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When it transends love, it turns into hatred, Ryuji-kun!… wait, WHAT?!

January 30, 2010

“I am Zairin; the Zoid pilot, Zairin! Today, I will face my true enemy, as a man of my village, Zaltz!”

Zairin de Zaltz, Zoids Genesis


If I didn’t know better I’d say Graham Aker of 00 was channeling Zairin. Aside from the different voice actors, those two are almost the same in personality in that they both need psychiatrists. And have an obsession with the young male lead. The main difference is that Zairin recovers; Graham does not.

So, Zoids, the Japanese versions and material at least. After going through all five TV series, I can plainly see why Zoids Genesis made it into Super Robot Wars K. Compared to the first four (note I said “compared”) Genesis is almost like classic Gundam, but nobody dies. Meh, you might say, but it IS geared primarily towards children since it was made for the sales of the BioZoid toy line.

In order to understand what makes each Zoids series unique to itself, you’ll have to remember them first. Zoids are mechanical creatures modeled after animals, both extinct and existing. Most of them are pilotable by humans, and can mount a variety of weapons both melee and ranged in nature, aside from their claws and fangs. All are natives of Planet Zi, though their appearance in each settings differs; the Battle Story, a plotline introduced to the toy series, is a long-running saga for the most part, while most of the TV series bear little resemblance to each other.

Zoids: Chaotic Century

The first Zoids TV series that came out was Chaotic Century, featuring that useless whore of a pilot Van Flyheight, the super-A.I. Organoid Zeke, his female travelling companion and Zeke’s original owner Fiona and the iconic Shield Liger. The Chaotic Century timeline used the start of the Battle Story, as plot, a fairly easy one about Republic V.S. Empire, with Van being central character to the conflict between the two.

It did differ from the standard plot in that Imperial sympathizers to the Republic were many, and the expected theme of the Shield Liger saving the day wasn’t unjustified; the Shield Liger, despite its age was noted to be fairly advanced for it time and had a shield system that took a WMD or spam fire to take down. It’s a given we see Van mature, as well as some development in the people who hang around him. You’ll be able to forgive his flamboyant attitude when you realize he’s been almost single-handedly saving the asses of countless Republicans numerous times throughout the series.

Before you forget though, the toyline came first; the series was made in tandem to support it. As such, sometimes the plot can’t help but get hit by the Steel Bar of Idiocy; commando-mercenary Irvine going from Established Badass to On-Screen Fragile Speedster is an example.  Sure the Command Wolf he rides in is widely accepted to be way beyond its shelf life even with maintainance, but with his experience you’d think that he’d think twice before bringing a heavy missile pack on his paper puppy to fight an ace on an open field. Even if this is a toy slave series, it’s just a bit too much.

Also, don’t expect anyone to dodge or do anything fancy. Unless the plot demands it, expect even military badasses like Col. Herman to frequently bail Zoids (though with the Republic’s rag-tag army I’d say their Zoids are just too damn useless). If a good Zoids does appear, expect the Republic to be the last to get it if it hasn’t gone over to the Empire yet.

The series does have its awesome moments though. The Shield Liger’s ascension to the Blade Liger and Raven’s defeat was pretty good to watch, and occasionally there are minor breaks in the plot that have the military being competent for once, not to mention the usual maturing of characters and other whanot. It ends well, with both the Republic and Empire coming together to defeat a common foe.

Zoids: Guardian Force

After Chaotic Century, we got Guardian Force. A sequel, it once again features Van Flyheight the useless whore the trained soldier as the main; having joined the military and received training from the big names in piloting, he’s no longer dependant on Organoid Zeke to help him pull of sleek moves, and his Blade Liger is pretty much the ultimate unit on Planet Zi. Fiona works alongside him as a tactical advisor of sorts and as a scientist herself to uncover more of her past, and the series starts off dealing with small-time terrorists and troublemakers. Sounds like a marked improvement, doesn’t it?

Except that now the characters are static. Having dealt with most of the emotional issues last season, Van and Fiona now know their course in life and it just isn’t as fun to watch anymore, except to see how the story progresses. Add in the mix that Irvine of all people gets to emo, and Van and Fiona being totally platonic with each other despite the numberous chances for some romance in the plot, the fun level just dropped by half. Some of the aforementioned suck in the previous series also made it over (alas, the Dibison!), but this time it seems more reasonable to explain it as  for the sake of keeping in trend with storyline physics than actually doing it on purpose.

The new thing that keeps people watching, however, would be the suspense and intrigue introduced in place of the lighthearted banter. As all the small terror events eventually point to one man named Hiltz, Van and friends find themselves in more and more danger, culminating in a no-holds-barred battle between Hiltz and his forces and the combined might of the Republic and Empire.

It doesn’t end well, of course, and the final phase of the storyline becomes a big race with the good guys barely keeping one step ahead. Under normal circumstances you might think that will make for a storyline, but Hiltz, armed with a Zoid so powerful he makes the Strike Freedom look like a puppy, is literally lighting a fire whenever he goes. The Republic gets a few scattered victories, but most of the time we’re forced to sit through episode after episode of Hiltz beating the living shit out of the Republic. Van and friends do win, but it only redeems the last few episodes instead of lifting it above other shows of the same genre.

Zoids: New Century Zero

After that, the action zooms hundreds, possibly thousands of years forward, to Zoids: New Century Zero. Come Zero, all traces of the Empire and Republican are gone; instead, a Zoids Battle Commission organizes tournament-style Zoid battles and holds a grand competition every once in a while to select a champion. Young Bit Cloud, our main character, is strangely not a part of this; he’s a junk collector, making a living picking parts off Zoid battlefields. His luck turns around however, when his storage truck trips a Zoid over in the middle of a battle, earning him the ire of the Blitz team. Accusing him of disrupting their match and causing the injury of one of their precious pilots, Bit is slowly pulled into the world of Zoid battling when he takes on the mantle of pilot for the Blitz team; first temporarily, and finally becoming an integral part of their strategies…

…is what I’d like to say, but unfortunately, the Steel Bar of Idiocy is still a major part of this show. With the flagship Liger Zero, Bit is near un-defeatable, and  his teammates, while sporting acceptably useful and efficient Zoids, are more often than not distractions so that the enemy can focus on them long enough for Bit to get in close with the Zero and smack the foes around for a bit. Even the story itself occasionally suffers from a bit of dis-jointedness.

It does have its shining moments though; Bit’s major fights are given brand-new and one-of-a-time animation, and despite Bit being an idiot, his brain cells do work often enough that you can’t simply attribute his wins to sheer luck and plot armor. All in all, it’s just the same as the first two, but with a different setting, different personalities, and different endings.

Zoids: Fuzors

The next in line is Zoids Fuzors. Made to sell the new line of Zoids Blox, a quick explanation of it would be taking Zoids Zero’s plotline, separate the mundane moments from the tournament matches, and hide all the action behind the mundane. Set on Planet Zi during an underminted time, Fuzors follow one R.D. and his Liger Zero, members of Zoids battling team Mach Storm, as they try their best to earn enough to keep the team funds afloat, win their tourney matches, and settle things with uppity thugs that try to get in their way. And as of Fuzors, the storyline is still prone to moments of idiocy.

While it’s the only Zoids series to feature combining Zoids, it wasn’t that memorable on its own. Sure, there could be a hundred and one toys for Fuzors, but ultimately, some things with the show never came to pass and several plot holes were unfortunately left hanging, an example being the motivations of several characters.

In retrospect to the level of society displayed in Fuzors, in my opinion this series has the most evil villains ever, beating Hiltz by a small margin. They don’t engage in terrorist acts or take people hostage, but they’re the kind that’ll think kicking a dog is the best pastime ever conceived. And those are only what the small-time crooks do; can you image how the bastards of the series manage to sneer without killing whomever they were looking at?

Despite the animation taking a drop and its compressed storyline, Fuzors doesn’t quite suck as much as you think it does. What it lacks in logic and graphics it surprisingly makes up for in its compact plotline; while there are holes in it, they didn’t really impact the ending, and that alone probably saved the show.

Zoids: Genesis

And now we come to the latest in Zoids: Genesis, made to sell the most recent BioZoids line. In a way what made it so appealing for me was a return to the old ways; boy gets a Liger and a reason to run around the continent, this case being one Ryuji Familon on a journey to look for a repairman for the Generator of his village, damaged by the baddies of the series.

The battle and 3D animation took a while to get up to grade, but otherwise it was well within acceptable range. The character designs were dangerously close to moe-overload style, but thankfully most of the time the characters, for obvious plot reasons, don’t get a reason to blush for no gawdamned reason and tug at the hem of their skirt/pants/random cloth pieces/whatever!

While I do know that the animation and production constrains for Fuzors and Genesis were utterly different from each other, if you didn’t know you might think Genesis’ Zoid designs were trying to insinuate something about Fuzor’s level of detail, since the Zoids are very much easily worthy of their own HMM Koto kits if you judge from appearance alone.

The story of Zoids Genesis is a far cry from the previous four, by a long shot. While all previous series go out of their way to ensure that dead people only die before the story start or if it’s a bad guy, Genesis, having to depict a war between two armies at the end, takes it head on and manages to keep it at a teen rating. I bet getting toasted in your own Zoid would be preferable to being speared and thrown off a cliff in your own Zoid. Just like Gundam, but they don’t go out of their way to show random people dying everywhere, even though there should be. It’s a pity that Genesis, for all of its glory, suffered a continuous string of hits from the Idiot Bar in regards to its storyline.

So, which series is worth watching and which is worth burning? Personally I’d say none of the five fit either end of the scale, but based on personal taste your favourite out of the five might be worth more than the latest Gundam Unicorn episode. If I had to say, Fuzors tipped more towards the burning scale, and Genesis, joined by Chaotic Century and Zero, was leaning towards the other end of things.

I think most people by the age of 12 would have outgrown something like Zoids, but having regretted that my experience with Zero when it aired in my country were full of missed episodes probably compelled me to go all the way with all five series. Watch it at your own pace, but don’t force yourself if you can’t stomach even a minute amount of cheesy, ’cause all five series, ALL FIVE, have their own reservoir of such moments.

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