"Wait! I don't know what we've done to offend you, but we don't have to fight!"—Mia
Back when anime fandom in America was in its infancy, otaku (that is, fanboys—but we say that with only love) leapt at the chance to get any bootleg tapes they could from Japan. Unfortunately, this was the 1980s, an age of cookie-cutter animation, bad synthesizer music, and the same mecha shows recycled over and over and over again.
When Dangaioh first slithered onto American shores in 1990, the VHS tape became a notorious example of how not to package Japanese animation. Longtime fans still joke, even to this day, about the atrocious translation job. In one scene, the pilot of the giant warrior robot Dangaioh announces that he plans to use his "psychic wave" move. Some subliterate translator typed the battle cry (in English, as many warrior battle cries are in anime, for some reason) into the subtitles as "Sidekick Wave!"
Things have gotten much better since those days. Not that you would know it from Manga Video's release of Hyper-Combat Unit Dangaioh, fresh off the boat. If by "fresh off the boat," you mean 15 years old. For some reason, Manga has chosen to skip the first installment of this three part series and release only parts 2 and 3, edited together into a single 71-minute movie. But at least they kept the catchy '80s synthpop theme song "Cross Fight!" intact.
A 10-minute recap tries to get you up to speed on what happened in the first episode. In a nutshell, four psychic warriors who suffer from amnesia escape the clutches of the sinister Dr. Tarsan. Mia is the sensitive one (and of course, the most powerful). Lamba is the requisite bubblehead. Pai Thunder is the obligatory tough girl. Rol is the token y-chromosome—he has no distinct personality, so naturally he gets to pilot the giant robot that they form when they fuse their individual space fighters. Together they battle the evil Captain Garimos and his chief flunky, the brooding cyborg (is there any other kind on these shows?) Gil Berg.
Count your blessings that you have me to explain this, because you will not be able to follow the prologue. I could not, and I've seen the first episode. But at least there is no "sidekick wave." Actually, there are no subtitles or Japanese language track at all. Instead, we are treated to a lackluster English dub (in 2.0 and 5.1) and no other extras (apart from Manga's usual assortment of trailers).
The plot is pretty straightforward. As Dr. Tarsan trains the Dangaioh team, Captain Garimos sends his latest plan into action. A low budget version of the Ginyu Force, or maybe the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, shows up for a tussle with our heroes. The leader is a former handmaiden of Lamba, who discovers that she was previously some sort of princess, prior to becoming a psychic warrior eternally stuck wearing a one-piece bathing suit, even in the snow. After a good half-minute of character development, our heroes cart out their mecha for some soporific combat. Later, we learn the backstory for Rol (note that the unseen first installment filled in the past lives of Mia and Pai, but you are not missing anything), who was the leader of some bombed out planet's resistance forces. Then they fight the cyborg Gil Berg for a while, and the series comes to an ambiguous conclusion.
Actually, 2001 saw the premiere of a short-lived television series that continued the Dangaioh storyline a generation later. This may explain Manga Video's belated attempt to release the original OAV—or at least part of it—on DVD (Pioneer is releasing the new series). Unfortunately, the original series has not aged well. Flat characters, cheap animation, and shallow storylines do not make this worth your time, even out of nostalgia.
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