their name is literal — they can invade people and turn them into slaves, their fleshy mass surrounding and filling up their victims.

Eventually the creators navigate the tough times and figure out what they want to do, which is deliver the biggest, boldest conclusion possible. From episode 7 on, the stakes explode until they reach literal galactic proportions, and episode 13 delivers an interstellar battle that I would not be surprised to hear influenced Gurren Lagann‘s finale, considering how much of Getter Robo‘s general style influenced that series. It’s an amazing sight to behold, the super robot war that kids likely dream of when they sleep at night as their heads fill with visions of metal warriors waging battle. I won’t spoil the ultimate conclusion, but given my experience with Getter Robo, I can’t imagine a more fitting end for this OVA.

I’ll always mourn the passing of Imagawa from this project. Given his usually high writing standards, I have no doubt that he would have paid off everything he set up in those first three episodes — certainly much more so than Armageddon does afterward, since a few plot threads are left dangling. However, it speaks to the strength of that opening and the awesome conclusion that I can say Armageddon is great, but flawed rather than the disaster it probably should have been after losing its original director. Full credit to the creators for producing the greatest Getter Robo OVA in the most unfair circumstances.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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