Original Run: 1994-1995
Number of Episodes: 48
Average Episode Length: 21 minutes
Welcome back to Mechanime! Today we’ll be looking at an entry in the influential Brave series, J-Decker. Before we get to the review, I feel like I should address the history of the Brave series, as it’s important to understand the series as a whole.
A Brief History Lesson
|The main Braves throughout history. J Decker is the fifth one.|
The Brave series owes a lot to the Transformers franchise, and not only because they share a similar concept (robots that can take the form of vehicles fighting evil). Takara, the company that had the rights to the Transformers in Japan, had departed from Generation 1 in 1989. When the series began declining in popularity (resulting in the cancellation of the Transformers: Zone OVA series), Takara struck a deal with Sunrise, the studio behind the wildly popular Gundam series to create a new franchise alongside a new set of toys.
The Brave series is very similar to Transformers with one major exception: the draw was that the robots could combine. Usually, the main robot could combine with a large vehicle (usually a carrier of sorts) to form a more powerful robot. There were also usually two support teams of multiple robots that could also combine. Takara often reused assets such as toy molds leftover from their Transformers days when making toys, as well when designing their robots.
The first entry in the Brave series, Exkaiser, was far more popular than either Takara or Sunrise anticipated. Japanese audiences clamored for more, leading to 7 more entries in the Brave series, as well as a general revival of interest in the super robot genre. Even Transformers have references to the Brave series. Hope all of this helps in understanding the series when you think, “are you sure this isn’t Transformers?”.
All of the Brave animes have great openings, and J-Decker is no exception. The opening song, titled Heart to Heart, is a song filled to the brim with 90s cheese, and that’s exactly what makes it great. Not only is it overly dramatic, but it has this snack food like quality that makes it so you can’t stop listening to it. Heart to Heart is a great song, even if it has enough cheese to clog your arteries.
|He's a plucky grade school boy. He's a 20 foot tall transforming robot. Together, they fight crime!|
J-Decker is the fifth entry in the Brave metaverse. It takes place in the 21st century (remember, this was made in the 90s), where great leaps in technology has made the world a more dangerous place. Police now have to combat criminals with access to giant robots, as well as the threat of biomonsters and extraterrestrial threats. To combat these scourges, Japan’s police department created several sentient robots known as the Brave Police. Led by a young boy named Yuuta, the Brave Police fight all sorts of evil.
|But Deckard, tricks are for- *bricked*|
J-Decker’s story is simple without being an excuse to sell toys. Its episodic in nature, but it has enough story to carry over from episode to episode. And while it’s certainly targeted to younger kids,usually trying to teach morals like “stay true to yourself,” it often tries to address more complex themes, most importantly what it means to be human. While not terribly complex, and even a bit predictable, J-Decker’s story, as well as the the issues it tackles, is more than serviceable.
|The Braves. From left to right: Dumpson, McCrane, Deckard, Power Joe, and Shadowmaru.|
This show basically has two sets of characters: the humans and the robots. There are a ton of characters, so instead of going through all of them, I’ll just go over the important one. Let’s begin.
|J Decker, the union of Deckard and his J Roader.|
There’s Yuuta, the main protagonist who has befriended and leads the Brave Police, his sisters Kurumi and Azuki, Saejima, the head of the Japanese police, Azuma, the underhanded vice commissioner of the Japanese police, and Shunsuke, Saejima’s chief engineer. The robots include Deckard, Yuuta’s best friend who transforms into a police chaser, McCrane, a by-the-book mobile crane, Power Joe, a lighthearted power shovel, Dumpson, a straightlaced dump truck, and Shadowmaru, a ninja robot with multiple forms.
|Build Tiger, the union of McCrane, Power Joe, and Dumpson.|
The robots are easily the best characters of the show, not only because they are the actual crime fighters, but because they have more interesting personalities. The human characters aren’t terrible, but outside the one’s mentioned above, they’re very one note and somewhat uninteresting. The cast of humans is still endearing, especially Yuuta’s family, but the show is stolen quite easily by the robots, especially when they interact with other humans.
|...said the robot holding a shotgun.|
Usually in merchandise driven shows, the writing is extremely basic and written only for children. J Decker, while not written exceptionally, is written well enough to be enjoyable for older viewers. It supplies some surprisingly clever lines, and it handles its characterization and more complex issues quite well. The show also has a great sense of humor (for the most part), and it very rarely became grating. The only real complaint I have is that the writing's on the predictable side, but other than that, J Decker is a well written for a kids anime.
The animation of J Decker is actually pretty damn good. Sunrise really knows how to animate its shows, as the animation is colorful and involves several moments of fluid movement. The pieces of animation, without a doubt, are the gattai (or combination for my non-weeaboo readers) sequences. Yes, there are a few cases of recycled animation, but the show never abuses it. Overall this show has great animation, especially for a kid’s show.
Mecha and Fight Scenes
As said in my history bit, Takara reused some of its toy making assets when making the Braves, so it would make sense the robots of this anime heavily resemble Transformers. This isn’t a problem though, as I really like their designs. It has the right mix of simplicity and detail, sort of like the Transformers themselves. The combined robots have the same effect, being good looking without going overboard.
However, the weakest part of this show are the fight scenes. While the robots themselves are impressive, the fights don’t give them many chances to show their strengths. The fights with the villains of the week are often very short, and often don’t involve any neat treats or flashy attacks. The fights are unimpressive, and I can’t really think of any fight that actually caught my attention. For a super robot show, the fight scenes are very lackluster.
J Decker may be a kid’s show, but it’s a very good kid’s show. Even as an older viewer, I still enjoyed this show’s humor, animation, and storytelling. Its fights leave a lot to be desired, but overall, its worth watching.
7.5/10 - Really Good
Note: No new Mechanime for a while. Have a backlog to clear up. However, expect a game review or two to come out soon.