Geo Armor: Kishin Corps
It is 1941 and the world is at war ... but a whole new front has opened up, as an alien race has come down from the sky to take advantage of the chaos and take Earth for themselves.
To stop them, a group of scientists and freedom fighters has formed a defense force called the Kishin Corps, aiming to protect our planet as a neutral, unaffiliated party, using the aliens' own technology against them. However, the Kanto Army and Nazi Germany want this power for themselves, in order to defeat the aliens AND dominate the world.
In the middle: a young Japanese boy named Taishi Takamura, who is entrusted with a satchel that may hold the key to saving the world.
Alternate history is often a crapshoot. I'm actually a huge fan of the genre, as I've read everything from David Flint's 1632 series, S.M. Stirling's Nantucket trilogy, Harry Turtledove's "Guns of the South" and "Disunited States of America", and yes, even Leo Frankowski's Conrad Stargard series, where 13th century Poland is spared the Mongol hordes and turned into a world superpower by a crassly chauvinistic engineer who would be right at home in a teenage anime girl harem (a real Lecher Wałęsa). Clearly the genre varies drastically in quality, and the same is true when you apply it to anime.
The solution is simple - give me realistic depictions of historical characters in unusual situations and I'll award you a few stars for the trouble. Unfortunately, we find out in episode one that the mad scientist in charge of exploiting alien technology for world domination is none other than Eva Braun, who in real life, was actually mostly known for sullying couch cushions with Adolf Hitler when he wasn't busy murdering half of Eastern Europe.
Oh yeah, and she has an angelic twin sister Maria, who happens to be the doctor that saves Taishi's life after his parents buy the farm in an Axis / alien attack. Who, naturally, didn't exist in real life at all whatsoever (though the real-life Eva Braun did in fact have a little sister named Margarete, or Gretl, who survived the war).
Best of all, both Eva and Maria somehow speak perfect Japanese and sound exactly like Madoka Ayukawa from Kimagure Orange Road.
Yep, this is alternate history, all right!
We can clearly, then, chuck the historical angle out the window, and focus on what this is: a juvenile Indiana Jones adventure with caricaturish villains (not all of them Nazis), a plucky band of war orphans, and a band of Japanese soldiers who've decided to go against their own countrymen and fight to protect the world, because, well, that's just what giant robot pilots do. Never mind, of course, that Japan had, by the point of the alien invasion, already spent decades laying waste to China in the name of imperialist expansion, but we'll simply have to pretend the Kishin Corps boys had nothing to do with that, because that's obviously what the creators have done here. But even still, there's those Imperial Japanese Army uniforms, those Nanbu pistols, the salutes ...
And this is a real problem for me, because I actually paid attention in East Asian History class, especially as I was born in a nation (the Philippines) that wasn't just bombed on December 7, 1941 - it was invaded and occupied for several years. So, when you sink so much time into the cosmetic aspects of the setting, you also imbue it with historical context - but that also means that the negative aspects of that context can't be ignored. Imagine this being set in America, and then saying, "Look at those awful aliens. Man, the KKK don't seem so bad after all, do they?" Now, at least to the creators' credit, the Nazis and the Kanto Army are shown as nasty enough to ally themselves with the aliens, but by the time we get there, it's almost too late.
Speaking of the aliens - for all that they're clearly alien (their bizarre body moments, the Zaku-like laser eyes, their death-throe explosions), it's that much odder that their weapon of choice seems to be the submachine gun. So much for alien technology!
For now, let's try to distract ourselves with the giant robot action. These robots are actually pretty cool, even given the now-dated animation - there's a very interesting "Late Steampunk Era" aesthetic that jives pretty well with the setting. (What else even comes close, Sakura Wars?) And the actual Kishin Corps warriors are cool - big lunk Daisaku (Bin Shimada, famed among THEMers as Stig Bernard in Genesis Climber Mospeada) and athletic femme-fatale Bareiho (Maria Kawamura, effectively reprising Jung Freud in Gunbuster) are a fun pair to watch, in or out of the giant robots. However, there's a severe disconnect between the detailed mechanical design and setting and the excessively simplistic, yet comparatively poorly-animated character design work. Oddly, the music here is surprisingly good, as instead of the typical 90s synthesizer work, Kaoru Wada (Battle Angel, Inuyasha) treats us to what appears to be an actual symphony orchestra for a change, though the BGM does occasionally get a bit overbearing or melodramatic.
There's just a lot, maybe too much going on with Kishin Corps - clearly the writing is highly skilled (as befits the adaptation of the winner of the 1995 Seiun Award, Japan's version of the Nebula) and the pace is often exciting, but the execution here clearly doesn't match the ambition or intent, and never really manages to shake the creeping feeling of historical revisionism, while using the names of historical figures in the most ridiculous manner possible. I mean, I was just waiting for one of the rebel Kishin Corps pilots to turn out to be the Showa Emperor himself - I really wouldn't have put it past the series to go there.
At least we can sigh the minor sigh of relief that this isn't another Lime-iro Senkitan, because the world doesn't have room for two Russo-Japanese War lolicon-harem series (or even one, for that matter). Though I'm sure Conrad Stargard might disagree with me there.
The truth is that there's actually some very likable characters and a highly ambitious, exciting storyline in Kishin Corps, bu you'll have to be able to forgive a borderline-odious premise and some occasionally terrible animation. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: There's a fair amount of violence from the get-go against military and civilians alike, though the animation is too simple for much detail, mostly a barrage of "discretion shots" and explosions. Some of the violence is aimed at children, which goes to show how truly nasty the bad guys really are - they are militarist Japanese and Nazis, after all. No sexual or fan-service content to speak of.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (3/7)
Geo Armor: Kishin Corps © 1993 Masaki Yamada / Chuokoronsha / Pioneer LDC
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