Dancougar is a 1985 Super Robot anime which tells the story of the Cyber Beast Force (Juusenkitai). The Earth is under attack by the Muge Empire, and they slowly take over the Earth as they were able to acquire information about Earth's resources and strategies thanks to a traitor named Shapiro Keats. The last line of defense for the Earth is the Cyber Beast Force, a squad of soldiers operating machines programmed with the instincts of wild animals, and who are able to unleash the full potential of that bestial rage. The Juusenkitai pilots are:
SaraYuuki. A Fiery Redhead who once loved Shapiro, now heartbroken at his betrayal, but seems to open up with Shinobu. Pilots the Land Cougar.
Masato Shikibu. The youngest member of the team, he tends to lighten the situation by cracking jokes, but is smart and skilled enough to be a valued member. Pilots the Land Liger.
Ryou Shiba. Calm, cool, mostly solitary member of the team. Knows Kung Fu and will use it often. Pilots the Big Moth.
Eventually, as the story advances, their machines are able to combine into one giant robot known as Dancougar. Together, they must defeat the Muge Empire and liberate Earth.Notable for having strong Real Robot elements, despite ostensibly being a Super Robot show - it's either a Super show with Real tendencies, or vice-versa. Unusually for a mecha show, the main voice cast also got the chance to sing a few songs.The TV series was followed by an OVA finale in the form of "Requiem for the Victims", then two further OVAs - the one-shot "God Bless Dancougar", and the four-episode "Blazing Epilogue".This series also got a sort-of sequel/Spiritual Successor in the form of Dancougar Nova, though a common complaint is that it's "Gravion Drei". (There was also a manga called Dancougar BURN from 1997-8, which borrowed some of the same elements but was more of a remake.)Tropes associated with the series:
Big Damn Heroes: The Juusenkitai tends to be sent off to assist resistance groups, who are very happy to see them.
Bittersweet Ending: In the Blazing Epilogue OVA, Earth is saved but Sara decided to be left alone, floating in outer space.
BFG: Dancougar is pretty much covered in them, and the booster upgrade adds a couple more.
The full payload: 4 pulse lasers on its chest, two missile launchers/energy cannons located on the hips and two located behind and above the shoulders in the booster. There's also the large "DankuuHou" cannon located on its back. The DankuuHou Formation attack fires all of these at once. It also has a hand-held cannon that is built from the hand-held guns of its component units. The non-canon Final Dancougar gets another cannon by using Alan's craft. (Worth noting that, in-show, it's only referred to as the DankuuHou; as an attack name, the DankuuHou Formation is something that's only in the Super Robot Wars series. Originally, the booster got in the way of Big Moth's main guns, but the upgrade in God Bless Dancougar fixed this.)
BFS: The Dankuu Kouga Ken, which takes Dancougar's regular Dankuu Ken sword and adds a ridiculously long satellite-transmitted beam blade.
Child Soldiers: Played absolutely straight a couple of times - for example, the Juusenkitai are sent in to reinforce a fortress in Appalachia, only to find that the only remaining staff are kids from the military school. Kids can also be seen assisting the resistance in North America, but it's unlikely any of them are soldiers.
Combining Mecha: A particularly unusual example, and something of a Deconstruction of how the trope usually plays out. The smaller robots (Eagle Fighter, Land Cougar/Liger) basically form a helmet and boots for the Big Moth (to show that Dancougar is "more than the sum of its parts"). And due to how much mental strength forming and operating Dancougar requires, its first combination is surprisingly late, all the way out in episode 16. On top of that, because of the sort of strong-willed personalities the pilots had, the combination wasn't successfully completed until their second attempt, when it was far more of a do-or-die situation.
Deconstruction: Of a classic Super Robot plotline. Only unlike many other deconstructions, this one manages to a work interesting and entertaining enough on it's own that you hardly notice the deconstructing. Points addressed in particular:
"Why does the evil alien empire fool around with Monster of the Week trying to take down lone mecha instead of launching a full-scale invasion right away?" - Show premise. (They're still used, mind, but are frequently customizations of existing units.)
"How would a hot-blooded pilot actually fit and cooperate with a military" - see Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, which happens on more than one other occasion.
"How would a Martial Pacifist perform in a real, full-scale War ?" - Ryo in one episode.
Also touches on how hard it would be for four people, each one Hot-Blooded to some degree and confident in their individual piloting skills, to control a Combining Mecha which requires all its pilots to operate in sync. The first transformation took place after a quarter of the show had passed (after the pilots got the hang of the transforming mechanics and their Beast forms), and it actually failed since they have yet to learn how suppress their ego and work effectively as a team. Or, more like they did not trust Shinobu enough and a case of Poor Communication Kills.
Deflector Shields: Eagle Fighter gets one in its Aggressive Beast mode, but it's used more to crash through enemies rather than in any defensive capability. One also forms around the Juusenki as they combine into Dancougar. (This use predates the V-MAX by six months real-time.)
Elaborate Underground Base: CBF's base of operations is hidden in a dam reservoir, though it's not much more elaborate than a typical military base. Turns into a Cool Ship around halfway through the series.
Glass Cannon: Gil Dorom's plans. They involve tricking people and causing in-fighting - defeating the enemy from within, without a massive mobilization of force. But he only uses about a hand-full of fighters or a weak monster so the actual physical problem is solved very easily once the ruse is uncovered.
A God Am I: Shapiro is initially motivated by his desire to rule the world, but eventually becomes this.
Holding Back the Phlebotinum: General Igor held back on telling the CBF about their machines' humanoid forms and Dancougar until he felt the pilots were ready for it. He also had a specific reason for not going into space to strike the enemy: the Gundor can only stay operational for a set amount of time before its power supply burns out, so he waited until the pilots could fulfill their greatest potential, and therefore had their best chance at a victory.
Hot-Blooded: Shinobu. All the pilots, actually, as that's what their machines require to operate properly, but Shinobu stands out as being so straightforwardly hot-blooded among mecha anime pilots.
In the Name of the Moon: "The love in our hearts will slice through evil's darkness! DANKUUKOUGAKEN! YATTE YARUZE!!"
Limited Animation: Often. Episode 11 is particularly bad, as they apparently couldn't even afford to properly animate the Humanoid mode transformations properly.
Meaningful Name: Dancougar's sword was named by Ryou as "A sword that severs (evil) space" - [DanKuuKen].
Mecha-Mook: The Muge Small Aerial Mecha (the goldenrod fighter craft - that really is the official name) and the humanoid Zey-pha.
A Mech by Any Other Name: The Juusenki ("Beast Battle Machine"), which are technically numbered "AGT-1" through "AGT-4" but are far more often referred to by name. The individual forms are designated N(ormal), A(ggressive), and H(umanoid). Alan's Black Wing is not a Juusenki, and only has N and H modes.
The enemy mecha don't really have a designation, surprisingly, and it appears that only the Muge side knows their individual names. (What's weird is that the Earth side doesn't give them reporting names.)
Mid-Season Upgrade: The Humanoid transformations for the Juusenki in episode 11, followed by Dancougar itself. The show is notorious for how long it took the titular Super Robot to show up. There's also the Flight Booster late in the series and Gundor, their flying mecha-dragon base.
The Dancougar that shows up from God Bless Dancougar onwards is technically the "Rebuilt Strengthened Type" Dancougar; it's not just an Animation Bump. (This is the version used in Super Robot Wars Alpha 3 - the booster is built into Big Moth, and it can fire the Dankuuhou without hindrance.)
Newer Than They Think: Typically when it appears in Super Robot Wars, Dancougar comes with all its bells and whistles right out of the gate. In reality, the iconic Dancouken doesn't appear until the Requiem for Victims OVA -after the tv series had ended- and the Dancoukogaken didn't appear until God Bless Dancougar years earlier.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In episode 3, Shinobu manages to screw over a gigantic weapon stockpile. The Muge pilot seems to have been flying right for the base entrance, plus the base itself was strangely left without major safety measures (like a door).
The reason the first combination attempt failed was Ryo messing with the engine specifically to cause the combination to fail. (This leads directly to Captain Gerald doing a suicide run in the CBF carrier, to buy them time to combine properly.) In fairness, none of them knew about the combination until it told Shinobu about it, and they thought he was going nuts.
Not So Different: Alan and Ross has a lot more in common than they would admit. In fact, they have the same idea for ending the war.
A particularly funny example happened after Ross's death, when the team imagined what Ross would say to Shinobu in a particular situation. Cue Alan contacting the base and saying exactly that.
Not Quite Dead: Both Muge Zorbados and Shapiro turn out to be this way in the OVA sequels.
A Nuclear Error: Those nukes in episode 12 would realistically be in no danger whatsoever of going off. They would be within the enemy's easy grasp, so disabling them (ideally through disintegration) would nonetheless be the right thing to do.
Off Model: A recurring flaw in the TV series, the main victim being Sara. (The animation tended towards 'cheap' and 'you can count the frames in this shot' rather frequently. Episode 11, for example, would look more at home in the early '70s.)
Real Men Wear Pink: Shinobu seems to like wearing a long pink shirt when out of uniform. It's the Eighties - whaddya want?
Running Gag: Shinobu's about to get into a fistfigh- no, he's just gettin' his ass handed to him.
Spell My Name with an "S": The Input Code clearly spells it 'D A N C O U G A', and there's no lengthening of the sound in the title either, yet 'Dancougar' is still the most popular spelling.
This is mostly down to the mech's head-hood being very evocative of a cougar-head (ala Go Lion and its lion head), along with the rest of the animal theme. Also not helping is the fact that solo "ga" is often used to represent the soft R in a "gar" or "ger" sound, although Dancougar lacks the trailing hold that usually denotes this (e.g. ガー). Since many more casual English-speaking fans don't check kana closely, they assume it's supposed to be "ダンクーガー".
None of this explains, of course, why "Dankuuga" isn't used at all.
Spoiler Opening: The first opening for quite a while. For example, the Juusenki humanoid forms aren't used until episode 11.
Stock Footage: Among other things, you'll notice that the Land Cougar A likes to bite its/her enemies in the same area.
The Strategist: Shapiro on the Muge side (which just adds fuel to the factional friction fire as that's Gildrome's hat as well).
Super Mode: What the Aggressive Beast modes essentially are. They function very well in their normal and humanoid forms (as proof, Alan's Black Wing only has these two modes), but the Aggressive mode is what makes them Earth's trump card against the Muge Empire.
Super Robot Genre: Four piloted machines, all animals, with their own humanoid forms, that combine, and grow stronger with their pilot's rage, that's four checks right there.
And yet it's very difficult to not call this a Real Robot show. Between the cynicism, the heavy emphasis on military logistics and planning, and even the simple fact that the individual machines are not useless, the show is more of a Real Robot approach to a Super Robot plotline.
Super Robot Wars: Shows up often enough, and since the turn of the century they've been including the non-canon Final Dancougar, which is accessible because they usually spare Alan from death.
It made a notable appearance in Z2, alongside its successor. In this game, it is said that Dancougar Nova and R-Daigun are based off of Final Dancougar, which Earth Will rescued when it and its pilots were stuck in Muge's dimension after defeating him. Also, apparently Moon WILL calls his machine Original Dancougar because he considers his the first true Dancougar.
Moon WILL: I have no use for a Dancougar that needs humans.
Also responsible for properly naming a couple of things. 'Shapiro's Combat Mecha' was given the name 'Desire' in GC, and the 'Muge Small Aerial Mecha' was finally named the 'Dol-Pha' in XO. (The Dol-Pha was apparently named that from the beginning, too.)
Transforming Mecha: The Juusenki all have vehicle, bestial, and humanoid forms (N, A, and H forms respectively) - except Eagle Fighter, which takes its vehicle form and adds an energy aura for its bestial form.