Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mechander Robo

             Combining Squadron Mechander Robo (合身戦隊メカンダーロボ) is a super robot show that aired in Japan in 1977 for a total of 35 episodes.

            The Kongista Army of the Doron Empire from the planet Ganymede arrive and attack the Earth, against their superior might the Earth forces stand little chance. Their chances are even less as the Kongista Army has put into orbit satellites that fire powerful Omega Missile which target nuclear reactions. These Omega Missiles have destroyed nuclear research sites, nuclear power plants, nuclear ships, submarines and nuclear weapons. In a short amount of time 95% of the Earth has fallen to the Kongista Army with the only place not taken is Japan and all hopes rely on the mysterious Mister X and the robot he has created Mechander Robo.

An Omega Missile being launched, why it looks like it fell in mud I'm not sure.
            Mister X is actually Shikishima Shousou and he has created the powerful Super Robo known as Mechander Robo as well as King Diamond, a camouflaged baseball stadium for use as their base. The three pilots he selected to pilot Mechander Robo are Jimmy Orion, Yashma Kojirou and his son Ryusuke. Jimmy Orion is from the Orion System from the planet Ganymede which was previously taken over by the Doron Empire. Jimmy was sent in a capsule when he was just a baby by his mother. It takes him 15 years to arrive at the Earth at which point the professor finds him and makes the random guy he found the pilot. Jimmy’s back-story was clearly taken from Superman as he is seemingly the only survivor of his planet. Mechander Robo isn’t a show without problems and this one presents itself rather early the characters really don’t have any personalities at all. They never develop them either from episode 1 to episode 35 they are the same. It’s hard to really care about characters like this. King Diamond does have other characters but they serve as nothing more than filler but they are the token kid who wants to pilot the super robot, the token mechanic, and the rare anime black guy. By the end these characters virtually vanish from the show as well. None of these characters have any personality or really any use in existing at all thus I see no need to actually use their names. There is also the professor’s daughter Mika who is worthless until near the end of the show when she becomes Mechander Robo’s fourth pilot, but more on that later. There is also the Earth Force’s commander Yamato he takes the role of sometimes giving missions and commanding the worthless Earth forces to their constant defeat while waiting for Mechander Robo to save them.

From left to right: Kojiro, Jimmy, and Ryusuke.
             The Doron Empire is ruled by Hedron, he’s never on the Earth and just hands down orders and punishes Ozmel from time to time. You don’t really find out too much about Hedron or the origins of the Doron Empire until the last episode so I’ll leave that till later. The Kongista Army is lead by Ozmel he’s an arrogant character and a robot. Subordinate to Ozmel is Medusa she’s more of the front line commander and as quickly revealed Medusa is really Jimmy’s mother the Queen of the former of Ganymede before they fell. They quickly reveal the fact she is Jimmy’s mother and for some reason can turn back into her more human form, however they then ignore this for 20 episodes.

Ozmel and Medusa
            Aside from the falling of 95% of the Earth Mechander Robo is a bit different from other super robot shows at the time. A lot of the time the battles take place around the Earth in different locations. King Diamond is not constantly the target of attacks time and time again, it remains hidden for a good part of the show until it transforms into its ship form and goes around the Earth. Another difference is Mechander Robo fights side by side with the Earth forces a lot of the time. Well it’s more like Mechander Robo fights while the Earth forces blow up. Mechander Robo will also fight the same enemy multiple times but there is a bad part to this as you’ll see.

            The pilot each launch in their own planes known as Mechander 1, Mechander 2 and Mechander 3 these combine into a larger plane known as known as Mechander Max. Mechander Max plugs into the back of Mechander Robo which is launched from King Diamond this activates its nuclear power source. The planes each have standard plane weapons (missiles). Mechander Robo’s main weapons are its spiked arm shields known as Mechander UFO; they smash, they can be thrown, they can be combined into various forms. Mechander Robo also has a flame thrower (Mechander Flame), sword (Mechander Fencer), shark missiles (Large Air Torpedo Jaws) and so on. Episode 15 introduced the three Triker vehicles, they are basically identical to the Mechander planes except they drive, however they basically vanish as quickly as they appear.
Mechander Robo getting ready to throw the Mechander UFOs on its arms.
             There really isn’t a whole lot story going around here aside from the introduction but that’s more or less to be expected from an early super robot show. Mechander Robo fights against the Doron Empire with the earth forces. Yamato will hand down missions from time to time which are generally absurd which involve Mechander Robo doing something crazy while the Earth forces sit back and wait. The Omega Missiles serve as a plot device allowing for Mechander Robo only to fight for a short amount of time around three minutes before the battle has to end or Mechander Robo will be struck down as it is nuclear powered. Eventually the Mechander Robo pilots get tired of this and head into space and destroy the satellites; however the last ones combine into a robot to fight Mechander Robo. Unfortunately this robot is really weak and can’t fire Omega Missiles on its own and dies quickly in a horribly anti-climactic battle. Regardless this ends the plot device of timed battles.
Large Air Torpedo Jaws
        As time goes on Medusa starts to act more suspicious. A new weapon is created called Dragon Driller which is powerful enough to destroy Mechander Robo but Ozmel warns Hedron that Medusa isn’t a complete cyborg and may return to being her former self. Being the blind villain Ozmel gets punished for his insolence. Mechander Robo gets into combat with this new mecha piloted by Medusa and gets straight up defeated, however before Medusa can finish off Mechander Robo and kill the pilots she turns back into her former self. She learns from her bird of exactly what she’s been doing this entire time and kills herself after saving Jimmy and the rest of the Mechander pilots.

Mechander Robo falls under the power of Dragon Driller.
             Of course if Mechander Robo stayed defeated the show would be over, honestly this would be for the best but that’s not what happens. Mechander Robo is rebuilt and and is supposedly stronger then ever. Mechander Robo gets rebuilt as a four part combining robo with Mechander 1, Mechander 2, Triker 3 and a new Triker 1. Each vehicle carries a part of Mechander Robo, however since they are smaller then Mechander Robo they have the power to grow once launched. Since Mechander Robo is now a for part combiner they needed a new pilot and Mika was chosen. The way this worked out was silly as you have the professor explaining the new Mechander Robo and then he turns to Mika and says something to the effect of "You are now the new pilot go launch as well", but to be fair Ryusuke got the same treatment in episode 1. This whole thing is really poorly done and you can tell they were just trying to sell toys. The new Mechander Robo is more powerful than the old one; however it doesn’t gain any new attacks or anything just a new combination sequence and a new pilot who does nothing.

Mechander 1, Mechander 2, Triker 3 and the new Triker 1 carrying the parts of Mechander Robo

            On the Kongista side normally what would happen is that with Medusa’s death is that she would be replaced with a new general. However with 11 episodes left we don’t get that, Ozmel is left by himself with an army of guys that look the same. So the remainder of show either has Ozmel talking to himself in monologue or random soldiers which make their side not interesting to watch anymore.

            The show continues on with more or less the same as before however at episode 28 of 35 we are told the final battle is close at hand as the Earth forces are moving in on the Kongista flying fortress in North America. This is where we run into severe problems, and more specifically the show itself but I’ll get into this later. Episodes 29 to 33 are clipshows with little to no animation. So at episode 34 we reach the final conformation between Mechander Robo and the Earth’s forces and the Kongista Army. The Kongista Army faces a great attack by the combined Earth forces until they take their flying fortress on the offensive decimating the Earth forces. With the help of Mechander Robo the flying fortress falls and only that’s left is the final conformation between Jimmy and Ozmel which happens on the land. This basically boils down to Ozmel pointing his gun at Jimmy however Jimmy draws his gun and fires killing Ozmel before he can pull a shot off. I should be surprised at this point but really what’s happen in the show I’m not. Regardless to say by the end of 34 the Earth is saved as the Kongista army has been defeated.

Shikshima Shousou and his daughter Mika
            Of course there is still one episode left and the mysterious Hedron is still out there. Episode 35 is once again mostly a clipshow but we learn that Hedron is just garbage sludge from Orion that mutated and turned into a monster. This garbage sludge grew ambitions turned the people of Orion into cyborgs and created his army with ambition to be the emperor of space. However since Orion started to revive once again he died. It’s really as silly as it sounds.

Hedron made of broken computers, microfilm and other garbage
 Now I said there are gems and dangers of robot show well Mechander Robo is the danger as this show is really just garbage and should be avoided at all costs. I won’t say this often and really the only other show that I’ve seen that I can say is Groizer X. As I mentioned all the characters are blank slates that never advance past that and even the mecha action is quite poor. Mechander Robo itself was essentially a failure in Japan as well. The show aired from the start of March till the end of December but in October the main sponsor of the show Blue Mark went bankrupt and they were unable to find a new sponsor. Prior to this the toy sales were also failing which is why they introduced seemingly random vehicles for the Mechander Robo pilots to use once and then get reintroduced later. The sponsors were apparently hoping these to sell good, they didn’t.

As a result of the bankruptcy Mechander Robo suffers greatly as episodes 29 to 33 are clipshows as well as the majority of episode 35 about 3 minutes of this episode was animated to show the origin and death of Hedron. Only episode 34 is animated, admittedly very poorly animated they just barely managed to scrape this together. This episode involved lots of enemy mecha returning and fighting again however this was just to reuse clips. It’s a good thing they managed to scrape together a conclusion but really at that point I didn’t care anymore. The trend of reusing old clips started early on in Mechander Robo as so many times we get to see the same fights with the same enemy mecha. It’s nice to see the enemies of a robot show reusing the same mecha but if it’s just to see the same fights countless times, regardless of how silly they are, it’s not worth it. The problem of reused scenes extends a lot deeper than this sadly. My favorite one is in an early episode the Mechander Robo pilots go to Crete to try to save the people there. They end up in a stadium full of clapping people that turn out to be Kongista soldiers with guns shooting them. We see this scene reused at least three other times in multiple locations across the world.

Aside from the reuse of scenes multiple times throughout the show, the battles of Mechander Robo aren’t really that interesting to watch the show is obviously low quality from episode one. You get your standard mix of whacky enemy robot designs and Mechander Robo.

            Mechander Robo is a show that is best forgotten. The characters are blank slates and the mecha action is filled with reused scenes. With no draw between characters and mecha action and with an almost non-existent super robot story there really isn’t anything left to be drawn to this show.