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Muteki Chōjin Zambot 3
If folks wonder where famous Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino got his infamous moniker of "Kill Em All", Zambot 3 is an obscure, yet notable, mecha title that first showcased Tomino's habit of creating high kill counts with mecha titles he would direct. A fairly standard entry in the "super robot" mecha genre at a glance, Zambot 3 focuses on the efforts of the Jin family who learn they are descendants of an alien race whose home planet was wiped out by the Gaizok race. Seeking to protect Earth from destruction, the Jins utilize the alien technology left behind by their ancestors to combat the Gaizok.|
On the surface, Zambot 3 would seem to have some of the typical tropes of the "super robot" mecha genre. You have a giant mech and a couple battle vehicles that can combine together to form a more powerful mecha which are all piloted by talented teenage pilots. All the episodes follow a "monster of the day" story style where the Gaizok unleash a new Mecha-Boost mecha to wreck havoc on Earth until Zambot 3 and the Jin family step in to combat them.
However if you look deeper, Zambot 3 does have a number of story elements that made it stick out from other mecha anime during its time period and have become standard elements factored into creating later mecha titles. While past anime would have their titular mecha and its pilots accepted by the masses at the start of their title, the Jin family are not immediately accepted by humanity in combating the Gaizok threat as they are seen as being the main reason by many for the Gaizok invading Earth. The battles between Zambot 3 and Mecha-Boosts leave a good deal of collateral damage that still lingers as the series progresses and the aftermath of this is highlighted with civilians left homeless thanks to their homes being wiped out from the Jin Family and Gaizok conflict. There are also a few points where human civilians or military personnel attempt to sabotage the Jin family's efforts against the Gaizok because of the negative perceptions they have on them.
The show subverts the depiction of its main hero being seemingly flawless and level-headed in his actions. While main lead Kappei is a capable mecha pilot, the immaturity of his age is believably highlighted in this series as he often jumps into things without thinking his actions through, behaves recklessly in piloting the Zambo Ace and Zambot 3 during early episodes of the series, and his cockiness in being a mecha pilot often will rub the human populace the wrong way. This, combined with the mentioned collateral damage from his fights with Mecha-Boosts, complicate public perception to the Jin family's efforts of heroism against the Gaizok.
And finally, the series has a high kill count resulting from the conflict between the Jin family and Gaizok. While at first coming as the result of collateral damage or Mecha-Boost attacks, the conflict gradually gets more intense in later episodes when the Gaizok make human bombs out of their captives, Gaizok leader Killer the Butcher thinking of the killing humans as a sort of game, and the Jin family find themselves having to make sacrifices in later episodes in dealing with the Gaizok threat.
Setting aside the praises, Zambot 3 still does carry a number of weaknesses that effect its quality somewhat. Many characters in the series lack much in the way of fleshing out as they either get tacked on with a character type or exist only to compliment some element of the series proper such as being a family member or controller of one of the pieces of alien technology used by the Jin family. The explanation that the series provides as to how Kappei and his two young cousins become capable of controlling the advanced alien technology used for their mechas is a bit of a stretch and reeks of lazy convenience. Also as this series came out in the 1970s, the animation is quite dated and was obviously made on a limited budget with the number of reused frames, occasional drawing errors, and other shortcuts employed during the time period that may turn off fans of more recent anime from checking this series out.
Still in spite of these flaws, I would at least recommend checking out Zambot 3 at least once due to how ahead of its time it was for introducing new story elements of the mecha genre that have become standard for more modern entries of it and being the earliest title where Yoshiyuki Tomino earned his "Kill Em All" moniker from his overall direction of the series.
Last updated Tuesday, October 10 2017. Created Tuesday, October 10 2017.