Gear Fighter Dendoh is a super robot show that I’d never have cross paths with if not for SRW. It had a large part in the plot of SRW MX, which convinced me enough to watch the show myself (another show steeped heavily in MX’s plot was Machine Robo: The Revenge of Chronos, but good luck trying to find that online). That aside, I found Dendoh to be an above-average, entertaining show. Think GaoGaiGar with kid pilots and Digimon-esque weapons.
Directed by Mitsuo Fukuda before he did Gundam SEED, with an OP sung by Hironobu Kageyama, along with animated idol group C-Drive, this show is a blast. The story is basic: evil aliens plan to conquer the Earth, and it’s up to an advanced robot (Dendoh) manned by two kids to stop them. Aside from a few twists, the show is easy to figure out, and we get to focus on the fights more.
Dendoh is a kid’s show, make no mistake about it. The titular mech is gaudily painted in blue and red, and the Data Weapons (think animal mecha that fuse with Dendoh to form a specific weapon) are colorful. The two main protagonists are kids, but they do a good job of not being bratty too much. Ginga is a bullheaded martial artist, while Hokuto is a token Mama’s boy. They bicker a lot, but remain good friends, until *LOL SPOILER*, and they’re still good friends. Ellis is a girl of Ginga and Hokuto’s age but has a degree in MIT (which we’ve totally never heard before, really), and acts as the brains for their secret organization, GEAR. Vega is Hokuto’s mother (why I did not spoiler-fy this is because the writers exact absolutely no effort in hiding her identity), whom I will explain in the image below. Aside from the kid trio and Vega, most of GEAR is sadly forgettable. Hell, even those three bumbling villains (with signature sentence-enders of their own) are more fun to watch!
As far as super robots go, Dendoh is more along the lines of Dai-Guard, than say, Mazinkaiser. Running on gigantic AA batteries (which is a design idea that Fukuda recycled for Gundam SEED), Dendoh often needs an in-battle recharge, which is facilitated by a support craft that shoots spares into its backpack. These sequences, while using stock animation, are exciting to watch. Probably the coolest feature of Dendoh is its wheel turbines grafted on its limbs, which make for some crazy-looking stunts. I love them.
By itself, Dendoh gets beat up frequently, and has to resort to using Data Weapons (along with a “Final Attack” that drains Dendoh’s energy reserves to zero). This makes monster-of-the-week episodes fun, as a good part of the battles is having the kids figure out which Data Weapon to use best. The battles are slick compared to other super robot shows, and there is slightly less reused animation than in GaoGaiGar (which still isn’t saying much). And those wheel turbines. They make everything better.
I actually like the filler episodes in this show. They’re more varied and unique than most super robot shows (again, GaoGaiGar). One filler ep has Ginga fanwanking at his favorite C-Drive member, and he goes off to save them in the middle of a concert. Another one has the entire town generating electricity for Dendoh by pedal power, which sort of reminded me of Eva. They do well in lieu of the serious multi-episode arcs going on near the final half of the show.
Dendoh runs for 39 episodes, but does not have a R1 release. Sadly, I watched this show through godawful HK subs (which have a lot of names wrong), but it’s better than nothing. Until then, THIS IS OUR FINAL GEAR!