Space Runaway Ideon cover
Space Runaway Ideon poster

Space Runaway Ideon

Mankind has traveled to the stars and come across various alien civilizations, now long dead. Upon discovering the archaeological remains of such a civilization on the planet Solo, humanity finally has its first encounter with a living alien species: the Buff Clan. When Karala Ajiba, the daughter of the Buff Clan's military leader, sets foot on the surface of Solo, the Buff Clan launches a brutal assault on the colony to retrieve her. In order to escape, Cosmo Yuki, Kasha Imhof, and Bes Jordan climb aboard three trucks, which soon transform into the giant humanoid robot Ideon. When the settlement on Solo is destroyed, the survivors board a recently discovered spaceship—the Solo Ship—and flee, endeavoring to get away from the aliens and finally find peace. The relentless Buff Clan, however, is still in hot pursuit and will not give up so easily. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

Ranking 4039

User Count1494
Favorites Count7
Start Date8th May 1980
Next ReleaseInvalid date
Popularity Rank4039
Rating Rank4788
Age RatingPG
Age Rating GuideTeens 13 or older
SubtypeTV
Statusfinished

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It is not uncommon to consider Yoshiyuki Tomino a trailblazer in the anime industry. He's credited for directing one of if not the most influential anime of all time, Mobile Suit Gundam, and remains an icon of the medium to this day despite not doing much work recently. This is due to the staying power of his older shows, the merchandising behemoth known as Sunrise, and the tendency of his shows to attract rabid fanbases. Most of his later Gundam works and non-Gundam series still received positive reception, but none are given the penchant of innovation and influence as much as the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV series/compilation movies. It is mindblowing to think that he made a series nearly as pioneering as MBS only four months after the original series stopped airing. Four months! The importance of Space Runaway Ideon is usually downplayed because  1\. Admittedly, Mobile Suit Gundam is better 2\. It may have been groundbreaking in its concepts, but the show was not the perfection of said concepts. Anime fandom will never agree on what show *is*, but think of things along the lines of Neon Genesis Evangelion or Rahxephon. Whereas with Mobile Suit Gundam forming the real robot genre, the franchise's early installments are still considered to be some of the best works in it. 3\. Relative underexposure in Western audiences. Space Runaway Ideon has one series and two movies, none of which have been licensed for home video or shown on television outside of Japan. Fansubs have only been easily available for 7-8 years. As opposed to Gundam which has infinite sequels licensed in multiple countries, with every incarnation having accessible fansubs. **STORY:** So what is Space Runaway Ideon about exactly? Some will argue that it is first and foremost a war story, similar to Tomino's previous works. I believe though at its heart, Space Runaway Ideon is a cosmic horror story. The war aspects may get the most screen time in the series, but Tomino definitely set out to make the show with existential terror in mind before his textbook war is hell routine. The show's biggest problem is what the show wants to be VS. what the show ends up being; that will be further elaborated in the enjoyment section. Now on to the actual plot: it begins like any other mech anime. Bad things happen, circumstances bring a strapping young lad and a giant robot together, with the intention of beating the bad guys and saving the day. What does Space Runaway Ideon do differently? The pilot's dead grandpa or father sure as heck didn't build it for starters (while this has fallen out of prevalence, that plot point was extremely common in 70's and 80's robot shows). The Giant God Ideon (or just Ideon) has origins that are murky at best. Similar to how Zambot 3, an early Tomino show was a testing ground for Mobile Suit Gundam, Tomino touched on the notion of a mystically created robot in his show Brave Reideen. Brave Reideen though is still thoroughly a super robot show that happens to have a robot of an atypical background. Space Runaway Ideon takes this concept and makes the whole show about it. The plot basically details the efforts of the Ideon's crew trying (mostly without success) to figure out exactly how and why the Ideon works as they are hounded by a race of aliens known as the Buff Clan (oh, Tomino) who worship the Ideon as a God and wish to claim it for themselves by defeating the current human crew (mostly without success). This chase takes them to every corner of the galaxy, as both sides become more desperate and begin to realize they may not have as much control over the situation as they thought they did. It is quite interesting to see how it toys with the various implications and standards of super robot anime at the time, not so much to be considered a deconstruction, but it's undoubtedly one of the darkest super robot shows out there. The Ideon is absurdly powerful from the get go. Although the Buff clan remains determined to capture the mecha, most of their fights with the humans can be described as slaughters rather than battles. The mid season upgrade (titular robot gets shiny new look or weapon to rejuvenate toy sales)  takes this to horrifying heights, as the previously believed ceiling on the robot's power levels are shattered, and demonstrated with haunting efficiency. At a generalized level, super robots run on the hotblooded and undying willpower of the mighty pilot! The Ideon, not so much. While it is powered by similarly unscientific methods, they aren't as idealistic or positive, and the crew slowly realizes it may not even matter what they do. The show actually has some pretty genius foreshadowing as to the roots of the Ideon's power and the fate of the crew. This is a show that gets harder to talk about due to spoilers as it goes on (if you've heard of the series though, there's a good chances it's because of spoilers). Without saying much, as the crew learns more about the Ideon, certain characters exploit its methods in insane and awful ways, crew morale drops like flies and they only continue because they don't really have a choice, the status quo begins to unravel like all great cosmic horror stories, and perhaps most importantly everyone realizes just how massively screwed they are. I have seen few shows give off a sinking feeling of such a magnitude as you realize basically everyone is a victim of fate and doom was pretty certain from the get-go. The closest comparison I can think of is Griffith from Berserk. Not only is the story very interesting and disturbing, but it is VERY ahead of its time. The real robot genre continued to mature throughout the 80's, but after Space Runaway Ideon super robot shows kind of retreated back into their idealistic normality until the mid 90's with Evangelion. If the story does have a weak point, it probably would've been better off being a deconstruction rather than an extremely dark super robot show. Deconstructive hallmarks like Evangelion and Madoka Magicka are well known by their epic unraveling of status quo's as due to how the premise getting dismantled cannot be maintained in their established universes. Space Runaway Ideon certainly goes off the deep end in that regard, but I feel like there was more room to expand downward. They may have gotten the chance to if it wasn't cancelled, which will be covered in the enjoyment section. So yeah... while being as vague as possibly, it's pretty sweet that Tomino made a such an inventive work right after what's considered to be his most inventive work, and yet Space Runaway Ideon is inventive in an almost entirely different manner. **STORY: 8/10** **ANIMATION/ART:**This is an 80's production, but it is still animated very much like a 70's show. It never sinks to infamous lows of the previous decade, but still model design consistency is not really a thing, most of the fight scenes are very static, moments that aren't fight scenes are not interestingly rendered either, and then there's the intrinsic stock footage. The gradual escalation towards the end does allow for more visually interesting situations to pop up, but the show doesn't usually have the budget to back them up. Still, it's competently animated enough. Art though, wow. In a good way. One problem with classic-era super robot shows is that there is a certain look most characters are expected to have. The pilot is usually a slim and muscular man with pointy black hair. This extends into the rest of the cast usually. I do not know if Space Runway Ideon did this intentionally, but cast is kind of circus in terms of appearance. Main pilot Cosmo Yuuiki perhaps rocks the only un-ironic afro not on a quasi-black person in the history of anime, and it is glorious. You'll see a wide variety of hair colors, shapes, and outfits pop up in the main characters. Yellow, bright blue, dark green, black, brown, red, orange, white, and many more colors of hair reside in the main cast. Background characters mainly get black and brown, but the mix of realism vs. ANIME COLORS~ is a weird one. The outfits have a similar effect. Most of the villains are dressed like a prog rock band. Most of the Ideon's crew have little to no... unity in their uniforms. Not a bad thing, just art design wise it's a very odd looking show. And I haven't touched the titular robot yet. I seem to be in the minority of people who actually like how the Ideon looks. The most frequent accusation is that for such a grim story, it is a very silly looking robot. My view is that though the 70's had plenty of interesting looking robots, most of them had similar color palettes of red, blue, yellow, and silver/black/white. For every Mazinger Z or Getter Robo, there are few similar but different impostors. The Ideon ushers in the new decade with a bold bichromatic design that foretells of the of the greater variation in robot designs throughout the 80's. It does sort of look like the Guncannon from Mobile Suit Gundam , but becomes significantly more intimidating by making it 1000x taller, less round, and giving it shoulder fins. I'll concede that the antennas are kinda dumb, but overall it's certainly an artistic statement. **ANIMATION/ART: 6/10** **SOUND:**Sound never seems to be able to catch a break in early mecha anime. Most were made before soundtracks to a show could be considered an artistic effort in their own right, so usually they just have accompaniment music to signify various plot points and how the audience should feel. It helps when they have a wide variety of tracks to use, unfortunately Space Runaway Ideon does not. The show uses the same handful of songs that don't really leave an impression over and over. The OP and ED are standard super robot fare (even foreshadowing themes to be explored later in the show through their lyrics). Fandom has drawn lots of parallels between this anime and Evangelion, most of which are a waste of time to read. But one thing they do both do is increase the usage of classical music as the series goes on. Of course SRI bungles it by using the same piece every time, but hey it's a start. Then a *really* haunting piece is used in the final episdes, but once again it's the same song every time. No complaints in the voice acting department, no compliments either. **SOUND: 5/10** **Characters:** In episodic super robot shows, their quality can live and die by their characters because everything else will be the same every episode. SRI doesn't need to rely on them to carry the weight as much because of its attempt to tell an actual story, but still manages to assemble an enjoyable cast of characters to make things better. The show has a rather large main cast, around the size of White Base's crew from Gundam, a little bigger or smaller perhaps. What is interesting here is that besides a few romantic relationships and familial bonds, none of the Ideon's crew particularly like each other. They didn't all decide to pilot a giant robot for the hell of it, they only cooperate out of necessity and get by tolerating each other's existence. Tensions run high, expect lots of slapping, and the crew seems to have a thing for putting people in cages. It handles its large cast rather well, in robot shows the pilot of the main mecha is usually a total camera hog besides day in the limelight episodes of side characters. Main pilot Cosmo does get a lot of screen time, but so do 3-4 other characters. Military personnel, and scientists among them. Some of which don't even help pilot the robot, what a novel thought! The show is really about the crew trying to survive, and it helps by dividing screen time pretty evenly among them. It allows them to decently develop everyone and it feels natural. One character goes above and beyond the average develop of this show's cast, and it is very well done, so I accept it with open arms. The show runs into some trouble with the villains. The Buff clan views the Ideon as a God so their devotion to capturing it is very single-minded in motivation beyond some standard Japanese notions of honor. This does make sense and is initially interesting, but the show parades through villains all with the same drive and leaves you craving for something different. In the final thirteen episodes, the show tries to work in political scheming and backstabbery among the villains, an annoying obligatory development in way too many mecha anime. In this case it is very badly done, but surprisingly not in a way that ruins the show. While the actual intrigue is very poor, it never gets enough screen time or explanation to develop into something that the viewer becomes aware of as they are watching the show. It's just white noise. **CHARACTERS: 7/10** **Enjoyment:** Sigh... here comes the catch some of you more cynical types have probably been expecting. While the story of SRI is great and very compelling, I can think of very few situations in which there has been a greater disparity between plot and execution.  Matching the show, I'd say there is a vast universe between them in terms of quality. This isn't the age old problem that anime has of having really cool premises and using them poorly. A great story lies within Space Runaway Ideon that develops over time. The "cool premise" problem implies that the initial description of the show is what catches the viewer's attention and then the failure to live up to the plot synopsis is the issue. SRI has a good story that develops over the course of the series into things beyond what a plot synopsis would tell, it's that the story isn't told well. Yoshiyuki Tomino isn't a good visual storyteller for the most part. He doesn't even try to do it most of the time, but when he does, it isn't pretty. Most of the show's revelations and information are told through character dialogue which can border on expository. It can be fascinating to get information and greater understanding of the situation, unfortunately most of the dialogues are very unnatural and can feel like the speaker has an index card in front of them. If a majority of the story is told through conversations, then what happens during the rest of the episodes? That's the problem, usually it goes like crew lands on some alien planet -> Buff clan follows them there and attacks -> Ideon crew beats em up and leaves. Due to the plot's heavy reliance on the dialogue, early on the show repetitively falls into the rut of feeling like either nothing or the same thing happens every episode, which totally tanks the show's pacing. I don't want to call it episodic or monster-of-the-week because there is usually plot and character development at the end of every episode, but due the pacing, the amount of development per ep. is very small. The only saving grace is that it builds up over time. The show has this problem less as it goes on, if you divide the show into three 13 episode arcs, about half of the first arc, a quarter of the second arc, and none of the final arc are affected. They solve it by featuring more variation to the fight scenes, contexts of the fights, and alien planets, oh and getting cancelled. It's kind of twisted that cancellation would help fix the show's pacing, but the final thirteen episodes without a doubt contain the best parts of the show. The arc was initially going to have more plot development than the previous two already, but the loss of four extra episodes caused them to escalate the amount of development throughout the remainder of the arc. The first arc is mediocre, the second decent, but I have no reservations in calling the third arc great. **ENJOYMENT: 5/10** Another thing I seem to be in the minority about is that I liked the show's original TV ending. Fan demand to see a more proper send off was enough to have two movies made, Evangelion style. The first one, Ideon: A Contact is a clip show of a majority of the series, with an occasionally boosted animation budget. The second film Ideon: Be Invoked is an alternate expanded retelling of the ending, with a fantastic animation bump. This isn't a review of the movies, but I think the best course of action is to watch the TV series and watch Be Invoked. A Contact was helpful to fans who had to wait a year and a half for the movies to come out after the TV series, but is wholly unnecessary in this day and age. Could you get by on watching A Contact instead of the TV series? Probably, but A Contact isn't a very good recap. It distorts the show's internal timeline and makes it difficult to follow, lessens the character development across the board, and leaves out enough minor plot points that eventually form contrivances, which eventually make you feel like you're missing out on something important. This is from the view of someone who watched the TV series, then the two films, so maybe you won't notice if you watch only the films. I liked Be Invoked, but I can't help feel it's a little unnecessary. Where the final episodes of Evangelion were abstract and tonally different from the End Of Evangelion, Be Invoked has pretty much the same outcome as the TV series ending, but with a higher budget and greater elaboration. Which makes it feel a little sadistic if anything. The same things happen to the same characters in the movie, it's just the TV anime implied most of it where the movie shows most of it. One thing I dislike is a certain plot point in the film makes the powers-that-be per se seem pragmatic as opposed to ill-tempered in the final moments of the TV series. Space Runaway Ideon does have shades of a war story, and each side's steadfast belief that they are right is their ultimate downfall. The response to this ignorance on both sides in the TV anime is powers-that-be going "screw you, humanity", where in Be Invoked it feels like "alright humanity, you had your chance. We're doing things my way now". It may not seem like that much of a difference, but I think the first outcome was much more in line thematically with the rest of the show. The ending in both outcomes is very ambiguous. A lot of people will point to Japanese religion in order to understand it, but I think more obvious interpretations or pretty much anything that reasonably comes to the viewer's head is fine. I think the religion angle is just people looking for an explanation when there isn't/doesn't need to be one. The ending in Be Invoked is quite beautiful actually, the movie as a whole has the ambition and scope a late 80's or early 90's production rather than the middle of 1982. Watching it unfold is pretty jawdropping. **PROS:** Fantastic and original story, interesting stylistic choices, handles enjoyable large cast well, improves on its mistakes as it goes on, Be Invoked film. **CONS:** Pacing is turgid for about 1/3rd of the show, story is often told poorly, animation can sometimes be weak, villains get old fast, A Contact film Overall do I recommend the show? Yes! I think it's an extremely fascinating show and while it has some problems, it continually tries to improve them, and the final arc is backloaded with a lot of the show's best parts. I would recommend watching the TV anime then Be Invoked. You'll probably be fine watching only A Contact and Be Invoked, but I think you won't be able to sit through the TV series on a later occasion then. I would not recommend this be your first 80's mecha anime or Yoshiyuki Tomino work. Regardless, give it a try **OVERALL: 6/10**

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