The Baron Watches "The Super Robot Red Baron" (SPOILERS)

This is another tokosatsu of which I had never heard, but a collection of which I was sent, and so you all get to enjoy (?) my reactions to it.

 

We start with:

 

Episode 01:  "Conspiracy of the Robot Empire"

We meet our hero, Secret Scientific Investigation (hereafter "S.S.I") agent Ken Kurenai (in "real life", he's a car dealer) and his older brother Kenichiro, a roboticist. Their life has bene marked by tragedy - their parents and their kid brother Kenzo (Yes, Ma and Pa Kurenai named their sons "Kenichiro", "Ken" and "Kenzo".) We meet Ken's colleagues on the S.S.I. team, who are guarding an expo of all the world's giant robots.  They are:

 

  • Minoru Daigo, Captain of the team, and sometime owner of an auto repair factory.
  • Sakai Tetsuya, in civilian life he's a car salesman.
  • Daisku Hori, also a newspaper copyboy
  • Mari Matsubara, a news photographer, and the team's sole female.

 

We also meet Inspector Kumano, a bike cop who wields an unbrella gun, sort of like the Penguin used to. He appears to be the comedy relief character, of the sort so beloved by the makers of these shows and which I have always found profoundly unfunny. However, as with Maxwell Smart, bumbler though he is, he does well in a fight, which i just as well, as it at least gives some clue as to why theothers put up with him.

 

Anyhow, the Robot Expo is raided by the somewhat awkwardly named Invasion Robot Troy Horse (a somewhat unimpressive robot design) under the direction of Professor Deviler of the Robot Empire of the Iron Alliance. While the S.S.I. battles the Alliance's foot soliders, who seem to exist to get beat up, the heels kidnap Kenichi and steal all the robots. 

 

Kenichi is brought before the Professor, who implants him with a control collar, and sends him home, where he meets Ken, who singularly does not ask him what happened to him or how he escaped. Kenuchi presents Ken with the robot Red Baron, which he has been building in secret. I have to say that the Red Baron is not my favorite robot design, but it's OK.  Kenichi gives his brother the guided tour of the robot and has him touch the controls, which imprints them on  Ken, so that only he can use them. Troy Horse shows up, and Ken pilots Red Baron in battle against it.  Red Baron exhibits several attacks, such as the Elec-Trigger, a sort of energy attack, and BARON PUNCH! and BARON BARRIER!, which I foresee will furnish me with endless amusement.  Once Ken has won, the Professor reveals that he sent Troy to attack in order to put RB through its paces, then orders Kenichi to hand it over to him. Um, if he rwanted RB for himself, shouldn't he have ordered Kenichi to hand it over before the latter let Ken imprint himself on the thing? Sloppy planning there, Prof!

 

Thwarted, the Professor sends the robot Big Bison to stand there looking large but otherwise unthreatening, and threatens Kenichi with punishment for his disobedience.

 

Cliffhanger:  Kenichi's control collar is killing him!

 

Overall: This comes across as quite fun show, I am hopeful of getting quite a bit of entertainment out of this.

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Episode 15: "The  Foretold Trap"

Ken dreams of Daigo shooting him. Professor Deviler tells him it's not a dream, but a prophecy. So, Deviler can project his tohughts into Ken's mind?  Elsewhere, the IA is firing up Proto-Andes, a robot from the former Incan Empire (another pretty good design), as the Professor works to make Ken's dream come true. 

 

(A side note, here. Ken has the morning "sitting-up" exercises on the radio. Apparently, this is a long-standing tradition in Japan, though nowadays it's thought of as something old men do.)

 

We then have a very trippy scene where Ken kills a milkman and a cop, believing them to be disguised Mecha-Robos.  Thsi bit is well-done, and you're actually left in a little doubt as to whether he's going nuts or not. The Inspector arirves, and Ken rabbits. We see that one cop is an IA agent. The Inspector catches Ken, but Daigo asks for a minute alone with him. Daigo believes Ken, and has a plan. We next see Ken on the run, as the Inspector reports that the "bodies" have vanished.  After a chase, Ken summons RB, but Daigo talks him down. Ken bolts again, but Daigo shoots him down. The Inspector arrests Daigo as M-R's watch surreptitiously.  Deviler gloats, and sends P-A to attack an oil refiniery.  We see the (fairly predictable) reveal that it was all a trick, and Ken summons RB. RB fights P-A, who sticks a drill in RB's chest. The SSI usues a super magnet to pull it out, and RB uses JET FIRE! from its feet, and P-A blows up.

 

Ending Scene: Our heroes flee from an actual milkman!

 

Overall:  I liked this. It was almost like a Mission: Impossible plot in a way. 

I have been off the board for a couple of days, and now I’ve got some catching up to do! First of all, under the heading of “Old Business,” I would like to point out that the reason Tracy so dislikes the Astro Boy theme song is because it was stuck in her head for 72 hours straight a couple of weeks ago. Now I need to work on getting her to say “Elect-Trigger” instead of “electric trigger.”

Episode 12: “Bet your Life on One Shot”

We had the same feeling about early “product placement” regarding Mobil (and, in this episode, McDonalds). The “Answer me! Answer me! sequence reminded us quite a bit of “We want information! Information! Information!” from The Prisoner. The Electri-Amazon’s “attachments” reminded me of an evil version of MST3K’s Gypsy. The Jinnai robot looked to me like a cross between a frog and an Imperial Storm Trooper. Regarding the random foot chase after which Tetsuya finds his jeep waiting, we speculated that she must’ve returned to SSI HQ.

I agree that they shouldn’t have aired two "team member is used against the team" plots in a row, but I’ll tell you something else: the SSI members give up and resign much too easily. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but in both cases, the agents in questions were obviously victims of mind control and not responsible for their actions.

I’ve identified another motif: uproarious laughter at things that aren’t all that funny in the first place.

Episode 13: “10 Minutes until Five Cites are Obliterated”

Akira’s story reminded me a lot of young Bruce Wayne’s: “The Robot Alliance are a superstitious and cowardly lot. That’s it! I shall become… a robo-hunter!”

I was surprised when the toy plane in the episode actually turned out to be a toy plane!

Quote of the episode: “You will die grinding your teeth in regret and frustration!”

Episode 14: "Enigma of the Invulnerable Robot"

Daisaku reminds me of one of the less popular members of the Osmonds, but wearing Billy Batson’s haircut from the live action Shazam/Isis Hour.

Each episode seems to have at least one gaping plot hole you could drive a giant robot through. In this case, it’s the duplicate "Roboter.” This was a toy Daisaku made for his little brother’s birthday. How could the Robot Alliance have been ready with a duplicate to switch it out?

Episode 15: "The Foretold Trap"

“Protector of the former Incan Empire”? The Incan Empire had a giant robot protector? All right. Whatever.

The plot hole this time regards not staying with the bodies. They were obviously robots. If he hadn’t’ve foolishly run, there wouldn’t’ve been a problem.

The resigning is definitely a cultural thing. You're expected to "fall on your sword"  even for things that aren't strictly your fault.

 

Interestingly, "laughing uproariously for no obvious reason" is a common Japanese stereotype of Americans.

 

Episode 16: "Iron Alliance Fugitive E-16"

We open with robot Iron Cross G attacking and RB responding. ICG soon withdraws. We learn that the IA is planning a nerve gas attack on Tokyo. I wonder if the Aum Shinrikyo guys saw this episode?  Prisoner E-16 - who is wearing an odd mask - escapes and is taken to a hospital. The SSI arrive and Daigo persuades the Inspector to turn E-16 over to them. E-16 escapes during an IA drive-by. He steals a doll and tries to give it to a little girl. She recognizes him - he's her long-lost father. For some reason I'm not clear about, the Inspector thinks E-16 did a murder. The daughter hides her father as both the cops and the IA search for him. They go out in a boat. some Mecha-Robos find them, but Ken comes to the rescue. The daughter's tears loosen her father's mask (Melodrama!) and E-16 tells the SSI Deviler's plan.Ken summons RB, and after a brief battle, ICG spins itself to death.

 

Ending Scene: Our heroes wave as E-16 resumes his life as a fisherman.

 

Overall: An OK epsiode, though I found some of the plot twists hard to follow.

Random thoughts...

Sometimes Red Baron’s “eyes” are shown with pupils, sometimes not. When they are, he reminds me of Bucky Katt from Get Fuzzy.

The SSI needs a battle cry, such as “WAKKA DING HOY!”

Regarding this episode specifically…

Did you notice Disney’s Snow White in the toy shop when E-16 steals the doll? (Judging by the previews, tonight’s episode will feature a Snoopy doll.)

There were several “arty” shots this episode. First, in the toy store, a close-up on a toy police car siren dissolves to the siren on the Inspector’s bicycle. That “flashback” scene of the little girl and her father in happier days was a bit arty, too. In general, they’ve toned down the silliness level, especially in regard to the Inspector.

E-16’s mask is shaped a little like an America parking meter, and the general look of it reminds me of an Art Dekko Jason Voorhees. An alternate explanation for the mask’s removal (that the “timing mechanism” expired) was also given; neither one of them made much sense (nor, for that matter, was it explained how the man survived being shot in the chest with a machine gun). A little fanciful, but acceptable within the premise of the show.

They eat onigiri (which are a kind of rice balls) at the end.

Episode 17: "A Story Penned By The Devil"

We the Inspector on vacation, calling Ken to taunt him good-naturedly about how much fun he's having. Ken asks Daigo for a vacation and is refused. The weather goes bad and the Inspector takes refuge in a cave, wherein in he is trapped.  He calls the SSI for help, but Daigo thinks it's a dodge to get Ken out of work, which leads to him saying the best line I have ever heard on telelvision:  "Did the Thunder God steal his belly button or something?" A little girl called Azusa gets him out. He has a fine time playing with her, and she ask him to do her a favor: She wants to fly.  The Inspector calls Ken, who receives permission to use RB. All of this is observed by an old woman, who gloats.  Ken and IB take Azusa for a ride in RB using BARON FLIGHT!, and it's all very trippy, with rainbows and aliteral castle in the clouds.  However, the Robot Gran Matador from Spain arrives and snatches Azusa. The Professor threatens to hurt the girl, and RB runs rather than take a chance.Back at the garage, the SSI considers the possibility that Azusa was a lure. This upsets IB, who storms off to find her on his own. The SSI follows, but they are spotted, and GM is sent out. The Inspector is attacked by Mecha-Robos, but he takes them all out by stealth.  RB arrives, but has to back off again.  IB and the SSI each detect a signal. The Inspector confronts the Old Woman, who is an Iron Alliance agent.  The fight, and the Inspector impales her, and she blows up.  He then finds the littlest M-R, and realizes that it's Azusa. He shoots her, and the SSI alerts Ken that it's OK to go on the offensive.  RB blows up GM using BARON BEAM!

 

Ending Scene: The tearful Inspector walks off with Azusa in his arms.

 

Overall: Wow, what an episode!  You really feel bad for the Inspector at the end. Makes you want to see those Iron Alliance bums get what's coming to them!

Sometimes I wonder how closely the translations are to the original language. In this episode, for example, I think I could have figured out “Hey!” and “Yeehaw!” all by myself, but I wonder how close of a translation “This sucks!” is. (Of course, you already addressed the elephant in the room, “Did the Thunder God steal his belly button?” Sounds like something Jack Kirby might have written.) The BI is becoming a more serious character (and I’ll bet riding that bicycle around kept him in shape), and in this episode in particular he accuses the SSI members of losing their childlike sense of wonder (which supports the assessment of the character I held all along).

Azusa was really working that outfit. How would you describe it? A sort of plaid, one-piece pancho with bell bottoms?

This was kind of a “music video” episode. The sky castle and rainbows (and bubbles!) came as something of a surprise, but I did like the “Google-Earth” POV of Red Baron Flying.

I’ve got a theory about the Baron Punch. I think when the robot slams its fists together, it opens a dimensional doorway in which the “fist mechanism” is stored. That may be a kind of wild explanation, but is it really any more unreasonable than the sight of floating sky castles?

Apparently the title “Boss” is a “secret identity” specific too SSI, because he doesn’t like to be called that when working in the garage.

Tracy wants to know why we haven’t discussed the implausibility of Ken’s “leaps” to RB’s shoulders.

This show is to Ultraman the way Space Ghost is to Jonny Quest. It’s by the same folks who did the earlier one (respectively), I discovered it later, and although I want it to be as good as its predecessor, it just isn’t. Both Space Ghost and Super Robot Red Baron are quirky and enjoyable in their own right, but neither quite achieves the success of their respective counterparts.



Jeff of Earth-J said:

Tracy wants to know why we haven’t discussed the implausibility of Ken’s “leaps” to RB’s shoulders.

 

 

She's right, that is somewhat implausible.

Episode 18: "Behold! The End of Red Baron"

The Inspector encounters Mari and Daisaku up in the mountains in their guide as journalists, hunting a rumored giant snake. I note that Mari really pushes Daisaku around, here. They encounter the fakest-looking giant snake since the Mara, Daisaku does some Shaggy-level comedy cowardice and runs away.  The  rest of the SSI and RB arrive. Ken gets out (not sure why) and rocks fall on his leg. RB is immobilized. Mecha-Robos shoot at Ken. A mystery woman comes to help him as the SSI and the Inspector find Mari. The Professor taunts the SSI as they see robot Rajasthan slice up RB. Daigo slaps Mari as she gets hysterical! The mystery woman finds the SSI - it turns out she works for the Inspector - and reports that the RB they saw destroyed was a fake. The SSI plans - the women are sent to find Ken, the Inspector and Daisaku decoy the M-R's, and Daigo and Tetsuya set off to blow up the cliff - good thing they just happened to bring some dynamite with them!  The women find Ken , who is attempting to climb the cliiff.  The SSI frees RB, and haivng a bad ankle doesn't stop Ken from doing his "super-leap". (In fact, Ken seems to forget that he has a bad ankle for the rest of the episode!) Ken tries several attacks on Rajasthan, including BARON BREAK!, and it seems to take him somewhat overlong to figure out that it's a holo-projection. Eventually, he finds the real Raj and battles it.  Raj has the unusual ability to split it itself in two, and it runs rings around RB before Ken manages to shake it off and it is destroyed. The mystery woman introduces herself as HIkaru Mizuki, just back from France.

 

Ending Scene: Our heroes have a good laugh at how  generally subpar Daisaku is.

 

Overall: Not bad. It was a little obvious that it wasn't the real RB that was destroyed, but still a fun outing,

When I first heard (in the previous episode’s promo the night before) that Mari was to be eaten by a giant snake I expected something more suggestive (such as when Robin was in danger of being devoured by a giant clam), but it didn’t play out that way at all. As a matter of fact, it’s a wonder how Daisuku jumped to that conclusion in the first place when Mari did, in fact, simply wander off into the fog. It’s a good thing there was a fog, though; it help obscure the crappy-looking snake.

I’m not entirely sure where that duplicate RB came from (?), but before it was revealed to be a decoy, RB lost its right arm for the third time this season! Speaking of them taking “somewhat overlong” to figure out the opponent robot was a holo-projection, Ken’s first thought was that it was a “ghost robot.” That’s not too bad of an idea, come to think of it, given the premise of the show. Somewhat fantastic, sure, but Speed Racer once pulled off something similar.

I wonder if Hikaru Mizuki, is going to become a regular or semi-regular character? (She just got back from France. “That must be why she’s such a fox!”) I think they missed an good (if obvious) bet by not having Mari become jealous of Hikaru. She treats Daisaku like a puppy, but, well… Hikaru is a fox!

All season long, the AI could hit the broad side of a barn from the inside. Now all of a sudden, when Daisaku and the Bicycle Inspector are throwing tin cans in the air from behind cover they become crack shots?

The robot bears mentioning. It flies, but when it does so it leaves its legs behind, taking off from them as if they were its base, the rockets mounted in its waist. There were also some good scenes of aerial combat as the robots flew rings around each other.

ARTY SHOT: The camera pans down Ken’s torso as he stands to go into action, then quick-cuts to the shot of RB taking off.

ACCURATE TRANSLATION?: “Ken is really getting his ass handed to him."

NOTEABLE QUOTE: “This whole giant snake business was such a bummer!”

I suspect the translation is more "thought for thought" than "word for word".  Colloquialisms often don't translate well.   I remember a story I heard oence of an American who was late for a meeting in Japan - a "no-no" most places but an especially big one there. He gave the excuse that it was "raining cats and dogs". Everyone just gve him the fish-eye and carried on. Afterwards, one of them came up to him and said "I hope your pets are alright."

"My hovercraft is full of eels."

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