The following review is based on a
podcast I had with Siegneozeon and ThoughtAgent, and Biogundam.
Sieg did an excellent job of recounting the plot so give it a
Gasaraki is a post-Evangelion late 90s mecha anime. Mecha means
giant robots piloted by teenagers. It’s another mecha anime
produced by Sunrise so by that alone it can be either a hit or a
miss, Sunrise Inc. is an anime studio which used to spam mecha
series after mecha series to the point where the genre was
over-saturated and today mecha anime is rarer.
Gasaraki falls into the real robot category, as opposed to the super robo category of mecha anime. The difference is that real real-robot anime tries to be realistic about the science behind giant robots whereas super robot anime tries to push for the rule of cool, with robots effectively having supernatural powers with a thin veneer of science usually to cover it up. Gasaraki cheats a bit as it introduces a couple of overpowered supernatural mechs (from a thousand year ago in Japan) but they don’t get enough screen-time for Gasaraki to fall out of the real robo category.
I was sold this anime by Siegneozeon as an anime which
predicted the Iraq war but with mechs and a Yukio Mishima
rightwing Japanese coup and predicted the effects of mass
migration. It delivered on all of these but I was kind of
bored especially by the mid section of the series.
Unfortunately the Iraq war is just an arc which covered the first few episodes though I will credit the anime for predicting the weapons of mass destruction excuse to invade Iraq. In this case there actually does turn out to be a weapon of mass destruction of supernatural origin.
The characters you see in the promotional art of this anime, that is to say the teenage mecha pilots, do not really play a decisive role in the plot and are just brought in at the end for the supernatural finale. The finale frankly felt unfair to the antagonist who planned everything and worked for years but the heroes win just because they are overpowered because they are the chosen ones and the antagonist is not.
Frankly the last episode and some of the supernatural elements felt tacked on, like this anime had them just because Eva had them. I suppose they're used to explain why the protagonist, a teenager is allowed to pilot a mech but unlike Evangelion the story here does not revolve around the pilot or his psychology but rather the adult characters in SEELE-like secret organisations pulling the strings behind keeping the supposed protagonists running around and feeling sorry for themselves.
The side characters like the right wing reactionary revolutionary Nishida turn out to be far more interesting, props to the anime for giving a fair hearing to his views rather than shafting him. I wonder if this would have been possible in today's toxic political environment where independent thought is discouraged. Unfortunately Nishida only starts to get the spotlight at the end so I actually fell asleep in the middle section between the Iraq war and the Japanese right wing coup.
I fell asleep during the two episode flashback to a thousand years ago where the alter-egos, previous incarnations of the main characters, repeat the events of the series and vow not to repeat them.
There are only a few mech designs and Sieg informed us that this was on purpose, the creators forsook the rule of cool and toy sales because it would be unrealistic for more than a few designs to have been developed in the near future.
The mechs are not huge but about two storeys tall and designed to be used in urban combat with tanks where mobility is limited. I don't have the military expertise to say whether this makes any sense or not. The mechs are kind of like a tank sized bulky exoskeleton, the pilots in the cockpit wear a VR headset and use a joystick, they also breathe and pant a lot.
Personally I prefer the more humanoid, sleek mecha designs which look like a knight's armour but I get that they were going for a modern military look, and modern military aesthetics suck and are less ornamental. Basically the fact that a fighter jet looks good is kind of incidental, not on purpose.
There are at least three points of view in this series,
- The antagonist wants power for himself permanently as he sees it as his birthright as the head of the gowa family to rule over Japan and the world.
- Nishida wants power in the short term to destroy American hegemony over Japan and put Japan through a period of poverty so that the Japanese abandons materialism and returns to its traditional roots.
- Finally the teenage mech pilot couple, the protagonist and his love interest, want to relinquish the heavy power bestowed by tradition and instead want to abandon tradition and their duties as Kai to decide their own fate as they see fit. To not be “test subjects” for the ideals and traditions set by somebody else.
In the end those who win are the last category, implying that their view is correct, with Nishida effectively abandoning his vision after realising that he was putting Japan on a course to the suffering of another war. He is instead satisfied merely by a promise of an American president (who would be replaced when his term comes to an end) that America will not abuse its power over the world and instead tighten its belt and open up its grain supplies to the world. He does end up paying the ultimate price for leading on his co-conspirators but it does sort of turn into a nothing burger, making you wonder whether the deaths Nishida’s scheme caused were worth it, and then he posthumously doubles down on Japan’s post-war American-imposed pacifism out of nowhere leading to a very confused end to the whole coup arc.
Given that I have praised this anime for the predictions it got right, it is only fair that I point out what it got wrong. There's a huge grain shortage in the US which appears out of nowhere happily coinciding with Nishida's coup. This hasn't happened yet so for now it is a wrong prediction. I guess the point that the anime is making is that Japan should be self-sufficient in its food supplies.
Meanwhile in the real world the Japanese government has tried to mitigate Japan’s dependence on food exports by protecting Japanese agriculture from foreign competition and subsidising it. Has this resulted in Japan becoming self-sufficient? No, instead Japanese agriculture has lagged behind because less competition leads to less innovation in any sector.
I smiled when Nishida bluntly pointed out that most foreigners are in the developed world out of greed, the euphemism for this in our age is, "for a better life" or even more idiotically and thankfully rarely, "to be free."
Another thing which Gasaraki completely failed to predict was the rise of China. The immigrants causing trouble are Chinese and other Asians. Luckily the Japanese government was able to avoid this fate predicted in Gasaraki but it is too early, or rather too late to be optimistic.
It is a bit exaggerated with immigrant gangs using rocket
launchers lol but to be honest I think it's only a matter of
time before the Japanese government gives in to Western
subversion to open its borders to mass migration. There's a
small arc where the protagonist gets helped kind of self-lessly
by a bunch of immigrants, kind of implying that life goes on
despite all the crime and there are still good people too. That
sort of thing.
Another comment by Nishida also stayed in my mind, that if there were an economic collapse Japan would survive as a nation of people whereas the US would not because it is a nation of many peoples held together merely by commercial interest.
The US was able to come out of the Great Depression in one piece but I wonder if it would be able to stay together in a similar catastrophic economic crisis today given how politically divided America is.
What else is there left to say? I guess the ending song was nice. I liked the pause after the female vocalist says the first word, “hark,” and then goes on.
Gasaraki’s ending is technically one of those love overcomes all kind of endings, kind of like RahXePhon, a more straightforward Eva copycat. The problem is that I wasn’t impressed by the romance aspects. The protagonist-kun and the heroine are in love because they fell in love in a previous life. The reason they fell in love in a previous life is because the protagonist in that boring flashback to a thousand years ago decided to spare her life for no reason, or in other words it’s a romance that started for no reason, or pity at best. I guess if I am being charitable, it’s because they were both tools to achieve other people’s ideals and so they licked each other’s wounds.
Gasaraki does some interesting stuff in terms of presentation, to make it seem grounded in reality for instance it has quite a lot of, too many if you ask me, television news anchor talking heads telling you what’s going on. The build-up to the first battle was good, and doubtlessly these tv segments helped to delay revealing what was going on and increased the tension but after the cat was out of the bag this just seemed like a quick and dirty way to get some exposition out of the way.
I give this series a six out of ten. It tried to do something different by taking real robot anime to its limit so it’s above average but ultimately it was boring and I am frankly not sure exactly why, was it because it bit off more than it could chew? Because there was too much going on? Was it because it felt like the protagonist was irrelevant to most of the things which happened? In the end I agree on this one with ThatAnimeSnob who claims that people “love this show for ITS PREMISE” or in other words it is nice to talk about its ideas but that’s it for me.
As Snob observed it doesn’t have fan service but doesn’t replace it with anything either, he doesn’t give any examples, but how can you give examples for something that isn’t there? Maybe it would have been better if there was more fan service.
By Otaking, or The Good Student