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Gaiking: Legend of the Daiku-Maru Episodes #01-13 Anime Review

5 min read

A classic series re-envisioned.

What They Say:
Daiya Tsuwabuki is a boy in junior high who is known as the town liar. He claims that five years ago, he was saved by a large mechanical dragon when he and his father were attacked at sea by mechanical beasts.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The origins of Gaiking lie in what too many anime fans will feel like the distant past as the original series aired in Japan for a total of 44 episodes starting in 1976. Then the series then went dark there in part as a fight between Toei and the series creator, the legendary Go Nagai, made the series one that looked to be untouched moving forward. In other parts of the world however Gaiking wasn’t going to face the same struggles as the robot made an appearance in the Shogun Warriors toy line and the series itself would get worked into the Force Five series.

Sadly the robot wouldn’t see much new action in its homeland until he appeared almost a quarter century later in New Super Robot Wars on the Playstation. 2005 brought a change to the franchise’s status as Toei went back to the giant robot and did a revamp/reworking of the original series to create Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu and there is reportedly a live action film in the works set to debut in 2012.

The protagonist of the story is Daiya Tsuwabuki, a young man who is shown to be incredibly focused during his introduction. Despite his young age he has trained like crazy and looks to have developed his body to a level some superheroes would envy, his drive coming from the fact that five years ago he and his father were in an accident at sea and his father was lost. Normally this would probably get a kid some sympathy from at least the adults in the city but Daiya’s insistence that sea monsters were to blame have left him practically a pariah and labeled “monster boy” as everyone in these civilized times know monsters don’t exist. Even his best (and only) friend Naoto suffers from association and finally reaches a breaking point when Daiya decides to share all the details of his encounter and talk about the giant dragon that saved him-and as if summoned, all hell breaks loose.

The problem the city quickly faces is that while they hadn’t believed that monsters exist the monsters don’t seem to care whether they are believed in or not and if they do they aren’t going to let any existential crisis negate their reality. Daiya watches as, from a green flame out to sea ,suddenly two behemoths-one looking like an ogre and the other an enormous mutant snail-emerge and set their sights on the port city he calls home. As a stunned populace has to try to deal with the shock he runs home and grabs a spear as this is what he has spent the last five years training for, even though it is obvious he is hopelessly outclassed in his attempt. As he is about to get to the inevitable conclusion to his suicide attack he suddenly is rescued by a giant metal dragon Daiku-Maryu-the same ship that saved him five years ago. Though Daiya will still have to fight the monsters he will now be equipped with a giant mech to even the odds-the flame giant known as Gaiking .
It turns out that Daiya is one of the few people capable of operating the mighty suit and in fact he is the most capable person that has ever been found. Despite a set back or two as Daiya learns the difference between the mech he pilots and the anime series he watched he manages to come through with a victory and has earned the opportunity to make the hardest choice of his life: Leave his mom and homeland and travel to fight the monsters masters on their own turf, using the Daiku-Maryu as a base to fight along with the members of its crew in the hope he can both prevent further attacks on Earth and find his missing father as well.

It won’t be easy as once they hit the foreign land Daiya discovers that one person’s justice is another’s enemy of the state and that friendly ports will be few and far between as the assaults by their enemies grows with the convenience of fighting on their own turf. As the attacks come in waves Daiya will have to learn both about how to use the Gaiking as well as find his place in the crew and with the people who will be fighting the enemy alongside him. Throughout the early episodes challenges will be made and stakes raised as the enemy becomes more desperate and determined and the crew of the Daiku-Maryu has to learn to rise to the occasion. As things build a powerful threat to Daiya emerges earlier than anyone feared and the secrets behind a pair of masks may change motivations or even threaten to turn the power of salvation into damnation instead.

First things first, the initial thirteen episodes use a lot of ideas that tend to appear a lot in giant robot shows- the monsters no one else believes in, a kid thrust into a robot right away (and can use it), partner conflicts, self doubts as well as a combination of a number of things almost feel like they were grabbed out of a bag marked “typical giant robot series elements.” A lot is placed immediately on the lead character Daiya when it comes to the load of carrying the series and how successful he is will depend greatly on how the viewer reacts to these familiar elements. An additional problem is raised in that the writers were either unwilling or unable to really give Daiya a personality that stands out from the giant robot crowd so the task of focusing in on him causes the series to come up even shorter in the originality department early on.

That said, I like giant robot shows and my biggest issue was it seemed early on the Gaiking writers were playing it a bit vanilla which worked for me for the most part but didn’t really make the series special until near the end of this chunk of episodes. There is enough here to keep genera fans coming back but these first episodes aren’t going to convert those not already inclined to watch such shows.

In Summary:
With roots dating back to some of the earliest of giant robot days it isn’t a surprise that there are a number of elements found here that have become almost tropes in themselves in the over 30 years since the giant first sprang to life on the screen. The first third of the series sets up the characters and the world they live in a way that will seem familiar- bordering on cliché- for giant robot fans but there are a few hints sprinkled in to point that this is simply the tip of the iceberg and there may be some surprising events ahead.

Grade: B-

Simulcast By: Hulu, Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 15.4” Notebook