Posted by psgels on 1 July 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



I’ve been a fan of Ryousuke Takahashi for quite a while now. This guy always manages to combine realism with an intelligent plot, that yet are epic and full of action. Because of that I obviously had to check out the series that put him on the map: Armored Trooper Votoms. And like most of his later works, it really is an excellent series that takes both itself and its audience seriously.

It’s interesting how this one of the few mecha-series that aired between the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam, and because of this it has the advantage of being inspired by the more serious and realistic Mobile Suit Gundam, but not the repetitive emo-fest that was Zeta Gundam. This allowed Ryousuke Takahashi to really play with the formula, and significantly improve on it in a lot of areas. And he succeeded at this really well.

Chirico really is the antithesis of all those wimpy teen-aged leads you see in anime through all ages. As an adult, he stands out as being a regular soldier, following the duties from his superiors. He is cold, heartless and can’t live without fighting, and even though he slightly softens up throughout the series he never loses his hard edges.

Another thing that’s been bugging me a lot about Gundam series is that while they start out diverse and different, for some reason they always start looking too much like each other, with the final quarter being a string of random battles that look like each other and most of the time hardly resolve anything. Again, Votoms aired before this trope was even created, so it beautifully avoided this. It’s basically made up out of four arcs of about 13 episodes (or 12 episodes and a recap), with each of these arcs being distinctly different from the others, and all of them get better and better as the show goes on. There really is plenty of action, but the creators manage to make the battles count: each of the battles has a point or purpose in the story, even if they’re very small. This really allows the story to evolve continuously.

There are some lighter parts in this story though: Chirico spends the series with three rather silly henchmen around him who are the ones who sometimes provide the comic relief. While at first they may seem annoying, this series knows very well how to handle them. They’re not just there to brighten up the mood and prevent the story from getting too dark, but they also prove to be surprisingly useful to the plot at times; they help to develop Chirico’s character, and tend to remind him what a socially awkward idiot he can be. While they’re not often the most pleasant to watch, without them this series would have lost one of its sparks, and looked a whole lot more generic.

This series does have its flaws, which mostly lie in small plot-holes throughout the story. It really is a series that continuously evolves, but for that it had to sacrifice a few things in the plot, like bringing a bunch of characters from one point in the universe to another instantly when it’s necessary for the plot, or characters knowing things that they aren’t supposed to know. And really, I’ve seen 52 episodes of this series now, along with the 12 episodes from the Pailsen Files, and I STILL don’t know what the “Votoms” in the title stands for. It seriously never gets mentioned in the entire series.

But yeah, those are just nitpicks. Votoms is a great recommendation if you’re looking for something old and dark, away from most cliches and teen-aged stereotypes. There is a romance in the series, but it’s handled really well and forms a central part in the series without dragging on. Ryousuke Takahashi is one heck of a talented director, and he already showed this in his first major series.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 9/10

14 Responses

  1. IKnight says:

    The plot holes aren’t helped by the multiple prequels adding extra confusion and the fact that Big Battle and The Last Red Shoulder both take place within the original series’s timeframe. I imagine the staff weren’t sure they had the funding to make a fully fifty-episode series when they started out, too. But perhaps the clearly separated arc structure of the plot helps to deal with that. There’s a massive plot hole in Dougram, Takahashi’s previous series, when two characters have a flashback to a flashforward that hasn’t happened yet!

    Wikipedia claims that VOTOMS stands for ‘Vertical One-man Tank for Offense and ManeuverS’, which sounds like an explanation cooked up after the fact to me.

  2. Julian says:

    This anime is….confusing…

  3. Firechick says:

    You sure like realism and intelligent plots and dark stories.

    If you’re a fan of realistic settings and dark stories and characters, you should definitely check out this movie called Ringing Bell (aka Chirin no Suzu). It’s about a lamb who becomes a wolf’s apprentice when his mom is killed…by that very same wolf! It may seem kiddy at first, but after the first 10-15 minutes, it immediately goes into a COMPLETELY different direction. There’s no blood, but there IS violence. And best of all, there’s no happy ending! Unfortunately, the movie is hard to find since it was made in 1978, and it’s available on YouTube only in English. But I think you’ll really like it if you’re into animals being portrayed in a realistic manner and darkly toned stories and twisted moods and vice versa.

  4. Pax says:

    Nice to see that you have watched this classic anime and enjoyed it.So far,i have only watched the 1st two arcs and it is one of those anime that even if i like i doubt there are many other who i would recommend watching it.One can clearly see its age,it can be quite slow,it has its pacing problems,but i like its dark story and Chirico is a great main character,i like the way he evolves and learns to care about other.Votoms is for me one of the few serious sci-fi anime one can find.

    You should also try Layzner,another anime from Takahashi and another classic i would recommend to you would be L-Gaim,it’s from Tomino.

  5. Camario says:

    The importance of plot holes is relative though…I’m sure someone else probably cares a lot more about them than you do, by all means, so we’ll see how that goes for me. I might be more generous, or I might be more demanding.

    In any case, I’ve been interested in Armored Trooper Votoms for a while and everything makes it sound like something that would appeal to me, so this review adds yet another reason.

    I just need the time and resources, literally and otherwise. That’s what keeps delaying my watching older, longer series lately.

    It’s possible that I might end up watching Armor Hunter Mellowlink, a Votoms spin-off, first. You might want to look into that too.

    By the way, I would also second the previous recommendation for SPT Layzner, if you’re interested.

    I’ve only seen the first few episodes but a slightly similar vibe seems to be present, although events take place in a Cold War context and teenagers are very much involved…initially as spectators who end up getting much more than they bargained for, granted, but the setting justifies it. Then again, I don’t necessarily dislike so-called “emo” in and of itself either.

  6. Camario says:

    On a different note, have you seen Gasaraki yet? I’ve always wanted to here more about that one, considering how its reputation is a bit negative.

  7. Keith says:

    Gasaraki was pretty good, in my opinion. It’s fairly slow but it’s definitely one of the more realistically-toned anime out there. The politics in the story are fleshed out just as well as about anything else. Not to say that it’s realistic, because it’s not.

    I feel like Gasaraki got negative reviews because most people don’t have much of an attention span.

  8. Camario says:

    Looks like my first comment disappeared into the void, somehow.

    I’ve been interested in Votoms for a while and everything makes it sound like something that would appeal to me, so this review adds yet another reason. I may watch Armor Hunter Mellowlink first though, since that will take me less time.

    Also, the importance of plot holes is often relative. I might care more or less for them than you did, in time, but we’ll see have that turns out.

    By the way, I would second the recommendation for SPT Layzner. The Cold War setting and survivalist atmosphere makes for a relatively unique work. It’s been quite interesting, at least for the first few episodes I’ve seen. There are some teenagers involved and they do angst, but I think it’s justified under the circumstances.

  9. Camario says:

    That’s good to hear, Keith. I might check it out myself, at least at some point.

    That’s strange, it looks like my first comment disappeared into the void, somehow. Oh well, nevermind.

  10. Camario says:

    Sorry if I might be spamming a little. I’ve been interested in Armored Trooper Votoms for a while and everything makes it sound like something that would appeal to me, so this review adds yet another reason.

    I may watch Armor Hunter Mellowlink first though, since that will take me less time.

    By the way, I would second the recommendation for SPT Layzner. The Cold War setting and survivalist atmosphere makes for a relatively unique work. It’s been quite interesting, at least for the first few episodes I’ve seen.

  11. psgels psgels says:

    Camario: apologies. Sometimes blogsome has the tendency to hold very long comments for moderation.

  12. Nomus says:

    Thanks! This review finally inspired me to watch it (couldn’t make up my mind all this time since Pailsen Files).

  13. heavensdrive says:

    Hey! Im really having a hard time finding the series online…. i pinned down all the Ova’s, i really like this story!

  14. vp says:

    Thanks for this, really. Was trying to find something to quench my thirst after finishing Legend of Galactic Heroes and this got me really interested.

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 08:38 AM)
    Jesus I never expected that doing a myanimelist/letterboxd account thing would be so hard. I’ve seen a scarily higher amount than I thought, its insanely hard to remember everything to add.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 06:17 AM)
    It seems then that the future of the franchise’s anime adaptations rests a bit on Schwarzesmarken’s success, which looking at the buzz doesn’t seem favourable at all. I doubt it can regain the lost audiences.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 06:14 AM)
    That would suggest that the author(s) had the foresight of including seemingly useless stuff that will come into play later. That’d be impressive if they did, as these kinda series are make-it-as-you-go.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:59 AM)
    It’s difficult to put into words but essentially while the first game isn’t good, it does work as a tool for introducing and endearing you to the characters. Then Unlimited sets down the rules of the new world. And finally alternative proceeds to kick your ass into next Tuesday.
    That’s sort of why I don’t think it would have the same effect if it was an anime. VNs allow you to get a more personal connection with the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Feb 6. 2016 01:55 AM)
    It’s not quite the same. It’s more like there are things in extra which seem insignificant but turn out to play an important role later. It wouldn’t really work the same if you did it in reverse order. Character history is a bit different too as each game is essentially an alternate universe. The character histories in extra are different from those in alternative.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:38 PM)
    And also remember how Darker Than Black had a big jump between the main series and Gemini of the Meteor. They later made a 4 episode OVA that covered the gap, and although you knew the outcome it was still entertaining; or at least more than the Gemini one. There’s merit to non-linear chronology and storytelling, but it is usually very hard to pull. The audience is intrigued by secrets that can later be uncovered, although in anime the pay-off is not always substantial.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:32 PM)
    I don’t know, the audience usually only needs very limited information to figure out dynamics and histories between the characters.
  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:27 PM)
    A 13 episode series would work for the second title unlimited. But Alternative is a pretty long visual novel. You need at least two cours to give it justice. Making extra an OVA could work but you do need it for alternative. But it’s not an optional part of the trilogy. It needs to be read first, so that events later have a greater impact. Personally I am not even sure Muv Luv can even work in another medium.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:12 PM)
    That might compress things, but I think a good screen-writer can fit pretty much any VN in 12-14 episodes (covering just the main route).
  • Bam
    (Friday, Feb 5. 2016 11:07 PM)
    @Aidan: then the best solution would’ve been to make a two cour season covering the 2nd and the 3rd book. Have the cours air two anime seasons apart, and in the middle have an offshoot short OVA that covers the 1st book, but has a more harem comedy feel to it. Think Full Metal Panic and Fumuffu.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 04

Well it seems like I have to eat my words as Yakumo is quite the ladies man. Which is odd when he clearly doesn’t have any interest in interacting with women. Yakumo has a fruitful love life despite his apathy towards love in general. Yakumo and Sukeroku’s relationship has certainly gotten more easygoing as the […]

Schwarzesmarken – 04

This episode starts with a groan as we meet a new member of the cast, that being Theodor’s sister who on first sight hugs with with the ever so traditional “Onii-chan!” The sister does bring some good developments to the table, namely the machination the Stasi has in store for her, but I really wish […]

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 04

There certainly is a layer of dread from this episodes beginning as we see happy events unfold. Things are looking up, history is changing, Kayo is finally getting out of an abusive relationship with her mother and finding happiness. But much like Satou is feeling, there is a unease at these developments. Things are going […]

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 03

From the looks of things this series will be focusing primarily on the past of Yakumo as the stylish opening seems to place emphasis on the characters of the flashback. Rakugo is surprisingly abset this week as World War II causes Yakumo to be left behind as his Teacher and Sukeroku go out to entertain […]

Schwarzesmarken – 03

Schwarzesmarken remains a strange specimen of an anime, while still not excelling it is clear it has the potential to. So why is it not a great anime? Well it’s beating the same point as my last post but I do think characterisation is key here. In this episode we had two characters introduced whose […]

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 03

When it comes to matters of time travel, it’s always a wonder to consider just what rules it follows. Time travel, much like alternate realities is one of the biggest can of worms to open when writing a story. Mainly because it demands the viewer keeps in mind a series of characters,settings and event which […]

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 02

So we enter a flashback on how the master became the man he is as well as how he met Hatsuda. It’s interesting to see the man who always seemed to be in control be a person of much more vulnerable status. As a child we see the aspects that he will ebody in the […]

Schwarzesmarken – 02

Two episodes in and I certainly can feel that Schwarzesmarken is missing something to truly make it work. The setting has no problems and what’s presented is interesting but for some reason this isn’t as engaging as it should be. One could blame the art which had some spotty parts during this episode or the […]

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 02

While this adaption isn’t quite staying true to the source, it’s still managing to present a compelling tale. In that regard I am glad as I would like to see this tale be given the treatment it deserves. Presentation remains great and I rather like how events in the past are show in a widescreen […]

Latest Reviews

Gangsta. – 58/100

Gangsta is an anime with a lot of things going for it. A mature cast, gritty themes, a interesting setting and a trio of main characters who can carry the show. However due to a number of factors it never quite reached its potential. The main trio of characters are unconventional and quite interesting with […]

Gakkou Gurashi! – 80/100

Gakkou is one with a good facade as promotional material would have you believe it was some dime a dozen moe slice of life. I was one who wasn’t fooled by the cute cuddly exterior but I was truly surprised with just how good this anime ended up being. Gakkou is one of those rare […]

Little Witch Academia The Enchanted Parade – 81/100

I wonder when it was that a film being childish became a flaw. As a medium grows it takes steps to aim to mature itself and seek a more intellectual level of presenting entertainment. Animation did it as Anime aimed to explore terrontry that cartoons refuse to explore and video games only recently broke away […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks Review – 85/100

For a long time now this adaption has been the dreams of many a Fate fan with many believing it would never come to pass, but now that it is here is it everything that we dreamed? Short answer to this is no, long answer is nearly. I feel this show will have many divided […]

Shirobako Review – 80/100

When you see a harem anime and sigh as the breasts of the female lead jiggle with every step and wind that can flip a skirt it’s easy to forget that somewhere in Japan a group of people worked hard to get that jiggle right and draw each frame of animation. The hardships of the […]

Clipboard06

Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

Clipboard01

Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

Clipboard04

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]