From The Writer & Director Of Dancougar: Super Bestial Machine God Dancougar

Before writing and directing 1987’s anime movie monsterpiece Crystal Triangle, Seiji Okuda served as series director on a 1985 TV cartoon show about robots. It was called Choujuukishin Dancouga (Super Bestial Machine God Dancougar), and true to form, it was a delightfully unapologetic clusterfuck.

On the surface, Dancougar looks to combine the gritty hard sci-fi feel of its contemporaneous 80s robot show brethren with the 5-person robot team and its associated tropes, established in 1976’s Combattler V. But… yeah, God, this show. This show.

Simple enough premise. Rowdy aliens attack Earth, decimating most of our fair planet’s established military forces through the use of well-animated 80s domed explosions, which look simply lovely. The only folks left after a montage or two of this are the students at the Space Academy, located in Australia. There’s Shinobu, who is angry all the ding dang day; Shapiro Keats, whose gaunt frame, penchant for purple eyeliner and terrifying Ziggy Stardust hair conceals (or betrays!) a lust for cosmic domination; and Sara, his girlfriend.

Within 16 minutes Shapiro bails on the Earth — and Sara, who almost tags along — to fist bump with the invaders. His reason? “The Earth is run by a bunch of pussies.” I am paraphrasing, but the fact of the matter is that Shapiro — voiced by that endlessly entertaining badboy Norio Wakamoto — is the only villainous character in the entire show with anything resembling character development. Super Robot Wars, eternal arbiter of the robot cartoon canon, frequently omits all of the bad guys from this show except for Shapiro, who can defect to whatever amalgamation of bad guys happens to be running the show that game. It works in that context. Here, it just sucks that the bad guys are so uninteresting.

With the Space Academy destroyed, the wheelchair-bound patriarch of the school suggests Shinobu and Sara go to a secret base in Japan, “the world leader in super technology.” Not paraphrasing. They do, and the next 3 episodes introduce the rest of the team — Masato, who is all about the ladies, no matter how young (otaku stand-in character); Ryo, who knows martial arts; and Sara, who is reintroduced as a hard-ass military killing-machine.

They are… the Cyber-Beast Force.

We are also introduced to the show’s complete disregard for logic, plotting and common sense. General Igor, the leader of the CBF, is constantly sending the team all over the globe. In the second episode, he gives Shinobu a Eagle-themed fighter jet, and tells him to fly to fucking Minnesota to fight the aliens single-handedly. It takes one 5-second shot for him to get there, and about 4 minutes to bust up the aliens and return to Japan. That is just how things work here.

It would be easy to assume that they’d introduce the titular robot after the first few episodes, and immediately get to the usual monster of the week brutalizing that is typically the showcase of children’s robot cartoons. But no. No, sir. This show has things to say.

In one episode, the CBF is sent to help out an American resistance group, and are shocked to find the rebel base filled entirely with kids, who were given kamikaze orders and abandoned after their adult superiors marched to their deaths. The name of the first kid the team speaks to? Dan Aykroyd.

In another, the aliens attack the destroyed Space Academy from the first episode, prompting much confusion on the part of the team. “Why are they attacking something that’s already been destroyed?” they ask. “It must be a trap.” They go anyway, and find not just the trap, but also a beloved teacher of theirs, who berates them relentlessly for being useless. After a fierce battle, the school is destroyed for real this time, along with the precious honorary diploma their teacher arbitrarily decided to reward them minutes earlier. I believe that is what is known as… symbolism.

There’s the one where they have to disarm nuclear missiles, and Masato ends up overseeing a bunch of kids who plan to hijack one of the warheads and Slam to the Jam the aliens all by their little pre-teen selves. The oldest of the group complains that the adults “just wanted to save the stupid town, those cowards!” In the episode’s climax, Masato narrowly prevents the kids from immolating themselves in nuclear flames during a crazy jeep chase.

It keeps going. One episode sees our heroes sent to the remote town of Tacos, located “300 kilometers north of Mexico City,” where pitchforks are brandished, sombreros get shot up, and Ryo solves everything by taking his shirt off inside his machine and using robot martial arts. This is all in spite of the many earlier shots of his cockpit, which is visibly too cramped to stand up in.

A personal favorite: General Igor is pissed at the team’s lack of teamwork, so he sends them to New York City to bail out the “Harlem Resistance”. Shinobu muses that “perhaps the apple was a cross-cultural symbol of unity,” (Ed. note: maybe?) while Masato travels through the abandoned subway system to find the survivors, who are — shock of shocks — a bunch of typical anime black dudes playing jazz music. Masato attempts to get them to flee the city, but the leader of the Resistance assures him that “nobody can stop the music!”

I could keep rattling these off, but I think I’ll leave it at the episode where they go up against MD Geist and his Fist of the North Star punk pals. This show has everything.

There are recurring villains, of course. The first is General Death Gaia, who wears a mohawk. He shows up in most episodes, usually after saying something like “this is the perfect chance to show those fools!” You’ve seen this character before. After about 15 episodes, he gets shipped off in favor of another alien general, who looks in retrospect like a 3D polygonal head from an Amiga demo with mutton chops hanging from the top of his cheek bones. All these dumb aliens spend a lot of time bickering with each other. They’re boring.

A little bit after that, the plot’s focus shifts more towards the relationship between Sara and Shapiro, understandably strained from his earlier betrayal of the entire fucking planet Earth, and… the whole thing is kind of ridiculous, actually. We get some flashbacks to the early days in their relationship, but usually only in the context of “Shapiro hinted that he was going to make a bio-weapon out of flowers to drive all women in a 7-mile radius into a nonstop berserker rage back when we were dating oh my god.”

Production values start strong and quickly drop off a cliff. It’s hard not to conclude that something went horribly wrong for the production staff. In the first few episodes the battle scenes are fluidly animated, with silky smooth missile trails and pornographic levels of detail paid to explosions and shrapnel. By episode 10, things are looking decidedly more slapdash, particularly the transformation sequences for the CBF’s fighter jet/animal hybrids, which are done in a “style” the show wants us to believe is inspired by computer wireframe graphics. Really, though? They didn’t color in the cels.

When big bad Dancougar finally combines in episode 15 (episode 14 having just inflicted a devastating wave of robot blueballs on every damn kid in Japan), we are treated to Seiji Okuda’s apparent stock-in-trade: baffling religious themes. After inputting a suspicious code, the team glows red, and a booming voice urges our heroes to “move beyond the beast’s anger, beyond mankind’s hatred! Be reborn as God’s Warrior!” They totally do. Boom. Dancougar, standing tall.

Its first order of business as God’s Warrior is to punch the enemy alien in the face, using zero frames of animation. A slow pan across a single still frame of the robot with its arm extended is the best Ashi Productions can muster. Kind of a shame, considering how neat Future Superstar Anime Director Masami Obari’s mechanical designs are. By episode 20, we start seeing scenes without in-betweening, and while things do pick up a little towards the end, there’s a long, long stretch where it feels like they completely ran out of money. Ryo throws down in a couple of episodes, and the ensuing fight scenes are not so much animated as presented as slide show. Hey. TV anime. It happens.

Word is that Ashi Pro wanted to market and sell this show to American distributors, which would explain the mostly episodic nature of the production, and the amazing episode title translations. Whatever they were hoping for, it didn’t quite pan out — the show was cancelled early at episode 38, major plot threads left unresolved.

A series of OAVs attempted to fill in the blanks, with the first one — 1986’s Requiem for the Victims — being about 70% recap episode, and 30% the “quick guys we gotta tie this up before they pull the plug” final episode that was presumably supposed to air on TV. 1987’s God Bless Dancougar looks great and has some amusing character moments, but the plot is boilerplate 80s OAV fare, and the production as a whole only highlights the incomplete feel of the TV show. On the other hand, it does end with an impromptu 80s music video, CBF rocking out on-stage and everything. Let’s call it even.

Special mention has to be made for Blazing Epilogue, a 4-part OAV released between 1988 and 1990 which — unlike the rest of the series — was not licensed and released in English. I haven’t seen it, but even big fans of the the series assure me that it is trash. Obviously, my interest is piqued. Somebody fansub that thing, guys!

Dancougar is wacky. It’s absurd. It’s serious and silly, stupid and… extra stupid. It’s also shockingly boring, despite the near-constant barrage of absurdities present in every episode. When Seiji Okuda and company went on to make Crystal Triangle, I suppose this show was their way of saying “we fucking warned you.” If only we had listened.


  1. I just always loved how Dancouga was a super robot that ran on anger.

    Also disappointing is Dancouga Nova making like 2 references to the original Dancougar that made about no sense, then forgetting that entirely and just moving on with it’s own retarded plot.

  2. Also forgot to mention that it’s way easier to think of Dancouga with SRW animations than the actual show.

  3. Dancougar is one of those shows that works well in SRW but is terrible to actually watch.

    So a lot like Zeta Gundam, then.

  4. I love Dancouga. I really can’t tell you why, but I do.
    I WANT to defend it, but every time I try, I wind up stopping in mid-sentence and shaking my head at the absurdity of it all.

    And then I spend the next few minutes giggling about the Great Mexican City of Tacos.

  5. I find it funny that japan has no concept of American geography, especially no less a state that I’m sure they just threw a dart at in the production room blind folded to just say “we gotta have something american in this anime, what state is it gonna be?” I’m sure they used that same concept in Crystal Triangle.

    Aww, come on now Hex, don’t be like that man.

  6. “We are also introduced to the show’s complete disregard for logic, plotting and common sense.”

    This pretty much sums it up nicely. Especially that moron Ross Igor.

    Also, does anyone else think that the virus subplot of Godannar is basically revenge for that flower bio weapon episode?

  7. 1) I enjoyed Dancougar for what it is – just fun battling robots. Of COURSE none of it makes sense.
    2) God Bless Dancougar was never licensed, only the TV series and Requiem for Victims were.
    3) I own the LDs to Blazing Epilogue and fully intend to fansub it as soon as I can find somebody willing to translate it. See my website and/or contact me by email if you want to help.

  8. Hahaha.
    Funny review. Almost want to check it out because of how absurd it all sounds.

  9. I love the way Dancougar looks; it’s like they took the 80s, ground the entire decade into a fine powder, and used it as substrate for a robot model kit. Also there’s a Sara Yuki wardrobe malfunction in there at one point, kids. But your review has it dead to rights – it’s a show that was totally awesome when all we could see was REQUIEM FOR VICTIMS, especially those opening credits – however, watch the entire series and the long slow stretches and the head-scratching story choices overpower even the mightiest of casually knotted pastel-colored sweaters.

  10. I actually love Dancouga (they spell it in English almost every episode and the last “a” sound isn’t elongated, guys. There is no “r” at the end), mostly for all of the things described in this article. The middle definitely drags a lot but I thought the ending really picked up the pace and the final battle with the emperor in the OAV was pretty awesome. Having been introduced to the series through SRW@3, I have to say it always feels like a disappointment when they leave him out (his stage was also kind of a pain in that game; it was on a route split, so you only had half your normal team, he was really strong and he resurrected all the other old super robot villains to attack you at the same time).

  11. >>I find it funny that japan has no concept of American geography

    That Dancougar is one deified beast! I always took notice of when inaccurate maps of the Earth would show up in anime on walls and control screens–I mean, entire continents the wrong shape, and in the wrong positions.

  12. >>I actually love Dancouga (they spell it in English almost every episode and the last “a” sound isn’t elongated, guys. There is no “r” at the end)

    The VHS boxes and associated promotional materials have it as “Dancougar”. Honestly, though? The last screenshot used in this review is all the reason I need to spell it with an R.

  13. Wow. The Johnny-America-Rock-and-Roll-Band screencap at the end gives me douche chills. Reminds me of that Zillion “Burning Night” OAV, which I only watched because it was one of 20 Japtoon vids at Blockbuster and we LIKED it.

  14. Nyahaha, Seiji Okuda… you gotta love that guy. Noone made such unapologetically trashy and crazy stuff quite like him. And we’re speaking of 80’s OVAs, so that’s saying something. I especially love his fairy-tale/lolicon/splatter series Dream Hunter Rem. Oh, the insanity. Oh, the inanity!
    And you gotta check out Twinkle Hearts – filled with cute girlies, talking stuffed animals and… penis-shaped air gliders.
    Seriously, you gotta admire this guy. Who else could imagine god as an overgrown maggot I ask you, who!? ;D

  15. Wait, I just realized something. The show is about a series of animal-formed robots that combine into one big giant robot, and your objection is they get to Minnesota too fast? THAT’S what sets off your illogic detectors? Good lord. Stay away from Indiana Jones movies, the fast travel there will really blow your mind.

  16. I thought Dancougar looked bad from the first episode, mainly because Ashi never pays attention to backdrops. It just looks very dull, drab. I consider Ashi to be a posh version of Kokusai Eigasha (they even cooperated on Baldios). Lots of ideas and talent, but under-financed execution. Dancougar only shines when Studio Z5 is brought in, they were the true masters of 1980s mecha animation.

    Now I’m convinced that Colonydrop really should be called Anime Power, with the same logo as the defunct Amiga magazine.


    Oh god bless the eighties when real men of lordly calibur who had an eye for the fantastically absurd were in the director’s seat, and Motherfucking OBari was chained to the designer’s desk were he belongs. *sigh* nostalgia….

    on another note, I didn’t know Glenn Beck started writing for CD. This is sorta awesome.

  18. >> Good lord. Stay away from Indiana Jones movies, the fast travel there will really blow your mind.

    At least in the Indy movies, they show a map of where there going just on super speed mode. But at least the locations are REAL AREAS that show you how to get there thats not the same as a car ride to the store.

  19. There were more neat moments of stylized (if not always fluid) animation starting around, oh, episode 25 or so, where Dancougar starts looking less like a giant block and somewhat more Obari-masculine, but it’s something like a 30 minute combined total of kind of cool animation at the ass end of a cripplingly boring show.

    I still remember renting the first tape a few years ago in high school, happy to finally see that cool BLACK VOLTRON SHOW hinted about in Super Robot Wars 4, only to fall asleep towards the end of episode three. The increase in action and Shapiro appearances by the end of the series is nice and all, but I’m hard pressed to tell anyone it’s worth sitting through this entire stupid show. Maybe select episodes if they really want a taste.

    The Space Jesus and Frankenstein episode is great, after all.

  20. I agree with this review 100%, but regardless of all of those facts I still like Dancouga. The first OVA won me over, and it redeemed the entire series in my opinion. Now I await the Blazing Epilogue subs.

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