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Dancouga: Super Beast Machine God Anime DVD Review

6 min read

Dancougar CoverWhat They Say:
Deep in outer space, the emperor Muge plots his next conquest – an out-of-the-way planet known as Earth. Mustering all the forces of his own personal Empire of Death, the Emperor is by far the most formidable foe humans have ever faced. And now he’s even more fearsome thanks to the defection of Shapiro Keats, a power-hungry Earthling reborn as an Empire informer.

Army after army crumbles in the face of an onslaught of the Empire’s seemingly indestructible robots. But now there’s a team that just might be able to stop them: an ace pilot named Shinobu, Sara (Shapiro’s one-time girlfriend), and Ryo, a very unlikely young hero. Together, they’re in command of a new secret weapon developed in a laboratory hidden deep in a lake in Japan. Enter Dancouga, the Super Beast Machine God – and the battle’s just beginning!

This complete TV series collection includes all 38 television episodes remastered and in Japanese language with English subtitles.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio on the episodes themselves come through fine in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 with no distortions during playback.

Video:
The picture is very nice and clear. Lines are well defined and there’s no blockiness or distortion. The colors are vibrant as can be for high-quality DVD production. It’s definitely an upgrade from the Software Sculptors VHS releases and so lives up to the remastering hype.

Packaging:
There is a slipcover with three of the lead male characters somewhat shaded standing around the team’s lone female member who is lit better comparatively. The Dancouga robot stands behind them all front of a dark blue-ish background with the title masthead below them. The back has the text of the ‘what they say’ section taking up the upper left area. Although it’s clearly distinct in white lettering against the dark screencap background, it’s rather small and hard to read. The upper right has very detailed artwork displayed prominently. There are more screencaps next to this text as well as displayed horizontally across the lower section, with credits listings and technical information taking up the bottom 1/4. The actual case is a clear plastic DVD case designed to hold 6 discs on individual pages. There is a reversible insert here. One side is exactly like the slipcover and the other has a different bit of artwork on its front but the rest is exactly the same.

Menu:
Each disc has a still shot of a different character off to the right side, who is also on the cover of the corresponding disc. The opening theme loops in the background. White text options list the individual episodes. Selections are highlighted in yellow. Subtitle options are listed at the bottom and the title masthead dominates the top section. All text is large and very easy to read.

Extras:
None

Content:(please note that contents, portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’m a big fan of giant robots and have been ever since I was a kid, billions of years ago. Whether it’s the super robot genre where the hero or heroes with multiple machines would join together to create a giant gestalt and save the day, or it’s the real robot gene where characters would use giant mecha as instruments of war and casual transport. The 80s were the height of such shows as many stories got told (which didn’t hurt toy and art book sales at all.) What set Dancouga apart from many similar shows of that time though was the intensity of the storyline as well as the way the “big bot saves the day” routine would actually come into play and at times it blurs the line between the two genres. Believe it or not, it was quite different from, say, Mazinger Z, Voltron or similar fare.

The initial premise starts off rather grimly in that the Earth has been invaded by the Muge Zorbados Empire, an alien force with powerful weaponry whose occupation army is being led by General Death Gaia. What makes things worse is that one of Earth’s military, an officer named Shapiro Keats, has turned traitor and is leading the enemy, giving them tactical advantages and finding Earth’s hidden military bases with ease. Humanity’s armies are overwhelmed and on the verge of losing the planet completely.

In these desperate times, leading Earth General Ross Igor and Dr. Hazuki decide to recruit hothead pilot Shinobu Fujiwara to fly a new experimental fighter plane, which resembles an eagle, feeds off his anger and becomes nearly invulnerable to attack in the process. He’s soon joined by Sara Yuki who pilots a tank that can change into a cougar, Masato Shikibu who pilots one that transforms into a liger-like mode, and Ryo Shiba whose mech turns to a mammoth-type creature.
These special fighters give the enemy all they can handle for about half the series, but eventually they a third mode that can only be activated by their combined fighting spirit, as well as shouting out the letters “D! A! N! C! O! U! G! A!” Sure enough, the music kicks in and the fighters reconfigure to interlock into the big butt-kicking ‘bot Dancouga! This stack & attack sequence becomes the money shot for fans to see in just about every episode thereafter, and audiences are better for it.

The transformation isn’t the sole appeal of this TV series—its violently intense story is full of intrigue and good characters. It has very much the feeling of a war story so there’s heroism and death aplenty. Sara has a bit of a running subplot since she was romantically attached to the traitor Shapiro, who came to have delusions of becoming a god if this invasion succeeded. Lead pilot Shinobu is a bit of a hothead (to say the least) and doesn’t completely get along with Ryo but still works with him despite differences. Still, it is a show about a giant robot fighting aliens, so the target audience back then was kids who can watch and buy the toys afterwards, but are given credit for having the ability to decipher complex themes for themselves.

Director Seiji Okuda put his prior mech show experiences from Combattler V and Psycho Armor Govarion to good use here and produced a rather effective show as a result. He oversaw a well-written story and energetic characters were the foundation for the great production values of the ’80s, particularly in the fight sequences which utilized highly detailed art pieces prevalent in mech shows back then. Designs and art direction from Masami Obari (Bubble Gum Crisis, Cross Fight Dangaio, Gravion) led the way in that regard. There were times where the general tone could be compared to Machine Robo, SPT Layzner and God Mars, but Dancouga carves a niche all its own.

In Summary:
Dancouga enjoyed extra success beyond its 38-episode run. There was a feature-length recap OVA entitled “Requiem For Victims,” which whet fans appetites after the show’s end, as well as the Dancouga Song Collection, featuring 30 minutes of music videos created from songs and footage from the series. This included both openings sung by Rie Fujiwara, who voiced American orphan Laura Sullivan in the show. Following this was the sequel video “God Bless Dancouga” as well as the four-part series “Dancouga: Blazing Epilogue,” which would be the last animated release featuring these characters. I really hope someday we can see some of these extra spinoffs imported someday if the initial TV series is successful here (or at least God Bless Dancouga because that’s just such a cool name!)

Features:
38 episodes, Japanese 2.0 Audio, English Subtitles

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: July 25, 2017
MSRP: $59.95
Running Time: 830 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Review Equipment:
Samsung 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3

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