Machine Robo Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Machine Robo

Machine Robo Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     June 20, 2003
Release Date: June 10, 2003

Machine Robo Vol. #1
© Central Park Media

What They Say
The journey of a robot prince begins! The planet Cronos is a world of super-robotic lifeforms, ruled by the wise Master Kirai. But their peaceful existence is shattered by the conquering armies of the Gandora robots. Now, machine combats machine in an epic battle for the planet. Master Kurai’s son, Rom, must lead a company of transformable mecha warriors into the fray! Contains episodes 1-5.

The Review!
Taking a trip back to the mid 80’s, Machine Robo looks vaguely familiar…

With this being part of Central Park Media’s “Authentic Anime” line, the only language available is the Japanese track with English subtitles, so that’s what we went with. In a 2.0 mix which sounds basically like a mono mix, the track is pretty decent for what it is without any real issues. Dialogue is pretty clean and clear coming through primarily the center channel. There’s not noticeable directionality, but it passes the basic requirements for playback.

Originally airing in 1986, Machine Robo is definitely showing its age. The transfer looks to be decent for the most part, but it’s also showing the faults in the animation as well as the age of the materials pretty badly. There’s a fair amount of grain throughout, though at least problems like aliasing and cross coloration are non existent. There is a noticeable amount of nicks and scratches as well as dirt throughout the print but it doesn’t become distracting. The flaws in the animation itself are much more visible here, especially where entire pieces of landscape or character parts just start moving on their own.

The front cover is a dark blue piece that almost looks like its been nicely painted with the images of the two leads in full color while their faces are shadowed behind them. The obligatory “by!” line is here as well, with a real stretch this time to the art director of Blue Seed. The back cover has a few shots from the show itself and a basic premise and rundown of what to expect. The discs features and basic information is nice and clearly listed here as well. The reverse side of the cover, as this is a clear keepcase, has more black and white artwork as well as the chapter listings for the show.

The main menu is a nice piece that has a good static cast shot of the main players while there’s a video device in one persons hand and that’s playing clips from the show to the opening theme song. Thankfully, the program does not start automatically if you let it sit for awhile and with no language selection area, it doesn’t auto-start there either. Access times are nice and fast and the menus load quickly.

A small selection of extras is included, as well as a bit of humor. There’s a full color art gallery that runs about two minutes and shows off some nice stills as well as what looks to be original artwork for video releases. The character sketches gallery runs just over a minute with several pieces of black and white conceptual artwork. But it’s the sing-along that just does you in as it opens with a “It’s time for… Funky 80’s Robot Series Sing-Along!”. It’s just so wonderfully bad that it fits beautifully.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While watching this show, I found myself wondering why so much of these characters looked familiar. I have never seen Machine Robo before but the “vehicle” style robots continued to look very familiar. When it was over and we checked out the extras which had artwork of the characters, I suddenly realized that they were GoBots! Apparently the toy line came out from Bandai a few years before an anime was made for it but a separate US cartoon was made (cue fuzzy hazy memories of crappy show that seemed awesome at the time).

Discovering that this series is based on the toys added a certain charm to it after the fact. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help make the viewing experience itself all that more pleasurable as Machine Robo falls squarely into that 80’s mold of “let’s cash in!” on the transforming robot phase. Though I will give them credit, they didn’t ape the Transformers stories.

Taking place on a world named Cronos, we’re introduced to the peace loving race of living robots that have somewhat odd villages, cities and fortresses around the planet. These robots are pretty varied, with many looking like humans in their form and with human faces, but their bodies being entirely robotic. There’s also a number of them that are fully robotic looking but also transform into various vehicles, like a massive drill or a race car or a fighter jet. Life on Cronos is very quiet and everyone is pretty darn happy.

That’s lasted for quite some time, but now an evil race of aliens has arrived named the Gandora and led by Gades. What do they want? They’re here to find the Hyribead, an item that will grant them eternal life!

This race is great. They’re so… well, they’re all on the same page.

“What do we want?” – Conquest of the universe! Darkness and terror!

“What is it we seek? – Eternal life! Unlimited energy!

After the pep rally, Gades picks a couple of lackeys to head to Cronos to gain the Hyribead from Kirai, the robot who appears to be the guardian of this mysterious object. Before they can go though, the Devil Satan 6 group opposes his choice and instead insists on taking the mission on themselves! Gades agrees, but insists failure will cost them their lives! Oh, the tension…

So the Devil Satan 6 begin their attack on Cronos, their weapons and powers easily overpowering any who get in their way, especially since most of the living robots have no weapons and the few that do tend to have…. crossbows? The Devil Satan 6 manage to wreck quite a bit of havoc until they’re eventually led to where Master Kirai has been training some disciples, including our lead hero, Rom.

In order to set the proper level of angst, Rom has to watch his father, that being Master Kirai, die defending the secret of the Hyribead. Though he and his friends have been training hard, they’re almost enough but not quite to fight back these villainous scum. Through the magic of his dead father, Rom is able to insert himself into the larger “guardian” statues that surround the Wolf Sword he’s gained and thereby able to become much bigger and much more powerful.

Of course, the Devil Satan 6 can also transform a bit and merge together, though that brings bad images of Constructicons to mind and flashbacks to more bad 80’s cartoons.

The crux of the plot after all the setting has been established is that Kirai has spread the secret of the Hyribead across the world and both parties are out looking for it. And boy do they happen to cross paths quite a bit, resulting in clashes with each other and clashes that interfere with the locals as well as a variety of other human interest, er, robot interest stories. This show seems to be pretty much a paint by the numbers piece that doesn’t have a lot of deviation.

CPM however does offer a way to make it much more challenging and to give it the depth of more modern shows. Through the magic of chapter stops, when you skip the opening sequence, you also skip and additional five minutes of the program. So when you start each new episode, you get to start off at a disadvantage but not knowing the setup for that particular story! This definitely helps it become more interesting since you get to play detective.

Machine Robo is a curious piece since it harkens back to some of the really cool toys I used to play with when I was younger but it also brings up memories of the really crappy U.S. version of the toys animated series as well as others of the time. Whether the two will diverge in the future, I can only hope.

Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Trailer,Sing-Along Video,Character Sketch Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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