Ten years is a long time and that’s even more so when it comes to anime. The changes in style, animation, direction and more can change so much in that amount of time that something that may be cool and edgy once will only fade away, especially as other shows come build upon one and expand it in new and creative ways.
Ten years ago, Godannar debuted and brought another flavor of giant robot action to the small screen. Created and directed by Yasuchika Nagaoka, it debuted in October 2003 and ran for two seasons at thirteen episodes a season. Animated by Oriental Light and Magic and AIC ASTA, it found a home in North America through ADV Films after its initial airing and then this past year with Sentai Filmworks acquiring the license. Nagaoka is no stranger to giant robot shows, having done key animation work on Giant Robo, and he’s been in the business for some time, including doing some early work on Akira. Notably for North American fans, he worked on most of the Banner of the Stars series as a director and doing lots of storyboards, but he also worked on Wild Cardz. So that sort of balances things out. What does in a way help out his work on this original series though is his involvement in a number of Lupin the 3rd properties over a few years in dealing with various specials and one of the movies. That property is one that can teach quite a lot.
Known as God and Spirit Combination Godannar!! in its Japanese release, Godannar as a series is one that definitely did what was rapidly becoming more common at the time with fanservice dominating more and more of a series. Fanservice has always been around, but more shows were starting to use that as a driving force, tied into larger themes, in order to sell those larger themes. With Godannar, the fanservice can be seen dripping right off of the cover as we get to know one of the leads with Anna Aoi, a seventeen year old girl who is pretty much what every male fan would want to have in his life. Bright, outgoing, playful and silly, she backs it up with a fair bit of skill as well so that she’s more than just one thing. As a hook, it’s easy to be drawn into the show because of Anna and the other women that are brought into it, but it manages to change up expectations a fair bit early on.
While most shows involving characters of both genders have some amount of sexual tension and often romantic relationships of different types, Godannar wants to do it differently. While we get the promise of what Anna can be, she’s already got her sights set on someone, namely the other lead of the series, Goh Saruwatari. But the show isn’t about the chase as she goes after him, gifted pilot that he is in a world that has alien creatures invading it and causing problems. No, the show kicks off with him saving her, her realizing what a catch he is, and then shifting forward in time a few years to her at seventeen and getting married to Goh. It’s not exactly finalized, but the two are bound to each other at this point. And that gives us a married couple in some form as the two of them are definitely partnered together.
The show does a good job of giving us a form of married life between the two, albeit one that brings in some unusual aspects (such as a dead girlfriend in a child-like state that they care for) and there’s also the fact that it feels like Anna and Goh never consummate their relationship. That’s the one thing that really bothered me about the show and what they did. While it’s welcome to have characters in relationships here, really strong ones at that, the fact they couldn’t go the distance is a huge weakness and introduces a fair number of plot points that go poorly. Mostly it revolves around the way that Anna gets insecure about things, especially with Goh’s formerly dead girlfriend returning, since their connection goes only so far. If they had made that connection, it’s easy to see it would introduce its own issues, but there would also be something more between the two. As Goh and Anna end up taking care of more people, and his younger brother living with them as well, the personal connection between Goh and Anna is just continually strained.
The focus in the show on the pairings and relationships really is crucial, and it’s something that’s pretty much right in the original title. And it is definitely important. But equally important is the action side of things, which involves a great array of alien creatures. The show actually takes place several years after the first invasion and deals with the world going into recovery from it only to have the creatures mysteriously surface once again (not every episode thankfully). The giant robot side of it is spread a bit thin and we get a few different nationalities of them out there, giving it a really good international feel that helps it to be more than just a Japanese-centric piece. What works particularly well for the show, at least for me, is that there’s a good twist with how that original invasion went and how it played out, resulting in the impact here. In a way, this two season series really is an epilogue of the larger invasion, one that could have been its own series.
When ADV Films brought this release over, they did something that certainly isn’t the industry norm, even to this day. Because of the way the characters are in sync as pilots and working together, they took the extra step to record the show with the actors at the same time as well. This works really well when it comes to the teams here, especially with Brett Weaver and Hilary Haag in the lead roles of Goh and Anna. When the lines are recited and the action picks up, it has an additional warmth to it since the matching is much more natural. The acting in the show is definitely elevated across the series because of this with the many scenes that involve such pairings. It added a fair bit to the production back in the day for ADV Films, but it was also a solid selling point for dub fans who wanted something a little different out of the production.
Having recently revisited the series, I was really surprised by how well it held up after all these years. Coming long before simulcasts, my original experience with the show was in the seven volumes ADV Films released it across. An industry norm in those days that feels like a lifetime ago when we get full season sets these days. Going from bi-monthly releases of just a handful of episodes to watching something in one fell swoop over a couple of days reinforced my positive memories of it quite a lot. The show still looks dynamic with its animation, matching action shows of this nature that are out these days, and the fanservice still works exceptionally well as the characters are appealing, appropriately bouncy and showing off plenty of skin. But that’s just the way to get you to talk about the show. In the end, it really is about the characters and relationships and here it really does excel, even with its faults. By giving us a show about different types of couples in a difficult situation that have so many odd things thrown at them, Godannar stands the test of time for me and is just as enjoyable now as it was then.