Armored Trooper Votoms: Phantom Arc Analysis

Phantom Arc is an interesting entry in the Armored Trooper Votoms franchise. We’re now in the final stretch or our Votoms watch along, so let’s discuss what this OVA had to offer. Phantom Arc reunites us with some old friends, and the OVA also had many callbacks to the original series.

CGI was once again utilised for Phantom Arc. Thankfully it is significantly better than what we saw in Pailsen Files. It still isn’t quite perfect, but it’s never distracting and is never an issue.

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The Baffling Release Schedule

We’re watching all of Armored Trooper Votoms in release order, but Phantom Arc seems somewhat out of place. There’s a good reason for that.

Phantom Arc is, in actual fact, the last chronological entry in the Votoms franchise. This, Case: IrvineVotoms Finder and Alone Again were all released within a year. Phantom Arc’s six episodes were first broadcast from March to October 2010. Sunrise then released the following entries in the proceeding months.

Case: Irvine and Votoms Finder are stand-alone stories separate from Chirico’s own. Alone Again takes place before Phantom Arc in the aftermath of the Brilliantly Shining Heresy story line.

This is why some elements just don’t add up. Such as Chirico having already been reunited with his old friends as well as Teitania being strangely absent. We as the audience are just supposed to accept this.

Chirico back on Sunsa during Armored Trooper Votoms: Phantom Arc.
Chirico had already been reunited with his friends before ending up on Sunsa.

Why they decided to release these entries in this frankly confusing order is anyone’s guess. Did Alone Again suffer production problems? Was Phantom Arc for some reason, despite being longer, completed well in advance of the others? I don’t have an answer to that. It’s another example of how Votoms as a franchise has been generally mishandled.

A Taste of Nostalgia

The first two episodes I really enjoyed because of the way they really invoked a sense of nostalgia for the original Armored Trooper Votoms series. Previous OVAs had retained some of the music with new pieces. However Phantom Arc seems to solely use the original music. This also includes the iconic original opening and ending themes.

I enjoy it in Votoms when we get to see past locations, so it was nice to see Kummen and Sunsa again and we also got to revisit Uoodo. After the devastation that was left there at the end of the first arc of the original Votoms, it looks in surprisingly good shape. Also it doesn’t look quite so degenerate a place as it did previously. We also got to see more Battling, and I always find it amusing that they always show the ATs blasting the audience whenever it appears in Votoms.

It was good to see Potaria again too, even if he didn’t last long. He became a popular figure at the end of the war in Kummen we saw in the original. He died a horrible death. Being crushed and then tossed aside to the dirt isn’t a nice way to go. In the end it was poetic that he suffered a similar fate to his old friend Kanjelman. In that episode Vanilla also suffered the despair of seeing the club once again burnt to a cinder… Hopefully he was able to rebuild it again someday.

Pol Potaria as shown in Armored Trooper Votoms: Phantom Arc.
Potaria met with a horrible fate.

The Child of God

Montewells also returned and was still as desperate for power as he was in Brilliantly Shining Heresy. Things hadn’t went too well for him back then. He made another power grab by attempting to have the Child of God under his influence. Wiseman seemingly just let him into the chamber to be the guinea pig for the Child’s demonstration of power.

This also raises more questions as Chirico never once used telekinesis to redirect bullets into someone’s skull… The opening seems to imply it was Chirico that Pailsen saw all those years ago. Evidence for this is that Wiseman surrounded the Child of God with the same green goop. This new Child of God appears to have a range of powers that Chirico doesn’t, likely bestowed onto him by Wiseman.

Chirico must have experienced internal conflict about what was going on and in his own decisions. Wiseman never had good intentions, and here he was saving his infant successor. Chirico is a good person, and he ultimately decided the baby was better under his own protection, rather than getting stomped into the ground by an AT, or used as a way to effectively continue Wiseman’s malevolent galactic control.

Why Wiseman thought that Chirico would agree this time to his grand plans after he rejected them so emphatically the last time makes no sense. Perhaps he was hoping involving a child would sway Chirico’s human persuasion. It didn’t. Also I must mention that when Chirico and the baby flew off into space surrounded by the green… substance, it was very reminiscent of DBZ Movie 8 when Broly saved his father Paragus from the exploding Planet Vegeta.

Chirico floating in space with the Child of God.
This all seemed strangely familiar…
Broly floating in space with his father Paragus in DBZ Movie 8.

Rochina and the Mysteries of Nurgerant

Rochina is also on the case, summoned by Wiseman once again. However he doesn’t contribute to Phantom Arc in any real way, instead really just being there as an observer. At the end he decides to continue his obsession with Chirico and attempt to document whatever happens next. The Gilgamesh and Balarant also do this, deciding not to interfere after the last time. But they still prepare to use the Child of God for their own gains.

Fortunately the Quentians survived what happened in the original series, as Quent’s technology transported them to its twin planet of Nurgerant. I liked that this OVA explored more about the tribes of Quent, and that they tend to have different beliefs. Not all of them were into the whole ‘Child of God’ thing.

The Quentians had sure sent a lot of babies down to their potential doom… Juno was lucky and had somehow managed to survive down in the depths, and was of great assistance to Chirico and Shako. Hopefully she went on to have a happy life alongside Zophie on Sunsa in the end.

Chirico and Shako saw scenes from their own histories down there, and it was good to see Pailsen again. Pailsen is my personal favourite villain from Armored Trooper Votoms, as he was always more of a tangible and calculated threat than the weird ancient computer that is Wiseman. From this we are able to see more of what happened when the Red Shoulders attacked Chirico’s home as a child. We see that he used to live with many other children in that research facility.

Chirico staring at Pailsen through the flames of his destroyed home as a child on Sunsa.
A young Chirico stares at Pailsen through the flames, an image we have seen several times throughout Votoms.

Chirico and Sunsa

It was interesting to see that Chirico had settled on Sunsa helping Zophie of all people. We don’t know the circumstances as to why he ended up there, but we’ll find out next week. We know he’d left his friends not so long beforehand. It seems he decided to return to his home world. Fortunately when discovering Chirico’s identity, Zophie had come to terms with what had happened previously between them.

Chirico definitely felt some guilt as to what had happened years ago even though he wasn’t directly at fault. It was nice that they were able to put that all behind them. Chirico even refuses to pilot an AT on Sunsa, showing that he felt rightly or wrongly that he had brought enough suffering to the planet.

It’s interesting Phantom Arc addressed the atmosphere on Sunsa. Previously they needed oxygen packs, but in other OVAs we saw people breathing the air without them. This created a big inconsistency. Sunsa’s air is now breathable once again, so the battles there obviously had a terrible effect on the planet. Perhaps previously there were areas where you could or couldn’t breath normally because of this.

Zophie walking out into the Sunsa air.
Sunsa is now a little more bearable but still a wasteland.

Other Issues

This series appeared to take a sharp change of direction. You can see this with how the first two episodes focused on Vanilla, Coconna, Gotho and Shako trying to find Chirico, but then turned into more Overmen shenanigans. Maybe the initial idea was for a gentler, more nostalgic kind of story compared to what we actually got.

Together with that, a common complaint I have had with the Armored Trooper Votoms OVAs is that I feel they are of the wrong length. This was again the case here. I feel there was more to tell with Phantom Arc and that a twelve episode run would have served it better. Certain aspects of the story seemed cut short or not expanded on in enough detail for my liking.

The supporting cast of Armored Trooper Votoms: Phantom Arc.
Phantom Arc focused on Chirico’s old friends early on.

What Now for Votoms?

I know we haven’t finished Votoms yet, but as Phantom Arc is the last chronological story, I felt it fitting to ask this question now. Sunrise released Phantom Arc as being the conclusion to Chirico’s story, but it ends on a massive cliffhanger.

After this, the story could go in several directions. Sunrise could continue it with a direct sequel detailing what happened next with Chirico and the baby. Or they could also skip forward in time to when the baby is grown up, taking over the mantle of the main character from Chirico. I also think a story detailing Rochina’s quest to find Chirico and the Child of God could be another interesting avenue to explore. But I’m just speculating.

The Child of God in his cocoon.
A possible future protagonist?

Nine Years and Counting…

What’s notable is that it has been over nine years since Sunrise released Alone Again in early 2011. This means at the time of writing, this is the second longest drought between entries in the franchise. The gap between Brilliantly Shining Heresy and Pailsen Files remains the longest to date however.

This is slightly concerning, as this is approaching enough time to consider if the franchise will ever return. The characters’ voice actors are now of retirement age, where anime is a medium where studios rarely replace voice actors. It has become a more common practice more recently I feel. However it is still rare, and especially for iconic characters that the likes of Votoms has.

Whatever happens next for the Armored Trooper Votoms franchise, I hope its creator Ryosuke Takahashi doesn’t return to the helm. I know this sounds incredibly harsh, but in my opinion he seems to have little idea on how to continue the story effectively. He created an incredible story with Votoms and a rich universe to go with it. But his two stabs at a sequel with Brilliantly Shining Heresy and Phantom Arc were disappointments. I still think there are more stories to be told about Chirico and his adventures, but that a fresh approach is needed.

(NOTE: Since this article was written in May 2020, Ryosuke Takahashi has been writing a new entry in the Votoms franchise, although just in a book format released chapter by chapter).

Armored Trooper Votoms creator Ryosuke Takahashi.
Takahashi created something great with Votoms.

Overall Thoughts

While Phantom Arc had plenty of enjoyable moments, overall I feel it was a disappointment. The callbacks to the original series were nicely done and invoked that nice feeling of nostalgia, but I think Wiseman was something the series didn’t really need to revisit.

Couple this with an ending that was supposed to be a finale but fails to tie anything together, and you may understand why I feel this way.

Hopefully in years to come we will get more Votoms, and perhaps get a more fitting ending to Chirico’s story. With nothing really on the horizon and with no whisperings, who knows when this may happen.

Did you enjoy Phantom Arc? Where do you think the Votoms franchise should go next? Let us know down in the comments.

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