The past few days of Internet-free existence have been largely alleviated by a good amount of backlogged anime. I finished the OVA and TV specials of Macross 7 (which I chalk up to careless neglect rather than disinterest), and watched Zambot 3 with my brother. Oh, and Cross Game–I’ve got said brother and another friend hooked on it, the latter being ahead by 10 episodes by now.
So, on to the post.
Zambot 3 is one pioneering anime which successfully proved that mature drama could exist and flourish in the medium. Despite being a super robot show, it tells a grim story with tragic scenes that put it on par with Zeta or Victory Gundam.
If you’re still doubting me, the villain’s name is Killer the Butcher.
Aside from that, it has…
Kappei Jin is a young kid, and the show’s main character. He starts off as a whiny ass, like the I-don’t-want-to-combine-with-you-losers type of ass. However, by the middle of the show he stops whining and becomes a dependable person. By the end, you will feel sorry for him. A proto-Kamille, in my opinion. He’s joined by his cousins, Uchuta and Keiko.
The funny thing is that even though Kappei all but falls into the robot cockpit, he’s shown to be completely adept to its controls even with limited supervision.
This is because…
Sleep learning. Fear it.
An Awesome Dog
For a good part of the show, the citizens of Japan blame the Jin family and Zambot 3 for bringing the Gaizok invasion over their heads. They think that the Gaizok would simply go away if the Jin family left the planet. While this sounds like stupid mob mentality, you couldn’t blame them for making a scapegoat, as the Gaizok are really merciless killers who will torch the Earth to the ground, regardless of the Jin family’s presence. What a radical departure from your average 70’s robot show, where everyone treats the robot as their inviolable savior. Instead, Zambot 3 has people throwing stones at Kappei instead of letting him help them.
Regardless of this, our heroes admirably fight on. It soon becomes clear that the Gaizok are unambiguously antagonistic towards humanity, and everyone finally acknowledges the Jin family’s heroic actions.
You can never talk about Zambot 3 without mentioning human bombs. It is by far the most traumatic element in the story, and is ingenious to boot. What Butcher does is use time-honored human values like charity against humans themselves, thus creating widespread panic. When the Jin family discovers about the Gaizok plan to manifacture human bombs and release them to the public, everyone is horrified beyond words.
Episode 17 has to be one of the most depressing anime episodes in my book, as it vividly portrays the hopelessness suffered by those who have been turned into human bombs, which is irreversible. There is no blood or guts being spewed around by human bomb explosions, but the cartoonish animation actually works to provide maximum unease to the viewer. Chilling.
Despite being mostly grim, Zambot 3 offers a positive message, too. In the ending (this is a relatively minor spoiler, so you can read it without ruining the show, but I’ve made it highlight-only just in case!), the final villain tries to spoil Kappei’s victory by asking him if protecting the Earth was worth all the trouble, which nobody asked him to do in the first place, and in which nobody will thank him anyway. However, as Kappei lands on the Earth’s surface, he finds his friends waiting for him, with many more people rushing in from everywhere to thank him for being their savior. Capped by the beautiful ED song, it’s a perfect end to such a series.
So, how would I compare Zambot 3 to other Kill-‘Em-All Tomino works? While it does not have the complexity of Zeta Gundam or Ideon, it is rawer, and a super robot show with supposedly cheerful aesthetics but with a grim, harrowing story make a dangerous one-two punch.
If you’re a fan of Tomino, I highly recommend watching Zambot 3, as it is definitely a landmark of its time. Don’t let the subpar-animation get to you–this show has definitely milked its animation budget for more than what it’s worth, and has some touching music that’s put to great use. At only 23 episodes, it is a short watch compared to its peers, and is definitely worth it.
One of my favourite super robot OP’s.
Killer the Butcher is the greatest villain name ever. Well, 2nd greatest actually, Dr. Hell still takes the cake.
But yeah, to be honest, I’ll probably never watch Zambot; I’ve never really been much of a fan of Tomino.
I think you can enjoy this in a vacuum? Considering that he did this before first Gundam. Kinda like enjoying Gunbuster despite not liking Eva.
I LOL’D. KILLER THE BUTCHER.
The human bombs made me cry. Godamnit why was I born late!
As an anime with mature themes, that dog certainly does look out of place…
The dog reminds me of that annoying Duck Hunt dog.
You forgot to mention that Zambo Ace carries a pistol which can be converted into like… any weapon thinkable just by sticking mods onto it.
I really, really despised Killer the Butcher about halfway through the series, and particularly toward the end. What an absolutely vile and unsympathetic character, the kind that you love to hate.