Growing up in the mid 90’s, I frequented trips to various local video retailers with my dad to buy anime. Lots of anime. And one of the titles I picked up, thinking it was bound to be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at the time turned out to be one of the dirt-worst anime titles you can pay money for. The box art had it all; Giant robot, three hot girls with Robotech haircuts……okay, that was all the box had going for it, but this was 1996 and trying to sell anime in the U.S. on any other premise except tentacle hentai was ridiculous. So what went wrong?
Well, I’ll answer that meaningless rhetorical device setup; EVERYTHING!!! To start with, upon the first five minutes, you’ll ask yourself, “What in the hell is happening?”. A battle is taking place and you’re clumsily introduced to our heroes by a narrator whose English dub voice actor sounds like he couldn’t wait to finish his lines and cash his $74.00 paycheck.
So these are the pilots of project Dangaioh, assembled by a creepy-looking old man for no real discernible reason that we are told. (From left to right) Pai Thunder, our early 90’s aggressive woman. Lamba Nom, the cutiest, adorable idea Leiji Matsumoto refused to create. Rol Kran, the token guy of the group with a silly name and a cliché’ 90’s back story of doing bad things with bad people who DEFINATELY won’t come back to haunt him. And Mia Alice, our leader of the group and is the only one of the four who isn’t too one-dimensional. Unfortunately for her, a good deal of her story is in the first episode…which was cut from the U.S. release. Yeah, that’s rich. Let’s take our 3 episode OAV and cut it by 34%, ensuring the notion that the audience watching this is completely wasting their time. Oh, they try to save face by splicing in scenes from the omitted episode with clunk exposition to get us up to speed, but even if you didn’t know this fact prior to, it’s very obvious as it plays out poorly. I remember taking out my VHS tape and making sure it was rewinded to the very beginning and playing it again just to be absolutely sure I wasn’t going insane. I’m guessing in retrospect that Manga Entertainment said, “Well, we got Ghost in the Shell and Ninja Scroll. We’ll bank on that until we look at the quarter’s numbers”. If you wanted your product to come out like this on purpose, what else am I to believe?
So, after about 6 minutes of Mia Alice’s story AND the defeat(?) of two major villains un Dangaioh Abridged, we’re thrown violently into Lamba’s back story before having a chance to stop for air. JEEEEZZUSSS, slow down!!! I barely recovered from the last not-story!! this is usually a pattern with OAV’s and I don’t have a problem with it for the most part. While they are nothing more than pitches to get a television deal and a potential franchise to bank, they are easily my favorite medium of viewing anime due to their short run time, crisp animation, solid, easy to follow stories, and lack of a linear plot increases their rewatchablility. But not all of them are winners, and titles like Dangaioh, MD Geist, and Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer are all just plotless, insipid, poorly produced shit carnivals of bad animation and even worse dialogue. And don’t get me started on Battle Arena Toshinden. Cutting off chunks of your plot and character development is very bad when you only have about 85 minutes to pad out and episode 2 (or 1.5) is pointless backdrop that leads to nothing. The final episode is Rol’s story and the big climactic fight with some generic anime maniac villain. I personally want to ask authors and producers just why exactly when your premier anime villain survives a catastrophic explosion, he emerges from the smoldering wreckage with one eye and a mechanical arm? It’s very akin to Hollywood movie bad guys’ hand crawling out of the debris and reaching towards the moon. It’s alright at first, then I see it 800 times and it gets just plain silly. Anyways, Rol’s story is just as rushed and hackneyed as the other’s (funny that Pai Thunder never got a flashback) and it’s not enthralling or entertaining.
Some positives, the art is pretty decent, and actually the battle scenes are pretty well animated. The mechs look pretty cool ala Gundam crossed with Macross. the characters themselves are passable, but not much to look at Mia, Lamba, and Pai are kinda hot, but pale in comparison to other hot girls who were hitting the U.S. around the same time like Cutey Honey and Devil Hunter Yohko. The English dubbed script does have some kicks that border on guilty pleasure and can be so bad it’s good; half-hearted screams of fury, excess profanity (because it’s NOT FOR KIDS!!), an alien female threatening to turn our heroes into FRENCH FRIES with a nuclear bomb, one villain pleading lamely to not be killed, quote; “I’m burning!!! Please STOP!!!” before dying. It’s always good for some laughs.
IN CLOSING: Overall, this is just putrid. Nonsensical storytelling in post-production hinders this the worst. just give us the first damn episode! What’s it gonna hurt!? It’s pretty low on my list of anime garbage I’ve sifted through, but nowhere near as bad as most Go Nagai titles I’ve seen, and honestly, I found the 2001 adaptation/sequel Great Dangaioh to be twice as worse!! As Shakespeare once said, “This anime is shitty”, and then wrote a story about a crazy Danish guy who stabs people through curtains.
ART: 2.5 out of 5
STORY: 1 out of 5
CHARACTERS: 1.5 out of 5
OVERALL SCORE: 2 out of 5