Unlike most mecha series there are no damsels in distress, only a fat guy named Kochak.
So I just started my 4 days of summer vacation before I go on orders again, all I can do now is pray for a C or better, but at least now I finally have time to watch the last subbed eps of Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Pailsen Files which were released not too long ago. Unlike IKnight I didn’t have the luxury of watching the TV series, at least not yet anyway, so forgive me if I am ignorant of the source material and judge this as a standalone series.
We’re invading France again!
As a standalone series Pailsen Files is much heavier on the action side and less focused on establishing its characters in much depth, even the titular lead Chirico hardly goes through much of a change given that much of his character development was already done in the TV series. That said being simple is probably better for a series that only last 12 episodes and neatly avoids creating loose ends and plot holes. Since the characters only become quirky at most, Pailsen Files focuses on other things like delicious mecha combat and emphasis on scale. It is however not a true real robot series since Chirico and the rest of the Barcoff team have a super power of sorts, that being the ability to survive almost anything. Nevertheless these guys are not supermen (the get shot they bleed, they can get sick, etc.), and their mecha the Scopedog gives it a lot more credibility in the realm of real robot.
Well at least you get medical care…
Mecha combat here is vastly different from most mecha series as there is no flying Scopedog or flying Fatty (Balarant Union equivalent of the Scopedog). It was what Code Geass could have been before they handed out flight packs in an effort to be more run of the mill. Pailsen Files sticks with this brave omission of standard cookie cutter Gudam-like combat which helps Pailsen Files stand out in the vast sea of mecha. There are no beam weapons, super guns, or melee weapons that slice through every thing. The Scopedog is little more than a walking tank that can carry missile pods, autocannons, and bazookas; they are also very destructible. In Pailsen files when a mecha gets shot it never explodes neatly but rather all of them just get riddled with holes for he most part leaving the battlefields here littering with copious amounts of debris kind of like a real battle field with burnt out wrecks. In short this is what enthusiasts of real robot love, even if Scopedog goes down the pilot is not necessarily dead and the Gilgamesh Military has invested quite a lot in their efforts to recover hulks and wounded. In the case of wounded they touch upon the field hospital as a healing factory for the injured every patient has a tag the doctors just give patients a good looking over before sending off their charges that never stop piling up. Like a real weapon the Scopedog is mass produced and has add on weapon packs for missions, there are no ace suits and everything maintains the feel of mass produced as 100 years of war have made the Gilgamesh Military very appreciative of the logistical trouble of having multiple models let alone a horde of one off prototypes to carry their war effort. Hence the Barcoff team is only special because of the pilot and not the mecha.
Elite “Commandos” they’re not but if you have a question about the weather the Barcoff team is spot on.
The scale of everything in Pailsen Files is simply astounding every major pitched battle has a veritable horde of men and machines shooting at each other. There is not much in the way of cover as mobility is the primary means of defense. Moreover given how both sides field hordes of Armored Troopers (ATs) losing few hundreds thousand is not that big of a deal considering how the Gilgamesh Military was larger than 120 million strong. Battles look and feel epic and one cannot help but grin as the first battle is a river crossing that is a very good homage to the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan, only with mecha. The last battle itself was like a page out of Starship Troopers with Scopedogs disembarking from their huge fleet of capital ships. They even fly straight down a trench and into an oversized exhaust port. In this regard while the lack of complexity would drive most recent mecha fans from the Code Geass school of mecha mad. There is one “Just as Planned” moment, but it succeeds mostly because of the subtle hints from the first episode on. If you are looking for a pretension to complexity you will not find much to work with in Pailsen files since hardly any one is the philosophical type and the only two members of the Barcoff team have rather mundane interests like engineering, meteorology, and astronomy.
These men are not particularly eloquent…
Chirico is more of an observer than a primary mover of events and we see much of the story through his eyes. He isn’t very complex and if he is hardly shows it since his primary goal is to survive. Barcoff is the leader and a reluctant one at that since he’s not terribly fond of having to baby sit Godon and Kochak. Of the characters I like Barcoff the most since he actually grows the most and has a bit more of a past to him, it also helps that he had a crowning moment of awesome. Zaki is the runt of the team who is competent but struggle with trying to not shoot Chirico, he’s the team killer and while it doesn’t become much of a problem for most of the series it does come back with a vengeance later. Godon is probably the least likable since he was the prime asshole for most of the series and was never a team player. Kochak is slightly more likeable even if he is a conniving fat little coward; at least he is responsible for one ingenious moment of black humor in the series where there are few laughs to be had. Kochak does man up later though, if in a crazy sort of way. They are nothing special, but again since this is a 12 episode series it pays to have a simple cast as it allows it to be a really good action show and avoid the minefield that is emo = complex. The only thing slightly odd about the entire cast including extras was that there seems to be a total absence of women, one would think that since this seems to be a total war that there would be more women in auxiliary roles but that is not the case. Not that I am complaining but it was kind of weird to have a setting with no women.
It’s a very gritty series as suggested by the OP which is by the way very well suited for the series. Armored Trooper VOTOMS Pailsen Files is the sort of thing I recommend to fans of more gritty and real robot side of mecha. It’s not very deep and its simplicity only helps it flow smoothly as a 12 episode series that doesn’t drag at any point. The setting and feel of the VOTOMS universe is very well done and things aren’t terribly dreary and dystopic, but there is enough to indicate that this war between Gilgamesh and Balarant has been going on for 100 years and as a result has made a more regimented galaxy. There is no argument made in favor of or against war but does portray it as an odd thing since the reasons behind the war have long since been forgotten and the end of the war was not achieved by victory by either side. Nonetheless for the past 100 years Gilgamesh and Balarant have slugged it out in a virtual stalemate with victory on one front making little difference in the overall picture. It’s a fine series in my book and makes me lament how badly we need regime change in Sunrise since I am left wondering why the VOTOMS team is left out in the cold while the Code Geass team gets to have all the marketing and funding yen and greater access to the hype machine.
You can water ski in a Scopedog.
Funny thing is their own side put in those stakes…
Well this looks familiar…
Should have brought the bangalores.
Combat engineers have it hard too.
In VOTOMS this what is called an small force…
Enemy ATs sometimes have teeth too.
Guess who’s in the Scopedog?
Bring out your dead!
They’re not very roomy.
No that really is his name, or so he told me.
Infantry hunting VOTOMS style.
Can you tell which one is Chirico’s?
Fatties are more well rounded ATs.
Barcoff the babysitter.
Kochak has mad maths.
Time for some science up in this science fiction!
Careful these bowls are flammable.
Kochak says it taste like coolant.
We interrupt your mecha action for a Detective Conan skit.
So whose up for some dodge grenade?
Scopedog with new paint!
…only 20 million?
Don’t worry, you get your space battles too.
We’re going in, We’re going in full throttle.
Scopedog dual wielding rifles? AWESOME!
Back to back fighting.