In the next instalment of the Adultimation Series, Matt Lambourne explores the world of global conspiracy, the human genesis story and a deadly alien weapon. Dust off your VHS collection, as we delve into the brutal world of one of Matt’s all-time favourite Anime series’.
By Matt Lambourne (@LamboMat)
What would you do if you were a normal teenage boy, who stumbled upon powers that made you the deadliest weapon on the planet? That’s a pretty far out question for most of us to wrap our heads around. It’s a theme that was recently explored to great effect in 2012’s Chronicle whereby several youngsters accidentally gained superpowers and struggled to contain their ego’s given their new found ability.
In 1989’s ‘The Guyver’, Sho Fukamachi is posed the same question. He is taking an afters school stroll in the woods with his best pal Tetsuro, when upon investigating a distant explosion; they stumble onto a strange mechanical unit. Sho attempts to touch the unit and is immediately engulfed by the unit, which extends tentacles that consume Sho and eventually bind to his body.
It appears Sho is being killed by the machine as he screams in pain as he falls into a river and briefly disappears, however the worst is yet to come. Quickly in pursuit of the unit are agents of the Chronos Corporation, who threaten to kill Tetsuro if he doesn’t hand over the unit whom are concealing a dark secret.
In order to have Tetsuro cooperate, they morph into hugely powerful monsters known as Zoanoids, a higher form of being that is significantly more evolved from humanity. As they are about to kill Tetsuro, a dark figure emerges from the water, covered in armoured plates and loaded with weaponry.
The figure dispatches the Zoanoids in brutally violent fashion, before eventually coming to a halt and Sho’s consciousness regains control. He is now the Guyver, a hugely destructive and powerful weapon system brought to Earth by an Alien race many thousands of years ago.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the Guyver, the armour is akin to how you might imagine the Japanese would make RoboCop. Its steel armour, with Samuari Sword-esque blades attached to the elbows, a small laser from the head and a chest cavity that be opened up to unleash a near-nuclear strength blast that annihilates anything in its path.
There is a catch though; Sho is not entirely in control of the Guyver, and in Peter Parker style reluctance, he struggles to accept his fate, the power and the responsibility of being the bearer of this armour. And with good causes, as the Chronos Corporation which is bent on world domination through the first of their genetically enhanced Zoanoids will not rest until the Guyver unit has been reclaimed from Sho.
My body…. I have become a monster!
The Guyver is difficult to review as it’s pretty flawed in many ways. Again for a pre-90’s anime it’s not the best animated and the dubbing to English is quite cheesey, however it does become quite memorable for that reason as lot of early Manga crossovers were.
The series takes place over 12 x 30min episodes and for the first half of those, the series is exciting, suspenseful and to a degree, quite frightening. One of its greatest achievements is that you always feel a sense of peril for Sho, you’re never quite sure he’ll survive any episode and is thrust into harm’s way repeatedly throughout the series, and it’s his gradual understanding of his powers that help him to overcome the foes he faces in each episode against the odds.
However, the sad thing is that the series was based on an Anime comic that was still running far after the release of this video series and the plot falls off enormously towards the end. In fact it’s almost reduced to an X-Files style ‘Monster of the Week’ dirge which at times becomes slightly tiresome.
But let’s focus on the positives. The Guyver is IMMENSE in its action. Sho and his fellow Guyver, the mysterious Agito Makashima, come up with imaginative ways to use their powers to dispatch of the Zoanoids in each episode and it is exciting watching them become more powerful in every episode.
The design of the Guyver armour itself is very cool, a sleek Robo-Samuari armour that whilst incredible powerful is also highly vulnerable, particularly as it shares a Symbiotic relationship with teenagers that struggle to contain its power.
The series also explores a fascinating human-genesis story, whereby it is revealed that Humans are of alien origin and were brought to Earth by the same race that built the Guyver, deployed to new worlds as weapons to exterminate their inhabitants. It’s quite a shocking revelation and a theme that is repeated in the Alien Vs Predator movies, and something that the protagonists struggle to comprehend in their journey.
“You probably don’t even know the meaning of the word, Guyver. It means OUT OF CONTROL. It doesn’t fit into any category, nobody knows what the Guyver truly is, but we know one thing for certain. The Guyver is a bio-weapon”
It is a huge shame that the series wasn’t given its own direction and a diversion from the plot from the comic so it could have tied up the series after 12 episodes. Unfortunately it is left wide-open and is ultimately an unfinished and abandoned work, which ran out of steam towards the end.
But it does leave quite the legacy. There were 2 western movies made on the back of the popularity of the anime series. One being 1991’s ‘The Guyver’ (or Mutronics) for which Mark Hammil receives top-billing for despite not being the lead character. It’s very poor and a little too ‘Power Rangers for adults’ for my liking. Whereas the sequel ‘Guyver: Dark Hero’ is a respectable B-Movie sci-fi romp with decent action and is worth a watch.
The animated series was also rebooted in the 2000’s as ‘Guyver: The Bioboosted Armour’ which can be found on Netflix, bringing the franchise to a new audience. Overall, the Guyver is a spoiled master-piece, that starts off strong but leaves you needing more than it provides at the end. That said, it is a piece that fans of classic Anime simply must check out!