An examination of gender politics and cultural divisions played out as a Space Opera Mecha Show
. No, really.
In the far-flung future, there are a pair of colony worlds: Tarak
, locked in a constant state of Space Cold War
Tarak is the Orwellian, industrial, militarized planet of men. All food is synthetic, flavorless pills. All public gatherings are related to sports, marching, and being manly
. Everyone wears a uniform. Babies are made by merging your genes with those of your buddies in a factory
, and they are raised by dedicated orphanages-schools.
Mejale is the Awesome but Impractical
planet of women. All things are polished and shiny. All military uniforms are excessively flattering
. Appearances are all important. The citizenry form couples, of the lesbian top
variety, called the "Oma" and "Fama" in the native vernacular (probably derived from homme
), and make babies by merging two eggs and implanting them in the Fama. They eat real food and celebrate real holidays, like Christmas.
Naturally, the two worlds hate each other.
The story follows a young man named Hibiki Tokai, a factory worker from Tarak who wants more than anything to be a mecha pilot. When his attempt to steal a Humongous Mecha
get him thrown into the brig of reconstructed battleship, things seem to be looking down...until the ship gets attacked by Space Pirates
, and Hibiki, a bishonen
doctor, a cowardly officer and a malfunctioning robot wind up as prisoners on a ship full of women. Things couldn't possibly get any worse
That's when the pirates find themselves stranded on the far end of the galaxy, with a mysterious alien force out to kill them. But, as a result of some serious Plot-Technology, the pirate vessel merges with the men's starship, and one of the "Vanguard" mecha and three of the pirates' "Dread" fighters are altered. The Vanguard, piloted by Hibiki, can combine with any of the three Dreads into a form with amazing abilities.
All of a sudden, Hibiki's the focus of three girls with different personalities
who all want to try and "merge" with him. Of course, none of them have any concept of heterosexuality
, and Hibiki doesn't even seem to know about any
sexuality. They clumsily rediscover their biological imperatives as they fight a mysterious shadow enemy across the universe.
Most of the crew fit dual roles for both a madcap, romantic-comedy and a military story. The Captain
is also a wise grandmother
, the medical technician's a naughty loli
nurse, the local Wrench Wench
is a Meganekko
and a Gadgeteer Genius
, while the communications officer is friendly and pregnant. The first officer's essentially the Harem Nanny
, and the quartermaster's the wise Cool Big Sis
Over time, the three men and the enormous gang of women come to an understanding, and they work together to unravel the bigger mysteries of the universe, like the origin of their robotic enemies and the fate of the other human colonies. A very funny and enjoyable dose of Martian Successor Nadesico
meets Love Hina
meets Star Trek: Voyager
Can be watched legally online here
This show contains examples of:
- Absent Aliens:
- The closest thing we have to real aliens are a bunch of psychic Navajo expies who border on Homo Novus. It runs into Human Aliens with Ma-Ger and Tarak, the inhabitants think the people on the other planets are evil aliens, when they're really just male and female humans trying their damnedest to be One Gender Races with genetic engineering.
- Earth as well.
- Absolute Cleavage: Jura. Just look at the page picture.
- The Aesthetics of Technology: Tarak tech is rough and bolted on and they still use conventional firearms while Majarl has shiny spaceships and laser rings.
- All Your Powers Combined: Super Vandread, naturally, being a Combining Mecha of the three Vandreads
- An Aesop:
- Something about life being worth fighting for.
- That our hopes should not lie in ourselves, as we are mortal, but in what we can do for others; those who survive us, and those who follow and respect or follow our 'signposts.' Or maybe that life means change, sometimes death but also the end of what was. (Meia's reply to the ranking officer in the final episode.) It's a little confusing, actually.
- Ancient Conspiracy:
- The rulers of Tarak and Mejale were in on Earth's harvesting operation the whole time. It is later revealed that they were not willing to lose any natural children (i.e. conceived and delivered the traditional way)of the rest of the original colonists — the vast majority of whom still remain secretly secured in cryo-stasis, guarded over by the man who raised Hibiki — hence, the reason for the genetically-engineered sons and daughters of Megere and Talark respectively, who were secretly considered to be merely ExpendableClones, and thus sacrificeable to the Harvester Fleets of Earth.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Meia delivers one to Hibiki after he angrily denounces Gascogne for acting calm, cool and sarcastic because she doesn't understand the pain, pressure and suffering that the front line fighters have to face. Shortly after we get to see exactly why Gascogne acts the way she does...
- Babies Make Everything Better: The birth-cry of Ezra's daughter Kahlua deactivates a computer virus attacking the ship.
- Babysitting Episode: Meia's Birthday Episode doubles as this: Meia is stuck babysitting Ezra's baby daughter as part of a ploy to prevent Meia from escaping her own birthday party again.
- Back for the Finale: See Gondor Calls for Aid
- Bare Your Midriff: Jura, Dita and BC.
- Space Mines: Tarak's line of outer-system defense is an immense mine field that one must pass through to reach either planet. It takes a command-level code to allow safe passage.
- Space Pirates: Pretty much the entire crew of the Nirvana, although they don't do it very much after the first episode. Justified in that there's not much pirating to do when you are sent to the unknown side of the galaxy with hostile aliens on your trail. Rabat seems to play it straighter.
Girl Boy - Bart, a rare male example of this trope. He is the only one the ship will allow pilot her.
- The Stoic: Meia and Duero.
- Stripperiffic: Jura's daily costume.
- Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Paksis.
- Supporting Harem: While Meia doesn't seem romantically interested in Hibiki, Dita, Jura, and Misty all seem to want him at one point or another. Jura's seems more like The Tease, but Misty and Dita eventually butt heads about their rivalry regarding Hibiki.
- Synchronization: Bart and the Nirvana.
- Telepathic Spacemen: A group of Native American Indian-like people can communicate with their minds because Earth took their vocal chords.
- Third Law of Gender Bending: An extremely subtle example: want to know which character is the Gender Bent mole? Look for the one who always seems to be posing for a fashion shoot.
- Third-Person Person: Jura... sometimes. Also, Dita.
- Through His Stomach: Dita often uses this on Hibiki. It usually works, especially considering he only ate pills on Tarak. Misty does this as well in Season two.
- Touched by Vorlons: Hibiki, Dita, Jura, Meia and Pyoro, due to the influence of the Paksis.
- Tragic Keepsake: Hibiki keeps the handkerchief Saron used to cover his wound.
- Tranquil Fury: Little seems to get under Duelo's skin more than seeing what Earth did to the plague planet all for some sick experiment.
- Twelve-Episode Anime: Originally, but then a second season was made which picks up right where the first left off and provides the real conclusion.
- Unexplained Recovery: Gascogne, who supposedly died in a Heroic Sacrifice that no one could survive. She comes back not only alive, but somehow having managed to get onto, taken over, and piloted a giant enemy mothership.
- Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Bart Garsus, upon The Reveal that BC is a Gender Bender mole. This doesn't stop him, though...
- In all honesty, this probably got dropped on EVERYONE.
- Except the captain. She knew about it the whole time.
- Technically, since homosexuality would seem to be the norm back on Tarak (well, put a bunch of guys together on a planet without any women, what do you expect?), this would be an inversion. The Bart/BC relationship seems to be the Vandread equivalent of the typical shoujo plot of a heterosexual guy finding out the guy he's attracted to is actually a girl (cue sighs of relief). Unless you want to apply heteronormativity to people who think they are a One-Gender Race.
- Wrap your brains around that one.
- Unstoppable Rage:
- Semi-subverted, as Hibiki cuts through a swath of smaller robots after seeing someone die in front of him, just to be swatted away by the enemy flagship.
- Also played straight when Bart's You Shall Not Pass moment.
- Unusual Euphemism: If the proof of your existence lasts more than four hours, consult your physician.
- Unusual User Interface: Bart's station is a green pool of fluid that magically strips him bare and suspends him in a 3D display, reacting to his motions and emotions. The other Paksis-modified ships similarly react to the user's desires and actions.
- The Unwanted Harem: Not just the pilots are chasing Hibiki, after a while.
- Uterine Replicator: Used by the men to reproduce in the absence of women.
- Vanity Is Feminine: The women of Mejale use their greater resources on vanity projects. Wasting energy for example to make their homes look nicer than their neighbours. This resulted in a sector where many of the pirates used to live blacking out. By stark contrast the men of Tarak have no room for vanity on a world were resources are too precious and few to waste needlessly.
- Verbal Tic: Pyoro tends to say his name.
- Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Averted. The Harvester fleet seems to put out newer and stronger ships to face the Nirvana crew. Whether some were already in commission or not is unknown, but even the simple cube enemies learn to deflect the dreads lasers by grouping together. Then they can combine to create copies of all three vandreads and the Nirvana.
- War Is Hell: While we never get to see Tarak fight Mejale directly (other than the first episode when the female pirates attack), as the show goes on, it shows how hectic and pointless fighting can be, and virtually everyone suffers from it in some way.
- Wave Motion Gun: Features a lot of them, from Vandread Dita's twin shoulder-mounted cannons, to the Harvester motherships' main guns.
- We ARE Struggling Together: The crew of the Nirvana at first seem to have no luck convincing most of the groups they encounter about the imminent threat posed by Earth. But in the end, many of them show up to assist the Nirvana in the struggle when they all begin to realize that they in fact have a common goal, which is to not be used for parts by Earth.
- Wham Episode:
- Episode 5 of Season Two When Gascogne's ship crashes into the Harvester mother ship, and the Nirvana forcefully flees from the area.
- Later, episode 10 when BC is revealed to be a spy for Tarak, and is actually a guy.
- Whip It Good: BC during her fight with Liz. Later she knocks out two men with two quick strikes.
- The Worf Barrage:
- The Tarak minefield activates when the Harvester motherships enter the star system. In a mild subversion, it actually manages to destroy one. Unfortunately, there are three more.
- In the first wave. And here comes second, not to mention the flagship.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: Episode 12 of Second Stage
- You Shall Not Pass:
- Bart goes into Papa Wolf mode when the harvesters come to a planet where he befriended an Ill Girl.
- The final episodes of Season 2, when Earth's forces invade Tarak and Mejale space.
- You Will Be Assimilated: Well, not so much turned into Borg-like creatures as much as the Harvesters going to human colonized worlds and capturing them for their organs.