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Reviews of TV shows.

Spotlight: Thundercats – Tygra

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Last year, two posts about a pair of Thundercats characters appeared here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. The first one focused on Panthro, the second on Cheetara. A commentor on the second Spotlight! post requested that his favorite Thundercat be discussed next, and this blogger promised to write about that character in the New Year.

Well, while it is a day late and a dollar short, I hope JorgePr finds this post to be a satisfying review of his favorite character. Today’s Spotlight! focuses on the intellectual member of the Thundercats, Tygra. The team’s architect, scientist, inventor, academic, and moral authority, Tygra often came off as bland or uninteresting to most viewers. While this is an understandable reaction early on, to maintain it is to miss the very important contributions this Cat made to the team and the series.

Although his role in combat was not often as spectacular as Cheetara, Panthro, or Lion-O’s were, Tygra was a capable fighter. Using his bolo whip, intelligence, and native strength, he could think circles around most of his opponents with ease. The fact that his whip granted him invisibility only added to his combat capabilities, as it allowed him to sneak up behind or otherwise catch enemies by surprise. From what we saw in the television series, the only problem with this power came when Tygra had to swim. Water – whether it had been specially treated or not – rendered him visible to the naked eye. So in that sense, water was his weakness, a fact we will come back to later.

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Cat’s Lair, as designed by Tygra in the original series.

Due to his architectual expertise, Tygra was the Cat the rest of the team turned to when they needed something built. The designer of Cat’s Lair, the Feliner, and the Tower of Omens, his skill with artistic construction extended to more mundane items and sciences as well. When the Cats were shrunken to the size of insects, Tygra was the one who formulated the antidote. He was also the designer of the recording devices the group later employed to video themselves and their world for posterity. So while he wasn’t as mechanically inclined as Panthro, no one could say he wasn’t a good machinist, either.

Tygra also acted as the arbiter, recorder, and voice of final authority among the adult Thundercats. This was a position he achieved based on the virtues built into his character from the beginning. Clearly designed to resemble the tiger, where Panthro and Cheetara’s personalities were influenced by their physical attributes (strength and speed) his qualities had a different inspiration: the virtue of integrity.

Out of all the Cats, Tygra was probably the one with the strongest attachment to the Code of Thundera. While the others kept it in mind and allowed it to influence their daily lives and decisions, Tygra practically exuded a balanced spirit infused with Justice, Truth, Honor, and Loyalty. More than once, he cited or leaned on the Code to remind the rest of the group of their duties to the denizens of Third Earth or to emphasize the vital need for them to remember, honor, and adhere to their culture and beliefs.

Loyalty was probably his most obvious trait. Though he wasn’t afraid to call Lion-O or any of others to the carpet when they were drifting off course, he always did so in a way that was respectful and/or deferential. He was, after all, not rebelling against his Lord or his friends but trying to make sure they corrected their course before it was too late. Despite his vulnerability to mind-control, in the end Tygra’s devotion to the Code and his friends always won out over the evil influences.

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This brings us back to Tygra’s powers and limits. Besides his bolo whip, Tygra possessed a hereditary trait called “mind power.” This ability played a clear role in only one episode, where Lion-O had to undergo a series of challenges to earn the title of Lord of the Thundercats. However, small hints dropped throughout the series suggest that this psychic talent was one he used in minor ways on an almost daily basis.

From a noble House renowned for its talent with “mind power,” Tygra often had to rest and prepare for days before using his psychic abilities for anything major, such as the trial where he tested Lion-O by casting various mental illusions. Unlike Cheetara, Tygra was well trained in the use of his gift. He therefore could not receive psychic images, warnings, etc. the way that she could. This may have made him susceptible to subtle psychic manipulation since, on three separate occasions.

Each time Tygra was lured into betraying the Thundercats and/or himself. In two of these cases, though, he managed to overcome the perpetrator’s influence and return to normal. Due to his heritage and calm, controlled demeanor, it only makes sense that he was taught from a young age how to defend against telepathic intrusion at the same time he learned how to use his power to protect himself. This implies that he learned to specifically guard against or block explicit telepathic messages or attacks, making it harder for him to realize when he was being presented with a less forceful psychic lure.

I say this last because, in an entirely different event, he showed he could recognize and fight overt psychic attacks. When Mumm-Ra used special bracelets to put the Cats under his mental command, Tygra was the last Cat standing, having ordered Snarf away to find and warn Lion-O. Eventually overpowered, Tygra was able to resist the bracelet and Mumm-Ra’s influence for a short period of time, something neither the Thunderkittens nor Cheetara had been able to do when they were “captured.”

To this blogger, that implies that his psychic talent made spontaneous use or abuse of it difficult in the extreme. Where Cheetara’s sixth sense could not be trained or used regularly, Tygra’s ability could, allowing him to block explicit or open telepathic messages without really thinking about it. It is also possible that while he needed to rest up and conserve energy to use his “mind power” for big events, using it for minor tricks in combat took little to no effort. In the first episode of the series, Tygra appeared to vanish – without using his brand new bolo whip to do so. It appears, therefore, that he could and would occasionally use his power to make others believe he had disappeared without resorting to his main weapon during skirmishes.

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Clearly, although he is not my favorite Thundercat, I have an immense respect for Tygra. Or at least, I respect his original depiction in the 1980s cartoon. I am also happy that the comic book writers married him off to Cheetara in their book series. The 2011 reboot’s giving us a good picture of their relationship and his origin story were well done additions to his character as well. (Except for the implication that he was the last tiger on Third Earth. Come on, people!)

As for the rest of the reboot’s presentation of Tygra, there were some glaring problems – starting with the small fact that they made him seasick. The original series never made it perfectly obvious, but it didn’t take a genius to come up with the theory that water was Tygra’s Achilles’ heel because it made him visible. Reducing this vulnerability to a queasy stomach was one of the ways they chipped away at his character in the reboot.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. While his status as Lion-O’s adopted brother was good, along with his more confident air, the resulting rivalry between them – especially where it concerned Cheetara – was absolutely unnecessary. It only got worse from there, as the writers used Tygra to make silly jokes that did nothing to make the stories they told any better than they already were. In fact, the debased treatment of this great Cat was a demerit for the final half of the 2011 reboot, in this blogger’s opinion. They wasted both the story lines they had set in motion and, worse, the rich estate they had received from the original Thundercats series.

In an effort to make him more interesting, the writers tore his most powerful characteristic – integrity – from him. They didn’t respect his honesty or his loyalty, though they tried to show the latter on occasion. Most of this was due to the fact that the reboot never referenced the Code of Thundera at all. It reduced the fantastic, chivalrous society which held its nobles and itself to a high set of standards and made it like the writers’ conception of the modern world, only with fantasy trappings.

This isn’t to bad mouth the good things they did do in Thundercats 2011. While I have my issues with the series, it did have its moments. And since it gave Tygra some great/good scenes while adding to his story, the writers deserve credit for doing their best. I only wish they had done better – especially where Tygra was concerned.

Hopefully, a future series (and no, I am not counting “Soycats” as a new Thundercats series), will treat the franchise and Tygra better. Only time will tell. Until then, I highly recommend watching the original series. The first half of the 2011 reboot is also watchable – though if you do it with a fan of the original series, be ready to hear some complaining. While this blogger dislikes the latter series, it does have some good material in it. You just have to have the patience to find it.

Until next time, readers, I leave you with a hearty, “ThunderThunder

Thundercats – HO!

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Spotlight: Thundercats – Cheetara

Earlier this year, I posted this Spotlight! article about a character from one of my favorite TV shows. The series in question was Thundercats, and the protagonist we were discussing was Panthro, who was never this blogger’s favorite character. He was much more impressive than I realized at the time, but he’s never been my preferred hero in that universe.

Today’s topic, however, was and remains my favorite character in the original series. This would be Cheetara, the only adult female Thundercat present for the first season of the show. Another adult female Cat, Pumyra, was added later on, but we will talk about her another time.

At first, I admired Cheetara mostly for her ability to run fast. She once hit 120 mph on a morning jog and, I believe, could run much faster in combat. Based on the cheetah, some time ago yours truly learned that this heroine’s personality was also centered on speed. Unlike Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver and other characters who can run at fantastic velocities, though, Cheetara was a composed, calm humanoid cat woman. She lacked the fiery temper and/or juvenile attitude modern audiences often associate with people who run fast.

She had a sense of humor, though. It showed either in dry, witty comments or a smiling, “Right in front of you, [boys]!”, but this did not change the fact that she was the most ‘adult’ member of the Thundercats. The villains had to work really hard to rile her up, as did her teammates. Cheetara didn’t like being insulted any more than anyone else, but when she knew that someone was trying to bait her with derogatory comments, she shrugged the bad behavior or nasty remarks off. The male Thundercats tended to take such things more seriously, something that occasionally puzzled their female friend. She would become righteously angry if taunted by an enemy or when she saw an injustice committed, but otherwise she was very hard to ruffle.

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This naturally meant that Cheetara rarely slipped into hysterics or dramatics. So if she grunted or stumbled with pain or surprise, the rest of the adult Cats converged on her faster than ants on a picnic. Cheetara didn’t have time or patience for theatrics, so any sign of distress from her automatically signaled an imminent problem of some kind. Thus she was the team’s barometer for trouble; if she reacted badly to something – even if it was something they couldn’t see – then the male Thundercats instinctively began looking for whatever problem was headed their way.

In addition to her amazing speed, Cheetara’s main weapon in battle was her retractable golden bo staff. Stored in a wrist guard on her left arm, the staff could be pulled free at any time and extend it to its full length easily. Combined with her incredible momentum, the staff enabled her to cause serious havoc in enemy ranks. Like the other Thundercats’ weapons, Cheetara’s staff was both magical and technological, meaning she could pull off some very neat tricks with it. She could lengthen the staff into a pole useful for vaulting over obstacles or springing up to high places. Or she could thrust the weapon to the earth, causing it to fire off several dozen “copies” of the staff that would fly out to strike and batter her opponents. It really was a nifty weapon, readers. 😉

Another power she had that was equally interesting, though sometimes it could be deadly. This power was Cheetara’s “sixth sense,” a limited form of telepathy that occasionally allowed her to feel and “see” when another Thundercat was in trouble. It was never shown enough to satisfy this viewer, but the writers made good use of in nonetheless.

Cheetara’s limited telepathy wasn’t something she could truly control or use in spectacular fashion for most of the show’s run. Generally, her latent psychic power flared up without her conscious will or effort. The one time Cheetara was able to use it as a genuine superpower came when the Lunataks – bizarre, evil creatures native to Third Earth – were using a device to scramble her psychic power in order to cover up one of their evil schemes. Overcoming their manipulation, Cheetara was able to free the captured Thundercats with a burst of telepathic power straight from her heart, mind, and body. It was the most stunning display of psychic strength she ever demonstrated.

With all this going for her, readers, it’s not hard to see why this blogger considered Cheetara her favorite character. Over time, her speed became less impressive than her personality, and to this day she has remained my preferred Thundercat. Given my unvarnished opinion of the 2011 remake for this series, though, it seems natural to assume that I didn’t like her appearance in the reboot. In actuality, with regard to Cheetara, the 2011 series gave me very little to complain about. In terms of personality, the new version was pretty close to the original conception of the character. What changes were made to her behavior were so minor that they’re not even worth consideration.

Nevertheless, I did have a few gripes with the 2011 presentation of the character, primarily with her outfit. In the original series, Cheetara’s suit covered everything but her right shoulder and arm. Now, that’s not exactly a smart fashion choice for a woman who intends to enter combat on a semi-regular basis, but the fact is that her original suit protected most of her body. Thundercats apparently needed little to no protective outerwear on their homeworld, Thundera, so it makes sense that Cheetara and the others would retain some measure of enhanced durability on Third Earth. This is the only reason (aside from the animators’/writers’ taste in fashion) that I can supply for Cheetara’s original, one-sleeved costume.

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Her new suit in the 2011 reboot, however, has no such excuse. This costume was a ratty brown two piece with an exposed midriff and no boots. It was obviously meant to make the 2011 Cheetara look “cool” and “edgy,” a truly stupid move on the part of the new show’s writers. Even at her highest speed, wearing a get-up like that put her vital areas in serious jeopardy during a fight. More to the point, the original Cheetara would not have been caught dead in such a tattered uniform. She was never an “edgy” character in the original series and she didn’t need to be in the new one!

My other gripe was that the new writers for the show disposed of Cheetara’s latent “sixth sense.” That power had led to several interesting, thought-provoking episodes in the first Thundercats series, and it could have spiraled off in dozens of amazing directions during the new show. Some might argue that the affinity the new Cheetara showed for using Jaga’s magic was an homage to her dormant telepathy, but her “magic” powers were only demonstrated once in the reboot. To my mind, that’s hardly compensation for the loss of such an interesting trait, readers.

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Despite these complaints, the 2011 series did improve on Cheetara’s portrayal in one regard. In the original series it was hinted that she and Tygra, a male Thundercat based on the tiger whom we will discuss later, were a couple. Other episodes, however, blurred the line and implied there was a mutual romantic interest between her and Lion-O, the ruler of the Thundercats. This could get confusing from time to time, especially since the series’ creators and subsequent merchandise made it plain Tygra and Cheetara were an item. Although I genuinely despise the books, the one good thing that the comics based on the series did was to show the two had married and had a couple of Kittens. It’s about the only thing I give the comics’ creators credit for doing.

Though the reboot writers led Lion-O to believe that Cheetara was romantically interested in him, they later demonstrated that she had an unequivocal romantic devotion to Tygra. Aside from the attempted love triangle, this was a really good move on their part. While the 2011 series didn’t treat the two as well as it should have, it at least made their mutual attraction clear, allowing them to show their love for one another and to act on it. For that, the new show deserves some points.

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Well, readers, this has been fun. It’s nice to get back into the rhythm of these Spotlight! posts. I’ve been doing so many Zoids ones that, added to my month-long hiatus, I almost forgot how to set the stage for these articles! Stay tuned for a new, non-Zoids focused post soon. It should be a rolling-ly good one.

Yes, that was a veiled hint about the following Spotlight! topic. 😉 And it is the only one you are going to get for now, since I have to start planning that post. ‘Til then –

“Thundercats – HO!”

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Book Review: The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah

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Guess who’s back…. (Cue the eerie music.)

Yep, your humble blogging host is once again at work providing you with entertainment, readers! August was a busy month, so forgive me if I seem a little out of practice here. It should clear up once I get rolling.…. 🙂

All right, today’s focus is The Vulcan Academy Murders, by Jean Lorrah. Before I describe this story, I have to tell you that one of the things readers of Star Trek fiction should keep in mind is that most of it is non-canon. Part of this is due to the fact that those who write novels for ST can never seem to get on board with each other to figure out where they can slip their stories into the official timeline. Some write stories set in the exact same time periods; others create stories set in wildly different decades or eras. It can be a little confusing to the uninitiated at first, and it can be irritating to the more experienced readers as time goes on. (I speak from experience. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing in these fictional quarters!)

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The other reason is that, unlike Star Wars, Star Trek’s timeline is rather skeletal. Chronologically, you have Star Trek: Enterprise, followed by the original series, followed by the original films I-VI, followed by The Next Generation. Then they’re all capped off with Star Trek: Voyager – or they were, last I checked. So while there’s a lot of room for stuff to happen in between these different stories, since no one has bothered to define the cut off limits or to explain how many years have elapsed, authors who are Star Trek fans just shoot darts at the timeline trying to hit it. L. A. Graf generally sticks the landing, as mentioned in this review here, but others tend to throw wide of the mark.

Jean Lorrah is one of these authors. While she is clearly a passionate Trek fan who greatly admires the Vulcans, her grasp of the timeline appears to be a bit… vague. At the very least, she didn’t give readers much of a hint as to when her story was set; all I can say for sure is that it takes place before we see Doctor M’Benga aboard the Enterprise. Her writing style also left something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong – she doesn’t write badly. But she could definitely have been clearer in her descriptions.

Okay, now we can discuss the story. The Vulcan Academy Murders starts out with the Enterprise battling a Klingon warship, which does not survive the fight. But before it is destroyed, it does inflict some serious damage on Kirk’s vessel, specifically the Auxiliary Control for the photon torpedoes. The two officers on duty there – Pavel Chekov and Carl Remington – manage to fire the kill shots before succumbing to a gas leak caused by a lucky hit from the Klingons.

Chekov is fortunate in that he comes through the battle ill but intact. Remington, on the other hand, is in serious trouble. Though McCoy manages to save his life, the boy’s voluntary nervous system is completely paralyzed. He can’t move – not even to open his eyes. McCoy fears that, even if Remington pulls through this initial battle, he may remain paralyzed and in bed for the rest of his life.

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Spock’s mother, Amanda

With no other way to confirm his mental health, Spock performs a mindmeld to see if Remington is still self-aware. Confirming that the boy is indeed conscious and able to reason, he explains that there might be a viable treatment which will save Remington’s life and sanity. Spock’s own mother is undergoing the same experimental cure on Vulcan; as it turns out, she was suffering from a degenerative disease that occurs in humans when they have lived in alien environments for long periods of time.

Up until now, there has been no means of curing the disease. But a human doctor on Vulcan who had this illness developed a treatment for himself that saved his life. It’s working on Amanda now, and it should be able to cure Remington, too. Since Enterprise is in need of repair, Spock invites Kirk and McCoy to come to Vulcan with him and Remington for “shore leave.”

Once there, they learn that a Vulcan woman is undergoing the same treatment after an regrettable accident with some machinery. Leaving all three patients in their force-field encapsulated regenerative tanks, Spock, Kirk, McCoy, Sarek, and the two doctors in charge of the project go out to dinner. One of these doctors is the human who invented the cure, Dr. Daniel Corrigan. The other is his Vulcan partner and friend, Sorel.

Dinner is a fine affair, but just as they’re about to pay the bill and head home, Sorel stiffens and clutches his chest. He can sense that his wife, T’Zan, is in danger of death. Rushing back to the Vulcan Academy, despite their best efforts the guys are not able to save Sorel’s wife. She dies in the medical room.

Though Corrigan immediately blames himself for this, Kirk openly suspects foul play. Over the next few days, he begins investigating the matter, believing that someone wants to sabotage the cure. When Remington dies as well and a fire is set in the Academy, Kirk’s suspicion that a murderer is loose becomes the only logical explaination for the cascading disasters….

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…And that’s all the spoilers you’re going to get, folks! 😉 My lips are now sealed – though I will add that, when researching this book to see if it was something I would enjoy, one of the reviews I read was written by a woman who said she had figured out the villain by page fifty. This blogger was hoping to beat that record when she started reading, and she did. I fingered the killer on page 49 and, despite a period of doubt, was proved right by the end. Haha! 😉

While I liked The Vulcan Academy Murders, as I said above, I did have a few problems with it. The writing style isn’t my favorite, and though it became tolerable after awhile, it still grated on my nerves from time to time. I must say that the method by which the author described Vulcan telepathy and how they form romantic, psychic connections was done well. It was entirely plausible and believable.

But I really didn’t like the way she handled Kirk. In some scenes he was fine, but in others Lorrah seemed to be actively dumbing him down. That was annoying; I like Kirk. He’s the best of Star Trek’s captains, and anyone who disrespects him in a major way (such as by poor writing) gets on my bad side. So long as he is portrayed well by an actor or a writer, I’m happy. But if the writers make him less than he is, as Lorrah did on a couple of occasions here, that leads me to give the book an automatic demerit.

Despite these objections, The Vulcan Academy Murders is a good story. If ST fiction isn’t your thing, or if my minor problems with this tale have convinced you that you would not enjoy the story, then you will probably want to avoid the book. But if you like Star Trek, a good mystery, and want to see Kirk look somewhat stupid, then this book might appeal to you.

Until next time, readers: “Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning!”

Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Irvine

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Here we are in the desert sands of Zi once more, readers! This will be the last Zoids post I do for a while; I plan on writing at least a couple more before the year is out, since I want to make good on my promise from this review of Chaotic Century. The main thing is that the ball is rolling on this project, and that means I should be able to keep it moving forward.

So without further ado, let’s turn to today’s Spotlight! Here we focus on the mercenary Irvine, whom we first meet when Van and Fiona become lost in a sandstorm while searching for supplies. Seconds after coming face-to-face with the Irvine’s Command Wolf, Fiona and Van take an automatic step back out of surprise.

For Fiona, this is a bad move, since she ends up in a quicksand whirlpool and is nearly sucked under the dunes. Without a moment’s hesitation, Irvine pops the canopy on his Wolf and fires out a cable which he holds anchored, allowing Fiona to climb to safety. He then makes dinner for the two as night falls, listening to Van’s open, friendly prattle but saying little about himself in return.

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Later, we find that Irvine wants to acquire an organoid so he can increase his fighting ability and strength. Setting his sights on Zeke, his first attempt at capturing Van’s friend ends in a two-on-one draw; this forces Irvine to retreat to fight another day. In the next two episodes he reappears, first as an unlikely (and disagreeable) ally in “The Protectors,” then again as a potential antagonist who becomes a fellow fighter in “Sleeper Trap.” He finally joins Van, Fiona, and Moonbay as a permanent member of the cast in the eighth episode.

While it appears that it is circumstances alone force Irvine into the position of collaborator for Van, these are not the only reason why he begins traveling with the boy. Despite his reluctance to admit it, he likes the kid. This is made clearest by his early kindess to Van and Fiona. It is totally unnecessary, after all; Irvine didn’t need to help them when he ran into them in the sandstorm. But he chose to do so, showing that he is not a villain at heart.

In terms of personality, Irvine begins the series as the voice of experience and temperance in battle. A sniper and an expert in all forms of stealth, he prefers saving his energy and using sleight-of-hand maneuvers to defeat the many enemies who go after him and his friends. Since he has hired himself out as an expendable target for some time, Irvine is well aware of what it takes to survive, and he does his best to drive this point home to Van and the others during the early installments of the series. His attitude during this time is often reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s “spaghetti Western” characters; Irvine is just too cool to blow his lid or charge off half-cocked.

But that’s in the first part of the series. From about the middle of season one onward, Irvine starts to show some of the traits viewers expect out of Star Wars’ Han Solo. In the second season these qualities become more pronounced, all but smothering his resemblance to Clint Eastwood. During the second season Irvine will rush into battle recklessly or cockily, something he often chided Van for at the beginning of the show.

This change in attitude could be due to the fact that Van quickly surpasses Irvine in skill, but it is hard to say for sure. It is possible that, once the boy no longer needs his enthusiasm checked, Irvine feels better about giving his own “wild side” more rein. This tends to cost him, as seen when Irvine banks on being faster than Raven’s new zoid which is large, heavy, and bulky. As he learns too late, this does not limit Raven’s speed at all. During the resulting fight, Irvine is injured badly while his Command Wolf is physically killed.

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If he had held back this defeat might have been prevented, though it is likely that the Wolf would have been seized and destroyed regardless. Either way, Irvine’s foolhardy rush at Raven shows that he does have a tendency to leap before he looks, just as Han does. It seems he kept this facet of his personality under better control when he was responsible for protecting and giving preliminary combat training to Van. Upon the other’s graduation to full-fledged pilot, however, he seems to have felt he could relax his own guard and show off a bit more than was necessary – or safe – for him.

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This leads us, neatly enough, into a discussion of his piloting skills. Clearly, when they first meet, Irvine is Van’s superior in combat, meaning he can defeat the boy easily. As time passes and the boy’s skill grows, though, he begins to outshine Irvine during the battles where they fight together against a common foe. While the mercenary’s piloting abilities continue to develop as the series progresses, they never again exceed his friend’s level of prowess. A born sharpshooter, Irvine’s talents are accented and sharpened when he becomes the pilot and owner of the Empire’s prototype Lightning Saix. Combining his accuracy with the zoid’s speed gives him a distinct advantage in combat that he does not hesitate to use.

In terms of his relationships within the series, Irvine quickly becomes attached to Van in an older brotherly fashion. Though he states at first that he is only traveling with the boy and his friends in order to steal Zeke, this is a thinly veiled excuse he uses to keep the others from pestering him. The simple fact is that Van’s innate goodness reawakens Irvine’s own desire to be the best person he can become. Eventually, Irvine drops all pretense of staying on just to find an opportunity to take Zeke. He stays because he knows that Van “is a pretty good kid” who is going to, somehow, someway, make a difference in the world. And that’s an adventure the older man doesn’t want to miss out on.

Now, you may remember that in my post about Fiona that there was some mention of nostalgia being a factor in Irvine’s relationship with her. This is because, as revealed in the episode “Run, Wolf!” that he is not an only child. He had a younger sister named Helena, but she died of a fever when they were both young. “Run, Wolf!” shows that Irvine never really got over this loss. It also hints that losing his sister may have been one of the driving factors in his decision to become a zoid pilot: he wanted to become stronger in order to prevent as many such losses in the future as it is humanly possible to do.

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This leads me to the conclusion that Irvine’s near-instant attachment to Fiona comes from the fact that she reminds him, to some degree, of his baby sister. His protective, caring, and gentle attitude toward her, along with his unwillingness to hurt her or see her be hurt (even when he is playing the bad guy) implies this is true. Their relationship does not change when Fiona becomes an adult. Although he may raise his voice when speaking to her, Irvine never says or does anything which could be seen as the slightest bit harmful to Fiona.

Another aspect of their relationship is shown here as well; when Fiona reaches adulthood in the second half of Century, she demonstrates that she still possesses a certain power over the mercenary. This is made blatantly clear in “The Black Lightning,” when Fiona begs Irvine to let another character attempt to save his Command Wolf. Though he clenches his fist in frustration, pain, and anger, Irvine does not – he will not – allow himselt threaten or hurt Fiona. She still knows exactly which buttons to push to make him listen to reason and to her, but she does not over-rely on this ability. Neither, it should be noted, does she abuse her power over him, something she could definitely accomplish if she chose to try it.

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Finally, we come to Irvine’s relationship with Moonbay. Having met her prior to the beginning of Chaotic Century, it is hinted that the two had a fairly memorable encounter. What it was is anyone’s guess, though, since the two only make brief allusions to this meeting in “Sleeper Trap.” After this show, it is never mentioned again. But while the two do a regular amount of good-natured, half-serious flirting during the series, I think it unlikely their first meeting was of a romantic nature.

This goes for their relationship overall; the writers for the show leave the question of mutual attraction between Irvine and Moonbay openended from beginning to end. Whether they were, are, or will become a couple is a question that is never answered. It is up to the individual viewer to decide, at the end of the series, whether they go their separate ways or tie the knot and stay together for the rest of their lives. (Because I am a romantic sap, I subscribe to the latter theory – although I could imagine them not marrying. That image is disappointing, though, so I don’t dwell on it much.)

While the two butt heads on occasion, for the most part they each act as Van and Fiona’s surrogate parents for the first half of the series. They also show a good bit of concern for each other and are able to talk candidly about their fears for/pride in the two kids they take on as pupils or surrogate children. Throughout the show they remain completely honest and upfront with one another – even when saying something the other does not want to hear.

No description of Irvine’s character would be comprehensive if it did not mention how he felt about zoids. Up until the episode “Deploy the ZG!”, Irvine seems to consider most zoids as nothing more than tools or weapons of war. The possible exception during this period might be his Command Wolf; as I said before (somewhere), the relationship between a pilot and his zoid is reminiscent of the bond between a cowboy and his horse. Where everyone else sees just another mechanical animal/stallion, the pilot/cowboy sees his best friend.

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This means that Irvine’s attitude toward zoids in general and his Command Wolf in particular undergoes a drastic change in “Deploy the ZG!”. Having snuck into the Republican base at Mount Osa in order to steal some equipment to do battle with Raven, Irvine discovers the base’s last, best weapon against the Imperial Army. This is a Gojulas – the “ZG” from the title – which the soldiers within Mt. Osa managed to cobble together in a last ditch effort to prevent the Imperials from taking over their capital city.

Now, the Republic did have other Gojulases in their arsenal. But since these zoids are fearsome, hard-to-overcome tanks, it appears that most were kept in the Republic’s capital as the ultimate, final means of defense for the Republic’s citizens. There were very few Gojulases on the front lines of the war at the beginning of the series.

So Irvine, who had never seen a Gojulas up close and personal, was awestruck when he stumbled on the one stored in the Mt. Osa base. That is where Colonel Kruger (more about him another day – I promise!) found Irvine and scolded him for losing his last battle with Raven. Immediately, the younger mercenary rounded on the man, but Kruger managed to calm him down by comparing his current attitude with the look of awe and excitement he had shown when he “first laid eyes on the Gojulas.” Kruger went on to give a memorable speech about zoids, which I have paraphrased and reused in my previous posts on this series because it explains the wonder of these mechanical animals so well.

Although his meeting with Kruger was brief, Irvine clearly took the old man’s words to heart, and revered him as a valuable teacher and fighter in later episodes. From “Deploy the ZG!” onward, the mercenary never again considers zoids to be mere machines. Instead he learns to see them the way that Van does. And after this episode, Irvine became as protective of his Command Wolf and his Lightning Saix as Han was of the Millennium Falcon.

If you get the chance, check out Irvine and the rest of the gang by either picking up the series on DVD through Amazon, or swing by www.watchcartoonsonline.com to learn all about zoids yourselves, because now I must keep my promise and “see you on the battlefield” another day.

Until then, “Catch ya later!” 😉

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Dark/Red Horn

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Rosso and his Red Horn

And we are back with another post about a zoid, readers! Technically, we will be discussing two different “mechanical combat units” today. They are both the same “species” and probably count as the same zoid, just with different color schemes. Visually, that appears to be the only substantial distinction between them.

Today’s subjects are the Styraccosaurus-type Dark Horns and Red Horns. Used by the Imperial Army, Dark Horns and Red Horns are the zoids piloted by anyone holding the rank of Lieutenant on up. They are not infantry creatures; you get to use them only when you move up in the ranks.

The cockpits for both zoids are in their heads, under those glowing green eyes. They can be outfitted with almost any type of arsenal, from machine guns to missile launchers to the trademark three-barrel cannon on their backs. They also have smaller guns attached to their chins, shoulders, and hips, along with radar equipment.

View the video below to see them in action, readers:

While not exactly fixed weapons, Dark Horns and Red Horns weigh a lot and are therefore relatively slow when compared to other zoids. The fact that they are so low to the ground doesn’t help, either. Nevertheless, Harry Champ from Zoids: New Century Zero was able to reduce his Dark Horn’s turning radius and increase its speed with boosters he had installed in the zoid’s hips. But those were eventually fried because he over relied on them during his battle with the Blitz Team. That’s really not surprising, since the guy had more money than brains and generally couldn’t find his way in out of the rain unless you pointed him in the right direction.

But it did prove that the Dark Horn and the Red Horn can have their speed increased. Most pilots do not go in for such drastic modifications, probably because they can’t afford them. We never saw this device used by the Imperial Army, which means the boosters either were not available in this time period on Zi, or they were too expensive to be bought and installed en masse. Either explanation works.

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The only time I ever saw a Dark Horn piloted well was in Chaotic Century. In the episode “Raven,” Van’s old nemesis gets his hands on a Dark Horn and uses it effectively against our hero and his friend, a Lieutenant in the Imperial Army (more about him later). Raven was able to catch a Dibison’s chin on the Dark Horn’s nose horn and, using the other zoid’s momentum and weight, roll it onto its side. He was also able to make the Dark Horn leap over Van’s Blade Liger while the other was running toward him. So the Dark Horn it capable of quite a lot. Most pilots, however, are utterly incapable of getting such amazing results from it.

We didn’t see too many Imperial Red Horns during Chaotic Century’s run. The one I remember best is the Red Horn Rosso piloted before upgrading to an Iron Kong. Rosso achieved his full potential as a pilot in a Storm Sworder, although he piloted his Iron Kong with special skill. In contrast to that, his ability with the Red Horn is nothing to write home about….

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…Except for the fact that it hints at his growing talent. While we don’t see Rosso do much more than shoot and charge in his Red Horn, it is never implied that he is a lightweight in combat. Looking at the picture of him below, you would think that was obvious; Rosso is not a shrimp by any stretch of the imagination. But that doesn’t mean he was, is, or will be a good pilot. “Size matters not” in the cockpit of a zoid; as long as you can reach the controls and work the pedals, you can pilot the zoid you are sitting in.

Rosso’s Red Horn had thick armor, especially on its nose. He was able to deflect the twin shots from a Shield Liger’s back cannon with it. The maneuver didn’t require him to do anything but turn the zoid’s head, and it didn’t so much as scratch the Red Horn’s paint. Under his control, the Red Horn was also able to break through a Shield Liger’s shield with a blow from its nose horn. After Raven, he is the only pilot I could point to as being exemplary in the command of such a “mechanical combat unit.”

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The last time I can recall hearing about a Red Horn was in Zoids: Fuzors. It appeared briefly during an arena battle, and its nose horn had been modified to act like Liger Zero’s Strike Laser Claw Attack. When activated, the forward part of the nose horn would glow yellow, charged with energy so it could slice through an enemy zoid’s armor. It seems like a rather ridiculous modification to me; the Red Horn’s and Dark Horn’s best assets have always been in the tip of the nose horn in my opinion. Having the front part of the horn slice through an enemy isn’t overkill so much as it is… Stupid.

All in all, Dark Horns and Red Horns were pretty effective tanks. Slow though they were, they could deliver in terms of fire and ramming power. Again, predator-style zoids are more my thing, but I don’t recall thinking Dark Horns and Red Horns were silly “mechanical combat units” to take into combat. They could be deadly when used properly, and their arsenal was never anything to scoff at, readers.

Well, that’s it for now. I have one more Zoids post coming up, and then we will all take a break before I do any more. You won’t see those zoids posts for a while, but they will be comin’ round the mountain, don’t you worry.

Catch ya later!

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Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Fiona Elisi Linnet

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Yep, here is another Spotlight! post about a character from Zoids: Chaotic Century, readers! If I seem to be on a Zoids kick at the moment, the fact is that I want to get as many of my promised character and zoids posts done this year as possible. I’ve been falling behind, so there is some catch up to be done here. That begins today with this post, which focuses on Fiona Elisi Linnet, heroine of Zoids: Chaotic Century and love interest for its hero, Van Flyheight.

Fiona appears at the end of the first episode of Chaotic Century, “The Boy From Planet Zi.” Van finds her in the same room where he discovers Zeke. Thinking her pod contains another zoid, he is somewhat startled to find there is a blonde girl roughly his own age inside instead. Hilarity ensues as he brings her back to his home, the Wind Colony, in his new Shield Liger.

It quickly becomes apparent to both Van and the audience that this girl has amnesia – a very severe case of it. She doesn’t understand several common turns of phrase which Van uses, and she apparently has no idea what a name is, since she appears unable to identify herself every time he asks for her name. It also appears that she thought Van meant her instead of him, since he tells her at one point, “Watch my lips – it’s Van.

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Finally, she blurts out “Fiona” in response to his renewed request for her name, then follows it up with “Van” as she prepares to ask him another question. For a moment, our hero is almost apoplectic: “Look, I know my name is Van –”

Then it dawns on him that she said “Fiona” first, and he asks if that is her name.

“Who’s Fiona?” she asks, and Van states that she said the name first. “Really?” she says, sounding perfectly innocent and curious. “Does that mean I’m called Fiona?”

For the first five episodes, this is how their relationship goes, with Fiona asking questions that have answers which are blatantly obvious to everyone but her. It is funny but also sad – and, as we see later, dangerous. Because Fiona knows so little, her naïveté is extreme. At one point, she goes to free her captive friends, declaring her purpose loudly as she trots past one of the bandits holding them prisoner. Yes, she was that naïve. (Oh, by the way, you are going to love what she does with salt, readers. 😉 )

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Over time, Fiona loses this blithe innocence, though she remains decidedly pure in mind and soul. She also develops an affinity for computers and science (at least, all the sciences relating to the maintenance and well-being of zoids). It becomes apparent early on that she and Zeke share some kind of connection; you may have noticed that Fiona’s eyes are not a normal color. They are the same fuschia as Zeke’s, which is an early implication that she has a special bond with the organoid.

In fact, Fiona is not human, but a member of a near-human species native to Zi that vanished long ago. Known as Ancient Zoidians, Fiona’s people were the ones who developed/built the zoids everyone on the planet uses. But Fiona does not remember this until halfway through the first season of the show. Even then, she doesn’t recall enough of her past to figure this out herself. It is a friend of hers who points out that she seems to fit the descriptions of these early denizens of Zi.

If Van is the main selling point of the series, then Fiona is a close second. While she rarely takes the controls of a zoid and never goes into combat unless she is acting as Van’s copilot, she does have mettle and will fight – albeit in a manner that is “girly” – when she is threatened. To be honest, I would say that fighting was not her greatest strength anyway. Viewers don’t remember Fiona because she kicks butt; we remember her for her generosity, kindness, purity, and goodness.

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When it comes to her relationships in the show, Fiona’s innocence is what has the biggest effect on people. Where Van spurs others to be good with his determination and resolve to do what is right, Fiona brings out the gentleness and kindness in others with her innocence. Like Zeke, she is possessed of an inherent sincerity that makes good people automatically react to her with kindness. Where others might have mistreated her in order to “break her in” to the “real world,” Van and his friends instead work to protect her. And this is despite the fact that her initial simplicity often annoys them or makes their lives more difficult.

Her relationship with Zeke shows that she considers the organoid something of a twin brother, but in a different way than Van regards him. Fiona and Zeke are psychically tied together by a special rapport native to their two species, and so their personalities are very similar. The differences between them are mild, and mostly boil down to the fact that Zeke is more willing to enter combat – solo or otherwise – than Fiona is. When they combine their extrasensory abilities, the two can increase not only their own powers, but Van’s and his zoid’s as well.

The proof that Fiona’s greatest power is her innocence actually shows first in the episode “Memory,” where the two meet the mercenary Irvine. While lost in a sandstorm with Van, she accidently steps into a whirlpool of quicksand that nearly swallows her up. Having appeared out of the storm as if by magic, Irvine acts swiftly to save Fiona from being dragged under the sand. However, this kindness on his part appears to be temporary when he later holds her hostage in the same episode, thinking doing so will convince Van to hand Zeke over to him. Zeke dispels this illusion fairly quickly.

Despite these less than noble actions on his part, it is shown that Irvine is not immune to Fiona’s purity. When she puts him on the spot in the following show – “The Protectors” – Irvine has to admit that not only does he not dislike her and Van, he actually has a soft spot for them.

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I have to say, her friendship with Irvine was one of the best things in the series. It becomes obvious from “The Protectors” onward that she has the cool mercenary wrapped around her little finger. Irvine shows by small gestures and a few words that he really cares about Fiona. While there may be a bit of nostalgia on his end in this relationship (more on that in his post), it is made clear that he would throw himself in harm’s way without a second thought if Fiona were ever put in serious danger. In fact, from something I read about the manga for Chaotic Century, when a female bandit gave a veiled threat to Fiona, Irvine pulled his gun on her and stated she would be dead if she tried it. If that isn’t a sign of intense devotion to another person – and in a non-romantic relationship at that – then I do not know what is.

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Moonbay and Fiona’s friendship is a mixture of mother/daughter closeness and sisterly camaraderie. For the first dozen episodes, Fiona mostly follows Moonbay’s lead, as the savvy woman takes her under her wing. When not copiloting with Van, Fiona can often be seen as Moonbay’s shadow. She trails after her around the colonies and cities they visit, watches her repair the zoids, or helps her make dinner/break camp.

Fiona intervenes in Moonbay’s business dealings even less than Van does; she only shows anger at the older woman’s more mercenary tendencies once that I can recall. And while it may look like Moonbay treats Fiona as a pet or a servant early on, the reality is far different. She genuinely cares for the younger girl and wants to protect her. If anything, this may be the reason why Van and Irvine often leave her in Moonbay’s care; they can protect Fiona from outside threats, but they can’t teach her what it means to be a woman. Moonbay can, and she settles into the role of mother/older sister for Fiona with admirable ease.

It is also likely that her ability to repair/maintain zoids is what fostered Fiona’s own aptitude in these areas. Although she had another mentor in this field later on, following Moonbay around as she saw to the boys’ zoids probably reignited Fiona’s latent capabilities in mending or upgrading the living machines. It is one of the talents Moonbay is most pleased to see Fiona exercising later on in the series.

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Now we come to the most important relationship Fiona has in Chaotic Century. It is evident almost from the beginning of the series that she quickly comes to care for Van as more than a friend. She worries about him when she must stand aside to watch him fight, often murmuring his name during a confrontation or shouting it when she sees him get hurt. Where this would seem to be “softness” in a heroine in other stories, it is befitting of Fiona, who is gentleness itself.

More to the point, despite preferring to stay out of zoid combat when she is alone, Fiona shows no qualms about “flying RIO” with Van in his Ligers. Considering the danger to him in the cockpit, it takes nerve to sit behind him when he is in a battle. This shows that Fiona is not a coward or afraid of conflict; on her own, however, she does not seem to feel she has the ability to bring out the full potential of a zoid in combat. She would rather watch Van’s back during a battle than fight solo in her own zoid.

As stated in the post about Van, he and Fiona develop a psychic tie during the series. Fiona obviously initiated this link, since she is telepathic/empathetic. But it seems likely that, if Van hadn’t been open to such a connection, their bond would never have formed at all.

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This tie between the two is only activated in a noticeable manner when Fiona is specifically calling to Van or searching for him. On his own, Van cannot sense her as she can sense him, or call to her in a directly telepathic manner. In addition, if Van is hurt and lost somewhere far away from Fiona, she cannot pinpoint his location with perfect accuracy. Not until she gets closer to his position, at least. The less distance there is between them, the better her ability to locate him, generally speaking.

Should a film company get their hands on the rights to Zoids: Chaotic Century, I can see them trying to make Fiona more of a kick butt superwoman than a “stand and wait” heroine. I can also see almost any actress cast in her role demanding this change, too. This would be more of a tragedy than any changes made to Van’s personality, readers; Fiona is not strong because she can fight. She is strong in her innocence and the power it gives her to bring forth the goodness in others.

Having seen other female characters in following Zoids series that are more “kick butt” than “stand and wait” heroines, I can say with all honesty that I prefer Fiona to Rei Mii, Danbul, Lena Toros, and even Naomi Fluegel. Naomi was a pretty good combat pilot – not as good as Genesis’ Danbul or Rei Mii – but she wasn’t bad either. In the end, though, Fiona is superior to all of them because of her innate goodness and purity. She wins the argument hands down and is the unchallenged queen of Zoids heroines.

If any filmmakers change Fiona Elisi Linnet to make her more of a Femi Nazi character, I will be livid. You will never get me into a theater to watch a Zoids film (series) which makes Fiona less than the heroine she is in the anime, readers. So if the rights to Chaotic Century are in the hands of Hollywood (or its Japanese equivalent), watch your step, people. There is nothing more worrisome in your line of work than angry fans.

Well, that concludes this character post, readers. If you want to see Fiona Elisi Linnet and Van Flyheight in action, check out Zoids: Chaotic Century either at www.watchcartoonsonline.com (I finally have a free web address to give you!), or order the DVDs on Amazon.

See you on the battlefield!

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Guysack

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Well, here we are on Zi again, readers! Today’s subject is a Republican zoid, the Guysack. Before we go further, you pronounce it guy-zak, not guy-sack. I know, it is not pronounced the way it is spelled. If we were to list all the words that are pronounced in a different way than they are spelled, however, we would be here all day.

Okay, so the Guysack is obviously a scorpion-type zoid. Used by the Helic Republic’s infantry pilots, the Guysack’s cockpit is in its head. Most of these cockpits have orange canopies, but I did see one with an emerald canopy. Their traditional coloring is a sort of sandy brown, which lets these zoids blend in with the desert.

These are zoids which can burrow under and crawl through the sand dunes of Zi. Speedy and lightweight, every Guysack I have ever seen comes equipped with a gun in the end of its tail, where a real scorpion’s poisonous stinger is hidden. This is the zoid’s main weapon, but it can be outfitted with other armaments. Stinger, a mercenary character whom we will discuss in detail later on, owned a modified Guysack which came with extra guns on the tail and missile pods on the main body. I believe there might also have been some mini-guns attached near the zoid’s pincers. Despite this added ordinance, however, Stinger’s Guysack was faster than most of its brethren due to even more modifications he had made to it.

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Now those pincers in the zoid’s “mouth” really aren’t useful for combat, but the Guysack’s calws are not to be messed with if you can help it. They are wicked sharp and can do quite a bit of damage, something Zeke can tell you better than anyone. I never saw the Guysack’s claws used as much as they could have been, but I am fairly sure that they can cause a reasonable amount of damage to other zoids.

Most of the time we saw Guysacks in Chaotic Century, they were used as Sleeper Zoids – or “Sleepers” for short. Sleepers are zoids run by computers which use preprogrammed tactics to decimate enemy units. They have a certain amount of cunning when they are set loose, being able to lure enemies into hard-to-escape areas where they are easily surrounded and overwhelmed by the Sleepers’ (usually superior) numbers and firepower.

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Stinger’s red Guysack

While Sleepers do not have enough smarts to outthink a zoid with a pilot, the fact that there are a lot of them often makes up for their lack of intelligence. Also, Sleepers do not necessarily differentiate between transporters and enemy units. Van, Fiona, Moonbay, Zeke, and Irvine were all caught in a “Sleeper Trap” in the fifth episode of Chaotic Century, primarily because the Guysacks sensed the ammunition Moonbay was carrying had been made by the Guylos Empire. Because of that, their programming activated and they chased the gang into the ruins where they were based.

You can see how the heroes escaped this trap when you watch the episode, readers. Suffice it to say, Guysacks were not much more than cannon fodder throughout Chaotic Century. Even when they were piloted by characters that played important parts in certain episodes, they did not stick around long. Van stole Stinger’s Guysack and piloted it well, but his skill wasn’t enough to keep the mercenary from blowing it apart.

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Bole was not an impressive Guysack pilot. He somehow wrangled and got control of a wild blue Guysack before the first episode of the series begins, but he never does more than shoot or ram with it. Aside from beating up Zeke, he did not show any particular talent for piloting which makes the Guysack stand out.

However, none of this makes the Guysack a weak zoid. And while it was most often shifted to Sleeper or infantry duty, we did see it put to other uses. The Guysack could be modified to serve as a construction/excavation vehicle; the claws could be removed and replaced with a scoop for digging or moving rock and dirt. It was also possible to swap the claws for individual metal detectors/sonars and other equipment meant to scan below the surface.

All in all, I would say the Guysack was a largely underutilized zoid. Despite the poor management of the zoid in this series, I have a certain respect for this “mechanical combat unit” and wouldn’t mind using one in battle. I would certainly prefer the four-legged predator style zoids, but the Guysack has a lot to recommend it. It is not a zoid I would disrespect or refuse to pilot.

To see more of the Guysack, check out Zoids: Chaotic Century at your earliest opportunity, readers. While the Guysack appeared in Fuzors (with green armor), from what I remember, Chaotic Century will be the show where you will see it in action most often.

See you on the battlefield!

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