The year is 2087, and mankind has started expanding into outer space, founding colonies on the Moon and advancing dramatically in technology and generally improving the living conditions for everyone. However, a dark shadow is cast over this future, as the Moon colonies, under the leadership of Marshall Iskandar Guiltorre, declare themselves independent under the collective name of Giganos Empire.
After years of excalating tensions, brought on by the ever-growing discrimination against Earthlings on the Moon colonies, and by the construction of Giganos' Mass Driver, war finally breaks out, with Giganos Empire in an overwhelming advantage thanks to its technological superiority and the use of anthropomorphic Humongous Mecha called Metal Armors. A few months in the conflict, already 70% of Earth is under Giganos' dictatorship, and the Earth Federation is getting desperate...
Fortunately for the Federation, three new-model Metal Armors codenamed Dragonar are captured by an Allied fleet during transportation. Unfortunately, the Giganos forces immediately start pursuit, with the order of taking them back at all costs... and in the whole mess, the Dragonar end up being boarded and piloted by three teenagers from the neutral colony of Arcadia, which Giganos attacked to take back their prototypes.
Of course, much mayhem ensues, and Kain, Tapp and Light find themselves forcibly enlisted into Federation army because their mechs' AIs will only allow them to pilot it, fighting an almost hopeless war against extremely bleak odds as they try to keep Giganos Empire from reclaiming the Dragonar.
If that sounded similar to Mobile Suit Gundam to you, you're quite right - this 1987-1988 series is, in fact, very similar to Yoshiyuki Tomino 's masterpiece and shares much of its creative team with Gundam works of its time. Fukuda Mitsuo of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED fame also worked on several episodes although using a different Kanji writing of his name. However, Metal Armor Dragonar is much Lighter and Softer than the series it parallels, not only keeping death to a minimum, but also engaging in refreshing comedic episodes which manage not to detract anything from the action and the development. People who liked Gundam's bleak setting might be somewhat put off by this, but Metal Armor Dragonar presents itself as a worthy alternative.
Has a character sheet now.
This series contains examples of:
- An Adventurer Is You: The three Dragonars fulfill different roles, to the point of Fighter, Mage, Thief.
- D-1, Kaine's Dragonar, is a Jack of All Stats, a cross between Fighter and Thief. It has the best speed among all three, is the only one with a dedicated melee weapon, but has less firepower and range detection. It can be outfitted with a Mecha Expansion Pack to provide it with more guns at the cost of looking ridiculous and reducing speed, though that got trashed early on.
- D-2, Tapp's Dragonar, is a Mighty Glacier, a cross between Fighter and Mage, being slow but with the heaviest firepower and defense.
- D-3, Light's Dragonar, is a Squishy Wizard, a cross between Mage and Thief, having very few weapons but having the best navigational systems, range detection and hacking devices.
- Action Girl: The protagonist machines themselves have female A.I.s. Min, who starts out as a Dark Action Girl.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Gor, the Dumb Muscle and comic relief of the Stark Squad, gets a surprisingly heroic and tearjerker death when his time comes. Gon Jem himself will probably evoke sympathy for the viewer at the moment of his death, considering how sincerely he mourned his fallen underlings.
- Ambiguously Brown: Min. Her name sounds Asian but she is a dark-skinned blonde.
- Bald of Evil and Beard of Evil: Gon Jem.
- BFG: The Photon Launchers employed by the customized Dragonars.
- Big Eater: Gon Jem and, to a lesser extent, all of his Stark Squad except Jin.Gon: "There's nothing to go with the wine. Go fetch a lamb, Gor!"
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: A bit of this is unavoidable, since a good chuck of the series is untranslated outside of HK subs.
- The Cameo: Ramba Ral appears in episode 11 dressed in a blue suit. Approaches on Shout-Out courtesy of Shown Their Work, since Ral's referred to as the "Blue Giant."
- Canon Foreigner - The Falguen Custom, designed for Another Century's Episode 3, which is a do-everything upgrade to Meio's Ace Custom.
- Guiltorre's son introduced by the tie-in novel. He is a Honor Before Reason teenager who picks a fight with his father and Meio when hearing Giganos is going towards peace. It gets them both killed in the confusion.
- Char Clone - Meio Plato... as in, they weren't even trying to disguise it. He's just Char Aznable sprayed over with blue paint.
- Crew of One: Metal Armors generally only have one pilot, as per Humongous Mecha standards, however, the series at least Handwaves it by mentioning that a great deal of each MA's functions are handled by high-powered computer systems.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Ben and Chekhov.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Not a character, but a song. Shiny Boy by Mami Yamase, the second ending theme, is first played in episode 23 when showing the remote Giganos outpost Meio was transferred to.
- Empathic Weapon: The reason the boys have to join the army and pilot the Dragonars is that after they piloted it for the first time, the onboard A.I.s only responded to them.
- The Empire: Giganos Empire, obviously.
- Energy Weapons: Surprisingly sparsely used. Aside from Laser Blades and the later Photon Cannons for the Dragonars, most weaponry in the series is kinetic-based.
- Engineered Public Confession: In the next-to-last episode, Min pulls one on Dorchenov that results in the villain unknowingly confessing his murder of Marshall Guiltorre to the whole Giganos army.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Jin, the most amoral of the Stark Squad, is visibly disgusted when two Giganos aces take a group of children hostage to lure the Dragonars into a trap.
- Ace Pilot Meio Plato is obviously based on Char Aznable, to the point of having a pretty similar Red Baron nickname.
- Linda is a much less frosty Sayla Mass, down right to her being the enemy ace's sister.
- The Dragonars themselves. D-1 is an obvious reference to the original RX-78, with beam sabers, a laser bazooka and a shield. D-2 is for the Guncannon with its shoulder-mounted turret cannons, while D3 is a more humanoid version of the Guntank.
- Feet of Clay: The Gilga-Zamune is extremely powerful, but has some glaring weaknesses that keep it from being reliable.
- Freudian Trio: obviously, Kain (Id), Tapp (Ego) and Light (Super-Ego).
- Grand Theft Prototype: The series starts off with earth forces stealing the Dragonars, but the three teens end up piloting them before anyone else can.
- Heel–Face Turn: Min, Meio, and Lt. Chekov to an extent
- High-Heel–Face Turn: Min after discovering what has happened with the leadership.
- Heel Realization: Marshall Guiltorre begins to have one later in the series, but he doesn't manage to go far with it before he dies.
- Hero Killer: Gon Jem.
- Hidden Depths: For a Drill Sergeant Nasty, Ben is friendly. Understood Tapp's problems with Rose being sick in that he lied to Douglas, understood Linda's problems with her brother Meio, citing the fact he has relatives who kill each other (ie, Relative X is Federation while Relative Y is Giganos), likes pandas, and believed Kaine wouldn't defect to Giganos, so as much as to sneak into the Giganos Fortress to rescue Kaine's mother.
- Hot-Blooded: Kain
- Humongous Mecha: The Gilga-Zamune. The Dragonars and just about everything the Giganos throw at the heroes qualify too.
- Idiot Hero: Kain
- Mecha Expansion Pack: The Lifter system for all three Dragonars grants them much faster flight and a set of missile launchers. The MAFFU system for some of the Giganos Metal Armors (but especially ones piloted by Gon Jem's squadron and eventually Meio's Falguen itself) also counts.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: The Lifter Packs, which allow the Dragonars to fly while in atmosphere and also come equipped with their own missile launchers. Meio also gets his own lifter for the Falguen in the form of the MAFFU system.
- Rape as Drama: Jin had been repeatedly trying to strip Linda, fortunately he never succeeds.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Gon Jem is "The Filth of Giganos".
- Punch-Clock Villain: Lt.Chekov, a Giganos ex-ace sent to guard an abandoned satellite.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Gon Jem and the villains the Stark Squad, a paramilitary force in China hired by the Giganos Empire:
- Real-Place Background: Norway's Akershus castle shows up in episode 13, in which the Idaho survivors throw a goodbye party for the Dragonar pilots. It gets heavily damaged by the mass driver's asteroid projectile.
- Real Robot Genre: Metal Armors rely mostly on kinetic weapons, have most of their operations handled by AI, and aren't too outlandish in what they can do. The Gilga-Zamune does straddle the line(it looks like a samurai, for one thing), however.
- Redemption Equals Death: Just as he's beginning to realize that his cause might not be so righteous after all, Marshall Guiltorre is shot dead by Dorchenov.
- Also, in the last episode, Meio invokes this trope and decides to remain in the crumbling Phobetore fortress as atonement for his deeds, but his father talks him out of it.
- Red Herring: Judging by the 1st Opening, we were told Light would hook up with Diane. Nope, she hooks up with Ben, and in the ending, she marries him.
- Shout-Out: Kaine's jacket in episode 9 resembles that of David Rutherford's jacket from the Ru Kain 1999 arc.
- Smug Snake / The Starscream: Dorchenov. He thinks he's a Magnificent Bastard and a badass, but in most cases, his plans either fails or only succeed due to overwhelming power or dumb luck.
- Social Darwinist: The Giganos see themselves as the next step in human evolution and want to conquer the Earth to "speed up the process and share their prosperity with everyone". Yeah, right...
- Spell My Name With An S: Let's... Let's not get into how many different romanizations of Meio's unusual name there are...
- Not to mention the show's star - is it Ken? Kaine?
- The spelling Kaine appeared on one of the millitary document in the show.
- Are Giganos ships named after historical figures of science or just Gundam-style gibberish (Humboldt vs. Funbolt)?
- There's No Kill like Overkill: The Custom Dragonars are loaded for bear with both 01 and 02 carrying massive launchers and a metric crapton of missiles. The Falguen Custom from ACE 3 gives Meio some firepower too.
- Token Trio: Even their mech's paintjobs match their ethnicities. Kain's is red and white like the Japanese flag with prominent yellow bits, Tapp's is black and Light's is white.
- Villainous Breakdown: Gon Jem and Dorchenov. Played for tragedy in the former case. Incredibly satisfying in the latter, as it shows just how pathetic a person Dorchenov is.
- Wave-Motion Gun: The Dragonars later get Photon Cannons as extra weapons.
- Where da White Women At?: A very rare example in anime. Tapp has a crush on Rose. It's also an example of the trope played for cuteness.