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Anime / Betterman

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Ordinary High-School Student Keita Aono falls into the cockpit of a Humongous Mecha, co-piloted by his childhood friend, Hinoki Sai. After getting beaten up by a giant animatronic fish-man, our heroes are saved by a shapeshifting Bishounen called Betterman. Jungian symbolism, Fanservice, and Body Horror ensue. The anime consists of 26 episodes. It was aired in Japan on TV Tokyo from April 1, 1999 to September 30, 1999. The series made its North American debut on G4TV's (then Tech TV) Anime Unleashed block on December 30, 2002.

On par with Neon Genesis Evangelion as the darkest mecha anime of the 1990s. It shares a universe (courtesy of sharing a lot of production staff) with GaoGaiGar, despite the two being very, very different. In fact, it got a light novel crossover with GaoGaiGar that pits the two against each other, ''Hakaiou: GaoGaiGar vs. Betterman''.


Not to be confused with Pearl Jam's song, "Better Man."

Betterman provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Akamatsu Industries, mostly. Whereas everyone else is dropping like flies, Akamatsu employees (especially Li-chan and Yamajii) manage to stay alive.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The heroes end up traveling in some very tight vents at one point. However, it's not because they're trying to hide, but the only thing that's keeping them safe is effective in enclosed spaces.
  • All There in the Manual: The "Mode Warp Files" on the DVD extras, plus the supplementary leaflets accompanying the DVD volumes. A defunct website once provided background info on the characters.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Akamatsu Industries gets attacked twice by their enemies. Fortunately it's after hours, and most of the employees have gone home.
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  • Almost Kiss: A total of three times between Keita and Hinoki. They never actually kiss for real, either. The closest they ever get turns out to be All Just a Dream.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: Bottom World, after its employees go insane and reprogram the attractions to be hostile.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Linker Gel, which allows operators to pilot the Neuronoids with their thoughts.
  • Artistic Title: The opening consists of Live-action footage of a coral reef, with images of the characters superimposed.
  • Assimilation Plot: Kankel.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: The series loves these. Crash test dummies, worms, insects, animatronic fish people, and much more.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Neuronoids are useful in fighting monsters, getting data, and protecting people from harm. But they're extremely convoluted (requiring two Dual-kind operators, flipping over to change modes, needing to recharge its gel, etc.) for conventional use.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Both the Betterman and the Neuronoid analyze their enemies to customize their attacks to match.
  • Battle Couple: This occurs when the Dual Kinds couples are piloting their Neuronoids. (Kaede and Shou, Hinoki and Keita.)
    • Kaede and Shou become this literally after tying the knot near the end of the series.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A good chunk of the main cast is dead, as is Yakusugi and most of the Bettermen. However, they managed to succeed in saving humanity, and Kaede's and Shou's preborn child is saved by Chandi.
  • Black Box: According to the "Mode Warp Files", there are mysterious "Black Boxes" that act as computers for the mechs. The company is reluctant to discuss what's in the boxes. It turns out that they contain brains.
  • Body Horror: Naturally for a bio-horror anime.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Anyone infected by Algernon including most of the antagonists.
  • Bug War: Professor Umezaki has a legion of insects and other horrors at his control, which he uses to carry out his schemes. Our heroes end up fighting them.
  • Calling Your Attacks: SYNAPSE ATTACK! Justified, as several of the Neuronoid's actions are voice activated.
  • The Cavalry: Betterman Lamia for the most part. Yakusugi and Lume for Lamia. Chandi for Keita.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several in the series - dams, wooden bells, insect repellent devices, etc.
  • Clothing Damage: Keita and Hinoki's dive suits from the beginning episode and final episode. Also happens to Asami in the final episode.
  • Cool Old Guy: Yakusugi, who saves the entire cast on several occasions. Akamatsu could count too, even though he's not quite as old as Yakusugi.
    • To be fair, nobody's as old as Yakusugi.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: In episode 2 while watching footage of Betterman, Asami makes a reference to "The cry heard when the Aryan people ate the Soma!" Other than referencing "Soma" occasionally, Asami never elaborates on this.
  • Dead Hat Shot: After Kaede succumbs to Algernon and causes the mecha she and Shou are in to explode, her cracked hair barrette is seen floating away in the water.
  • Death World: The setting is becoming this - Algernon is causing mass insanity (though not quite pandemic). Biological horrors and runaway machinery create havoc, and even hospitals and amusement parks are not safe. The heroes barely survive, and need Betterman to have a fighting chance. Things get so bad that even Betterman falls prey, and another Betterman or Yakusugi has to save the day. And even those backup heroes end up kicking the bucket!
  • Distress Ball: Passed around among all the female leads throughout the course of the series.
  • Dream Weaver: One of Mamon's agents. Using a charm given to Keita, a psychic causes our heroes (even Lamia and Bodaiju) to fall into a long and confusing dream state.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: After surviving yet another horrific monster attack, Yamajii and Li-chan cope with the stress by drinking lots of beer.
  • Dual Mode Unit: All Neuronoids have an "Accept" and "Active" mode. Accept is used for gathering data and analysis, and uses less linker gel. Active increases the mecha's speed, agility, and allows for the Synapse attack. The down side is that it uses more gel.
  • Eldritch Abomination: True to being a bio-horror series, there's a ton of nightmare inducing monsters. Kankel takes the cake, being an entity that seeks to assimilate all Earthly life.
  • Empty Promise: When Hinoki is worried about Keita joining the team, Sakura assures her that he'll be alright. She really has no idea if he'll survive, and was likely trying to assure herself as well. It's also implied that she just wants to be close to kids her own age.
  • Enemy Within: Kankel. Yakusugi is connected to the monster, as he was the subject of the Dive Inspection. Though he attempts to stop it, Yakusugi ends up being taken over.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: The main reason why the antagonists are doing the things they do is to ensure the survival of humanity. Subverted - it turns out they were afflicted by Algernon, and the resulting insanity causes them to go such extreme, crazy lengths.
  • The Faceless: Many background characters who form the Faceless Masses.
  • Fanservice: This series has plenty of it.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Prof. Umezaki's monsters are the result of genetic modification.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: A variation with Asami in the final episodes - she gets rid of them not because they make her look better, but because they were broken.
  • Groin Attack: In the first episode, Keita happens to fall down an elevator shaft only to roll out and land groin first into the "Neuronoid" mecha.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Episode 19 has Keita and Hinoki's class building a house of mirrors. Naturally, things go awry.
  • Heroes "R" Us: Mode Warp is a heroic organization - having Keita and friends investigate, while support personnel are to provide back-up.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Seeme, in her Lume form, jumps in front of Lamia to take a hit from Kankel, and is killed instantly.
  • Heroism Incentive: Keita's reason why he's risking his life fighting man-eating horrors? So he can go and date Hinoki.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: Our heroes encounter a number of strange hexagonal walls while dealing with Umezaki. They're really aligned giant bugs created using biotechnology.
  • Hope Spot: Heichin may be insane, but they may be able to save his life... until he gets kidnapped and stuck in a holding tube. But wait, he's still alive! Until he disappears, and his ultimate fate is revealed.
    • In one of the last few episodes, just when it looks as though Shou has managed to stop Kaede from succumbing to Algernon, she orders her Giant Mecha to essentially self-destruct...with both of them still inside. Damn.
  • Horror Hunger: Episode 18 has most of the heroes subjected to a chemical attack that makes them experience this.
  • Human Resources: Everyone seems to be using people for one reason or another.
    • The Animus Fruit that give the Betterman power? They come from an Animus Flower, which only grows from the brains of dead humans. Serious Spoilers 
    • Human brains are used as processors in many of the robots in the series. Mode Warp actually Averts this at the time of the series; the Neuronoids are built using the brains of more intelligent animals, to avoid the issue where the original-model Neuronoids, built with eight human brains, eventually became self-aware and independent.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "Night", followed by the episode number and title.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Sort of. Those Animus seeds that Lamia eats to transform, the ones that feed his species, are from flowers that grow from dead humans. In other words, Somniums eat people. The squick is not lost on Akamatsu and one antagonist later calls Betterman out on it. This is also part of Dr. Umezaki's plan to solve world hunger by using the Animus flower, which grows only from dead people.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Double Subverted tragically. Despite this tropes being Invoked by Sou, a pregnant Kaede was overtaken by Algernon and ended up killing them both. In the end though, their unborn child somehow survived. Justified since the tyke was hinted at having inherited Psychic Powers from both of its parents.
  • Improvised Weapon: Being used for investigation of hazardous areas, Neuronoids carry no conventional weapons. But being giant mecha, they can basically pound anything with their limbs. In addition, there's the Synapse Attack — using collected molecules in the air, the mecha can create any chemical to strike back with.
  • Irony: Both Tragic and Dramatic. Asami, who has spent years trying to find a way to stop the Algernon virus from spreading, finds out that she is in fact a carrier of the virus. She's then killed by Chandi, who is hunting down the carriers of Algernon. Chandi had also killed her creator, Dr. Umezaki, (who was yet another carrier) several episodes earlier.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": The "Mode" in Mode Warp is pronounced "MO-de".
  • Kaiju: Betterman's combat forms and several of the horrors he faces.
  • Killed Off for Real: Lots of people, fitting for an anime series of this genre. Out of the main characters, only Keita, Hinoki, Shigeru and Sakura survive.
  • Laughing Mad: If you're possessed by Algernon, you're probably going to be doing this a lot.
    • This happens to almost the entire main cast at one point, due to Dr. Umezaki's pheromone attack.
  • Locked in a Freezer: Happens offscreen to Shou and Kaede in episode 18. They're rescued thanks to Keita and Hinoki.
  • Madness Mantra: Heichin endlessly repeats the number 26 after being afflicted with Algernon.
  • Magical Girl: Sakura herself.
  • Mega-Corp: Mode Warp, which has enough resources for building high tech robots, easily acquire advanced military equipment, and has Special Forces on hand for emergencies. Not that it matters, as anyone from Mode Warp that's not Asami is fated to be a Red Shirt.
  • Midair Repair: In episode 3, our heroes are stuck on a falling airplane. Fortunately, Betterman can use his powers to pilot the aircraft and keep it flying.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: A psychic condition called the Limpid Channel allows you to... read the thoughts of everyone around the world. Sakura can't control hers, and is mentally bombarded by the thoughts of everyone around her 24/7 unless confined to a special chair called the Manage Machine.
  • Moment Killer: Keita is a constant victim to this trope when he is alone with Hinoki.
  • Moment of Silence: When Shou and Kaede die in an explosion, all sound is completely stripped away from the scene.
  • Monumental Battle: The Ajanta Caves. While not as well known as other world landmarks, the caves are a real world Buddhist cave complex.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The Next Environment Organization. (NEO) is the parent organization of Mode Warp BPL, and the Superhuman Federation.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: Keita and Hinoki have very different designs from each other. However, the show manages to integrates the designs well enough that it isn't distracting.
  • On the Next: The previews at the end of the credits has Sakura provide a haunting narration. During the Tech TV broadcast, the Announcer would state "On The Next Betterman" before the preview was shown.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: In one episode, while fighting off an "unmanned mecha", Shou discovers it's controlled by the brain of his "deceased" brother. The "Mode Warp Files" are even more disturbing. The Neuronoids first built by Mode Warp requires eight human brains each to operate.
  • Rollerblade Good: In their action mode, Neuronoids can move fast using wheels on their legs. Useful in battles, and to avoid falling debris.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In one episode, Kaede, Shou, Asami, Sakura, and Mr. Akamatsu are all confronted by mirror images of themselves who rattle off on all their faults and weaknesses.
  • Red Shirt: The main characters are often the only survivors of whatever horrific events they witness. It's rare to see anyone who's not part of Akamatsu Industries or a Betterman last more than a few moments on screen.
  • Red Shirt Army: Mode Warp's support personnel. And when the military tries to help they don't last long either.
  • Rescue Arc: Sometimes overlaps with the Mystery Arcs.
  • Running Gag: Keita being late for school, and then running into something.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Asami and Keita have plenty of these moments. In fact, any character who wears glasses is bound to display this trope at least once.
  • Science Hero: The mundane main characters, who use technology and science to investigate Algernon and stop the antagonists.
  • Shared Universe: Is set in the same world as GaoGaiGar, but appears to take place a year later (Keita's date/time display in the first episode gives the date as May 12, 2006). Keita goes to Kamome #2 High School with Tsuguo Ushiyama (who also gets the "Usshi" nickname), and there are other minor references here and there for the fans. (This applies to the anime; the novelizations make it clear that the characters from both shows have interacted.)
  • Shout-Out: As part of the above, there are a number of elements that are similar to GaoGaiGar. The "Bottom The World" supercomputer, for example, isn't too far off from what Pazdar was doing, and Betterman Nebula's "Psycho Voice" is an extremely localized Solitary Wave Riser.
    • The Akamatsu Industries Company shares the initials of animation company AIC.
    • Taking in the architecture of the Superhuman Federation's headquarters in episode 19, Akamatsu muses "this must be one of those Geofronts that are so popular these days."
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Shou only has eyes for Kaede.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Several characters, but Li-chan is the most prominent. Her name is Ritsuko, but her nickname sounds like "Li-chan" instead of "Ri-chan".
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Shou and Kaede.Neither of them survive the final battle.
  • The Stinger: Keita and Hinoki washing up alive on a beach.
  • Storming the Castle: About three times in the series, the heroes decide to take the fight to their enemies.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Happens to Sakura in episode eight.
  • Stripperiffic: Amusingly played with; Head Diver suits are skintight see-through affairs with little black bits that cover the nipples and genitalia for both men and women.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The Superhuman Headquarters appears to be this, with no security personnel at all. However, the building is filled with traps and Mamon wanted them to get in anyway.
  • Techno Babble: The series is infamous for the overuse of this. Oddly enough, the technobabble makes some sense, if you've taken College Biology. Not that it matters; most of the fictional elements seem to work based more on plot than actual science.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: It seems like a bit much to use two giant robots to investigate a medical epidemic, and ones that require a rather convoluted scheme to function, at that. But as the series continues, it's clear that even the mecha are not enough.
  • Those Two Guys: Yamaji and Li-chan become this after Heichin contracts Algernon and is committed.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Set in the far off future of 2006.
  • Ultimate Life Form: The purpose of the Best Man Project and the reason why everything is going wrong.
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior: There's a surprising amount of Mech-sized areas for the Neuronoids to operate.
  • Unwanted Rescue: A minor example. When Keita first meets Sakura, she appears to be restrained to a machine. When he tries to take it off, Sakura quickly explains that she's not in danger — the chair is a medical device, and she can leave it by herself.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Algernon, which doesn't get a decent explanation until many episodes latter.
  • The Virus: "Algernon," which induces homicidal madness in its victims, among other things.
  • Voodoo Shark: One episode featured a Principal who went on a rampage turned out to be under mind control. The welding mask he wore contained a device that resulted in his behavior. Of course, that does bring up the question of what would the school Principal be doing with a welding mask in the first place. Or how he would not notice the large spike on the interior of the mask. Or not question why a welding mask would be filled with electronics...
  • Wartime Wedding: Shou and Kaede have a somewhat hastily-thrown-together one near the end of the series, after announcing that she's pregnant.
  • We Have Reserves: With Cactus dead, Asami suggests using Keita as a replacement. An annoyed Akamatsu lampshades the implications, to her immediate remorse — she hadn't meant to sound callous.
  • Weird Trade Union: The Superhuman Federation, consisting of people with Dowsing abilities. Overtly, they exist to use their powers for business purposes.
  • Wetware CPU: Dual Kinds arguably function as both this and a Living Battery, as their combined neural energy both powers and controls a Neuronoid unit. And then there's the Neuronoid control computers...
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway??: Other than being able to pilot a Neuronoid, Dual Kinds don't have any other special powers. Unless they happen to be psychic already.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Half the main cast have blue hair. Hinoki's (and Betterman Lamia's) multicolored bangs particularly stand out, as does Sakura's bright pink Rapunzel Hair.


How well does it match the trope?

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