Manga: Cannon God Exaxxion aka: Cannon God Exaxxion
Describe Cannon God Exaxxion here.Sure. An Ordinary Highschool Student is given a Humongous Mecha by his Mad Scientist grandfather to battle an Alien Invasion.Sounds familiar, doesn't it?But don't let the clapped-out premise of this manga series turn you off, for creator Kenichi Sonoda (of Gunsmith Cats infamy, also principle character designer for Bubblegum Crisis) rejuvenates the old Super Robot story by injecting it with a psychedelic combination of a starkly realistic world along his own special brand of over-the-top humor, characters and of course, Fanservice.Set in an indeterminate near-future time, ten years after Humanity was first visited by an alien race known as the Riofaldians, said aliens now live and work among humans all around the globe and their technology has advanced Earth society by leaps and bounds. But when the Riofaldian government decides to take a more... direct role in Human affairs, the Earth's defenses are quickly overwhelmed.Enter Hoichi Kano, a tough, wisecracking highschool kid who resents the fact that the other kids are so enamoured with the new toys the aliens have brought, as his grandfather had written an infamous conspiracy pamphlet predicting the Riofaldians would eventually make a play for world conquest. On the day the invasion begins in earnest a new transfer student, the beautiful (and VERY well-endowed) Isaka Minigata, arrives at Hoichi's school with a message from his grandfather, Hosuke Kano.It's not long before Hoichi is thrust into action, donning a special powersuit with incredibly powerful guns, battling diabolical alien robots and saving the day. But as the alien attacks escalate in response to Hoichi's antics, he'll need the enigmatic giant cannon robot known as Exaxxion to liberate the Earth from the Riofaldians' tyranny......If he can keep from levelling the place himself, that is.Much like Space Runaway Ideon, a major theme of the series is just how difficult the unbridled destructive power of the title mech is to control. Nearly every fight results in horrendous levels of property damage and civilian casualties, not to mention resultant angst from our hero. A fact the invaders are all too happy to point out in their propaganda.Propaganda is also a major focus of the story, with elaborate smear and counter-smear campaigns waged back and forth by the Riofaldians and Professor Kano for the hearts of the populace. The importance of information control and the need for the public's support in the new media age is heavily stressed. And in the end, the importance of finding and deciding the truth for yourself being a key to happiness is a major plot point.Equal parts Humongous Mecha, Alien Invasion and Techno Thriller (with a heavy dose of that ol' Sonoda Ecchi-ness), Cannon God Exaxxion is a strong contender for the title of Kenichi Sonoda's Magnum Opus and (aside from the typical Mecha Show flights of fancy) one of the most realistic portrayals of alien occupation to date.Compare Space Runaway Ideon and Neon Genesis Evangelion for similar Deconstructions of Super Robots which tackle somewhat different angles (although Ideon plays some tropes straight that are subverted here). Contrast, perhaps, the NagahamaRomanticTrilogy or Voltron as the best straight examples of what Exaxxion is deconstructing.Contains examples of...
Action Mom: Reiko, oh so much. She's more badass than Hoichi, and HE is the protagonist!
An Aesop: The story ultimately has two Big Messages. The first: being a hero requires forethought and planning, not just Hot Blood. Courage is important too, but if you don't take the time to consider how your actions will impact the lives of others, you'll end up being just as much of a villain as those you seek to defeat. And to truly be a hero, you need the courage to fight in a way that'll keep others safe - even if that puts your own life in far greater peril. The second: ultimately, the only source of "news" you can trust is what you witness with your own eyes. Anything else will be tainted by the bias of those reporting it; you can only grasp the real truth by finding it for yourself. And grasping that truth, and acting on it, is one of the keys to happiness.
Alien Invasion: A Type 3, which draws some (narratively intentional) parallels to 19th-century colonialism. The manga milks these for all it's worth.
Aliens Are Bastards: Played straight, averted and subverted six ways from sundown. By and large, the Riofaldian characters we see run the whole gamut of personality types and are shockingly... well, human. The whole point is that, really, they're Not So Different and that both sides should treat each other with dignity. The Riofaldian leaders, however, really do reach inhuman levels of bastardity. And they even use it on each other.
Animated Adaptation: It's worth noting that, despiteSonoda'spedigree, it hasn't been made into an animated work yet, with no studio having even stated interest (not even from Sonoda's old fellows at AIC), even in spite of a seven-year serialization run and very successful results for the graphic novel collections. Speculation as to the cause varies, but pretty much everyone who reads the manga agrees it deserves a chance in the sun.
Anyone Can Die: In a meta sense, this is true; while the main cast has plenty of Plot Armor, if you aren't a named character and aren't part of the primary recurring cast? God help you. Your life expectancy anywhere near the proximity of Exaxxion is roughly five seconds. This is of course a large part of the point and is central to Hoichi's development as a character.
And in the manga's final act, the plot armor starts comin' off, but not to Kill 'em All levels.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Obviously averted... for chest-shots, at least. In rare instances that a character needs to be seen whole-torso (such as Akane's near-miss at being assimilated) then the trope kicks in to keep things PG-13. Ish. Mostly.
Berserk Button: Try harming Akane. In any way. Go on. We fucking dare you.
Placing her in danger is also ill-advised, as Hosuke finds out nearly at the cost of his face.
BFG: Hoo boy, is it ever! As the name implies, the title robot is basically a giant cannon with limbs and a head, with a barrel diameter of 4.096 metres. Then there's Full Barrel Mode, where the thing extends to about as long as the mech itself is tall. And it's very tall, even as Super Robots go...
Plenty of others show up, too, both Human and Giant Robot scale. One memorable scene features Hoichi getting hit with a single gauge slug from a shotgun so powerful it turns the little girl he was holding at the time into a fine mist (she was already dead).
To clarify, a conventional single gauge shotgun round is a one-pound lead slug. And in this case it was made of depleted uranium.
Big Bad: General Shes'ka, at first, anyway. It gets complicated...
Hoichi agonizes over the fact that even piloting his giant mech will kill people, and his attempts to save people will inevitably kill thousands. He eventually resolves to build a future where no one else has to die, even if that makes him the biggest monster of all in the long run.
Depending on the exact scene, this can be either played straight or completed averted. Played straight when Hoichi fires his giant mech cannon in the middle of a city (resulting in tons of collateral damage from the shock wave of the cannon.) Averted when the Riofaldian military orders the HUMAN military to form a human wall around the giant mech knowing that the giant mech cannot move or defend itself without accidentally killing said human wall. Doubly evil when Hoichi refuses to fall for the obvious trap and the Riofaldians start firing on the human wall THEMSELVES and proceed to blame Hoichi anyway.
Bowdlerize: A pretty acceptable example; the love scene between Hoichi and Akane veered pretty hard toward the "too hot for American publication" side of things, and so was neatly trimmed from the Dark Horse version of the manga. While some fans were annoyed any editing occurred at all, others didn't mind it since they thought that scene probably went too far in the original and the edit still manages to keep the heartwarming and comedy intact.
Bridge Bunnies: Hosuke Kano has a harem of beautiful women who act as a support crew for his info-war and Exaxxion's operation. Disturbingly, it's implied that at least some of them were brainwashed into serving him.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Oh so very many, especially when Hoichi is in one-on-one combat inside his suit.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: A lot of tension in the series comes from just how terrifyingly competent the Riofaldians are, especially Shes'ka.
Deconstruction: Rather than be simply "lol boobs and guns", CGE does a good job of rather brutally examining the typical save-earth-from-aliens-in-a-mecha story, from showing just how much damage a giant mecha would cause just by walking (never mind the weaponry and fighting the "bad guys"), to pointing out that any sentient alien race almost certainly won't be unified in their desire to conquer humanity, to commenting on the fact that the Mad Scientist who reverse-engineered alien technology to save earth is not a guy you want to root for, and that having a harem of hot Bridge Bunnies really does have Unfortunate Implications.
Hoichi manages to be a solid Super Robot pilot deconstruction, too, since a lot of the above slowly takes a toll on his sanity and he comes to realize the terrible burden that his grandfather has placed upon him. He takes it doubly hard because all the death and pain clashes with his vision of an ideal hero. The end result... well, read it and see!
Distressed Damsel: Akane falls into this territory in the first few acts with a regularity that borders on the depressing. Hoichi finally manages to get her to safety at about the halfway point, though.
Do-Anything Robot: Isaka and Hosuke's other gynoids, due to being made of Nano Machines. It's pointed out that the Riofaldians rarely use robots of this type because they're too expensive to massproduce.
Dueling Hackers: Happens when both sides run a propaganda war against each other.
Not so much the "Faldie" civilians. The majority of "Faldie" civilians are eventually relocated to Riofaldians military secured areas after Hoichi's resistance efforts prove to be more than expected. However, even prior to the resistance, "Faldie" civilians are protected by security robots which will attack and kill any human that attacks the "Faldie" civilian. In one scene, a human teacher is killed in front of Hoichi's "Faldie" teacher after an angry outburst in the middle of school... naturally with Hoichi and a good chunk of the human school watching.
Emperor Scientist: Hosuke pretty blatantly desired to become one, believing that the strength of his intellect - and his robot - meant he deserved the position. Hoichi ends up dicking him over on this on multiple spectacular levels in the final act.
Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Most of the robots and other gadgets are based on modern technological aesthetics. It's particularly interesting in that aside from the unusual shapes of some of their robots and the obvious flying saucers, most of the Riofaldians' technology doesn't look particularly "alien" at all.
Frickin' Laser Beams: The Riofaldians' favourite weapon to use against anybody without access to gravitational lensing. One wonders why they would bother with something so energy-inefficient when they already have access to extremely powerful conventional guns, but lasers do look quite impressive and the 'Faldies are explicitly fond of terror weapons.
First, Riofald spent ten years shaping Earth's civilization into something that couldn't repel an invasion - bright shiny laser technology was one of the carrots that turned out to be sticks. Hell, conventional bullets have a fair chance of penetrating personal shields. Second, Riofald is a civilization that thinks nothing of building twelve-story-tall Humongous Mecha at the drop of a hat. Their level of technology means lasers have Bottomless Magazines, and are perfectly fine for exterminating "monkeys". It's not like any non-Riofaldians have gravtech...
Gag Boobs: Isaka. Most of the other women also, with the exception of Akane, who is totally flat. Did we mention this was a Sonoda manga? (Of course, Isaka's completely absurd Gag Boobs are a hint early on that she isn't quite human...)
A completely hilarious lampshade is also hung on this in chapter 5.
Gambit Pileup: Between Hosuke, Shes'ka, the rest of the occupational government and the Homeworld government you've got the proverbial conga-line of fuckers all trying to screw each other.
Gatling Good: Well, doy. Of course the Ex features this in the form of 88mm gatling guns in its right arm - the "small" weapons.
The Hero: Hoichi desperately wants to be a big-H Hero, which among other things means he shouldn't kill any civilians. Hosuke had rather different ideas when he built the Exaxxion, though. Hoichi's final solution is equal parts disturbing, tragic and touching.
Heroes Want Redheads: Hoichi and Akane have a lot of sexual tension right from the start. Gets resolved, too!
Heroic Resolve: The fact that Hoichi keeps opposing the Riofaldans (who, let's face it, very much needed opposing) despite the toll it takes on him and the fact he has to actually deal with the consequences may make him more heroic.
Hot-Blooded: Hoichi bleeds fire, not blood. He's very much cut from the mold of an 80's Super Robot protagonist. (This turns outto be somethingof a problem for him.) (It ultimately saves him in the end, though; whatever else it deconstructs, the story doesn't say that being courageous is bad, you just have to know how to apply it and what being brave means.)
Well... GunBuster's still slightly bigger(250m to Exaxxion's 200). And by the time this manga came out, Getter Emperor was already around.
Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Hoichi thinks the human race should develop its own technology, so he's a bit disappointed when he finds out all Hosuke did was reverse engineer the Riofaldians' tech.
Infant Immortality: Hugely averted, as Hoichi discovers when he tries to save a young girl in chapter 11, only to find out it was only the upper half of the girl. Then he quickly discovers that the caravan nearby was full of dead children and women.
Insignificant Little Blue Planet: The Riofald homeworld would destroy all of planet Earth to stop Exaxxion if it had to, because of its 'limited potential' as a colony world.
Intrepid Reporter: Aoi, Akane's sister. Akane also tries to be one, although being a damsel in distress half the time makes it kinda difficult.
Justified Trope: All over the place. Almost all of the seemingly nonsensical aspects of the technology or tactics used are explained quite well within the context of the circumstances or psychology of the people involved. Enough to maintain Willing Suspension of Disbelief, anyway...
Karma Houdini: At the end of the manga, General Shes'ka is still alive and well, serving as the leader of Earth's Riofaldian population, albeit in peaceful coexistence with Humanity.
Meaningful Name: The "Ho" in Hoichi uses the Kanji for gun or cannon, and Akane sometimes refers to him by the pet name "Ho" (or "Gun" in the Dark Horse English version).
Mecha-Mooks: The Riofaldians use plenty of robot goons, though there are plenty of ordinary flesh and blood ones, too.
Messianic Archetype: The 'Hero Project' is a PR plan designed to gain support for Hoichi by having one of Isaka's copies take his form and heal people, including Riofaldian troops. The fact that his healing seems almost magical (it's actually super-advanced nanomachines) only increases the effect.
Mukokuseki: A particular Sonoda mark. Akane gets this in particular - orange-red hair, big round green eyes and she's still supposedly Japanese.
My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Miss Kin'ba is a staunch supporter of Human rights. Well, as much as one can be when you've got a fascist police state breathing down your neck...
Name Tron: The Exaxxion's name is a lampshade on this trope. Hosuke just took the three Xes on the antimatter generator and expanded them into a cool name with -on because "all the best giant robots have a name ending in -on".note He then proceeds to name what're clearly the manga's biggest inspirations.
No Export for You: Siiiiiigh. This is probably why this here page sat fallow for so long. Dark Horse Comics published the first five volumes in English... and after the fifth volume proceeded to drop the title on a terrible cliffhanger. This may or may not have been due to a fandom kerfuffle over the editing of certain scenes in volume 5. Either way, they unfortunately stopped just before the manga finished making some of its Big Statements and before its Super Robot deconstruction was complete, so the manga isn't as well-known as it probably deserves to be.
Not So Different: The Riofaldians (Shes'ka in particular) never seem to get tired of pointing out how not only are they just doing the same thing Humans have been doing to each other for countless centuries with their colonization, they're a whole lot better at it.
Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Justified by the fact that the Riofaldians want to colonize Earth, so they can't afford to use any weapons that are likely to damage the environment too badly. Weapons of Mass Destruction still get thrown around like they were Nerf balls at some points, but nothing that would prevent people from rebuilding after it's all over.
Oh Crap: Given how big the guns in this story are, this rather happens quite a bit. Hoichi pulls a particularly delicious one on Shes'ka at the end of their showdown at the base of the orbital elevator, wherein the Long Barrel Cannon is point-blanked into Shes'ka's robot.
The best one, though, has to be Hoichi's face at the end of chapter 5-4. Even if you found the rest of that sequence more annoying than touching, his reaction to Akane's "announcement" and his obvious, sudden realization of how totally fucked he is on a decidedly non-sexy level makes the whole sequence worth it.
Pink Mist: Features guns so ungodly powerful it's not just the brains that turn into pink mist, but the whole target!
Plot Armor: The nameless masses may die like animals to the slaughter, but our main cast won't truly be in danger until at least the last act. This gets a hair annoying with Aoi Hino, Akane's sister, who frankly should've been reduced to a fine powder when the Ex's main cannon blasted the elevator base. It almost seems like Sonoda planned on killing her then decided against it last-minute to make sure Akane didn't hate Hoichi's guts forever. Even though Hosuke was the one who ordered that.
Powered Armor: Hoichi and many other members of the Kano resistance group have them. The one used by Hoichi's mother is a Shout-Out to the ones Sonoda did for Bubblegum Crisis. The Riofaldians usually don't use them because they're expensive to mass produce, but one does show up eventually.
The manga also points that the gunner suit is nothing but a fancy costume without power, which Hoichi's father demonstrated when he was lifting a forklift when his suit powered down. SPLAT.
Puny Earthlings: Partially averted. Physically, Humans are considerably stronger than Riofaldians.
Ragnarok-Proofing: Exaxxion slept on Earth in a giant packing crate for two millennia and is still perfectly capable of singlehandedly trashing an alien invasion force. That was some box!
Or Hosuke was some Mad Scientist. He spent a lot of time adapting Exaxxion for a human pilot, and makes a last-minute total retrofit with no trouble at all.
Ridiculously Human Robots: Mainly averted. Despite her human likeness, Isaka admits she's not really capable of human emotions like love and only acts like she has a personality because that's how she was programmed.
Of course, protecting Akane from a nanotech hack involved some really intimate mental interaction, and what else can you say besides, "Humanity Ensues?"
Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Riofaldians don't look much different from us aside from their albinistic skin and hair, black vitreous humor and elf-like ears. To be fair, a lot of the political angle of the story is predicated on the aliens having a similar psychology to ours and the government being worried they could face a backlash against their colonization policies if their people come to sympathize with the Humans, which would be difficult, if not impossible in a story with Starfish Aliens.
Sacred First Kiss: Isaka almost steals this from Akane in a way that has to be seen to be believed.
Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Riofaldians embody some of the worst excesses of both European Colonialism and the Axis Powers.
In fact, all the suits are not only a reference to Bubblegum Crisis, but they also have a similar appearance to Robot Hunter Casshan.
Shown Their Work: A natural for Sonoda, who is a bit of an engineering nut in general (beyond his total love for guns and cars). While the Exaxxion is still pretty ridonk, he does do a lot of things to make it seem plausible, at least; one example is that the Ex has massive, flat, elephant-like feet, which are the kinds of feet any kind of large robot would actually need to consider walking. And the Ex leave giant craters every time it takes a step, due to how heavy it is.
It's also shown that the Exaxxion uses its inertial dampening technology to actually increase its footprint even further.
And it has an ultra-rare justification for Humongous Mecha; how else are you going to field giant gravity and inertia manipulating systems with multi-petajoule power requirements? Having them walk around rather than fly saves energy and permits precision usage of otherwise-nuclear kinetic force. Exaxxion is able to punch through an enemy robot's chest and rip out its fusion reactor. It's stated that the impact was the equivalent of a multi-megaton bomb, focused into an area the width of a car.
Squick: Early in the manga, a Terminal Drone saves Kin'ba from an assault from another teacher... by cleaving that teacher in two through the waist. Right in front of her. Needless to say, she does not take it particularly well. Poor Hoichi finding the entire situation squicky as hell is also part of the point. invoked
The Starscream: Shes'ka eventually wants to capture Exaxxion so he can go home and stage a coup. His cronies in the occupational government feel the same, but as it turns out, they don't particularily care whether Shes'ka's the one leading it or not.
Super Prototype: Pretty much everything used by the Kano family. They stress a quality over quantity approach, whereas the Riofaldians, who have to budget for an entire planetary occupation, do the exact opposite.
Theme Naming: The men of the Kano family all have the kanji for "gun" in their name (Hoichi, his dad Hojo, and his grandfather Hosuke). It's worth noting that "Hoichi" means "First Gun" or "Best Gun", while Hosuke is something like "Selfish Gun".
The Hino girls are named for colors - Akane (for a red pigment) and Aoi ("blue"). Interestingly, this doesn't leadto the obvious joke, partially because Aoi doesn't really take part in the plot to a great degree.
Transformation Trinket: The Gunner Glove. Hoichi's mom also has one of the stranger ones out there, in the form of a wig.
Unwitting Pawn: Anybody lacking the smarts to keep up with all the maniacal plotting going on has a good chance of turning into one.
Vestigial Empire: The Riofaldians would never have bothered with an Insignificant Little Blue Planet like ours if not for the fact that an Antimatter accident wiped out most of their civilization a few centuries before the series takes place. Their interstellar empire was made possible by the discovery of an entire asteroid comprised of Antimatter - most of which was lost in that accident. They not only had to rebuild most of their civilization, they had to do it without the energy source that permitted it to be built in the first place. Imagine trying to rebuild modern civilization if an accident destroyed all the oil on Earth.
Victorious Childhood Friend: Akane. Her and Hoichi's first night together somehow manages to be funny, squicky and heartwarming all at once.
Villain Protagonist: Hoichi ends up thinking of himself as this for a while, and a large part of the story is dedicated to whether or not people see him as this or The Hero, straight up.
Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: Averted. From the instant he dons the Gunner Glove, Hoichi is doomed to a life that varies between furtive hiding and absurd violence. The Riofaldians would kill him in seconds if he tried to live a normal life (and nearly do, at one point). The one and only time he can return to school for any length of time is under deep, deep cover in volume 5.
We Have Reserves: The Riofaldian government do not give the slightest damn about their own people, even ones who were just fighting against Hoichi. If they can kill millions of their own people to stop Exaxxion, they'll do it without a second thought.
We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Definitely averted. Hosuke and the Riofaldians are constantly cooking up new phoney videos to make each other look bad. Not that there's a shortage of real ones that do it, too. If the story were told from the perspective of a civilian on the sidelines it would get Mind Screw-ingly difficult to tell what was real or not very quickly.
What the Hell, Students?: Murata calls out his fellow students for throwing rocks at Miss Kin'ba when they're being held captive by the Riofaldians, pointing out that they treat their own people the same way they treat humans and they'd wouldn't think twice of killing her along with them.
To be fair, Murata is actually in love with Miss Kin'ba he actually marries her in the end so hes far from unbiased, let alone realistic to fact that the situation hes was in would have gotten him executed were it not for Hoichi rescuing everyone.
Xtreme Kool Letterz: The name Exaxxion is a Super Robot-y name Hosuke made up from the XXX markings on its chassis. This is apparently the Riofaldian symbol for antimatter. The last letter of their alphabet just happens to look like an X and has similar connotations to the greek letter Omega.
Les Yay: Did you really think a Sonoda work would get away without some of this? Most of it focuses on Akane and Isaka. Akane is eventually taken off the market, though.
You Can't Go Home Again: The wormhole gate is eventually destroyed, meaning all the Riofaldians on Earth will never see their home planet again.