Resolving a Cliffhanger… with a Cliffhanger: “Getter Robo Arc” Series Review

The following may contain spoilers for Getter Robo Arc.

Director / Jun Kawagoe
Screenplay / Tadashi Hayakawa (based on Ken Ishikawa’s Getter Robo Arc manga)
Production / Bee Media & Studio A-Cat
Release Date / July 2021

The Getter Robo franchise has cemented itself as one of the foundations of the mecha genre, with the original being the first combining robot and paved the way to literally a wave of many many more combining robots. To the point of inspiring works years after, most notable being Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Many credit Getter Robo to Go Nagai, who most people know thanks to Mazinger Z, but it’s Ken Ishikawa who’s the brains behind this franchise. From his signature art style to the cosmic horror elements of the later entries, Getter Robo is quite the experience. That said, I admit to previously being a casual fan of and not really interested in delving deeper until I heard of Getter Robo Arc getting an anime adaptation. To those unfamiliar, Getter Robo Arc is a manga that ran from 2001 to 2003 and was intended to be the climactic ending to the whole saga. Unfortunately, due to Ken Ishikawa’s untimely passing, the story was never finished and left the first part on a cliffhanger that will never have a conclusion. But with the anime adaptation, it gave fans hope of finally giving the saga it’s much deserved end. And with Getter Robo Arc being the first animated production since 2004’s New Getter Robo, and the first series on televison since 1991’s Getter Robo Go, much is resting on its shoulders.

Getter Robo Arc takes place 10 years following the events of Getter Robo Go as we are introduced to Takuma Nagare, son of original Getter team member Ryoma Nagare. He’s on a quest to find and take revenge on the people who killed his mother. Along the way he meets Baku Yamagishi and they eventually get pulled into the conflict between humanity and an entity known as the Andromeda Stellaration. We are then reintroduced to another previous Getter Robo pilot, Hayato Jin, who now leads the Saotome Institute and built Getter Robo Arc to face this threat. Adding complexity to this situation is the first pilot of this new Getter Team, Sho Kamui. He’s a Human-Dinosaur hybrid and son of Emperor Gore, the leader of the Dinosaur Empire from the original series. Under Hayato’s guidance, this new Getter Team would pilot Getter Robo Arc as humanity’s last hope against the Andromeda Stellaration.

The anime adaptation of Getter Robo Arc is posed to conclude the franchise and I really like how the production team is treating it as such. Taking the helm is Jun Kawagoe who fans immediately recognize thanks to his work on all the previous Getter Robo OVAs, from Getter Robo Armageddon to New Getter Robo, so he’s more than capable of adapting such stories. This would be his first adaptation to directly lift panels from the manga, and it’s very much evident in the way the characters look. They have Ken Ishikawa’s signature aesthetic, which some might find a little messy, but very much fits the tone of the series.

While on animation, I personally think it’s a mixed bag. Ken Ishikawa’s style isn’t the cleanest, but that shouldn’t be a reason behind how inconsistent the characters appear per episode. There are multiple times where faces go off-model, and their proportions are janky. On the contrary the mecha animation is very consistent, and this is mainly thanks to the use of CG. I won’t go into the whole discussion of how some fans think CG ruins anime, but I personally believe this is the best approach for the designs of both the Getter Machines and the insect-like monsters of the Andromeda Stellaration. They are very intricate and animating them traditionally would be difficult, especially for a fast-paced show.

Then there’s the sound design, another aspect I have an issue with. They do use sound effects you’d remember hearing from the previous OVAs but the other ones are very generic and don’t give the sense of scale this series deserves. I always cringe whenever that same stock gun-firing sound effect is used. Whether it’s Getter Arc or just Takuma firing a rifle, you’d hear the same sound effect, and it makes the battle scenes sound cheap. On the other hand, the series soundtrack is great, especially with the use of songs from the previous OVAs as ending themes. They even have the instrumental of “Ima Ga Sono Toki Da” from Getter Robo Armageddon play during the post-credits scene of the final episode.

I also commend the staff with how the overall story is adapted. Most of the scenes are taken from the manga panels, and you can even search online side-by-side comparison videos as proof. But they don’t stop there as snippets from the Shin Getter Robo manga have been inserted in the form of flashbacks. These have never gotten the animation treatment so their inclusion to provide better context is much appreciated. These include whatever Shin Getter does after its last battle, and how Getter Dragon became a huge factor to the looming cosmic horror element that is Getter Emperor. They also added what I could only think of as fanservice to those who watched the previous OVAs, most notably Shin Getter Robo Tarak which is an obvious homage to Black Getter, once again from Getter Robo Armageddon.

Of course, we can’t end this review without mentioning how they handled the cliffhanger ending of the manga. With the penultimate episode opening at this exact last panel, the last two episodes were used to explain how we got to that point. They took the opportunity and gave character insight to Kamui and fleshed out his out-of-nowhere 180-degree turn. They also gave Jin Hayato a fitting send off, being the only surviving member of the original Getter Team. As the last episode neared its conclusion, every fan was looking forward to how they’ll resolve the cliffhanger in the manga. And while we finally got a look at Getter Dragon’s evolution as Saint Getter Dragon, they decided to take a page from the manga and stopped at the same point, which is frustrating. That said, they did put a post-credits scene set after a time skip where we find our heroes back together, and once again setting a cliffhanger to another fight we’ll never see. I’m not sure what to think of this conclusion, though I am assuming they didn’t really want to pull an anime-original outcome of the decisive battle and decided to reset by having the team be back together again to, as Takuma would say it, make their own future. So yes, at the very least it’s still a conclusion.

This anime-original Getter Robo is officially known as Getter Heaven (One), one of its forms before it eventually evolves to Getter Emperor.

In the end, what do I think of Getter Robo Arc as an anime adaptation? It’s far from perfect and definitely didn’t give me the same hype as Gurren Lagann, but the show did get me really interested in the lore behind Getter Robo. So much so that I decided to watch the OVAs and eventually started reading Getter Robo Saga, the compiled version of the manga. It may not be the conclusion everyone was hoping for, but it definitely gave the respect and tribute this mecha anime foundation deserves.

To cap this one, I’ll just leave a copy of the “Getter Mandala” because we just need to… Believe in Getter!

Thoughts?

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