Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Super Robot is a term used in manga and anime to describe a giant robot or mecha, with an arsenal of fantastical super-powered weapons, sometimes transformable or combined from two or more robots and/or vehicles usually piloted by young, daring heroes, and often shrouded by mystical or legendary origins.
The first Super Robot was created in 1956 with Gigantor, aka Iron Man 28 or Tetsujin 28-go, by manga artist Mitsuteru Yokoyama, which featured a giant robot piloted by remote-control by a young boy named Shotaro Haneda, who used it to fight against evil. However, the first anime that is considered to start the Super Robot genre was Mazinger Z, created by Go Nagai and making its debut in manga publications and TV in 1972. This anime show was hugely popular and spanned numerous sequels and imitations during the 1970s, and revival shows later during the 80s and 90s.
While some other giant robot shows were also shown on US TV in the 70's, the only true impact Super Robot shows made in the States during that time was in the form of the Force Five series, which was a compilation of different Japanese giant robot shows, and with the Mattel Shogun Warriors toyline.
The Super Robot anime shows are usually named after the title robot (Mazinger Z, Getter Robo , Combattler V , etc), and tend to use a "menace of the week" format, in which the entire plot starts and ends in one episode, with the hero or group of heroes (usually teenagers or kids) saving the day and destroying the evil robots at the very last moment. The villians are usually strange-looking humans or aliens from other worlds, bent on world domination and the destruction of the super robot, using giant machines to challenge the hero. This thin-styled plot formats were the basis for almost all Super Robot anime shows in the 70s, some with few variations, while others have more plot substance, like Tomino Yoshiyuki's Zambot 3 and Space Runaway Ideon, both of which start as a parody of sorts of giant robot shows before descending into tragedy.
Super Robots in recent anime
More recent anime series and OVAs like Zeorymer Hades Project , Giant Robo, and Neon Genesis Evangelion took the basic concept of Super Robot shows and combined it with storylines that were more complex, profound, and leaning toward ambiguity between heroes and villians. They also carry themes with either subtle or more direct social and political messages.
Possibly the real success expected from a sci-fi giant robot show would be the toys and merchandise sales they can produce. In fact, the Super Robot genre spawned a new type of toys that became the defining items of the genre.
In late 1972, a Japanese toy company called Popy released a die-cast metal version of Mazinger Z, whose series was airing at that time. The figure was 8.5 inches tall, it launched spring-loaded fist like the robot "Rocket Punch" on the TV and was quite heavy, being made of metal. This toy revolutionized the Japanese toy industry, spanning lot of toys for almost every Super Robot show that was aired on Japanese TV. Sometimes the case was the opposite: a TV anime giant robot show was created based on the toys produced. The Chogokin line of robots (the name given by Popy to the toyline), eventually lost its popularity in the early 80's after its rival company, Bandai, took the industry by storm with their Gundam franchise and their new plastic toy lines. The original die-cast Popy SR toys have become rare collector's items, and those in mint condition reaching thousands of dollars in the collector's market.
Ironically, it was Bandai itself that revived the Super Robot die-cast toys in recent times. Having aqcuired the Popy toys rights, and due to the renaissance in popularity of the giant robot of the past, Bandai began release a line of solid, highly detailed and quite expensive models made of die-cast metal. This line is called "Soul of Chogokin", and is currently producing a fine line of toys that is aimed mostly to collectors. One of them, a super deluxe model of the Super Robot called Grendizer (complete with the die-cast robot, a flying saucer, four ships and other accesories), which curently is out of production, is known to reach over US$400.00 in specialized stores and auctions.
A good quantity of "Soul of Chogokin" toys from different Super Robot series of the past have been produced, like Mazinger (which has over 12 models based of different robots from the anime), Gaiking, Dancougar , Tetsujin 28-go, and a few others. Another notably addition to the Bandai SOC line are the EVA units from the more recent Evangelion anime series.
List of Super Robot shows
Other examples of the Super Robot genre from different eras are:
- Reideen (1975)
- Voltes V (1977)
- GoShogun (1981)
- Gunbuster (1988)
- Big O (1999)
- Gravion (2002)
- Godannar (2003)
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