In The '90s, Takara brought an end to animated "Generation 1" Transformers material in Japan, following a chilly reception to 1989's Transformers Victory and an overall worldwide decline in popularity resulting in a franchise hiatus lasting until 1996's Beast Warsnote , which also led to the cancellation of the OVA series Transformers Zone. Sensing that the coming Japanese kids of the decade wanted something different and wanting to remain relevant in the market, Takara struck a cooperative deal with Sunrise (which had just recently become one of the most famous studios in Japan due to the explosive success of the Gundam series) to develop a new television franchise and set of toy lines, one that would also be separate from the (then fraught and difficult) relationship Takara had developed with their American Transformers partner Hasbro. This would all lead to the development of the Brave Series.
The Brave Series includes:
- Brave Exkaiser (1990)
- The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird (1991)
- The Brave Fighter of Legend Da-Garn (1992)
- The Brave Express Might Gaine (1993)
- Brave Police J-Decker (1994)
- The Brave of Gold Goldran (1995)
- Brave Command Dagwon (1996)
- The King of Braves GaoGaiGar (1997-1998)
A ninth series, The Saint of Braves Baan Gaan, was planned but never produced. The material meant to be used in this canceled series was later recycled into the plots for the Brave Saga Video Game and concepts from it later appeared in the unrelated Super Robot anime GEAR Fighter Dendoh (along with a few concepts from a planned GaoGaiGar sequel). There's also another video game, New Century Brave Wars (Which includes Might Gaine, J-Decker, Dagwon and Gaogaigar, as well as Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh), which has its own Original Generation mech, Quantum Leap Rayserver.
With the overall global success of GaoGaiGar, Sunrise launched its continuation project starting with a premium disc bundled in The King of Braves GaoGaiGar: FINAL—GRAND GLORIOUS GATHERING DVD Box Set titled The King of Braves GaoGaiGar: FINAL—Project Z, along with the novelization of The King of Braves GaoGaiGar: FINAL, releasing further details and it’s story connections with Betterman. In year 2016, Sunrise fulfilled their goal of merging the two series together with a Web Serial Novel version of the project, King of Kings: GaoGaiGar vs. Betterman.
To the surprise of many, for GaoGaiGar's 25th anniversary, a new Brave Series was announced in the form of a manga; Brave Universe Sworgrader, which will be a full-on crossover with all previous 7 installments together in a single universe.
Not to be confused with a Manhua series of the same name.
Names to know for this franchise:
- Atsuko Ishida: Animation Supervisor (Animation Inspector) for 3 consecutive series of the franchise. note As well as Chief Character Designer for Might Gaine, and J-Decker. She would go on to be Animation Supervisor and Chief Character Designer for Magic Knight Rayearth.
- Koichi Chiba: Veteran voice actor who was promoted as Voice Director for the Brave Series starting from Da-Garn all the way through GaoGaiGar FINAL till his final breath. Known as the one who cast the heroes and kid heroes—notably Nobuyuki Hiyama.
- Chiba is also known to voice one-to-two walk-ons in each Brave title that he directs, most notably Cain of GaoGaiGar.
- Kunio Okawara: Chief Mechanical Designer of Sunrise, who, was already the Chief Designer for the Gundam franchise, came into the department to design all of the principal robots within the Brave Series franchise. He then eventually designed nearly every single robot for GaoGaiGar.
- Masaaki Iwane: Frequent animator for the series better known for his work at Studio Cockpit on Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon: The Series. Provided keyframe animation for every entry, often handling the flashy action scenes not handled by Obari.
- Masami Obari: One of the most important animators involved throughout the series. Mainly on Title Sequences, Combining Mecha, and Finishing Moves.
- Nobuyuki Hiyama: The only voice actor to be cast as Principal Actor more than once throughout the franchise, note earning him the reputation of The Hero; and ultimately became the person representing the franchise as a whole for the franchise's various anniversary events.
- Ryōtarō Okiayu: The only voice actor enrolled as a regular cast member with multiple roles for 3 consecutive series. note And was selected as the promoter for The Brave Series’ 30th Anniversary Super Brave Exhibition.
- Shinji Takamatsu: Director for 3 consecutive series of the franchise. note Later known to be the director of, out of all works: Gintama, and Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto.
- Show Hayami: The only voice actor to be cast as the Principal Robot more than once throughout the franchise. note
- Tetsuya Yanagaisawa: Key animator and animation supervisor for four entries of the franchise note . Would go on to helm his own mecha title down the line - an adaptation of Daimidaler the Sound Robot and serve as director for the Orient anime adaptation.
Common tropes that are seen throughout the franchise are the following:
- Captain Ersatz: Going back to their previous series, many shows tend to feature intelligent robots who could easily pay homage towards the Transformers franchise. In fact, several villain and ally robots are Reused Character Design from Transformers.
- Central Theme: Director Shinji Takamatsu laid out the formula to input one solid theme aside from "Bravery" for each of his works:
- Color Motif:
- All major protagonists and kid heroes would wear their non-combat, normal attire primarily in the combination of red and yellow (with green being the 3rd color in-line.) However, if they are paired up or have more than one Kid Hero/teammate, only one person will wear the staple colors; in this case, they don't need to be the main hero to wear them.
- This concept has been played with amongst members of The Brave Express Team. While Might Senpuuji managed to downplay this for himself,note people tend to forget his non-action teammate Hamada wore the yellow/red combo in place of him via a yellow shirt with tiny red brand logo. If you pull back to see the whole picture, Might (when in his red combat vest) and Hamada (with his yellow shirt) completed the red / yellow combo as a unit together.
- Cool Car: Naturally given the nature of this franchise. The police car in particular is usually assigned as the principal robot, because nothing can surpass the police car when it comes to proclaiming "justice and peace!" Also has a side-effect of leaving local policemen dumbfounded that their police car just vanished out of nowhere.
- Hot-Blooded: A regular staple of the franchise. How much Hot Blood will boil depends however on the show. Gao!Gai!!!GAAAAAAR!!! is a particularly famous example in the wider mecha genre.
- Panthera Awesome: Lions are a recurring motif, best visible in Exkaiser and GaoGaiGar.
- Ridiculously Human Robot: With some exceptions, most of the mecha are very human-like in nature. Even the ones that aren't usually can transform into a more human-like form.
- Super Robot Genre: Every single series. GaoGaiGar comes the closest to the Real Robot Genre due to everything being designed to work in real life so the toys would be accurate, but that's where the real-robot stuff ends and the courage-powered giant robots begins.