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Super Robot

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The Super Robot Mazinger Z. The Super Robot Mazinger Z

Super Robot is a term used in manga and anime to describe a giant robot or mecha, with an arsenal of fantastic super-powered weapons, sometimes transformable or combined from two or more robots and/or vehicles usually piloted by young, daring heroes, and often shrouded by mystical or legendary origins.

The idea of a robot controlled by a young hero was first used in 1956 with Iron Man 28 or Tetsujin 28-go (dubbed and released in the US as Gigantor), by manga artist Mitsuteru Yokoyama, which featured a giant robot piloted by remote-control by a young boy named Shotaro Haneda, who used it to fight against evil. However, the first anime to use the phrase Super Robot and the one that set the standards for the genre was Mazinger Z, created by Go Nagai and making its debut in manga publications and TV in 1972. The main difference between Mazinger Z and previous robots was that the hero, Kouji Kabuto, would pilot the robot from the inside in the same manner as one would drive a car. This anime show was hugely popular and spanned numerous sequels and imitations during the 1970s, and revival shows later during the 80s and 90s.

While some other giant robot shows were also shown on US TV in the 70's, the only true impact Super Robot shows made in the States during that time was in the form of the Force Five series, which was a compilation of different Japanese giant robot shows, and with the Mattel Shogun Warriors toyline.

Mega Man is described in the intro of Mega Man 2 as a Super Robot, despite the fact he can't possibly be larger than an average teenager, and only has two anti-personnel weapons. In this case, it was probably the 'common' use of the term. He is a robot with powers beyond that of other robots in the setting, so he is 'super' compared to them. (He can absorb boss weapons, and is the hero.)

Contents

Basic characteristics

The Super Robot anime shows are usually named after the title robot (Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Combattler V, etc), and tend to use a "menace of the week" format in that the villains introduce a single antagonist at the beginning of the episode that the heroes usually defeat by its end. While some have levelled criticisms at the super robot shows for having this format, it must be noted that a vast number of series, both Japanese and abroad, engage in exactly the same plot structure, introducing minor antagonists while slightly developing the main struggle between the chief protagonists and the major villains. In the 70s, with a common episode count around 50 (or often, 52) episodes for many series, more if especially popular, a more minor chief conflict would be resolved at the end of the first 'season', around episode 26, with another developing directly afterwards and leading, in the final episodes of the series, to the ultimate confrontation with the chiefest of antagonists. This remains a trend in anime and, despite what casual critics of super robot shows might claim, is not unique to the super robot genre. In fact, many of the criticisms directed towards super robot shows specifically might be better directed at anime in general.

Antagonists tended to come from either outer space or ancient civilizations, with common elements being a monstrous appearance or an entirely strange, occasionally even beautiful, one. Many foes employed robot or cyborg henchmen, whom they often sent against the heroes in their robot. The goals of these antagonists varied, although many were megalomaniacal or outright genocidal in their ambitions.

In the 1980's the Real Robot genre spawned by the Gundam films and the popular Space Battleship Yamato-style space opera films enjoyed a comparatively brief dominance upon trends of the mecha anime in Japan, and new Super Robot shows were less frequent for a time as space opera and militaristic mecha became popular. However, in the 1990's a renaissance in the Super Robot genre occurred, due at least in part to the economic problems of Japan which led many TV stations to rerun numerous series popular in the 70s. Of course this included classic super robot series, which renewed the public's interest in them and spawned rejuvenation of the Yuusha series, as well as progressive attempts at the genre such as the controversial Evangelion. All these may have had some influence upon subsequent anime series and OVAs like Giant Robo which combined the basic concept of Super Robot shows with storylines rife with attempts at profundity and occasionally philosophical or political messages.

Many remakes and updates of old Super Robot shows, like Getter Robo, Tetsujin-28 go, Mazinger Z and others were produced, sometimes using complex plots while others remained with simple "Good vs. Evil" stories. Super robot shows were not the only ones to receive this attention however, as so many classic series enjoyed a resurgence in popularity due to the reruns leading to a new generation of fans now directly familiar with the material.

Inevitably, there are some types of mecha that are difficult to classify as either a Real Robot or a Super Robot. Some of these include the Aura Battlers from Aura Battler Dunbine, which follow the general motif of Real Robots though their very origin and certain levels of power borderline on Super Robot. The Mortar Headds from Five Star Stories are treated as individual works of art by the fictional society present in the story, and their power often borderlines on that of Super Robots—however, their intricate engineering and the motif of their weaponry is often scientifically explained by series creator Mamoru Nagano which makes them very similar to Real Robots in other ways. The most debated of these uncertain mecha are the Evangelion (or "EVA") Units from Neon Genesis Evangelion. These massive artificial biomechanical lifeforms use weapons and tactics that are very scientific and Real Robot-esque; the United Nations even has an interest in mass-producing the Evangelion units. However, the unit EVA-01's tendency to go berserk, dealing nearly godlike destruction—as well as factoring in the living nature of the mecha and their very creation method—is very similar to that of Super Robots. Mecha which employ both Super Robot and Real Robot principles are referred to as Hybrid Robots; since the production of Evangelion, this approach has gained some popularity and developed into its own niche, as evidenced by shows such as Brain Powerd, RahXephon and Overman King Gainer. Nevertheless, pure Super Robot series continue to be produced to this day, such as Gravion and Godannar.

If examined in depth, the differences between Super Robot and Real Robot series may at times seem purely academic or moot at best. Some critics have voiced the opinion that the only difference between the two is that Real Robot shows are less exciting and the characters less heroic; conversely critics of the Super Robot shows have cited supposedly unrealistic designs and silly situations. The topic remains a lively subject of debate between fans of the two camps.

Merchandise

Possibly the real success expected from a sci-fi giant robot show would be the toys and merchandise sales they can produce. In fact, the Super Robot genre spawned a new type of toys that became the defining items of the genre.

In late 1972, a Japanese toy company called Popy released a die-cast metal version of Mazinger Z, whose series was airing at that time. The figure was 8.5 inches tall, it launched spring-loaded fist like the robot "Rocket Punch" on the TV and was quite heavy, being made of metal. This toy revolutionized the Japanese toy industry, spawning lots of toys for almost every Super Robot show that was aired on Japanese TV. Sometimes the case was the opposite: a TV anime giant robot show was created based on the toys produced. The Chogokin line of robots (the name given by Popy to the toyline), eventually lost its popularity in the early 80's after its rival company, Bandai, took the industry by storm with their Gundam franchise and their new plastic toy lines. The original die-cast Popy SR toys have become rare collector's items, and those in mint condition reaching thousands of dollars in the collector's market.

Ironically, it was Bandai itself that revived the Super Robot die-cast toys in recent times. Having acquired the Popy toys rights, and due to the renaissance in popularity of the giant robot of the past, Bandai began release a line of solid, highly detailed and quite expensive models made of die-cast metal. This line is called Soul of Chogokin, and is currently producing a fine line of toys that is aimed mostly to collectors. One of them, a super deluxe model of the Super Robot called Grendizer (complete with the die-cast robot, a flying saucer, four ships and other accessories), which currently is out of production, is known to reach over US$400.00 in specialized stores and auctions.

A good quantity of "Soul of Chogokin" toys from different Super Robot series of the past have been produced, like Mazinger (which has over 12 models based of different robots from the anime), Gaiking, Dancougar, Tetsujin 28-go, and a few others. Another notably addition to the Bandai SOC line are the EVA units from the more recent Evangelion anime series.

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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