A model line and anime series featuring animal-shaped Humongous Mecha.Zoids is set on the planet Zi, a mostly desert-like world where the human population lives with Zoids, native mechanical lifeforms that can be turned into deadly fighting machines.Most of the stories concern battles between the Helic Republic, the Guylos, and Zenebas Empires. This is told in the "Battle Story" in each of the model kits, though the animated series doesn't follow them too closely. These models have been sold in North America, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere periodically over the past 20 years or so, rarely accompanied by the storyline.Unique in all of the series is the animation style. The people and most of the environments are animated traditionally, but the Zoids are CGI with cel shading to blend in. The process is generally well done; the Conspicuous CG is there, but not very distracting.The animated series takes a lot of inspiration from the Gundam franchise, with the first two series having a war theme and later series lightening it up with a tournament storyline.Zoids (dub title Zoids: Chaotic Century), was aired in 1999 and was the first anime series. Taking elements from the Battle Story, Chaotic Century focuses on Van Flyheight, a boy who comes across a small Zoid known as an Organoid, which he names Zeke (Sieg in the original Japanese), sleeping in a pod hidden in an old ruin. He also discovers a mysterious girl he names Fiona (Fiine), who happened to be sleeping in the pod next to Zeke's. Zeke has the ability to resurrect Zoids, so after restoring an abandoned Shield Liger to life, Van takes it to help Fiona find "Zoid Eve". Along the way, they meet up with the smuggler and trader Moonbay, the mercenary Irvine, and end up getting caught up in the war between the Helic Republic and Guylos Empire that takes priority over finding Zoid Eve.The second season of Chaotic Century, Zoids: Guardian Force, takes place two years after the end of the first season. Van is part of a special forces unit founded to help keep the peace between the Republic and the Empire. As he reunites with Fiona, they find themselves opposing a mysterious group that seeks to cause chaos all over the planet. While Chaotic Century had concluded its story, it left a lot of the backstory concerning Fiona and Zoid Eve a mystery. Guardian Force delves heavily into the backstory and finally gives a conclusion to the characters' timeline. The show had such a fan following that Cartoon Network actually relented to fan complaints that the last four episodes were not aired during its Toonami run and ran a marathon of those last four episodes.The second anime series, Zoids: New Century, takes place centuries after the previous two, events from the first two seasons only vaguely being canon and confirmed as such by voiceovers left out of the dub. The world is more or less at peace, and battles between groups of Zoids are now a national spectator sport. The story focuses on Bit Cloud, a wandering Junk dealer seeking to build the perfect Zoid. Bit runs afoul of the Blitz Team, one of the competing teams of Zoid warriors, and while imprisoned, ends up befriending the Liger Zero, a tempermental Zoid that usually doesn't let anybody pilot it. The Liger Zero seems to like Bit, however, so the Blitz Team allows him to work off his debt by piloting the Zoid for them. As the story progresses it reveals an organization that likes to break the normal rules, calling themselves the Backdraft Group.New Century was actually the first Zoids anime to be released in North America, premiering on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. Chaotic Century was aired later, usually early in the morning after the end of Adult Swim programming and before the resumption of Cartoon Network's regular programming.The third series, Zoids: Fuzors, was similar in theme to New Century, but set in its own continuity. It shows off the concept of the Fuzors, smaller Zoids that can combine with the larger ones to boost their power or give them new abilities. Fuzors was also aired on Toonami, but was canceled after only 13 of its 26 episodes aired. Eventually, all 26 episodes were shown in Australia. In a curious change, the series was shown in Japan after its US release. The Japanese version had new animation added, to the point where the second episode is completely different.The fourth series, Zoids: Genesis, is also in its own continuity, and is set after aterrible cataclysm wrecks the civilization on Zi. This series only had a limited release outside Japan.The original '80s release of the models in the UK was accompanied by a Marvel UK comic, which stands entirely in its own continuity. It followed the story of the survivors of a human prison ship which crashed on what they think is an uninhabited planet but is in fact Zoidstar, former capital of the Zoidaryan Empire. The Zoids are the android-piloted war machines of the Zoidaryans left to run amok after the (almost) total extinction of their masters. Thanks to the actions of the last remaining Zoidaryans the Zoids have divided into two antagonistic armies — the Blue Zoids and Red Zoids — and are fighting a brutal war across the ruined surface of Zoidstar. A third faction soon arises dedicated to uniting the other two and conquering the galaxy.A spate of video games take place in their own pocket continuities, Mega Crossovers of several of the above, or some combination of the two. Notable entries include the Turn-Based Strategy game Zoids Assault for the Xbox 360 and the Zoids SagaRole-Playing Game series for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, along with a Commodore 64 game simply titled Zoids and released during the kits' original 80s heyday. Genesis is also included as one of the series in Super Robot Wars K, which is considered a good sign for Takara Tomy and Bandai to work together.It also spawned a Spin-Off model line called Soukou Kyoshin Z-Knight, which is about Earthlings' humanoid Humongous Mecha developed from Zoids. It was moderately successful, but was ultimately discontinued in 1993. It also has a short promo OVA by Sunrise.
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Tropes Used in the Franchise as a Whole/The Battle Story
Aborted Arc: The Rebirth Century storyline was aborted with the cancellation of the model line.
Ace Custom: Helic's personal Kentauros as mentioned below, Karl Schwarz' Saber Tiger and Iron Kong customs, not to mention the Dengeki Hobby Magazine Zoids like Saint Gale Impressa and Rez Tiger.
Action Girl: Rosa Lauri, bodyguard of President Helic and his eventual wife. Two notable feats are taking on Franz (an Empire soldier) in sword to sword combat on top of a Battlerover and Roadskipper and letting him live after she trounced his ass and piloting the Kentauros (a Gojulas/Ultrasaurus/Salamander/Gordos hybrid Zoid that was Helic's personal ride) against an enemy Zoid that Helic could not defeat — she grabbed said Zoid and flew really high into the sky before turning upside down and piledriving it into the ground. She survived. Helic very promptly afterwards asked her to marry him.
Attack Drone: Depends on the continuity, but especially Zabat and the first four chimera Blox.
Badass: Karl Schwarz in the Battle Story, he charges Prozen's Deathsaurer in an Iron Kong and kills it. An Iron Kong killed a Deathsaurer. A Zoid that normally requires Madthunders or an Ultrasaurus to kill.
Ray Gregg survived through the entire history of the Ray Force, whether against Berserk Fuhrers, Seismosaurus, Energy Ligers. You name it, he survived it.
Combining Mecha: In 1989 Shoteagle, Gorgolauncher, and Thundercannon combined with the few Grade Up Zoids, later in 2001 this was done to a very minor extent with Berserk Führer and a handful of much smaller Zoids, then in 2002 combining was the Rule of Cool for the Blox Zoids. Taken further with Fuzors in 2003, dropped with Genesis, brought back with Neo Blox in 2006, and gone since 2007.
Emergency Weapon: The Gojulas Giga can fire a massive energy blast from the 32 spikes on its back, at the cost of greately weakening the Zoid.
EMP: The Neo-Zenebas Empire was particularly fond of these: the Dimetrodon has jamming abilities, while the Grounchar and Dark Spiner can completely freeze enemy Zoids.
Empathic Weapon: According to the Battle Story, all Zoids are living, sentient beings that can override their pilot's control if necessary. In fact, most characters refer to their Zoid as a "partner" rather than a "vehicle". In the anime, to what degree the Zoids seem alive and how people treat them varies widely between characters, continuities, and even individual mecha.
The Empire: There's plenty of sympathetic Zenebas characters in the Battle Story, while the first appearance of the Guylos lot marks 'em as rather merciless, playing this trope very straight... though by the newer stuff they're nicer, and confusingly enough (Neo)Zenebas replaces Guylos as the evil empire later on in the 1999-2003 Battle Story.
Expy: In all four series, the main hero pilots a Liger-type Zoid, his sidekick pilots a wolf, and The Dragon pilots a theropod zoid. Fuzors is the only anime where the Big Bad Zoid is not a Tyrannosaurus-type.
Not to mention that usually, The Hero's Liger-type will have or acquire a form that utilizes some sort of Cool Sword or BFS.
Facial Markings: Actually justified a bit in source material. Apparently, the unusually high metallic content of the atmosphere of the planet Zi causes changes in humans similar to drinking water with colloidal silver in it—meaning it changes the color of your skin. The implication is that as generations passed, the mutations became less noticeable as their bodies adjusted. In Guardian Force, it's stated that the dominant race of humans came from Earth within memory, so they hadn't adjusted fully; by the time of NCZ, they were almost totally accustomed to it. No explanation for why Zoidians had those markings, though.
The zoidians were around long before the humans arrived. presumably this happened to them too.
Fragile Speedster: Most flight-specialty mecha play this straight, though some avert it and the anime more often than not follows the Rule of Cool instead.
Among ground units Merda certainly qualifies with its crazy high speed hovering.
Gatling Good: Gator, Megatopros, Gunbluster, Dark Horn, King Gojulas, Gun Sniper, Elephander with its Assault Gatling unit, Shadow Fox, Scissorstorm, Laserstorm, Energy Liger.
Grey and Gray Morality: The Helic Republic and the Zenebas (and later Neo Zenebas) Empire in the Battle Story, while Zenebas was a man who believed they should strike their enemies first he was also a loving father and a kind leader, the only truly evil decision he made was allying with Guylos, and he regretted that. Meanwhile, Helic was a good man, but he was never a warrior, and when he had taken back his lands he still pressed on. This is really obvious however between Ray Gregg and Wolf Muroa, both want peace (Ray under the Republic and Wolf under the Empire) and think the war has gone on long enough.
Guns VS Swords: Occurs fairly often, protagonists tend to have some sort of blade weapon on their mecha.
Hellish Horse: Evil Pegasus, which is black with red wings toting a pair of gold lances and a golden horn called Thunder Blade. Even more frightening is how much collectors pay to get one.
I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Every location on Nyx, aptly labeled "The Dark Continent". The old line mentioned places such as the Bloody Gate and Devil's Maze, while most place names in the newer line are from Norse mythology (Yggdrasil Mountains, Sessrumnir City...)
Invisibility Cloak: In the form of active optical camouflage, formerly the big thing regarding Helcat and Diablo Tiger but cheapened and thrown onto practically everything in the anime (or can actually be used on everything in some of the games).
Jack of All Stats: Depending on the continuity, Red Horn, most lion or tiger types, Command Wolf types, Black Rhimos, Bearfighter, and Shadow Fox amongst others.
The Juggernaut: Ultrasaurus, Death Saurer, Mad Thunder, Gilvader, King Gojulas, Gojulas Giga, and Seismosaurus. In Battle Stories, these zoids were consider unstopable when they were introduced. Most of them eventually got dethroned, except the King Gojulas that got destroyed by meteor shower instead.
Knight Templar: Störmer in the battle story who wanted to make "a better Zenebas empire" for himself and princess Elena.
And then there was Wolff, who wanted to do the same thing for the Neo Zenebas Empire... and in doing so, had to kill the current Republic president: his aunt, Louise Elena Camford, whose middle name makes her exactly who you'd suspect in disguise. Whoops.
Large Ham: Again, Störmer. But then, given that he piloted a Gilvader, it's understandable.
Laser Blade: Via technicality, every blade on the mecha themselves has at least some physical component to it beyond energy. Elephander has one coming out of its nose!
Lightning Bruiser: Depending on the continuity, anything with "liger" in its name plays this straight, the Energy Liger usually fits this to extreme degrees.
Mecha of the Geno Saurer family generally fit this role as well.
Mechanical Evolution: The Zoids Bible says that they originally descended from simple metallic life-forms, evolving pretty much exactly the same as on Earth except for the appearance of the Zoid Core. This makes less sense when you consider that Zoids reproduce asexually, dinosaur-type Zoids didn't die out completely, and "convergent evolution" just doesn't work like that.
Mighty Glacier: Many, but notable examples include all the Gojulas types, Death Saurer, and Ultrasaurus.
Mini-Mecha: Plenty of lesser-known lines were these. Often featured open cockpit designs, or even just a seat.
Frightening considering Ptero Rayse and its Mach 2.5 top speed without so much as a seat for it's pilot. No, if you're a Ptero Rayse pilot you just deal with it!
More Dakka: Gunbluster, King Baron and Brastle Tiger.
Mooks: Rev Raptors are like the Zaku of Zoids: numerous, used extensively by the villains, and easily destroyed.
Multiform Balance: The Liger Zero and Berserk Führer armours, as mentioned above. Battle Story and other variants give us the Liger Zero X (an Empire version designed for electronic warfare) and various packs for the Berserk Führer that replace its iconic "eggbeaters" with high-powered boosters (Storm CAS), hybrid particle cannons (Jagd CAS), or a high-output reactor and missile pods (Zenebas CAS).
Sucking-In Lines: Some continuities will use their own versions of this for charged particle cannons.
Super Robot: King Gojulas, let's put this into perspective: it alone turned the war from "Helic fighting guerrila combat" to "The Guylos empire is almost dead". Its roar would shake Zoids and break them apart, his chest cannons obliterated armies, if anything got close, it simply picked it up and tore it in half. It took a meteor shower to put it down. This is understandable, considering that it's the Zoid equivalent of Mechagodzilla.
This Is a Drill: Spinosapper's laser excavator, although it's circular instead of conical.
Time Skip: Original Battle Story -> New Battle Story. Zoids: Rebirth Century started to fill the gap until it got cancelled.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Due to the nature of the Battle Story, it's never confirmed that Elena was killed or if she was simply sick of it all and escaped.
Worthy Opponent: Ray Gregg to Wolff Muroa, it began when Ray spared Wolff to save his men, and grew from there when Ray caused the death of Anna, Wolff's childhood friend (technically, Anna set her Zoid to self-destruct when she realised she had lost). From there it snowballed out of control until they had their final showdown in the Zero Falcon and Energy Liger respectively. They had a rather peaceful resolution, however.
Ace Custom: Brad's Command Wolf, Leena and Naomi's Gunsnipers, Harry Champ's Darkhorn.
Broad Strokes: New Century/Zero treats Chaotic Century and Guardian Force this way. New Century seems to take place quite some time after the earlier series, and their plots don't mesh much besides the occasional Continuity Nod.
Calling Your Attacks: Done mostly with Bit an Liger Zero's various attacks, but Leena likes to do it as well.
Continuity Nod: New Century/Zero has a number of these to Chaotic Century/Guardian Force. Notably, the final battle which takes place on top of the original Ultrasaurus.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: This is Bit in some episodes but especially the second one where he beats the crap out of two thugs and makes it look like an accident...and then proceeds to, in the upcoming battle against a sniper, waste all six of his allowed shots into the cliff face below her mech. Later we find that this has weakened it enough to send her plummeting down the cliff, allowing the Liger Zero into close-range combat - where it excels.
Cut Short: New Century was cut down from a planned 30+ epsiodes to 26.
Mecha Expansion Pack: The Wild Weasel unit Leena gets (then adds additional rocket launchers and a pair of gatling guns nearly as large as the mech itself!) and the CAS parts of the Liger Zero.
Liger gets a Panzer upgrade at one point, turning it into a walking tank with really devastating attacks, but the armor and missile systems burden it to a crawl. It's rid of in the final attack, wherein it fires everything.
Pity the Kidnapper: Leena's kidnapping by the Backdraft Group. When they call the Blitz Team to extort them into an unsanctioned battle, the team leader has to repeatedly yell at his men to keep Leena under control. He ends up getting hit in the face with a flying object when she continues to cause trouble, has to put the Blitz Team on hold to go deal with the situation, and when he returns his hair is disheveled, his clothes torn and his Cool Shades cracked in several places. He handles this with admirable dignity. Leena later escapes on her own... blowing a large hole in the Backdraft Group's Whale King in the process.
Playing Cyrano: Used recursively. The rivalry between Dr. Laon and Dr. Toros began when Laon asked Toros to write a love letter to his crush on his behalf. Toros, however, doesn't feel up to the task himself, so he asks their mutual friend Oscar to do it for him. Unfortunately, Oscar mistakenly signs the letter as Toros instead of Laon, leading Laon to believe that Toros deliberately stole the woman he loved.
Product Placement: Doc Toros is often seen building/playing with Zoids kits, complete with authentic instruction manuals/foldouts that seem a tad out of place with the rest of the art.
Running Gag: Whenever Jamie's Ptearus is used in a battle, it is totalled. Complete with Jamie crying out for his beloved zoid.
So Last Season: Zoids progressively get new upgrades, and some characters have to upgrade their Zoids themselves or be left behind. Or leave the Zoids behind and get new ones entirely; i.e. most every New Century/Zero protagonist barring Bit.)
Small Name, Big Ego: Harry, who proclaims himself to be "A man destined to be king". Leena also counts to a degree, having answered an anonymous e-mail asking who the greatest Zoid pilot is with "ME!".
Bath Kick: Felme does this in some of her bubble bath scenes.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Ruuji and the gang try a sneak attack on Digald's base at Torafu and accidentally give their position away for a brief moment. One of the commander's aides spots this but decides it was just his imagination. The commander's response? Send out patrols to that area.
Mook Chivalry: Averted with Digald. Their soldiers are shown using terrain to their advantage, springing ambushes and sneak attacks, and repeatedly concentrate their fire on the most dangerous enemies to bring them down quickly. They even retreat when the situation looks bad.
Desert Punk: Zoidstar. Justified because it essentially is a neverending battlefield for the Blue and Red Zoids.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The comic featured a group of humans sent to an alien planet by an evil megacorporation to bring back a sample of an alien life form so the Corporation can weaponise it. The Corporation also sent along an android to make sure that everything went as planned.
Only Sane Man: Krark the Prince of Darkness; he belived that the Zoids should stop fighting amongst themselves and unite under his rule to conquer the galaxy. Rather telling that the only sane man is also the Big Bad.
Evil Counterpart: The BF to the Zero in the Silver Beast Machine God Game Boy Color game. And how.
Good Bad Translation: Zoids Legacy, the only English GBA title. Every sentence in the game either comes out grammatically incorrect, uses an exceedingly weird word or is just plain nonsensical. This verges on the hilarious when Zan is shot down and he, verging on tears, declares "Can't hear Zoids". And then there's the lines like "Prince Gard, use me please!"
Macross missile massacre: because of how weapons worked in "Zoids Battle Legends" (weapons of the same type fired all at once) you could stack smaller missile launchers on a large zoid. IE 32 missiles every time you fire when using a Gojulas Giga.
Mad Scientist: Opis from the first Saga game. So much so that his Japanese character description uses the exact words (well, in katakana) "mad scientist".
Original Generation: All the main characters of the Saga games, as well as the VS./Battle Legends main characters. As for Zoids, there's the Trinity Liger, the Geno Hydra, the Blitz Tiger, the Death Meteor, the Victory Liger, and the Victory Rex and its various combinations with other Zoids (and that's just from the Saga games).