Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mechanime: Beast King Golion

1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 is Golion! No, not five. Were did you get that silly notion?

Original Run: 1981-1982
Number of Episodes: 52
Dub: Does Voltron count?

Hello and welcome back to Mechanime! Today, we’re looking at the anime that would become Voltron, and unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about it. As per usual, this is a review of the first group of episodes (13 this time), not the entire show. Lets get going.


Golion’s opening, “Tatakae! Golion” (literally, “Fight! Golion”), stands amongst the classics of mecha openings. And after listening to it, its easy to see why. The song is simple, but good lord is it catchy. Its also very upbeat, which is strange considering how dark this anime can be. Overall, “Tatakae! Golion” deserves its reputation as a legendary opening.

When I asked you to hold your sword in your mouth, this isn't what I had in mind.
In the year 1999, the Earth was destroyed by World War III. The only five Earthlings left are five space pilots: Akira “Chief” Kogane, Takashi “Quiet” Shirogane, Isamu “Moody” Kurogane, Tsuyoshi “Hothead” Seido, and Hiroshi “Shorty” Suzuishi. They are quickly enslaved by the evil Galra Empire, and seemed doomed to die in the arena. They attempt to escape, and crashland on the planet Altea, which had been desolated by the Galra. The five Earthlings eventually become the pilots of five lion mechs, which can combine to form the mighty robot Golion. They alone are the only effective weapon against the Galra Empire and their army of Beastmen.

Honestly, the story is weak. It may be one of the earlier mecha anime, but its no real excuse for being generic. It features all the tried and true tropes: the evil empire and their giant monsters, a mighty robot that’s our only hope, a group of five heroes, yada yada yada. It also doesn’t help that the story moves at a snail’s pace; our heroes don’t even use Golion until episode 4. After that, however, it stagnates into a formula: the Galra Empire hatches a plan to defeat Golion, our heroes eventually overcome it, and Golion is summoned to beat up the monster of the week. Golion’s story is largely a paint-by-numbers exercise, which is definitely a problem.

From left to right: Takashi, Akira, Isamu, Hiroshi, and Seido.
Golion has a fairly standard cast. Aside from the five Earthling pilots, you have Princess Fala, the rightful ruler of Altea, her strategist Riable, and her caretaker Hys. On the other side, you have Daibazaal, the ruler of the Galra Empire, the witch Honerva who serves as Daibazaal’s right hand (wo)man, and Sadak, the main leader of the Galra military.

The Golion team, once Fala becomes a pilot.

Much like the story, Golion’s cast is largely derivative. You have the brave leader, the smartass second in command, the incompetent enemy general, and so on. The heroes are flat and uninteresting, and the villains are even more so. The characters are often one-note, lucky to have more than one character trait. There’s nothing wrong with character tropes, but when your cast of characters is largely copy-pasted from popular cliches, then you have a problem.

Why yes, this is a kids show! Why do you ask?
Good writing can save a show. If the story or characters don’t impress, good writing can keep the viewer engaged. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Golion. The writing is simple and dull, and it seems to actively avoid any genuine emotion or meaningful character development. Nearly every line is expository or states the obvious. It feels like the scripts were pumped out rather than written.


Fear my single frame lunge, Beastman!
I have no objection to the actual art; its pretty good for 80s anime. But good golly, the animation is horrendous. The show recycles its animation constantly, especially the combination and traveling sequences. Its also pretty sloppy, sometimes even with a lack of mouth movement or even sound. Its often disjointed, with the characters moving as little as possible. And on top of all of that, there’s an abundance of flashing lights, which can be hard to look at. Its like Hanna Barbera made this anime given how many shortcuts were taken.

Mecha and Fight Scenes
Our pride forms a robot. Does yours, Simba?
For all the bad stuff I said about Golion, I have to give it some credit; the titular mech looks cool. Sure, it may go a little overboard with the whole lion concept, but it does look fearsome. It also loaded with awesome powers and weapons, including a flamethrower, an ample supply of missiles which it launches from its feet, and a cross shaped energy projectile. The monster design is also good. The monsters may be simple, but they still look gruesome.

Please don't tell me this monster is into BDSM...
To bad the fight scenes are weak. They follow the same formula; the team attacks in their individual mechs, they are swatted away, they combine to form Golion, the monster is dispatched with ease, and you wonder why they just didn’t form Golion in the first place. Often the fights are very short and are uninteresting, thanks in part to the animation. Once Golion summons its sword, the fight is practically over. If the fights were longer and more powers were shown off, the fights would have been so much better. But as it stands the fights are boring and formulaic.

For all the crap I’ve given Golion, I can’t really call it bad. The animation may take tons of shortcuts and the story is nothing special, but honestly, that’s true for many kid’s animes in the 70s and 80s. Golion is just your standard 80s animated kids show, but that’s not an excuse for being so subpar. There are far better kids shows and mecha shows out there. It may not be the worst, but its still far from good.

4.5/10 - Almost Average

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