Lewis Smith and Isami Ao are enemy pilots. Lewis is a pilot for the U.S. armed forces who pilots the armored humanoid weapon Titanostride. In the midst of battle, he meets Isami Ao, the ace pilot for Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force.
Bang Brave Bang Bravern is original television anime from Cygames. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Thursdays.
How was the first episode?
Well, I’ll say this for Bang Brave Bang Bravern: it sure leaves an impression. What we have here is two different kinds of mecha show crashing together. On the one hand, we have mecha that are (at least nominally) based on actual technology. They move on wheels and their own feet and use guns and missiles as weapons. They are sci-fi with at least some grounding in reality. On the other hand, we have the more fantastical kind of giant robot—it can fly at will, utilizes a glowing energy sword that can cut through anything, uses a hard-light holographic interface, and comes with an AI companion to help control everything. It’s more a superhero robot than a war machine.
What we’re getting in this show appears to be the equivalent of “What if Voltron suddenly appeared in Gundam.” And frankly, I’m down with the concept—especially with how straight they are playing it. Even with the alien forces’ and Bravern’s appearance, the story still takes place in the “real world”—with all the death and destruction that implies. This makes the fact that Bravern plays its own anime theme song in battle and forces Ao to yell out attack names (which, I assume, only works if he does so) a brilliant touch. It perfectly shows the meshing of genres and the obvious conflicts between the two.
On the other hand, I have some issues with the start of the anime. Due to the pilot suits (complete with obscuring helmets) and voice actors with similar voices, I had trouble figuring out who was who for the majority of the first episode’s battle scenes. This added a layer of unintended chaos to the intended chaos of battle and made it hard to connect with the key figures of the show.
That said, while most characters are one-dimensional at this point—i.e., Lewis wants to be a hero, Ao’s mechanic is passionate about her work—Ao had some great bits of visual storytelling around him. At first, he seems to be the normal, semi-emotionless badass trope incarnate. However, once things go from mock battle to real war, we see him lose all bravado. His hands tremble as he loads real ammo into his mecha for the first time. He stares in shock at the destruction—frantically looking for any sign of his mechanic in the abandoned hanger. He screams and panics—barely able to make himself get in the giant robot and fight.
All in all, it’s good stuff, and it’s more than enough to have me give it the old three-episode try.
First, there was Power of Hope: Precure Full Bloom. Now there’s this show, whose name I am not going to try to type out because my learning disabilities hate it. It’s the same concept, but for the Gundam set. Well, more or less, Isami wasn’t a Gundam pilot as a teenager, but he dreamed of being that sort of hero. The closest thing he could find was joining the JSDF and becoming a Titanostrider pilot, which is pretty similar, but much less glamorous. In fact, the first three-quarters of the first episode are devoted to showing us just how unglamorous Isami’s job is. He’s engaged in training exercises with the U.S. military in Hawaii, where he runs into American Titanostrider pilot Lewis Smith. Lewis is a stereotypical blonde, musclebound American who is just one stars-and-stripes Speedo away from being too much. But he also appreciates Isami’s skill, which is nice, even if Isami isn’t too impressed with Lewis.
Anyway, very little of this seems important, because it’s all a big bait-and-switch for aliens to attack and Isami to be propositioned by a Gundam-like mech that addresses him by name. And the minute he gets in the cockpit – which the mech invites him into in a way that I’m sure absolutely no one will misconstrue – he can actually hear his own theme song playing, which is a gag I always appreciate. While I wasn’t sold at all on the first three-quarters of the episode, the ending got me; the quick shift from serious military drama into near-parody levels of absurdity worked. It will not, I realize, be the case for everyone, in part because it’s such an abrupt change. Even the colors quickly change from dreary greys and browns to the bright primary colors of the 1980s Transformers cartoons, while Bravern tells Isami to scream out the attack names with him. It’s a shock, but it’s meant to be, and if you’re open to what it’s selling, it’s a lot of fun, scratching a similar itch to what Infini-T Force did back in 2017.
Where this will go from this point – serious, silly, or some combination thereof – isn’t entirely clear. The theme song features a fair amount of jiggle on the ladies and what looks like a pre-teen alien (?) girl who will attach herself to Lewis. As the granddaughter of a WWII vet, I admit that I had trouble with the bleakness of the start and the battlefield scenes when the aliens first attacked; I heard a few too many stories growing up to handle anything like that with any degree of comfort. But the candy-colored goofiness of the story at the end of the episode sold me. I am here for nostalgia shows encouraging adults to remember their childhood dreams and giant robots playing their own theme music.
I want it on record that this premiere’s official release being delayed by a week is a crime, and whatever business executive is responsible should be forced into several hundred hours of community service and turn in a hand-written apology that includes at least five full pages on why Bang Brave Bravern is cool and amazing and incredibly handsome. Don’t worry; just from this first episode, they’ll have plenty of material to work with.
I sincerely encourage anyone interested in this series to go in as blind as possible. While I don’t fully gel with the marketing’s plan to obfuscate its nature as a Super Robot show (as opposed to the more grounded “Real Robot” stuff shown before the premiere), I think it’s best enjoyed with as little foreknowledge as possible. This episode is a roller coaster of tone and energy, beginning as something like an anime version of the volleyball scene from Top Gun and spiraling into multiple genre spaces before delivering a wild, ridiculous action conclusion that had me clapping like a seal. It’s a wild, exhilarating good time, and if you have any room for fun inside your soul, you’ll get something out of it, regardless of whether you’re a long-time mech fan or not.
If you are a robot fan, this is a special kind of treat. The designs and animation for these mechs are solid. The CG animation has some nice flourishes that help it meld well with the 2D characters and environments while moving with the same speed and weight. The design work perfectly rides the wave of the episode’s escalation, transitioning from gun-metal grey military tech of the Titanostriders to the sleek sci-fi sheen of the alien invaders’ grunt-bots and peaking with the toyetic exuberance of Bravern as a full-on sentient super robot. Obviously, the folks involved love the genre and are thrilled to be playing around with so many different angles and incarnations of big metal fight machines. The moment Isami revealed that Bravern’s cheesy battle theme was being played in-universe and actually sounded muffled from inside the cockpit, I knew I needed to see every second of this show because, by god, they just get it in a way that few other shows could.