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[Armored Trooper Votoms box art]
AKA: 装甲騎兵ボトムズ (Soukou Kishi Votoms)
Genre: Science fiction conspiracy drama
Length: Television series, 52 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Central Park Media out of print
Content Rating: 13+ (war violence/deaths, adult themes, emotional intensity, nudity)
Related Series: Armor Hunter Mellowlink, Armored Trooper Votoms OAV
Also Recommended: Gasaraki
Notes:
Rating:
 

Armored Trooper Votoms

Synopsis

For centuries the galaxy has been plagued by the huge war between the Gilgamesh and Balarant governments. Now after an uneasy peace has settled on the galaxy, armored trooper special forces pilot Chirico Cuvie is recruited for a secretive mission. During the mission, he realizes that his unit seems to be attacking troops from his own government and after seeing something he was not meant to see, he finds himself on the run from his own government and in the center of a conspiracy that might shake the galaxy to its very core.

Review

Clocking in at fifty-two episodes and divided into four distinct arcs covering Chirico's adventures on (or near) four different planets, this show is about twice as long as the average anime show that comes out today. Though I would like to say it makes good use of that length, it really doesn't. I have a feeling Armored Trooper Votoms would have been better overall if it was about half its current length.

The principle draw of this show, the conspiracy that Chirico encounters in the first episode, is what kept me primarily engaged. There are a number of factions and a number of manipulations that don't become readily apparent until the very end of the series. In general, I felt they did a good job of dropping just enough hints as to keep the plot progressing logically forward without raising too much frustrating questions. However, almost every forward movement of plot in this show is punctuated by a large series of Armored Trooper (AT) battles.

You get to see these mecha battling in cities, deserts, rivers, jungles, space, caverns, and a number of other environments. I think this show provided some of the most varied battle grounds for mecha that I've seen, but ultimately I think a lot of this was a bit excessive. I'm certainly not anti-action and like seeing mecha blowing each other away as much as the next guy, but it honestly seems like they could not go a single episode without having at least one battle of some sort. After a while it gets a bit redundant, and I found myself wishing they would minimize these mecha battles so the actually interesting plot could move forward.

I will give the creators credit though, for their attention to detail. As I had so many opportunities to see various mecha, starships, and star fighters blown to bits, I had time to appreciate the diversity of designs present in the show. Various factions employ a variety of different types of Armored Troopers for different environments. It was such attention to technical design detail that helped offset some of my impatience with the excessive number of battles that were occurring.

You would think that having the main character being a tight-lipped mecha pilot loner might work against attempts at doing decent character work. They were rather smart though and decided to work somewhat around this by giving Chirico plenty of voice over parts, so we could gain more insight into his thought processes. Even without this, we do see a slow and steady change in him and he ends up seeing a bit more three-dimensional. He is a man who wants honestly just wants peace and to be left alone but has known nothing but battle and at times is troubled by some of his past actions. As the result of his unusual encounter in the first episode, he has his previously empty life changed. I cannot discuss it in detail without spoiling the plot development, but it is an interesting change of focus.

There are a number of secondary characters, though most of them don't get nearly the development Chirico does. It was interesting, though, to see various characters slowly grow closer together and I was also pleased to see that many of the main antagonists were much more than they appeared at first. The primary female character of the show is a bit flat in terms of development. It is fitting her background but considering that Chirico got to grow a bit, I was honestly expecting more from her as well.

This title is over twenty years old and I can't say that it doesn't show that age. The character design and color work is very definitively early 80s and the synth heavy soundtrack is average at best. It doesn't help that they really only seem to have like six tracks to for the entire 52 episode run. I can stand a bit of reptition from say Yoko Kanno or Yuki Kajiura, but this music got pretty old fast. The animation itself is an interesting case. While it obviously doesn't
stand up to the action shows of today, it actually is still fairly decent and in terms of quality a notch or two above most television animation of that period.

I will admit there are certain elements of this that seem a bit cliched in points, but that is only taking into account that huge volume of anime (and science fiction) titles in general that I've seen in my life. If I were seeing Votoms when it originally came out, it probably would seem considerably more original. Even with all that though, I still found the plot interesting. I'll also give them credit as certain elements that I thought were just plot holes or contrivances at first were actually explained and important aspects of the plot later on. I felt they could have tightened the writing a bit so it didn't just seem like they were overlooking things though. The final arc was particularly interesting and brought together all the loose ends for an ending I didn't really suspect when I first started watching this show. I suppose that my inability to easily predict where the conspiracy would end up is perhaps one of the best praises one can give to a show of this type.

Overall, Votoms was an interesting title that did get more interesting as I delved deeper into it. It is a title for the patient though for the reasons I outlined above. Interestingly enough, director/creator Takahashi Ryousuke apparently did not learn his lessons from producing this show, as 16 years later, he would produce Gasaraki. Surprisingly similar in many ways to this title, it also suffers the same problem as Votoms, in that it has an intriguing plot stretched a bit thin over just a bit too long of a run time.

While Votoms has an interesting plot, fairly decent character development for the lad, and some interesting mecha, plot pacing issues and the sheer unnecessary number of mecha battles bring down the overall quality of the title. If you do not like mecha or science fiction space battles you might want to subtract a star (or two) because there are a lot of them. Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: People die pretty much every episode in this show. While most of the time you get relatively "clean" mecha deaths, on other occasions you see people shot, or briefly screaming in their cockpits. There is some brief nudity (but nothing really that is that sexual honestly). However, all the violence and killing makes this really appropriate only for teens and above.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (52/52)
Armored Trooper Votoms © 1983 Bandai / Sunrise / Nippon Animation / TV Tokyo