Monday, September 21, 2015

Mechanime: Brave Express Might Gaine

As a wise man once said: "I like trains."
Original Run: 1993-1994

Number of Episodes: 47

Average Episode Length: 21 minutes
Subgenres: Shounen
Dub?: No

I would like to thank the Planetary Defense Subtitling Group for subbing Might Gaine. I couldn’t have done this review without their sub.

Usually I choose what I review at random. However, I chose to to watch Might Gaine out of curiousity, thanks to how much I like J-Decker, and partially thanks to the show’s gimmick of trains. Unfortunately, the best thing Might Gaine did for me is further my appreciation for J-Decker. As per usual, this is a review of the first 13 episodes, but unlike Eureka Seven or J-Decker, there won’t be a follow-up with this.

Note: I could not find a good MP3 of the opening. Might Gaine's OP should be on YouTube. Check it out if you're curious enough.

Given that the Brave series has 8 openings to its name, it would make sense that some openings are better than others. Might Gaine’s opening, called “Arashi no Hero (meaning Hero of Storms),” sadly, is one of the lesser ones. The song is perhaps the cheesiest, most 90s-ist thing I’ve ever heard, but instead of being a glorious guilty pleasure, it just ends up being average. It didn't impress me, but at the same time, I didn’t find it to be offensively bad. In terms of opening themes for the Brave series, this is probably right in the middle.

Nouville Tokyo is the setting of the anime.
Might Gaine takes place in the near future, fifty years after the disappearance of oil. Society has since been able to rebuild itself since then thanks to advancements in electrical energy and robotics. Still the world is a very dangerous place, with criminals and evil masterminds having access to dangerous new technologies. Luckily for the citizens of Nouville Tokyo, a new hero has appeared on the scene. His name is Maito Senpuuji, a teenage boy who has recently acquired his late father’s company. Together with robots equipped with sentient AI, he vows to rid his home of Nouville Tokyo of all crime.

I will say that the story of Might Gaine has an interesting setup. But despite how interesting the concept of a world without oil is, the story of Might Gaine seems to use it solely to explain why the robots are trains, as electric trains are the only viable mode of public transport left. The story also has a big problem with tone; it repeatedly hints at how dangerous the world has become since oil’s disappearance, yet the actual tone of the show is very lighthearted and silly. The story as a whole feels very generic, as most episodes boil down to a criminal starting trouble, and Maito and his robots show up to save the day. The story has potential, but sadly it never gets past the standard shounen plot.

The main villains of the series. From left to right: Shogun Mifune, Don Hoikowloh, Joe Rival, Catherine, and Wolfgang.
Sit down, I have quite a bit to say about the characters. Let’s start as we usually do; an objective look at both the heroic and villainous sides. Our heroes include Maito, the main protagonist of the story, Izumi, the main secretary of the Senpuuji Corporation, Aoki, Maito’s butler and resident Alfred stand-in, Hamada, Maito’s best friend and head engineer, and Sally, Maito’s love interest. On the villainous side, we have Wolfgang, a mad scientist obsessed with the creating “the world’s strongest machine,” Hoikowloh, a Chinese mob boss who sells his robots to the highest bidder, Shogun Mifune, a terrorist who wishes to destroy technology, Catherine, a world class jewel thief, and Joe Rival, a former fighter pilot who only wishes to find and defeat the perfect opponent.

Maito and the three main robots. From left to right: Guard Diver, Might Gaine, and Tribomber.
On the robot side, we have Gaine, Maito’s partner that helps form the titular robot of the series. Supporting him are the Bombers, a group of three robots that have both a vehicle form and a animal form. They are Lio Bomber, Bird Bomber, and Dino Bomber. The other support team are the Divers, a group of robots built for rescue purposes; the group includes Fire Diver (a fire engine), Police Diver (a police chaser), Jet Diver (a fighter jet), and Drill Diver (a drill tank). The Bombers can combine to form the powerful Tribomber, and the Divers can unite to form Guard Diver.

Before I get started on judging the cast, I want to point out that this show has a character named Joe Rival. That’s not a nickname, that’s his actual name. That is so dumb it wraps around and becomes awesome.

After the solid cast of J-Decker, this cast came as an unpleasant surprise. The biggest offender is Maito, who is a blatant Marty Stu (a implausible perfect character who is beloved by everyone). He’s rich, good looking, athletic, and no one calls him out on shirking his responsibilities as a company president. And it’s not like his allies are any better; all of them are derivative, forgettable, and bland. The villains fair slightly better, as they have gimmicks to compensate for their one-note personalities. I appreciated how they stuck to five big bad guys as opposed to creating a new villain every week. The villains aren’t actually strong though; they’re only interesting in comparison to the lackluster cast of heroes.

This line contains the whole personality of Gaine. I'm serious.
What they did with the robots, however, is just downright sad. Unlike J-Decker, were each robot had a defined personality, strengths, and weaknesses, the robots in Might Gaine are all practically interchangeable. Gaine has barely a personality to speak of, and each support team has only one trait to share between them. They are boring as all hell, which is a huge disappointment. The robots are central part of any robot show, and when you can get invested or even get interested in any of the robots, they show fails. The entire cast of Might Gaine may be a pack of forgettable cutouts, but for the robots to have so little personality made an otherwise dull cast into a poor cast.

This is an actual line. And it's played completely straight. I know this is a kid's show, but come on...
The writing in this show is just as bad as the cast. The dialogue is derivative and flat, and the humor is even more so. The characterization is terrible all across the board, with boring characters and even more boring robots. This is a huge shame, as good writing is one of the things that could have saved this show. Instead, we get paint-by-numbers cast members, predictable plots, a half baked world, and robots just as deep as the toys they were meant to sell.

Gaine's transformation sequence.
There are some good things about Might Gaine. Perhaps the best thing about this show is the animation. The animation is smooth and there are few hiccups. It’s more low budget than J-Decker, as it has some much more noticeable shortcuts, feels and looks less polished overall, and it’s much more willing to recycle its animation. For instance, all the gattai sequences are recycled, which is fine, given how well animated they are. However, Might Gaine’s gattai sequence is more than a minute long, and for all of the first 13 episodes, it insisted on playing out in its entirety. Also, Might Gaine uses the same finisher in every fight, meaning another minute of beautiful but nevertheless recycle animation. This show isn’t as bad as Golion when it comes to recycling it's animation, but it's still annoying that nearly a tenth of every episode is stock footage.

Mecha and Fight Scenes
Might Gain's finisher involves a vertical cut that splits the enemy in two. It's always the best part of an episode.
Despite being bland, the robots of Might Gaine are well designed. Like in J-Decker, the base robots are the right mixture of simplicity and detail; not terribly complex, but having enough visual appeal to avoid being boring to look at. The combined robots look really good too, but are more complex and cooler looking than J-Decker’s giant robots. It also helps that this show really goes above and beyond with the whole train concept. The main robot can transform into a train, and can combine with a bigger train to make the titular giant robot. A team of three triple changers, all of which have trains as their vehicle forms, can take the form of a larger train by default. A team of four robots can meld together to form their own giant train. That’s a lot of trains.

Tribomber engaging in a fierce slideshow battle with the Robot of the Week.

But like J-Decker, the fight scenes in Might Gaine range from “nothing special” to “uneventful and boring.” The fights often don’t have a lot going on, and often devolve into a slideshow rather than an animated fight. In most fights, you’ll be lucky to see any remotely interesting  before Might Gaine’s finisher, and while the finisher itself is awesome, it gets old after the third time you see it. Honestly, I would have forgiven this anime for most of its shortcomings if it had good fights. New Getter Robo is a case of that. But the lame fight scenes turned out just to be another problem on Might Gaine’s long list of flaws.

Might Gaine has a lot of potential to make a great anime, but it squanders a lot of it. While it does have good animation and cool looking robots, it's largely a derivative, paint-by-numbers mecha show that does little to differentiate itself from its peers. Unlike J-Decker, this does feel like a 21 minute weekly toy commercial. I can’t recommend this unless you’re dying to see all the Brave shows; otherwise, don’t even bother with this one.

5.5/10 - Mediocre

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