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A little-known classic of the 80s Real Robot scene
1983's Armoured Trooper VOTOMS is pretty obscure even compared to other robot series, at least in the West, but is a gem of mecha anime. The TV series starts after the end of a horrific interstellar war and follows 18-year-old Sgt. Chirico Cuvie, a Melkian mech pilot, covering his life, its turning points, and his relationships.

It's inevitable when talking about VOTOMS to draw comparisons with its Real Robot contemporaries such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Macross; they share elements while also having very notable differences. The character of Chirico himself is an example: his background as a special forces veteran lends him a pragmatic, no-nonsense take on combat and his reserved, aloof demeanor is thrown into sharp relief against the outlook of conflicted, emotional teens like Amuro, Kamille, and Hikaru who don't tend to be as comfortable with combat. He's more like (and indeed, may have influenced) later protagonists like Heero Yuy and Setsuna F. Seiei. Character development also seems to be a bit slower than in Gundam, and the pacing is pretty good except for the first arc.

The titular Armoured Troopers also lack some common mecha tropes; they aren't unique, feature simple tactical systems, and overall are very squat and spartan. Kunio Ōkawara designed them to be much like Gundam's Zaku, but smaller and minus flight-grade thrusters. VOTOMS shares Gundam's dark tone and depictions of the aftermath of war, but lacks its melodrama and Kill Em All character; it treats these elements as more of a scenesetter for Chirico's personality. Both series also share good animation for their time, big battles, believable character conflict, and a story/aesthetic that (mostly) aged well.

I've heard this series referred to as less approchable to "conventional" Western anime fans. As this is a series that'smore a fantasy/Military Science Fiction with mecha than a Mecha Show and features character designs more like He Man's than 21st-century anime, I can certainly see it as geared to a certain subset. However, that's what appealed to me. It's a series that takes risks, has good storytelling and mystery, and is good if you want something different.
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