Tag Archives: Japanese Anime

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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Spotlight – Zoids: Chaotic Century – Van Flyheight

Last year I promised that I would begin doing Spotlight! posts about the characters from my favorite Zoids series, along with articles about the “mechanical combat units” themselves. Today, I am making good on that promise; here we will discuss the hero of Zoids: Chaotic Century – Van Flyheight.

Van is fourteen at the start of the TV series (the translators in Canada mistakenly have another character in the show say he is seventeen). Raised in the farming town of Wind Colony, Van’s father died five years before the series begins. Imperial soldiers came to the Republican colony when Major Dan Flyheight and a group of Republican soldiers were nearby. The commander of the Imperial division threatened to burn the village to the ground, but Dan Flyheight and his white Command Wolf, Zeke, took the entire unit down single-handedly.

So at the beginning of the show, Van is being raised by his older sister, Maria, in the Wind Colony. Every chance he gets, he sneaks away from her to explore the ruins of nearby military bases. Judging by their appearance, these bases long predate the current war in the show. Van does this to seek adventure and scrounge for scraps of salvage, despite his sister’s constant warnings that this is dangerous – not to mention her insistence that he do his chores.

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Van Flyheight

But come on, what fourteen year old boy who wants to be the greatest zoid pilot ever is going to listen when his big sister tells him to do boring chores? As the village priest tells her, “You can’t stop the boy from wanting to find a zoid of his own.” And that means she cannot stop him from running off to the desert.

Open, energetic, and easily excited (or offended), Van once again escapes his sister to go exploring in the first episode of Chaotic Century: “The Boy From Planet Zi”. But he gets more than he bargained for when a bandit named Bole begins chasing him in a newly acquired blue Guysack (scorpion-type Republican zoid – more on that another day).

Van escapes Bole by the skin of his teeth, hiding in the ruins. Then Bole’s compatriots/babysitters, Bianco and Nero, come to dig their young charge out of the rubble. Before they do that, they shoot at the ruins to trap Van inside so he cannot go running off to tell the villagers he saw them. That would bring the Republican Army down on the Desert Alca Valino Gang, and none of them want official trouble.

Inside the ruins, Van notices a heretofore hidden door which is now askew. He goes down the path to find a secret room with two green stasis pods inside. Accidentally opening the first, he encounters and befriends Zeke.

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Van Flyheight and his organoid, Zeke

More information about their first meeting can be found here and here, readers, if you want to start watching the series. Even all these years later, I absolutely love this show, and Van is a big reason why.

Despite the fact that he starts out reckless, hotheaded, and callow, Van quickly wins a viewer’s affection with his willingness to pick himself up and dust himself off. His kind, selfless nature make up for his naïveté and impulsive behavior. Over time he matures into a stronger boy, eventually becoming a great young man you still want to cheer on.

While it seems like mere luck that Van lives long enough to become the “greatest zoid pilot ever,” there is actually a lot of raw talent backing him up. Van has the potential to be a great pilot right from the start; he is perceptive, inventive, and quick-thinking. All he needs to learn at the beginning of his career as a pilot is how to put that together with his fighting skills instead of charging blindly into a battle.

It must be said that no one viewing the show would love zoids very well without Van Flyheight. A boy “with a strong fascination with zoids,” Van loves the mechanical animals almost as much as he loves those who are related to him or who are his friends. The entire reason he and Raven, his archnemesis through most of the show’s run, begin their feud is because the latter takes pleasure in brutally destroying zoids.

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Raven vs. Van Flyheight

And when I say brutal, readers, I mean brutal. Van rightly calls Raven’s attacks evil, but we would not really notice how evil they were if not for our hero’s instinctive reaction to Raven’s fighting style. This brings another characteristic of his to light; much like Captain America/Steve Rogers, Van has a heightened sense of right and wrong. He may not be able to explain how he knows the difference between good and evil on occasion, but when he sees some wrong being committed – no matter how small it may be – he instantly recognizes it and acts to correct the transgression.

Of course, some will ask how I can say this, given Van’s penchant for sneaking away from his sister and disobeying her. First, it is important to remember that I did not say Van was a saint. I said he was good – about as good as Captain America, though he may be a few bars lower on the scale. Besides, avoiding chores does not make anyone a criminal-in-training; it certainly seems that Van was obedient most of the time. And who knows where we would be if he had not snuck out to play in the desert every once in a while? Zi would be worse off if he had stayed home, I can assure you!

This exemplary standard of goodness in Van has a profound effect on those he meets. They are impressed, either immediately or over time, by his innate goodness, his determination, and his no-quit attitude. We see this most in the first adult friends he makes outside Wind Colony: Irvine and Moonbay.

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Irvine

Irvine and Van meet in the episode “Memory.” A wandering mercenary who fights or “protects” for money, he is in the area when Van and Fiona get lost in a sandstorm. On the hunt for an organoid to increase his power and strength, Irvine decides to try and steal Zeke from Van. You would think this would make them enemies and, for a while, they certainly are not friends.

But Irvine is not yet so far down the Dark Path that he is immune to Van’s inborn decency. Before you know it, he is traveling along with Van, Zeke, Fiona, and Moonbay. Though he says several times he is just waiting to find an opportunity to steal Zeke, it quickly becomes apparent this is no truer than Han’s statement in A New Hope when he says he is only interested in the money. Van’s goodness awakens and enhances Irvine’s, bringing it to the fore and making him a better person. The two eventually become brothers – not just in the sense of being fellow pilots of high skill, but in the fact that they watch out for, care about, and protect each other.

Moonbay fills the role of mother for Van in the beginning, a little like Hera Syndulla does for the crew in Star Wars Rebels. But where Hera is calm, cool, and very hard to ruffle, Moonbay can and will raise her voice in fury when someone ticks her off. Like Irvine, she has also become jaded by “real life” and she has a mercenary streak. More than once we see her wheeling and dealing on the side to earn more money than others think she needs. Van only directly confronts her once during one of these deals when she almost pulls a genuine swindle, telling her that he “can’t explain it using big fancy words but… [he] sure know[s] the difference between right and wrong!”

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Moonbay

In reality, Moonbay is not much of a mercenary. She just loves traveling, which means that she needs enough money to support herself – not to mention the rest of the gang while they are roving along with her. As a disciplinarian, she is able to get more and better results out of Van than Maria for the simple reason that she is not his older sister. She treats him like the kid he is and tells him off when he deserves it – sometimes with a punch, if she feels he has earned one. At the same time, Van’s goodness keeps Moonbay honest and makes her strive to be better, even if she won’t necessarily admit that out loud.

Zeke remains Van’s best friend and fellow combatant throughout the series. The two are devoted to each other, almost like twin brothers (as opposed to the older brother/younger brother relationship Van and Irvine share). Much like Van, Zeke seems to be possessed of an inherent gentleness and goodness. Where others might have beaten this out of him, Van’s natural kindness enhances Zeke’s and keeps him innocent.

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Van and Fiona

Finally, we come to the relationship Van has with Fiona Elisi (Alicia?) Linnet, the Ancient Zoidian girl he finds in the same ruins where Zeke is hidden. When Fiona is released from her stasis pod, she initially has no memory of who she is or where she came from. She cannot remember her real name (Elisi Linnet), only the name “Fiona.” Despite being irritated by her constant questions in the first two episodes, Van immediately works to help Fiona, taking her to his village so she can be safe.

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While they start out as friends, over the course of the show the two obviously fall in love. Though we only see them kiss once (when Fiona has to talk to Van via a psychic image and/or hologram), the rapport between the two is not that of a brother and sister or of two friends traveling together. It is most definitely romantic, and in the best kind of way. This is made blatantly clear in episodes such as “A Voice from Afar” and “New Liger,” where Van can hear Fiona’s voice in his mind. The two early on show signs of developing a romantic bond, which seems to be the basis for the psychic tie that arises between them.

But the relationship which has the most profound impact on Van’s character is one we never see. This is his bond with his father, Major Dan Flyheight. Though we never watch them interact on screen, Van’s dedication to becoming “the greatest zoid pilot ever” is due entirely to his admiration of, and his love for, his deceased father.

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Dan Flyheight

We only see Dan Flyheight once in a flashback in the episode “The Distant Stars.” However, that brief glimpse shows us where Van gets not only his piloting skills, but also his kindness, gentleness, and strong sense of right and wrong. Dan’s last words – his last thoughts – are for the two children he will leave behind, showing that the strength of Van’s love for his family and friends was learned at his father’s knee. He even names his best friend Zeke after his father’s zoid. In a world where the power of the father is laughed off and derided as unnecessary, Van proves the exact opposite with his fond remembrance of the father he lost too early.

The plot for Zoids: Chaotic Century is the joys and travails not only of a boy becoming a man, but of a page becoming a knight. Van is needed now more than ever for viewers, boys and girls both. Girls will learn what really makes a man by watching this series, while at the same time boys learn the virtues which will be their guides and friends throughout their lives.

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If, as is possible, someone intends to make a film (or a series of them) about Zoids: Chaotic Century, they HAVE to get Van Flyheight right. If they do not do that, then the movie(s) they make will be worthless, or very close to it. Along with Captain America, Aragorn, Optimus Prime, and Sir Galahad, the one character in the universe who you CANNOT mess with is Van Flyheight, readers.

But you do not need to take my word for it; just visit the posts I have about the show to see what will be lost if Van is not brought to life properly. Or, better yet, hunt down Zoids: Chaotic Century’s eleven DVDs on www.amazon.com and watch the show yourselves. If you hate it, I will be surprised. If you love it – welcome to Zi, readers! We’re happy to have you on the battlefield!

Catch ya later! 😉

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Spotlight: Zoids – The Gun Sniper

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Are you ready to do battle on the desert sands of Zi again, readers? All right, then, here we go! Today’s zoid is one of my favorites. This would be the Helic Republic’s raptor-type, multi-use Gun Sniper.

Its cockpit, as you may have guessed if you have kept up with my other zoids’ posts, is under that orange canopy on its head. I have yet to encounter a Gun Sniper with more than one seat; every last one of them is a single-pilot zoid. With a lightweight frame and armor, plus high maneuverability, the Gun Sniper is one of the few two-legged zoids I would take if my preferred four legged “mechanical combat units” were not an option.

Gun Snipers get their name from their main weapon. This is a sniper rifle that is hidden within the zoid’s tail. From a high vantage point or even on the horizontal, a Gun Sniper can swing around, lock into place with its large toes, and then straighten out its spine so it is level with the ground.

When it does this the pilot’s seat extends into a flat board and flips over, allowing whoever is in control of the Gun Sniper to assume a prone position. They can then take the controls for the hidden rifle, line up on their target, and fire. Usually, their enemy is down for the count after the first shot.

For accuracy and efficiency, Gun Snipers are really hard to beat. Naomi Fleugel from Zoids: New Century Zero made a name for herself in the prize fights by taking down her opponents with a single shot. When the battle would start she would retreat to a sniping vantage point, wait for her challenger(s) to walk into her line of sight, and take them down with one round.

In Chaotic Century, three precisely placed shots from a Gun Sniper’s tail were able to pierce the shield of Van’s Blade Liger, destroying the generator for the shield on the its back. When you want precision, stealth, and speed, the Gun Sniper is the zoid for you, readers.

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Most Gun Snipers are painted grey, but they can have different color schemes. Naomi’s Sniper was painted red, in order for it to match her hair and her costume. This did not make her any easier to spot, though; even with a coal-red paint job, she could hide her Sniper so well most of her rivals had no idea where to start looking for her.

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Naomi Fluegel’s Gun Sniper

The Gun Sniper is a very adaptable zoid. It can be modified to store missiles in its shoulders and typically comes with mini-machine guns on top of its forearm claws. (It’s a Republican zoid – of course they found ways to stash extra weapons inside the Sniper’s chassis.) Besides these light modifications, the Gun Sniper can have missile packs attached to its back and hips, as well as large Gatling guns situated on its hips and shoulders. There is, typically, a radar dish situated between the zoid’s shoulders in these cases as well. Lena Toros went this route, loading her Gun Sniper down with enough firepower to make it a walking gun show display. I never, ever saw her use the zoid’s built-in sniper rifle.

One of the unfortunate side effects of adding so much ordnance to the Sniper is it limits the zoid’s mobility and speed. Even though most of these extra weapons are lightweight and meant to accent the Sniper’s alacrity, they do tend to get in the way. Lena’s Gun Sniper could not make as good time at a dead run across the ground as Naomi’s could have, from what I saw of it. Another problem encountered by saddling the zoid with extra weapons is the temptation for the pilot to carpet bomb his/her enemies rather than take them out in a more economical manner.

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For instance, Lena loved blowing the countryside to pieces. She would laugh maniacally as she fired off her “Weasel Unit Total Assault” during a battle. She managed to take out run-of-the-mill fighters with this tactic but against smarter, stronger, and more able opponents, the only thing she destroyed in this manner was the ground.

Plus, she never seemed to learn to run, dodge, or duck, all maneuvers the Gun Sniper is very capable of performing. Instead of making herself a moving target you had to chase, Lena would simply stand still, like a fixed weapon, and shoot. And shoot. And shoot. And shoot….

You could tell pretty early in some battles when Lena was going to be the first Blitz Team member taken down. On average, Brad and Bit would both stay standing in a fight longer than she would, with few exceptions – inside and outside of the arenas.

Not all the Sniper pilots in Chaotic Century avoided this fate, either. In Supersonic Battle, Van Flyheight and Thomas Schubaltz were able to take out five Gun Snipers with relative ease. This was partly because they were the better pilots, but it was also due to the fact that their enemies remained standing in one place, shooting every cannon they had at them, instead of making themselves harder targets to hit.

Of course, since they were fighting the battle from the confines of someone’s palatial front lawn, the Gun Sniper pilots had less room to maneuver than Van and Thomas did. I guess that makes their staying in place understandable, if not praiseworthy or desirable.

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It is also worth noting that while a Gun Sniper is fixed in the “sniping” position – that is, it has its tail gun lined up for a shot and its toes are locked into the ground – it is basically a sitting duck. The process of lining up for a shot does not take more than a few seconds, making the Sniper able to attack before an enemy can strike (most of the time). But when coming out of that stance, seconds truly count. Unless the pilot is really good or has a friend with a different zoid backing him up, his Sniper will be taken down quickly if it is locked into firing position when he is attacked.

Still, the positives for this zoid outweigh the negatives. The Gun Sniper was so effective on its own that the Republic began forming military units of them. They were never a zoid to sneeze at or disrespect, and I have to say that I think they were right up my alley, readers. Hopefully, this post has at least made you curious to see them in action yourselves.

Before you go, I invite you to have a look at these Gun Sniper memes. I am pretty sure most of them were made at Lena’s expense. ;D

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“See you on the battlefield!”

A New Gallery of Images from Zoids

Welcome to another post about ZOIDS, readers!!! Because my last post on the subject had lost some of its photos (they’re back now), I thought I would do another post showcasing images of my favorite Japanese “mechanical combat units.” And this time, I have added some videos, too. 😉

If you like these pictures, feel free to look up my other posts on my favorite series, Zoids: Chaotic Century, which is discussed at length here.

See you on the battlefield!

The Mithril Guardian

The Gustav

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The Genosaurer

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Liger Zero

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Phoenix

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Jet Falcon

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The Redler

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Some Old Favorites 

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