Overclocked On Caffeine v.1.1 2009-10-25 11:26:00

Armour Hunter Mellowlink

12 30-minute episodes

Every so often, you encounter one of those forgotten series. An old show that’s good, but for some reason, never caught on as well as others. You say the name ‘Dragonball’ or ‘Sailor Moon’ or ‘Doraemon’ and there’s a good chance that even non-anime fans will at least be familiar with it. Then you have the Guyvers, the Mazinger Zs, the shows that have a decent-sized fanbase, but no recognition outside. And then you get to the Moldivers and the Gal Forces and the Sol Biancas and for all their quality, you might as well just give up there and then. Ain’t no way anyone other than you has heard of those ones. Filed alongside these unremembered shows is Armor Hunter Mellowlink, and if there was any justice in this world, it too would be considered one of the greats.

The story centres on Mellowlink Aliti, last surviving member of his platoon. His unit sacrificed for unknown reasons, sold out by corrupt officials and blamed for their deaths, as well as a whole bunch of other miscellanious crimes they had kicking around the office, Mellowlink is out for revenge on his former superior officers. Armed only with the outdated anti-mech rifle he was issued for that disastrous last mission, a weapon easily as tall as he is, Mellowlink is determined to make every last one pay for his comrade’s deaths, starting from the bottom of the pile up.

The show’s a spin-off of Armoured Trooper Votoms, a much larger series that, admittedly, I’ve yet to see. But while the larger details, like who the players are in the frequently-mentioned war are, are probably meaningless to anyone unfamiliar with the parent show, the story itself is easy to follow. Its your typical revenge story, but with giant robots, which makes it that much more interesting (giant robots make everything better, just try and deny it). Okay. slight exaggeration, but the giant robots are surprisingly more than a way of spinning money through toy and model kit sales. One of the interesting things about the show is that, for all the mechs – Armoured Troopers, or ATs – running around, Mellowlink never once uses one. It’s suggested that he’s part of an anti-AT squad, hence the gigantic gun and title. So, here you have a regular human, running around capping mecha 4-5 times his size. It’s amazing that it’s an ideat not utilized more often, since the fight scenes are nothing short of gripping. Seeing a single unarmed squishy human making sport of a squad of heavily armed and armoured combat suits is a sight to behold. It’s a shame that most shows tend to lean more toward the ‘unstoppable behemoth’ end of things, since it’s also a sight I’d love to see more often.

The other great thing about the show: the entire thing remains almost 98% bullshit deus ex machina-free. Okay, there’s one or two moments where Mellowlink gets exceedingly lucky, but the entire rest of the time it’s due solely to planning and skill. See your opponent dodge a certain way to avoid a booby trap? Set up another to catch him off-guard mid-dodge. Your opponent has a certain victory pose before killing an unarmoured opponent? Counter the pose and strike while he’s defenceless. Potential love interest demanding to join you in a fight where she’ll almost certainly be a liability? Wait for the obligatory ‘staring into each other’s eyes’ moment, then slug her in the gut, rendering her unconscious – and therefore safe – the entire fight. It’s a refreshing change to see a character win by fighting smart, rather than overpowering their opponent and just plowing through them. And the fact that, with hindsight, you can see how he’s planned all this in advance – a throwaway comment about a car jack is responsible for one of the most satisfying reveals in the show – makes it that much sweeter. Something I’d argue we need to see more of these days.

Mellowlink is a gem of a series. The show was made in the late-90s, so for anyone more familiar with the more polished animation of recent years, it’ll come as a complete culture shock. But the roughness of the art and animation just gives it a real charm you don’t see too often these days. Mellowlink is an excellent series, and a welcome change for anyone sick of power levels or giant robots designed as toys first and foremost.

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