Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Super Robot Red Baron

I had zero expectations when I received the gift of the complete series of SUPER ROBOT RED BARON on DVD. It's not that I had heard anything negative about the show itself; it's just that I have a certain antipathy towards most giant hero shows, compared to other types of Japanese do-gooders. This owes more to personal preferences in storytelling methods than it does to relative merits of different sub-genres. That's a complicated way of saying that usually even high quality Japanese giant hero shows leave me cold.

Well, RED BARON is one of those exceptions that proves the rule. Though it is firmly in giant hero territory, it has enough of the trappings of human-sized hero series that it won me over. While I am sure that August Ragone's English subtitles on BCI's release helped immeasurably, I found RED BARON to be a pleasant surprise.

Rather than going through pains of summarizing what the series is all about beyond heroes and giant robot vs. evil people, I'll refer you to a post written by August Ragone himself on the series. Go ahead and check that out before we continue. It's OK; I'll wait.

Back? Excellent. One aspect of the series that I found particularly enjoyable was the FX on display. Now, I am one of those souls who likes the wacky old school Japanese giant monster genre, so I don't think that should come as a surprise. I had a preference for the robots in the first two-thirds of the series as opposed to those that turn up in the last few stories. The crazed "international" theme of things like ESCARGOS (from France, and yes, it is a giant motorized snail) never failed to bring a smile to my face. And the titular robot is memorable without looking like a big toy. Its arm seem a little short to me, but that's just minor nitpicking.

The cast is good - I might even call them great. Lead actor Yosuke Okada didn't strike me as particularly effective at the outset, but either he got better or he grew on me. Maybe both? The rest of the regular cast is unquestionably cool, especially Isao Tamagawa as the wacky comic relief inspector who is quite the badass in his own way. Plus, Rei Maki's turn as Mari Matsubara is enough to make me forget she ever was a Kilaak.

There are a number of really well-done episodes in the thirty-nine of this show. One in particular that stood out for me was a moody journey through the city at night with one of the SSI members. The photography and atmosphere really belied the fact that RED BARON was a kid's show. And of course, the goofy giant robot program ends with a storyline that tugs at the heartstrings and ended up making me cry.

In a lighter vein, SUPER ROBOT RED BARON also features an episode with this guy :

Uncle Iron Arm loves you
Uncle Iron Arm loves you

There's no way you can convince me he isn't awesome.

Hats off to you, RED BARON. You are a fine, entertaining series. I didn't expect much from you, but you more than delivered.


  1. Love this show, especially the first 26 episodes. Some shocking events in there, but lots of fun, action, and ass-kicking.

  2. He is awesome on SO many levels!