The Lack of Ugliness in VOTOMS is a Negative

After a few delays, I finally watched VOTOMS: Case;Irvine. All the while, I was stretching my mind to the limit to identify the inexplicable unease I had while watching the OVA. It wasn’t the forgettable story and unrelatable characters, because they stood out prominently. It wasn’t the garish action unbecoming of the franchise either.

And then it dawned on me: This isn’t VOTOMS, because it’s not ugly enough.

Let me explain myself for a bit: I find VOTOMS to be a show where ugliness is a virtue. The robots are drab, the battlefields are hostile and unpleasant, and everyone is wearing 80’s pulpy sci-fi fashion. Thus, I can take the gritty, unceremonious combat without reservation, since the foundation is carefully laid out for it. It works as a show, because it is ugly.

But Case;Irvine fails at laying such an aesthetic foundation. From step one, employing Hirokazu Hisayuki as character designer was a mistake. Ability-wise, there is nothing wrong with Hisayuki; however, he simply does not belong in VOTOMS. By his hand, Irvine belongs more in a boyband than in a cockpit, timeskip or no. (While Chirico was smooth-faced as well, he had a strong jaw and the determined eyes of a combatant.)

The city, despite being unpleasantly ravaged by acid rain, is nothing compared to the dirtiness of Uoodo in the TV series. People wear normal clothes for the most part–except for the distinct pilot suits and military uniforms, you wouldn’t know this was VOTOMS.

Did Case;Irvine try to make itself appealing to a new audience by updating its visual look? I think it failed, because it strayed too far from the original show’s aesthetic. Here’s hoping the others hold up better.

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5 Responses to The Lack of Ugliness in VOTOMS is a Negative

  1. It’s basically just the “Remake Problem” – some things were made for their time and trying to do them again is pointless. Would VOTOMS be a success on tv today (that is, using modern technology but with the old aesthetic)? No, only among hardcore mecha fans. Something like C;I will succeed, but it’s pointless to call it VOTOMS when VOTOMS owes so much to the aesthetics that it got away with at its time.

    I could easily compare it to Transformers. In this day and age, if they’d remade transformers where the robots were still big blocky things, oldfags would be delighted, but everyone else wouldn’t take it seriously because it would be too cheesy to them. However, doing what works today just *isn’t Transformers.*

    But, for all the oldfags griping, they’ll watch those things anyway because of the name, and that’s how they net both oldfag and newfag profit~

    • schneider says:

      I’m not a big fan of VOTOMS, so my reaction is cold disappointment instead of white-hot rage. I just wished it was better. Pushing VOTOMS in this day and age is really tough, but at least they’re trying. But a part of me thinks that Sunrise might do better with new, Takahashi-esque shows, instead of making a gambit like this.

      I do think that the Transformers movies would have still done reasonably well (without alienating hardcore G1 fans) if they did something other than the super-busy organic-metal Bayformers. War For Cybertron looks like a nice compromise, actually.

      I’m really interested in how a VOTOMS neophyte would handle this show.

      • Hums says:

        “I’m really interested in how a VOTOMS neophyte would handle this show.”

        Tim Eldred, the man who drew a licensed American VOTOMS comicbook, made the VOTOMS fanzine guide and helped CPM bring it out in the states on DVD, said he liked it on the Gundamn podcast.

  2. The ugliness in the original VOTOMs is incidental to your youth. I doubt that they were intentionally attempting to rid the material of broad aesthetic appeal when they made it way back when.

    Don’t underestimate the oddity of people’s tastes in the 1980s!

  3. Gonna have to disagree with this. Just started Votoms now, and I have to say: it’s very beautiful.

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