Giant Robot shows from the seventies are pretty like today’s harem series: there’s a lot of bad stuff among them: uninspired premises that get nowhere apart from perhaps a rushed conclusion in the end. The trick is of course to find the good ones among the crappy ones, but that’s not always easy, considering how all of them look so much like each other. Still, I’ve managed to find one (thanks to this guy, link only in Dutch, unfortunately): Invincible Superman Zambot 3. This series is so much more than a simple robot-bashing show. This is a giant robot-series, Tomino style.
This show makes it clear that even before creating Mobile Suit Gundam, Yoshiyuki Tomino was already trying to popularize the realistic side of mechas. While the series starts out as your average series, where a bratty 12 year old kid gets the unlikely chance to pilot a giant robot, it soon becomes clear that saving the world isn’t just going to be a simple matter of beating every enemy robot that starts wreaking havoc. Already after a few episodes do we see the public reaction to the titular Zambot descending into sheer hate, as people start blaming the lead characters for destroying their homes in their fights.
Throughout the series, this continues to escalate into further chaos. Because the lead characters are a bunch of adventurous kids, they take way too long in realizing what sort of arrogant idiots they’ve been, and at the same time the tactics of the bad guy (with the awesome name of “Killer the Butcher”) continue to get more desperate and gruesome.
The monster of the week theme does remain, though, so that’s a bit of a downside, and there are really way too much transformation sequences. And as it turns out, there’s a whole backstory there to explain why out of all people, we have three kids piloting the robot who decides the future of the world. To be honest it sounds a bit far-fetched, but at least it’s better than nothing, and it’s sufficient to support what this series is really about: the fact that war is BAD, and should never be underestimated. A bigger problem is that a number of characters aren’t fleshed out enough. Especially the main villains are a bit too one-sided. It’s also strange that Kappei’s father, without a doubt the manliest member of the cast, is useless throughout the largest part of the series: he hardly ever does anything, he’s just there, even though there’s enough for him to do.
Nevertheless, the point of this series was to show that robot battles aren’t as idealistic as portrayed in most of these giant robot series, and that’s exactly what it did. When a building gets destroyed, it really gets destroyed and doesn’t magically disappear. People are going to care about it and get angry. Saving the world has never been easy, and especially the series’ finale lets that message sink in. Yeah, I can understand why Tomino got his nickname now. ^^;