Seeing that our watch-along of the Armored Trooper Votoms franchise came to an end, I thought it would be nice to take a look at it as a whole. As it’s more of its own thing, we will exclude talking about Mellowlink here. Instead, the focus will be on the main Votoms entries with Chirico Cuvie.
Overall I had an amazing time watching it. If you’ve been following it with us here at Retro Anime Realm I hope that you did also.
(*NOTE* This is a repost from our old defunct site MatureManga.net.)
A Different Kind of Mecha Show
I mentioned in the first Votoms article that people often compare it to Mobile Suit Gundam and Macross. Now we have seen all of the franchise, we are in a better place to examine where it fits in with other works of the mecha genre.
As previously mentioned I am a big Gundam fan. So the Votoms experience has been something very interesting to me. Votoms for the most part takes a very different approach to Gundam. Votoms sticks pretty solidly to Chirico Cuvie for the majority of its stories. It expands on him as a character and shows how he changes as the events of the story develop.
Gundam on the other hand I feel, while still giving it’s characters a lot of attention, often switches to points of view of the many different characters along the way, and with a wide range of events being the driving force of their stories.
While Votoms is a mecha show, I also feel that the mechs overall don’t take as much of the limelight as they do in something like Gundam. This helps to emphasise the fact they are little more than a tool for war. Votoms, therefore, lets Chirico Cuvie have most of the focus.
More Than the Sum of Its Parts
What’s interesting about Votoms, is that even though many like myself love the franchise, in my opinion a lot of it is average in comparison to other anime and manga out there. I consider only a handful of Votoms is truly good, such as the original, Mellowlink and a couple of the other OVAs. Then why do we like it so much?
It’s the Small Things…
A large reason for why I consider parts of Votoms mediocre is down to rather nitpicky things and execution.
While I enjoyed many of the Votoms OVAs and the ideas for them were good, the execution of those ideas sometimes seemed a little off. Many of the OVAs I didn’t enjoy while I was watching them. However, I learnt to appreciate them the more I thought about them afterwards.
One reason I’ve often mentioned in our watch-along is that many of the OVAs had insufficient running times. They either felt too short for the story they were trying to tell or a little too overdrawn. This is something that hampered my enjoyment of some of the OVAs in particular. A prime example being Brilliantly Shining Heresy.
Another that we touched on was that despite Takahashi’s genius, it appears as if he didn’t really know how to continue forward with Chirico Cuvie’s story. In that regard the sequel stories often felt underdeveloped. Sometimes they didn’t satisfy me as a viewer as much as they could have.
Chirico and the Potential of Astragius
On the good side though is that despite these flaws, there are factors that make watching Votoms very worthwhile.
One of these being Chirico Cuvie who is a character you go on a journey with throughout the whole story. When you have a lead character with a quiet personality, it can be easy for them to seem boring. This wasn’t the case with Chirico. It’s great how when watching Votoms, the audience slowly gets to know him more and more and see the reasons why he is the way he is.
At the start of the series he appears as a cold and ruthless soldier. But by the end of it all in my experience, I saw him as a young man damaged greatly by all he had gone through. Someone who had often been used as a tool throughout his life. Someone who only wanted some kind of peace for himself and for others, away from the conflicts enveloping the galaxy.
The supporting cast are also characters that you get to know and become attached to over time. They help to bring out the development of Chirico as the story progresses. Gotho, Vanilla and Coconna were definitely the most prominent, appearing throughout the main series and in two of the last OVAs. Rochina was also a key figure, going from assisting Wiseman to becoming a scholar of sorts of Chirico Cuvie’s exploits.
The setting of Votoms is also very appealing, with the Astragius galaxy having so much storytelling potential. For future entries to Votoms, there are so many places and subjects that it could potentially explore. I for one enjoyed the fact that Votoms uses the wars between the Gilgamesh and the Balarant as more of a backdrop and never became the main focus of the story at any point.
Then there’s the Scopedogs of course. With their unique design and look by Kunio Okawara, they are instantly recognisable in comparison to mecha from any other series. Their lower-tech look compared to other famous mecha helps to do so. It fits the tone of the Votoms franchise, and are personally my favourite mecha design from anything.
I’m not much of a design geek, so that’s all I’ll say here!
The Overman Conundrum
I mentioned before how I didn’t really like it how Votoms revealed Chirico Cuvie to be a superhuman. To be honest my thoughts haven’t changed too much in that regard.
While it was cool at times to see Chirico performing some incredible feats over the course of Votoms such as surviving a bullet pretty much to the heart or surviving a falling space station, it did take away an element of seriousness to the show. For me Votoms was always at its best before it revealed the extent of Chirico’s hidden powers.
Obviously most of the Votoms franchise comes after this point. For the most part entries set after the original series were still enjoyable, but just not quite so good. The majority of these focus on Chirico Cuvie’s Overman status, even to the point of altering the Votoms continuity. Examples being Pailsen Files and Roots of Ambition where Chirico knows about his abilities long before he was supposed to.
While I enjoyed Votoms, it’s interesting to think about the direction it could have went in if the overall story didn’t include the Overman elements.
Prequels and Filler Stories
A lot of Votoms consists of these. I mentioned how Takahashi and his team seemed to have trouble when writing sequels for the Votoms story. However, the stories they created to fill in gaps were usually great additions.
Four out of the eleven Votoms entries that Sunrise made are of this nature. They really helped to get a better understanding of Chirico Cuvie and the goings on of the Astragius galaxy.
Sometimes as there were so many of these it got a little frustrating. I just wanted the story to continue rather than going backwards. It looks like Sunrise have filled in any possible gaps by this time however. So I don’t think we’ll be seeing anymore of these if Votoms returns in the future.
Votoms has some varied and interesting main villains throughout.
One thing I would have liked to have seen during Votoms is more villains who had shades of grey. The antagonists featured were all clearly evil and had no redeeming qualities. It would have been nice if they had more moral complexities to them. However I understand that the galaxy of Votoms is one that is hugely corrupt. One that the franchise has shown time and time again.
The Secret Society and Wiseman
In order of appearance, we have Killy and the Secret Society, with his ambition of being able to harness the technologies of the Overmen and their attempts at Perfect Soldiers as an effort to replicate them.
As we all know at the end of the original Votoms Wiseman overshadowed the Secret Society with his ambition of making Chirico Cuvie his successor. It’s incredible to think about the power Wiseman held. He was able to bend the galaxy to his very whim and to lead events into any direction that he wanted.
Even though he had molded events throughout Chirico Cuvie’s life, Chirico still rejected Wiseman’s offer to succeed him. Wiseman seemed to like propagating war in the galaxy. However his reasons for wanting to do this Votoms doesn’t really explain well enough for my liking.
Pailsen and Montewells
Pailsen was my personal favourite antagonist. What’s interesting is that Pailsen dies in the very first OVA he appears in. But Votoms fleshes him out more in further entries. Throughout Votoms you get to learn more about the man and where his fascination with Chirico Cuvie came from.
It appears as though he had always had an interest in superhuman soldiers to use for his own gain. Whether that was his Red Shoulder project, the Supreme Survivors or his involvement with the Perfect Soldier program. We see that he was an evil man with evil intentions and that he was responsible for a great deal of Chirico’s early trauma.
Pailsen’s vendetta against Chirico clearly stems from the fact that Pailsen wanted to use Chirico’s abilities, but Chirico would never obey him. Pailsen, therefore, deemed him too dangerous to go on living.
The last main villain is Montewells, who isn’t really too complex. He was someone who seemed fixated on the power the Church of Martial held and was determined to obtain it for himself to wield. Even going so far as to sacrifice his own daughter to help his ambitions.
I mentioned in the Brilliantly Shining Heresy analysis that I wasn’t so comfortable with Fyana’s fate in that part of the story. I felt that the writers abandoned her character and pretty much tossed her to the wayside.
Since then, I have to an extent changed my opinion. We all know she didn’t do much most of the time, and was pretty much just there for Chirico Cuvie to rescue her for most of Votoms.
I do still think it perhaps was a bit much to have to kill her off. But what her death did do was help raise the stakes again. With Chirico seemingly invincible, it had to be done somehow and having Chirico lose her did help to do that. How Chirico Cuvie copes with the loss and how he changes because of it is also something that helps the latter entries of Votoms to have an extra dimension to them.
Chirico’s Grave Mistake
Personally I think Chirico choosing for the two of them to go out into space in the capsule was the worst mistake he ever made. They would have been much safer hiding themselves in a secret location on a planet somewhere, instead of floating around in space where someone was bound to find them at some stage.
Things may have turned out differently for Chirico Cuvie and Fyana if they had done that. They may have reached that peaceful future they aimed for. Even Wiseman returning after more than 30 years wouldn’t find them easily, as they would be hidden during the time he was nonoperational.
Instead, Chirico lost Fyana at the hands of the Martial Church and had to endure yet more suffering and walking into distant horizons.
If Chirico Cuvie is to return at any point, all I wish for is for him to get some sort of a happy ending to his story. With Fyana dead but swiftly frozen in her pod, one can hope that she could be revived someday. Chirico simply deserves to be happy after all he has gone through.
At the End of It All
Votoms then is a superb franchise and something that I have enjoyed experiencing greatly. Despite it’s shortcomings in some areas, it definitely deserves to be held as one of the top mecha anime series ever made.
Votoms also has a very distinct look and feel and is a credit to the work of people like Ryosuke Takahashi, Kunio Okawara and the other people involved that worked on it. Some of the animation aside, it still holds up well and stands the test of time which is a testament to the work they created.
Lastly, I hope Votoms will come back someday soon in the coming years. With many of the story-lines and plot threads wrapped up, it’s interesting to think about what could happen. In my opinion there are still many more stories to be told from the Astragius Galaxy.
Did you enjoy Armored Trooper Votoms as much as we did? What was your favourite entry in the series? Let us know down below.