Reviews: Dai Guard
Arc the Fourth: Setup for the finale.
Ok, episodes 20-23 are the ones that start to show the sign that the series is nearly done. The two Heterodynes that show up are actually credible threats, but even they are kept as background concerns as Aoyama and Ibuki finish their character rounding out. (Akagi... kind of never does, but then by this point he's already proven hidden depths under the absurdity and hotbloodedness, so perhaps he didn't need to) First, we have the ice episodes. Aoyama bouncing off someone who knew him from college is interesting, and though you may not realize it originally, the confict here is that Aoyama HAS matured... and the other person knows it, she is simply ignoring it. America kind of shows up to be an annoyance here after a problem involving a stealth plane and a Heterodyne, but when it becomes clear that there is a GIANT FREEZING HETERODYNE flying around, they are at least willing to allow Japan to fend for itself. The episodes end with the army... in general... showing support for Dai Guard. Unfortunately General Ripper is still out there, and will strike soon. But first, Ibuki's arc and the fetus looking Heterodyne. DOMAKI of all people plays the person to finish the character changing here, as she pretty much forces Ibuki to face the fact that her father was... not all that great of a man. Everyone is OH SO HORRIFIED HOW COULD SHE DO THIS (There may be a cultural gap here, so if anyone Japanese takes offense to this, I apologize) when she's pretty much just telling Ibuki the facts of the situation... facts that Ibuki KNEW and was ignoring. This leads to problems in combat that are resolved when she realizes her step-father (who was set up as a minor character waaaaaaaay back in the first arc) actually IS a good person, meaning that people are still good (how she didn't associate... well, any one of her coworkers... is beyond me.) And when the group is back together, the Heterodyne is beaten easily after having failed before. I remind all of you that if you want mecha action, you should have gone elsewhere. I also note that if you have gotten here, keep watching, there will be some good, old fashioned beatdown coming soon.
Final Arc: The end.
So this series has been pretty unconventional up till now. After all, a Monster of the Week show where the Monster is a side threat is... I think still unheard of (thus why this show reminds me of Dancougar, because even now no one has done a combining mecha who's pieces were credible threats). But some of the beasts have gotten to be pretty bad, and after Episode 23 (a great breather episode, and a nice character episode that lets you see what the cast feels like.), we ram straight into action. Well, the first battle is a major wash (about 3 steps and one attack, that's it.), but it's followed by a hypermassive Heterodyne. And our least favorite general manages to show up again (seriously, how was he not demoted or discharged) and... actually outlines a decent strategy (throw a fuckton of missiles at the Fractile Knot.) that fails because of some dimensional bullshit that this Heterodyne pulls, and then abuses to become massive (ok, so the robot follows the square/cube law, but the giant spindly legged creature doesn't?). Thus follows probably my favorite things in the show (although Episode 23 was my favorite). Dai Guard and a rebuilt Kokuboga launch, with three hours on the timer until an OE bomb shows up that would destroy Tokyo (bad.) Against a threat that's actually strong, we see the debut of the Great Knot Punisher/Knot Punisher 2 in the dub (meh on the name change, don't really care either way.), and the fact that it basically combines everything Daiguard can do in one weapon - it's arm works like the drill, both arms have hands, and the Pile Bunker is still in there. Meanwhile, Kokuboga no longer has the old Knot Buster, but it does have a Gundam-style head Gatling and wrist rockets, as well as a generally stronger body that it maliciously abuses. The final fight is a nearly immobile Kokuboga (it got a spike in a leg joint), a mostly intact Dai Guard, and a evil... Black Dai Guard... thing... inside the Heterodyne - the heroes win, but Akagi nearly kills them all (although the ending moments pretty much say they aren't going to let him off the hook easily for that, which is nice.) Series ends with people finally in the right mindset and preparation to beat the Heterodynes, providing closure. So, all in all? While not the best series, Dai Guard is at least worth a look into.
The Third Arc: A case study in why Pointy Haired Bosses suck.
This arc lasts for the period of time when a certain tyrant who has been annoying since episode 1 takes the helm, from start to finish (a month in universe, about 5 episodes out). The army is effectively put in their place (although the General Ripper is unfortunately still around, and will still do his thing to the last episode - more on that in later reviews), and as Kokuboga is out, they have to try and exercise restraint over both Dai Guard and Shirota, who is now more on the side of 21st Century than of the army. To do this, they send in Saeki, who will spend about all of this arc annoying you before his character goes 180 in the next one - honestly, he is the weakest character of the show, because he feels like a more rushed, annoying version of Shirota, and will do exactly one thing that Shirota cannot (much later). This group of episodes is perhaps the most interesting. Though the series is ostensibly still a Monster of the Week show with a giant robot, said robot looses it's main pilots to... Pointy Haired Boss Syndrome. And the people who replace them are all by the book annoyances like Saeki (though unlike him, we are not supposed to hope for them to get better, we are to hope they leave, making it... slightly better? I don't know.). This group establishes a lot. Dai Guard can, at this point, easily handle pretty much any Heterodyne that comes its way, so long as the pilots are able to use it. These new ones AREN'T, but when the originals use it they get good results (eventually Domaki decides to make the OS only work with them just to stop the nonsense). It also includes the only Heterodyne where not attacking it was the best idea (it had been "sleeping" for ten years, and would eventually melt in the Earth's core.) This will play into the idea that, though these things are monsters, they are also base creatures incapable of much thought, making them effective natural disasters - something that will come up later.
The Second Arc: Conflict with the Army.
For a show with only 26 episodes, it's important to get arc lengths out of the way - up to Episode 9 and the stealing of the Knot Buster is the first arc, and this arc goes until the President of the company is forced off. This is also the major springboard point for Shirota's personal character arc, which is probably the most potent (aside from his student, he probably changes the most of any character in the show). Plus, it has Kokuboga, which I rather like the design of (more than the titalular robot, actually.) So the army decides to go all evil army stereotype on Dai Guard and steals the Knot Buster, which they arm their robot, Kokuboga with (Kokuboga being a former Dai Guard prototype that has been massively bolstered in armor to help avert Dai Guard's square/cube law issues), and procede to prove that their machine is better. But of course, in any show like this, the titalular robot will eventually make a return. And the way this show chooses to do so is rather nice. Rather than have the army robot randomly turn evil or somesuch, or have it suddenly be proven inefficient compared to the now more useless Dai Guard, they use something that had been set up from Shirota's debut - the fact that a civilian company is less likely to be influenced by higher ups (or rather, they aren't as likely when the president is awesome). Kokuboga captures a Heterodyne, which leads to it's near-complete destruction when said Heterodyne fuses with it - Dai Guard is called in and debuts the Knot Punisher, a better version of the Knot Buster, and Shirota begins to work for 21st Century Insurance yet again. It has been noted that Akagi is somewhat out of line in these episodes, and Aoyama's excuse is slightly lame. However, I can see both of those issues being in a normal person - Aoyama doesn't want to lose face in the office, and Akagi is... somewhat hot blooded and doesn't want people to die due to his failures. Of course, most of this gets fleshed out in the next arc... after a recap episode, admittedly.
A different view of a show that takes a different view to mecha.
Most of the reviews here on Dai-Guard are either scathing, pointing out all of the flaws of the show and very little of the good, or at the best somewhat negative, not properly noting what the show is about. First, let's get this out of the way - going into Dai Guard and looking for a mecha show is a terrible idea. You don't get one. This show takes the old idea of "robot is the only thing stopping the eeeeevil monsters from killing stuff" and smashes it into every wall it can get to. In that, it actually reminds me more of Dancougar than any other show in the genre, except while Dancougar was a Super Robot show that had a Real setting, Dai Guard is more of a Real Robot show and setting with Super Robot characters and idealism - in a way, more like Nadesco than anything else (and yet very different from Nadesco.) The first nine episodes (the first "arc") are about what you would expect out of the genre. Giant monster of the week shows up, Dai Guard shows up, stuff happens. Except it isn't just that. Episode Eight is entirely focused on the exploits of the team off the job, and even when the Heterodynes appear, it's less of a whole episode focus than it is part of a plot of an episode (which I'll get to later, because it applies more later.) The team may be "generic stereotypes", but their quirks and individual foibles are somewhat enjoyable, and since the show takes time to go through the lives of the characters, we see this out of them. Wheras most shows either have the characters as an extra piece of the mecha effectively (pretty much all classic series), have them not be explored as much (a lot of the rest), or focus on the characters only as something for conflict (some early Real shows, Ideon, Evangelion), this is rather refreshing. Also of note is the Lensmen's Arms Race that goes on. Surprisingly, these episodes pretty much make all the weaponry that you'll see - the rarely used Net, the impractical yet situationally useful Drill, and the weapon that would become very important, the Knot Buster (which was only a prototype to later things) - and in the end, the "threat" of the monster is gone... setting up the second arc. More on that soon.
Shinjuku at Night: Big Battle
We pick up with Dai-Guard on the ropes staring down 2-combined heterodynes and running low on power. A gamble involving impact mines stalls the creature long enough for Shirota, Ibuki and Aoyama to breathe, but also leaves the door open for Anzen Hoshou GUN to step in. The O Ls search to no avail for Akagi, whose hospital he was staying at was completely destroyed. Night falls, and the creature begins to stir. Unfortunately, there's not much to do but recharge Dai-Guard and watch the Armies attempts at destroying the beast. Thankfully, it turns out Akagi is not only OK, but helped lead the hospital evacuation. It's there that he meets Aoyama's mother, who reveals that the reason Aoyama doesn't mention her is because he's concerned about his image. That's right folks, Aoyama constantly abandons his work and teammates to visit his sick mother, constantly whines whenever he IS present, nearly gets them killed, but STILL leaves them in the dark because he wouldn't look cool. I found this to be idiotic and horrible, but the show thinks its silly and charming, as everyone finds this acceptable, and he's never called out on it. Anyways, Akagi hitches a ride to the battle, where he's given an unpleasant greeting. Enter Gadgeteer Genius Rika Domeki and the Knot Punisher, the ultimate Heterodyne combatant, and one that requires two arms to operate. With good old-fashion teamwork, our heroes swoop in and one-shot the Heterodyne with no fuss. Iizuka is saved, and our heroes basks in the limelight. If Wages represented the BEST Dai-Guard has to offer, then Shinjuku represents the WORST. The once-menacing Heterodyne is disposed of hastily, we gain little to no new insight of any the characters (and what we do comes across as shallow), the numerous comedy moments fall flat and there's no greater sense of unity between the trio because they didn't learn anything; they're the same as they were before. What keeps it from just being bad on its own is that what you see here is what you get for the rest of the series. Battles become less exciting, potential threats end up being ineffectual and are brushed aside, and instead of actually bonding and understanding each other, our heroes constantly bicker because it's "funny". With but one more story wedged between 8 eps of rehashes and filler, Dai-Guard in a way ends here.
Alibi: Two Heterodynes Attack Tokyo
We open up on an interview with Shirota regarding the previous episode, who reveals hes not happy with what happened. Escaping from the now-boring office environment, Aoyama goes to visit Akagi at the hosptial. Blocked by Ooyama, he spends time with his bedridden mother, who wonders why he isn't at work. According to her, it turns out Aoyama HAS started to enjoy his time there. Meanwhile, Kokubogar springs into action, making short work of a Heterodyne with his recently "acquired" Knot Buster. Instead of finishing it off, he brings it in for an ill-fated experiment attempt. We jump to the hospital, where Ibuki for whatever reason is unable to visit Akagi, and is instead intercepted by his cousin Kamimura. She tells Ibuki about Akagi's sense of justice and how does the right thing without waiting. Another Heterodyne suddenly appears, and to make matters worse, Kokubogar is ambushed and consumed by the first one, with iizuka still inside. Barely able to buy enough time for him, Shirota turns to Public Relations for help in his friend's rescue, offering to act as the main pilot. But before they are able to subdue one Heterodyne, the other shows up. They merge together, closing out the episode on a cliffhanger. Lets get the bad out of the way; this episode has another missed opportunity when it comes to Akagi, only this time he's COMPLETELY out of the picture. The writers go out of their way to make sure nobody interacts with him, and instead keep reminding us of how cliched he is through OTHER characters, making sure that he remains nothing but a static character with tendencies towards Marty Stu-dom. For what its worth, this episode for the most part did its best to follow up with the previous. The revelation of Aoyama's ever-changing feelings towards his job is a great bit of growth (though sadly this is as far as it goes for the series). We also see the first REAL instance where Shirota's ideals clashes with that of his superiors, so much that he openly rebels against them, and though it is never brought to light again, his friendship with Iizuka causing him to seek help with the not-so-different Civilian workers. Up next - Shinjuku at Night: Big Battle.
Wages That Correspond to Justice
This episode to this reviewer presents the very best that Dai-Guard has to offer. It has all the elements that could have put the series in a league all its own, instead of being just an "OK time waster". We open up on Public Relations Division 2, who have suffered a betrayal by their tacticial advisor Shirota. Our heroes are also facing their own problems; Aoyama's mom is being hospitalized, Ibuki is having stepdad issues, and Akagi has a cold. He's the only one who shows up to work, and is the first to bear witness to the Army's own robot, Kokubogar. Eventually a challenge is issued between the two robots, which leads to following day. Akagi is still ill, and Aoyama and Ibuki are still mulling over their issues. Adding to Akagi's problems, it turns out Kokubogar is piloted by his old teacher Iizuka. The challenge begins, and our heroes perform horribly; it gets so bad that it nearly gets them killed, leaving Kokubogar to save the day and Akagi hospitalized. Akagi has always been seen as short-sighted and unsafe to work with. These accusations could've really held weight here, by having him go into the challenge angry and irrational over Shirota's betrayal. The resulting failure could've hit home hard, causing him to re-examine they way he does things and to be more considerate of his teammates. Instead, him being sick was out of his control, and nothing was his fault. This leaves his teammates to sulk and blame themselves over their own failures. And this a shame, because the idea behind this episode is fantastic. It's the first time things are taken seriously, with the pressures of normal life against the responsibilities of piloting a giant robot adding up, even ending with a tough lesson. Unfortunately, the refusal to have it's idealistic hero be at ACTUAL fault keeps this from being "A Lesson In Defeat" for our trio to being a "What The Hell, Hero?!" situation for two of them.
All in All a Good Anime, not for Adrenline Junkies or Snobs, Their loss
The series took awhile to grow on me, the animation and character designs looked under-par, the characters themselves seemed a bit cliched, and the pacing seemed....off switching between a somewhat dull but pleasant everday life to hectic action scenes. That beng said as I watched more and more of the series the damn thing sorta grew on me. Between the humdrum slice of life chapters, and the giant robot vs. kaiju fights of varying quality I began to realize that Dai-guard possesses somethin rare and precious, genuine heart. Dai-guard gets by with a initially flat cast of characters who I eventully grew to admire and care about. When we are intoduced to the series "hero" Akagi we are intoduced to a "hot blooded, idealistic, hot shot mecha jockey, who is also oblivious to love", and his two "co-pilots" Ibuki a "self assured but cute office girl with daddy issues", and Aoyama "a handsome, cool, snarky introvert who serves as the piloting trio's logical one". Off to a good start? Not really, and as the series progresses these charcters don't wildly deviate from these pre-assigned "archetypes", and you know what? They don't really need to. Their growth as people is subtle, but not in the least inferior to Noriko's transfrmation into a space monster busting warrior goddess, or Kaiser Reinhard's descent into an all powerul but painfully lonely Prince of the Universe. Akagi wouldnt be Akagi if he didn't love mecha, but that doesn't mean that he can't eventually become a "professional" not only in terms of skill but in attitude as well. Ibuki and Aoyama eventually learn to respect and trust Akagi(to an extent), and we even get to see little snippets of their life that give us as viewers the POTENTIAL to see them beyond their archetype. This applies to all of the cast, it is hinted that each character has some sort of "hidden" talent, hobby, or simply some other thing going on in their life. Nothing particularily important to the plot, but thats the point. What we are seeing is only a part of these characters' lives, they're daily 9 to 5. This isn't war drama, its something far more "real" and gritty, its the daily grind. Dai-Guard's "Heart" ultimately stems from this subtltey. It's not the prettiest, the smartest, or the best, but check it out if you like light hearted fun, that also manages to be intelligent.
An Extremely Non-Traditional Humongous Mecha anime..... Lord, I REALLY Wish
What would you get if you take a modern-day company and give it a new financial headache in the form of a giant robot slapped together to fight a mysterious alien menace? If you'd say "a new spin on the mech genre, with exciting giant robot battles fought by down-to-earth people", I would answer... If "exciting" meant dull and "down-to-earth people" meant animu stereotypes, then yeah. This is Dai-Guard, an anime that, like its robot, is a really keen idea (during its first half) done suspiciously half-assed (the last half). In a nutshell, Dai-Guard is a budget creation with 12 years of poor upkeeping, and not much use outside of being a mascot. But therin lies his charm, as this crumbling clunky metalman must become the hero, using only the most impractical weapons and the wits of his pilots. BUT, with the reveal of its signature weapon, this promising premise vanishes, and battles go from zero to SUPER ATTACK FINISH. This is waste of comedy AND drama, and Dai Guard stops being about a crappy "super" robot having to really earn its victories to being an afterthought. Which itself wouldn't be terrible, as the bulk of Dai-Guard's story is a "slice-of-life", focusing on its characters. But while two of the characters do get significant development, both are the only ones with any effort put into them. There are times when the writing reveals interesting character tidbits that feel like they could go somewhere, and the ending credits (which is a montage of the characters' life outside of work) themselves are a goldmine of ideas. If this was expanded upon, these could've been great moments with fleshing out the lesser characters. Instead, we get multiple scenes of weak comedy and go-nowhere moments of our heroes' superiors being stupidly incompotent at their jobs. And the Heterodynes? Turns out these dangerous creatures are thought (or rather handwaved) as forces of nature, despite the fact they adapt and learn. Plot hole? Despite all the negativity, I still had some fun with Dai Guard, mostly because I am (still) in love with its premise. There are times when it realizes its potential, it just lacks any real follow through. If you're forgiving, it may do enough to warrant one view. If your repeated viewings are like mine though, you might get the idea that it wasn't trying as hard as it could.