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Anime / Dai-Guard

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To Serve and Defend (but not to spend).
Office workers saving the world!

This is the motto of Dai-Guard, an extremely non-traditional Humongous Mecha anime. Set in the year 2030, the show focuses on three employees of the 21st Century Defense Security Corporation, a company that owns a giant robot named Dai-Guard. Dai-Guard was originally built by the military to protect the world against Heterodynes, aliens from another dimension that show up to destroy everything they can get their hands on. However, the first and only attack occurred 12 years ago, and when the series starts, Dai-Guard has been retired and is seen as little more than an overblown corporate mascot.

When a new Heterodyne suddenly appears, the protagonists — young and brash Shunsuke Akagi, rational and hard-working Ibuki Momoi, and aloof and cynical Keiichiro Aoyama — activate the dormant robot and defend the populace. They become instant heroes, but there is the small matter of dealing with the Board of Directors, who are real sticklers for the paperwork involved in using and maintaining an 80-foot-tall robot. Then they have to figure out who's going to pay for all this collateral damage. Then they have to get some weapons that are not Awesome, but Impractical. Then they have to smooth things out with the military, who want the robot back now that it's actually useful. Then they have to figure out where on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism they're supposed to stand. And when they finally get things relatively ironed out, things get political. How do you classify a Kaiju attack? Invasion? Disaster relief? Weapons that can beat giant monsters could kick serious ass on the modern battlefield - how does the world's last empire handle a rival having them? What is the purpose of such a military in peacetime, anyway?

Dai-Guard plays a lot of standard trope arrangements, but approaches them from both ends. It puts a Real Robot in a Super Robot package and drops it in alongside the standard crazy monsters from another dimension. It uses common character arrangements, but avoids many anime stand-bys, employing relatively little Fanservice or UST. It alternates its focus between the day-to-day "realities" of a company utilizing a giant robot and said giant robot punching things in the face.

In the U.S., the show was initially licensed by ADV Films, and had a couple episodes air on Toonami for Giant Robot Week. The license went under when ADV Films dissolved, and the show is now licensed by Discotek Media for a pending rerelease.

Dai-Guard provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A House Divided: Surprisingly, the Heterodyne are a serious threat for only the first nine episodes... out of twenty-six. At the end of episode nine, the behavior and weaknesses of the Heterodyne have been figured out, and one gets one-shotted for the first time in a repeatable fashion... only for Shirota to stab the team in the back and assist in the military's attempt to hijack the operation. It takes four more episodes to iron out the mess, after which they pull off a perfect Heterodyne elimination with zero collateral damage... only for the company executives to screw things up in an even more spectacular manner. It takes four more episodes to clean that mess up, just in time for things to go international; Eagle Land purposefully interferes with a Heterodyne attack in the hopes of capturing one for study, then spins the resulting near-attack on their spy plane into a diplomatic incident and threaten Japan with war while they continue the capture attempts. While a Heterodyne is wandering around that can freeze entire cities solid. Safe to say, the Dai-Guard team spends at least as much time arguing with megalomanical authority figures as they do fighting monsters.
  • And the Adventure Continues: It seems that the Heterodyne will never stop appearing. Like earthquakes and hurricanes, monster attacks are now a fact of life in 21st century Japan. Now that they've developed the tools, skills, and attitude to handle them, the story is over.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Akagi. He's wanted to pilot a Humongous Mecha his entire life, to the point of taking an otherwise useless college course to learn how to do it and spending years in a dead-end job just to be around the only one in existence.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Hitting a Heterodyne in its its central Fractal Knot instantly destroys it and causes its body to either melt away, or explode into a huge fireball or white light.
  • Badass Normal: Dai-Guard's pilots may only be Public Relations office workers, but they eventually prove themselves to be better than the military's pilots.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Dai-Guard was made to fight Heterodyne, but when the Heterodyne vanished, the military were stuck with a useless giant robot, and the division in charge of him was privatized into a security company with Dai-Guard barely receiving the upkeep it needed to stay operational as a mascot. And then after twelve years, the Heterodyne return, and there's only one weapon designed to fight them.
  • Christmas Episode: One with a decidedly western (that it, non-romantic) feel to the holiday.
  • Combining Mecha: At first, Dai-Guard has to be carted to the battle site in pieces and assembled. Eventually the pieces are outfitted as vehicles in their own right, presumably to avoid this hassle, but they have to transform back to their "parts" form in order to assemble, and are demonstrated to lack weapons or any other non-transportational functions, as well as having limited fuel for flight.
  • Cool Big Sis: Ooyama is specifically called out in this role during the Recap Episode.
  • Daddy's Girl: Ibuki used to be one until her father died in the first Heterodyne attack. When she realizes her biological father only studied the Heterodyne For Science!, she has a Heroic BSoD in the very next battle. When she realizes her stepfather's heroism is real, she's one all over again.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Secondary co-worker Irie.
  • Decon-Recon Switch
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: When not saving Japan from giant, extra-dimensional monsters, the heroes are buried in endless paperwork.
  • Flawed Prototype: Dai-Guard is essentially this at first. Being the only one of its kind and not being able to get any field experience it has a number of flaws and limitations that only become evident once it starts being used (leaving it outside for twelve years with minimum maintenance didn't help, either). Domeki sorts these out and then some.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Rika Domeki.
  • Glass Cannon: Dai-Guard in both the series and Super Robot Wars Z2 can dish out a lot of pain, but it gets damaged extremely easy and isn't very fast.
    • Magikarp Power: While it is noticeably weaker than most other Super Robots in the beginning of the game, Akagi has a unique ability that allows him to gain vast amounts of Pilot Points to put him head-over-shoulders above other pilots.
  • Guns Are Worthless:
    • Dai-Guard uses only physical melee weapons, stemming from the limitations that A) the 21st Century Defense Corporation isn't the military or the police (and this is Japan) and B) Heterodynes can only be destroyed with an accurate strike to their Fractal Knot, which melee weapons are better at.
    • Subverted when The ANPO jets use missiles to ground an aerial Heterodyne long enough for Dai-Guard to finish it, and in the final battle when Kokubogar stuns the Evil Knock Off with a rocket and saves Dai-Guard.
  • Handsome Lech: Aoyama. Though his flirting always seems to have a business purpose behind it. Then, when the office suspects he has a girlfriend because he's always talking on the phone and disappearing, it turns out it's his mom, who's in the hospital.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Shirota eventually loosens up and comes around to the protagonists' way of thinking.
    • The same happens with Saeki, Shirota's "apprentice" and Kokubogar's main pilot, Akagi's former professor.
  • Hero Insurance: Lampshaded and averted in turns. The insurance requires ridiculous amounts of paperwork, and the damage cause by Dai-Guard still ends up costing the company a buttload of money. In fact, the aversion fuels a lot of the show's non-monster conflict.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ibuki after she learns the truth about her father.
  • Hidden Depths: Turns out Shirota's really good at decorating cakes. Everyone's pretty surprised, not least Shirota himself.
  • Honor Before Reason: Akagi insists on using Dai-Guard at every opportunity and refuses to accept that sacrifices must be made. Shirota hates this, but it usually works out anyway.
    • And by "works out," we mean nobody dies. Dai-Guard frequently ends up getting beat to hell and back.
    • This tendency is lampshaded in one episode where Akagi doesn't want to destroy a Heterodyne that is sitting quietly and not hurting anyone. Everyone is pretty surprised.
  • Hot-Blooded: Akagi... oh, Akagi. The boy refuses to realize that he's in a Real Robot Genre show. It all works to his advantage, though.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Subverted. Tanigawa and Ijuuen visit one just in time to be interrupted by a giant balloon Heterodyne, but little skin is shown and in Tanigawa's words, they had "separate rooms and boring conversations".
  • Humongous Mecha: Strangely, it's the rare Real Robot that looks like a Super Robot; Dai-Guard was designed for the very specific purpose of getting in close enough to a Heterodyne to destroy its Fractal Knot.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: It takes Aoyama a long time to get used to piloting Dai-Guard; in episode 3 he quits the company, and in one pre-episode recap, he asks the viewer if they want to fly a giant robot.
  • Indy Ploy: This is all Akagi does, much to the horror and annoyance of his coworkers.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The Evil Army and the 21st Century Corporation are frequently at odds about who should really be using Dai-Guard.
  • Kaiju: The Heterodynes
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Notably, Dai-Guard gets this in SRW with "New Dai-Guard", which has the Great Knot Punisher and accompanying flywheel always attached. It allows the team to perform attacks making unique use of both weapons.
  • Monster of the Week: The Heterodynes again, although they are more of a Framing Device for the main conflict.
  • Never Tell Me the Odds!: Inverted when the odds are so bad, Saeki refuses to tell the pilots what they are.
  • Nobody Can Die: Everyone is always evacuated before the Heterodyne (or Dai-Guard) can start smashing the place up. No one's ever caught in the crossfire, and the few times someone does get trapped under falling rubble or somesuch, don't worry, rescue crews will be along shortly. Justified as Japan is known for having a really good disaster alert and response system to begin with, and within weeks of the pilot episode they've isolated the warning signs that precede the arrival of Heterodynes. Episode 8 is simply A Week in the Life of the Dai-Guard team during which they get nothing but repeated false alarms... and have to stay at their posts for hours on end waiting for the threat to emerge to no avail.
  • No Indoor Voice: Akagi, to the point of misunderstanding the correct manner of using a TV mic with deafening consequences.
  • No Social Skills: Domeki. She means well, and she's generally nice enough in person but she doesn't seem to understand social interaction, and doesn't seem to notice or care when she screws up. "Oh, you think your Dad's a hero? Well, I'd hate for you to labor under a false impression! Let me help you with that. Whoops. Well, that's to be expected. You'll get over it."
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Because it's operated by an insurance company in Japan, Dai-Guard doesn't use ordnance of any sort. This has the side effect of keeping collateral damage to a minimum (in theory!).
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: The first Heterodyne was destroyed by an "O.E. Weapon", which stands for "Over Explosion". (It's never actually confirmed to be nuclear in nature - and appears to be some other type of explosive - but its use will leave an area uninhabitable for a period of time in addition to the massive collateral damage.)
  • The Only One: For several episodes, the military replaces the normal pilots with three "simulator jockeys," as Aoyama calls them. They turn out to be utterly useless in a fight because they don't understand teamwork or have the proper intuition to pilot Dai-Guard.
    • Averted once the military realizes that idealism is not for kids. Akagi's mecha piloting teacher and classmates are right there with them kicking ass in the final episodes.
    • It doesn't help that the "simulator jockeys," in the same episode where Akagi wants to leave the sleeping Hetrodyne alone (which turns out to be a very good idea, since if it's destroyed there would be a larger-than-Kyoto crater under Kyoto) they decide to wake it up so they can fight it. If they were heroes, we've have had a fun big-time case of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
    • Justified later in the series when Domeki installs a program upgrade to Dai-Guard which makes it much more responsive, agile, and efficient, but only if the three main pilots are using it, as the information it uses to do its job is based on data gathered specifically from their piloting.
  • Only Sane Man: In one of the early introduction episodes, Aoyama remarks on Akagi and Ibuki's unstable nature and heroic tendencies and declares, "I am the only sane person on this robot, and there's nothing I can do about it, except hang on and enjoy the ride."
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Heterodynes. No two are quite alike in design, shape and abilities, but are all based on the same basic composition which is equal parts fungus and hexagon-shaped crystal (the "Fractal Knot"). They then form a body out of surrounding matter, making no two quite alike. They can move freely (some even fly), are usually attracted to EM waves and often have odd powers to defend themselves. That's about ALL they have in common.
    • Which causes a great deal of surprise when one shows up that is an exact copy of the very first one.
    • They are considered straight-up monsters by the general population, but specialists consider them tantamount to natural disasters, as they don't appear to have a particular purpose or capacity for thought.
  • Pile Bunker: Knot Buster and Knot Punisher.
  • Post-Episode Trailer: Complete with the page quote as "On the Next Episode of..." Catch-Phrase.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: All of Public Relations Division 2.
  • Ramen Slurp: Domeki usually does this while hunched over in her Hacker Cave, analysing the newest Heterodyne or designing parts for Dai-Guard.
  • Real Robot Genre: One of the most credible Real Robot Genre series out there, Square-Cube Law aside.
  • Rocket Punch: Not an actual mechanical ability, but the next best thing: Dai-Guard takes off its hand and throws it at the monster. Faithfully recreated in Super Robot Wars Z 2 as part of the drill arm's animation against air units.
  • Running Gag: Early in the series, Dai-Guard loses an arm in basically every fight. And don't forget that Super Robots cost ridiculous amounts of money. Especially the new parts.
    • And to effectively use most of its weapons it has to give up at least one usable hand. Later in the series a new weapon is developed that takes away both hands.
    • Aoyama even comments on this once: "It wouldn't be a fight if we didn't lose an arm."
    • Then they upgrade their arms to simply house their main weapons to get over the hassle of having to rip Dai Guard's arms out all the time.
  • Salaryman: The main characters — even though they frequently protect the country from Heterodynes — and their co-workers.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: In the series finale Shirou Shirota disobeys orders to stop a Over Explosion Bomb from being dropped on Tokyo to stop the Monster of the Week from covering the world. His plan works, but the bomb might not have.
  • Ship Tease: Akagi had this with Ibuki but has much more teasing with Ooyama, the final shots of the cast in the final episode even has the two of them standing rather close together as Dai-Guard is repaired. Nakahara and Aoyama would also count, except that the tease only applies to Aoyama, Nakahara's feelings are made quite blatant later on.
  • Square-Cube Law:
    • In early episodes simply walking around too much could threaten to shake Dai Guard to pieces and punching Heterodynes only broke his own arms. Even later episodes reference it, as Dai-Guard tries to move as little as possible. One of the things its military counterpart does is re-work and reinforce the hell out of the robot's internal structure to account for this.
    • Dai-Guard's eventual evolution into a Combining Mecha was meant to counter this as well as reduce transportation costs. Breaking into three pieces was much more favorable than two hundred or so.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Pretty much the main appeal of the show. Fighting with a giant monster destroys the city? Insurance claims and repair costs quickly follow. Trying to equip new parts and weapons on your Humongous Mecha? Have fun trying and failing to properly align the weapon slots on your 150 ton mecha. Hell, sometimes the equipment is so new all of the bugs aren't quite worked out, sometimes it isn't even painted yet! Just put a drill arm on Dai-Guard? The massive torque causes the robot to lose control like crazy.
    • Dai-Guard's first actual battle against a Heterodyne doesn't go smoothly. Due to a combination of the haste with which it was built in the first place, being minimally upkept for twelve years while outside, and lack of actual field experience meaning that much of its functions were unrefined and untested, it barely works. It nearly falls apart just from walking, and does lose an arm...but the team does kill the Heterodyne and it's a PR success.
    • After activating Dai-Guard and taking out the first Heterodyne, Akagi, Ibuki and their Manager are called to a board meeting. Akagi is expecting to be praised and rewarded, but the other two are less than enthused...and with good reason because the three of them are chewed out by the board for using company property without permission, causing a massive amount of damage to the city with said property which the company is on the hook for, and getting the company involved with the Heterodyne situation when they hadn't yet voted on whether or not to intervene.
    • Although he went to a military college, which means that he's in better shape and more suited to combat than other members of 21st Century Security, Akagi's mano-a-mano fight against a career soldier ends with getting his ass handily kicked.
    • At one point, Dai-Guard's pursuit of a flying Heterodyne is stymied by...some moderately tall hills. The hills are just tall enough and at the right angle to keep Dai-Guard from being able to climb them with its relatively limited range of limb motion, so it has to be disassembled and driven to keep the chase going. It's after this incident (which required multiple dis- and re-assemblies) that the engineers decided to make the individual parts able to fly and combine on their own.
    • No one knows anything about how to stop the Heterodyne from appearing (if that's even possible), no one can predict when or where they'll appear, or what they'll do when they show up. All that can be done is to prepare and work together to minimize the damage...just like with any natural disaster.
  • Taking You with Me: A hilarious subversion: a Heterodyne falling into the ocean grabs Dai-Guard's hand. Akagi just detaches it.
  • Theme Naming: The pilots and some other characters are named after colours. Akagi- Red, Aoyama- Blue, Momoi- Pink, Shirota- White, etc.
  • This Is a Drill: And drills are Awesome, but Impractical. Ever heard of "torque", Domeki?
    • It's even Lampshaded. After their first attempt at using it everyone's reaction was "Why the hell did we think that would work?"
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: In the anime, no mention is ever made of Heterodynes appearing not in Japan. The manga does mention that there are Dai-Guards stationed around the world, as the warps that bring the Heterodynes to Earth are related to earthquakes, which, while most frequent in Japan, can also happen in other parts of the world.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series is shown in the 1st episode to take place in 2030, with the first Heterodyne appearing in 2018.
  • Very Special Episode: When Ibuki finds out the truth about her father.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: In one episode a guy steals Akagi's section of Dai-Guard and tries to attack the Heterodyne, under the impression that it had weapons of its own like in typical Combining Mecha shows. It doesn't, and it has a very limited supply of fuel, so Akagi has to talk him out of it.
  • You're Insane!: An affectionate hero-to-hero use.
    • Or not. Ibuki and Aoyama tend to get really pissed at Akagi's repeated use of the Indy Ploy.