Armored Trooper VOTOMS - A Very Lengthy Review
NwappMX7 | VA, US | 12/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I ordered this two months ago. I finished it last night and came onto Amazon to review it and --- it's now out of print? What the hell? Oh well. I guess it wasn't a "popular item." Central Park Media doesn't even have a webpage for it anymore.
Which is a damn shame, because this is one of the best anime TV shows (quite possiblt THE best) I have ever watched. No, scratch that. One of the best TV series period. Especially in the realm of sci-fi/space opera. I also regard this as the pinnacle of the "real-robot" genre on television (although my experience in this area is limited).
This has everything! Action! Intrigue! Romance! Giant robot battles! Philosophy! War! Giant robot battles! Betrayal! Giant robot battles! Twists, turns! And even more giant robot battles! And to top that off... giant robot battles! Hey, it's called "Armored Trooper VOTOMS." I'd better get some battles involving big mecha (although the mecha in this series are smaller than in other shows). Yet for all of the mecha battles, the FOCUS of this series is on the story and its main character, Chirico Cuvie. In fact there is a stretch near end of the show where there aren't any AT (Armored Trooper) battles at all, which is something of a rarity in a Japanese giant robot show. Which only shows how original and special this series is. Okay, well not THAT original. I did detect hints of (very minor SPOILER ALERT) Blade Runner, Dune, 2001 and of course Gundam while watching this.
Which of course brings up the question, "Well, how does this compare to Gundam, the daddy of all real-robot shows?" Very well indeed. There is no annoying teenage whining. Only one person gets slapped in the entire show. And no annoying little kids (although Chirico's childish buddies Gotho, Coccona and Vanilla may seriously irritate you - and everyone else!- at a few points). However, a few misconceptions have to be cleared up before one can fully enjoy this show. Before watching this I had heard this show being described as "harder" and "more realistic" than other robot shows, especially the Gundam franchise. Well, yes and no. The ATs themselves are the most believable "giant robots" I've seen in an anime series. They are basically walking tanks, not that giant and only basically humanoid. So there are no super-duper beam sword wielding big as **** unbeatable robots here. These things could be conceivably manufactured today. However, in almost every other area VOTOMS is "soft," making it what is known as a "soft" science fiction series as opposed to a "hard" science fiction series. Firstly, there is interstellar travel (and we are never shown what means are used to do this, by the way. Hyperdrive? Warp Drive? Star Gates? Worm Holes? The ships simply are shown traveling from one system to the next). And artificial gravity. And beam weapons (on the battleships). And force fields. So VOTOMS isn't really very "realistic" at all.
And yet none of this really matters. The technology is never really dwelt on (unlike, say, Star Trek with all of its technobabble). It is used simply as a means to tell the story. Even the titular robots of the show take a back seat to the story itself - this is the most amazing thing about Armored Trooper VOTOMS.
And what a story it is! To draw another comparison to Mobile Suit Gundam, this story is an inversion of that show's common trope of "civilian is forced to fight and becomes a soldier." In this series a soldier (Chirico) survives a Hundred Years War and has to learn how to live as a civilian. Or not. As he says himself at many points in the show, all that Chirico knows is how to fight and kill. This is even reflected in his personality, which at the beginning is almost dead. Chirico doesn't even really have a chance to stop fighting, though. On his last mission it seems he saw something he wasn't supposed to see and now everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in the galaxy is out to get him. Which means more fighting. His quest to find to find out who is trying to kill him and why will take him four story arcs and three planets to complete, and it's all worth watching.
But enough stupid analysis! What you're probably saying is "Yes, I already know I want to watch this show, dummy. What are the DVDs themselves like?" Well, there are 9 in all. Eight for the show itself and the ninth is a bonus disc that only comes in this metal box with a field guide booklet, if you sprung for it (and I think at this point that is the only way to get all this - originally CPM offered to send the bonus stuff upon the purchase of all four individual sets, but now I don't know since they don't even have a site for this product on the web). The DVD transfer is good, with a little grain and good colors. This set is subtitled only, no dub. Correction: there is an English dub of episode 1 on the bonus disc, and it is ATROCIOUS. The voice acting is horrible: for example: Chirico doesn't sound like a war-weary, emotionally dead killing machine... he sounds like a mildly irked PBS Documentary Narrator. The sound for these DVDs is good, although the volume of the music playing during the main menu is MUCH louder than the volume of the actual show itself (you have been warned).
In conclusion, buy this. Buy this now, before they are all gone. If you enjoy "real" giant robot shows, you owe it to yourself to watch this."