Literature / Zetsubou Robo
Zetsubou Robo is an American science fiction novel published in 2013 and written by Jared Bradley.
Zetsubou Robo begins in the year 2486 when humanity, which has colonized a significant portion of the Milky Way Galaxy, makes first contact with an alien race known as the Bellafaun. Things quickly go downhill for humanity from there, as the Bellafaun are highly xenophobic and racist, decalring that humanity has two choices: become slaves for the Bellafaun, or go extinct. Humanity chooses to fight the Bellafaun, and so an eight year war begins. The main protagonist of the story is Hiromi Callahan, a colonist whose family is almost completely wiped out during the Bellafaun attack on her home planet of Concordia. After hitching a ride on a military ship carrying refugees, Hiromi is left with her surviving relatives on the colony of New Olympia, and soon joins the military as a mech pilot, in order to get revenge against the Bellafaun. The squadron she is assigned to is known as Cobra Squadron, which is lead by Captain Leonard Harrison.
While the story itself is mostly about Hiromi Callahan, other characters share just as much page time, including the other members of Cobra Squadron and even many of the antagonists, including Emperor Jheld Grishnak and High Fleet Commander Doridan Mosk. The majority of the story itself takes place over a period of eight years, with two major time skips and one minor one at the epilogue. The fourth chapter itself is mainly exposition that details the events during the seven year time skip between the Bellafaun's attack on Concordia and their latest incursion into human territory.
- A Father to His Men: Leonard Harrison and Doridan Mosk are both leaders with a desire to keep the men and women under their command alive, although Mosk has much greater success at this than Harrison, since most of the people under his command are safe inside the ship that he commands. That being said, the crew of his ship are fiercely loyal to him precisely because he does his best to keep them alive.
- Ace Pilot: Three of them to boot. Carmen Rockewell, Edward Delgado, and Priss McNichol. Hiromi comes pretty close near the end, after she finally gets shaken out of her Heroic BSOD.
- Action Girl: Priss McNichol, Hiromi Callahan, and Carmen Rockwell.
- Animal Motif: See naming military vehicles after prehistoric animals. The various mech squadrons themselves are named after animals, although these names seem to be chosen at random, and not due to any particular traits found within the pilots.
- Anyone Can Die: Seriously, anyone. The story itself was heavily influenced by the Gundam and Halo franchises, which should tell you quite a lot about how many characters die over the course of the story.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Sergeant Jennifer Mulcahy. She's a Marine sergeant for a reason.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Doridan Mosk, who is responsible for a large number of the Bellafaun's victories over humanity. When he isn't fighting against an enemy, he is usually napping in his quarters, which at least two characters note with incredulity.
- But Not Too Foreign: Hiromi Callahan, sort of. Her sister, Satsuki Callahan, is a much better example, as Hiromi is technically 100 percent Japanese in terms of ethnicity, while Satsuki is actually the product of a mixed-race marriage. Hiromi was apparently conceived during a one-night-stand that her mother had shortly before she married Arthur Callahan.
- Dark Action Girl: Gehrian Skell, and, to a much more sadistic and horrifically cruel extent, Limero Grishnak.
- Defiant to the End: Sergeant Jennifer Mulcahy. Not only does she give Empress Kulam the middle finger before she dies, she also spouts off a one liner with a smile, just seconds before the explosives in the engine room detonate, destroying the Empress's carrier.
- Despair Event Horizon: There are many in the book, but some stand out more than others. Also, the book's name "Zetsubou Robo" comes from the Japanese word for despair.
- During Priss and Kevin Howarth's investigation of their abandoned military base while searching for supplies, they find the corpse of one of their superiors, who apparently ate his gun while in front of a secret escape tunnel. They both try to guess what his motives could have been, since he was right next to an escape tunnel that no one else would have known about, but seeing as how the Bellafaun were already well on their way to conquering most of the planet by the time he died, it's obvious that the man had lost all hope.
- The Third Battle of Concordia. New Olympia has already fallen by the time the Leningrad reaches Concordia (in an attempt to lure the Bellafaun fleet away from New Olympia and give the remaining forces time to evacuate, which fails because only one ship actually follows them), Hiromi Callahan finds her father's desecrated corpse and becomes an emotional wreck, Carmen Rockwell is killed and Elliot Carver becomes an emotional wreck as well after he learns that Carmen was pregnant with their love child at the time of her death, Horatio Newman dies, and nearly all of the Marines on Sergeant Mulcahy's squad are killed while trying to destroy Empress Kulam's Royal Carrier. The only things that prevent the survivors from committing suicide are the fact that Empress Kulam's Royal Carrier is successfully destroyed, two of Mulcahy's Marines survive by virtue of guarding Callahan and Carver on Concordia's surface, and the Leningrad is still intact. That's pretty much it. While Callahan recovers to an extent, Carver ends up trying to commit suicide after they reach Yggdrasil because his therapy sessions inadvertently caused him to deal with all of these issues in quick succession, making him suffer from an almost irrevocable BSOD. Even after Harrison stops him from killing himself and he attends more therapy sessions, the book mentions that he is nothing like he was before the attempted suicide.
- Dwindling Party: Slightly Subverted with Cobra Squadron. Two members of the team have already been killed in battle by the time the squad itself is introduced properly in the fifth chapter, which takes place after a seven year time skip. By the time the war is officially over, only four of the original twelve members of the team are still alive.
- Played completely straight, however, with Sparrow Squadron, which has only one survivor.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Jennifer Mulcahy, having been mortally wounded and trapped on Empress Kulam's ship with no way out, gains the empress's attention and gives her the middle finger before the bombs in the engine room detonate. She manages to destroy a Royal Carrier, holding hundreds of thousands of troops and vehicles, not to mention armed with superior shielding and weapon systems to anything the human military has, just by distracting the Bellafaun crew from the explosives by keeping them focused on killing her the entire time.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Played with. While there are no real dinosaurs featured in the book itself, significant pieces of equipment in the human military, including mechs and dropships, are named after various prehistoric organisms, and not just dinosaurs. The main human mecha is called the Deinonychus Combat Mech, and the main dropship type used in the story is called the Pteranodon Dropship, alongside the less frequently mentioned Quetzalcoatlus Heavy Dropship.
- Even Evil Has Standards: After learnign about Limero Grishnak's ritual, both Doridan Mosk and Emperor Lutwai are horrified, although Lutwai masks his feelings with indifference. When confronted by Hiromi Callahan with questions about the details of her father's death, Lutwai describes the ritual itself as barbaric, showing that even he was disturbed by the Grishnak family.
- Fantastic Racism: The majority of the Bellafaun towards anyone who isn't a Bellafaun.
- From Bad to Worse: While things are already bad enough during the Battle of New Olympia, after Newman accidentally kills Princess Grishnak, all hell breaks loose as Emperor Jheld Grishnak practically orders everyone under his command to commit mass genocide in retaliation.
- Heel–Face Turn: Doridan Mosk, sort of. He was already sick of fighting before he changed sides. Empreror Grishnak's death just finally gave him an excuse to do so, really. A more interesting example would be Emperor Lutwai, who only does so after Hiromi catches him in her mech's hand and practically threatens to kill him if he doesn't agree to sign a cease-fire and a peace treaty. He has enough brains in his head to agree to her demands.
- Heroic BSOD: Happens many times, especially to Hiromi, who just can't catch a break as she has at least three over the course of the story. The two most notable ones for her are after her mother and Sister are killed and after she finds her father's desecrated corpse, and the third being after Elliot Carver's heroic sacrifice. Elliot Carver has one too, after Carmen is killed. He doesn't ever truly recover from it.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Sergeant Jennifer Mulcahy, after nearly everyone on her team has been wiped out inside of Empress Kulam's Royal Carrier. Horatio Newman also counts as well, as he gives Harrison and Serizawa enough time to escape the carrier before it explodes, although it's implied that he wanted to die after his screw-up on New Olympia destroyed any chances of a peace treaty.
- Real Robot: The book is an example of this, as the main mecha featured in it, the Deinonychus Battle Mech and the Bellafaun Archangel, are machines that need repairs after every battle, and are capable of breaking down and malfunctioning if not taken care of properly. The human mecha, the Deinonychus, also have dedicated maintenance teams, much like real life maintenance teams for regular military vehicles such as tanks and helicopters. According to the book, humanity only started using mecha for warfare after the Bellafaun revealed their own mecha during the early days of the war, which humanity nicknamed Archangels, due to mecha being seen as cumbersome and ineffective on a normal battlefield.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Robert Hoffman, the head of the maintenance team for the Deinonychus Battle Mecha, to a degree. He can be quick to anger when his subordinates do something wrong, but he seems to be at least willing to listen to what they have to say instead of just dismissing them outright. Fleet Admiral Westcott seems like this too, at least until the Bellafaun attack New Olympia, at which point he insists on fighting without evacuating the planet first, and after the failure of Operation Lady of War, he seems almost willing to sacrifice thousands of people just to defeat the Bellafaun at New Olympia, until his ships AI, Michelangelo, calls him out on it.
- Shout-Out: To Bubblegum Crisis, courtesy of Priss McNichol, who is named after Priss Asagiri and Leon McNichol. She also has an affinity for motorcycles and brown hair.
- The battle between Edward Delgado and the Bellafaun Corvette is also a shout out to the fight between Godzilla and the Super-X from The Return Of Godzilla.
- Emperor Grishnak is named after a minor Orc character from The Lord of the Rings.
- At one point, Hiromi and Caroline go to a movie theater and watch a film that is obviously inspired by Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
- The section titled "The End of New Olympia" is a reference to The End Of Evangelion.
- During the fourth chapter, it is mentioned that an unmanned human warship, piloted by a single AI, was named the Makhross, which is pronounced exactly the same as Macross. This is even explained, after a lengthy "please don't sue me" disclaimer, in the after-epilogue end-notes of the book.
- Suicide Mission: The operation to destroy Empress Kulam's Royal Carrier doesn't start out this way, as the Marines and Mech pilots infiltrating it clearly intend to escape alive, despite knowing how slim their chances are to begin with, but after their presence is discovered and the Marines guarding their escape ship are killed, it quickly becomes this, especially for Sergeant Mulcahy, after she realizes that everyone on her squad, save the two Marines still on Concordia's surface, is dead. She tells Harrison to get his mech pilots out while she holds the Bellafaun off long enough for the explosives placed in the ship's engine room to detonate.
- The Ace: Priss McNichol. She frequently survives things that would kill most people, such as crashing a motorcycle into a mech or being cornered by the Bellafaun on a battlefield.
- The Atoner: Horatio Newman briefly becomes this before he dies, as his accidental killing of Princess Limero Grishnak practically destroyed any chances of Emperor Jheld Grishnak signing a peace treaty to end the war.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted. There are many points in the book where various characters are mentioned to be undergoing psychiatric review and therapy sessions following their encounters with the Bellafaun. Two characters even have a conversation about their therapy sessions, and one character is forced to attend therapy sessions after attempting suicide.
- Time Skip: Two major ones, with the first taking place after the Exodus of Concordia, and the second after the Leningrad finally reaches the colony of Yggdrasil in the Epsilon Eridani System, following the Bellafaun attack on New Olympia in the Farrigutte System. The fourth chapter of the book covers an outline of the events that took place during this time skip, and it explains many different characters' back-stories, especially those of Doridan Mosk and certain members of Cobra Squadron.