Reviews: Armored Trooper Votoms

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. One weaker element, though, is the romance subplot. While believable, it was average at best and it never really seemed to aid Chirico's development; he just kind of seemed to be going through the motions.

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.

The Realest of Real - At least on the Mecha front

Note: This only covers the main series and I may one day cover the OV As as well.

I went into VOTOMS hearing it was a good series that was slow to start. I was pleasantly surprised even when that was correct, the first few episodes don't do much in the way of Mecha action and Chirico uses his own wits to escape dangerous situations, but it truly started to take off when Chirico decides to take on a local gang that has been terrorizing everyone, we get introduced to the main cast finally, Chirico, Gotho, Vanilla and Coconna and how they work together... utterly dysfunctional at first. But I take pleasure in seeing the characters grow and become more developed.

But as I said the show really takes off here as we get introduced to the Secret Society, and Rochina of the Gilgamesh Military. And of course, Fyana.

The show is described up as being split into 4 arcs with a different feel. I think I can some them up best 1st Arc Woodo: Cyberpunk Rebellion. 2nd Arc Kunmen: War and Proxy Soldiers. 3rd Arc The Journey to Quaint: Discovery and Conspiracy. 4th Arc Wiseman: Ascension and Mysticism. This actually helped me keep my focus on the series because each arc was something unique to see.

Finally so I may leave room for the OV As to cover one day I will cover the Mechs. The Armored Troopers. Small, ugly looking, utilitarian, requiring constant maintenance and refueling and even being just walking Tanks who go down to the right weaponry; out of all the weird stuff of Armored Trooper Votoms the Armored Troopers themselves were the realest.

All in all I'd recommend this series as it's a interesting watch for it's time and the animation does truly improve.