Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos (cartoon)
Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos (マシンロボ クロノスの大逆襲 Machine Robo: Cronos no Dai Gyakushū) was a 1986-1987 cartoon commissioned by Bandai from Ashi Productions, the first to be based on the Machine Robo brand.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Episodes
- 3 Cast
- 4 Reception
- 5 Style
- 6 Music
- 7 Sequels
- 8 Overseas
- 9 Home Media
Machine Robo had been running in Japan since 1982, with minimal media support—some short manga storylines had been published and a rough mythos was formed between these, the line's toy commercials and pack-in media. However by the mid-1980s anime was becoming more and more necessary to support successful toy lines and so Bandai decided to apply the treatment to Machine Robo. They engaged Ashi Productions—known for much of recent history as Production Reed, though they have since reverted their name—to produce an all-new anime series. A relatively young studio, Ashi had worked on Space Warrior Baldios, Special Armoured Battalion Dorvack and—with Bandai—Dancouga: Super Beast Machine God; they also contributed some animation to M.A.S.K for Kenner. Ashi chose to ignore the storyline of the original line, and produced a 'pilot' reel for the series that saw a full series commissioned. Many of the key staff for the show had worked together on Dancougar, including series director Hiroshi Yoshida and character designer Nobuyoshi Habara. Hideki Sonoda was appointed head writer
Ashi relocated the entire cast to the alien planet of Cronos, where the Machine Robo were split into four tribes of sentient robots:
- Cronos Tribe: Machine Robo who looked human and were largely treated as such. The Cronos tribe were represented mainly by series lead Rom Stol—the smallest component of the Baikanfu toy; the other two configurations were used as his power-up bodies—and his sister Leina Stol, who was not part of the toyline.
- Jet Tribe: Machine Robo figures who turned into aircraft. Blue Jet—based on the original 1982 Jet Robo figure (used as Fitor in the West) was their representative among the show's leads.
- Battle Tribe: Basically all the other transforming figures, ranging from sports cars to submarines. Two Battle Tribe figures were part of the show's core cast—Rod Drill, based on the original Drill Robo toy (Screw Head in the West) and Triple Jim.
- Rock People: Turned into rocks. These were based on the same figures issued for Tonka's Rock Lords line in the West. In the cartoon they were split up into two groups—those who helped the Machine Robo and those who helped their enemies. The Jewel People and Fossil Men were further subsets of Rock People.
The Devil Invaders were replaced by the Gyandlar, a huge army of invading aliens led by Gadess. He and his lieutenants Diondra, Grujios and Garudi were all invented specifically for the anime, as were the numerous Gyandlar captains which were a fixture of early episodes as one-shot villains. This wasn't unusual for even a toy-based anime like Revenge of Cronos as 'enemy' toys had traditionally fared poorly on the Japanese toy market. However the large Devil Satan 6 combiner figure (recoloured in the West as Monsterous) was featured regularly as the Gyandlar's prime muscle. Initially it was joined by a menagerie of beasts devised by Ashi and then later by the Gyandlar Devils—the old Devil Invader designs being incorporated in the show as generics.
Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos began broadcast on 3 July 1986 on the TV Tokyo network with a new episode each Thursday at 7.30pm. Initially the show had a loose quest format featuring Rom, Leina, Triple Jim, Rod Drill and Blue Jet searching the planet for Wolf symbols while foiling various plans of the Gyandlar to kill them or learn the secret of the symbols themselves. They travelled from settlement to settlement on Cronos, which seemed to be largely modelled on feudal Japan. Guest characters in the early episode were largely drawn from the Cronos Tribe—and when Battle or Jet Tribe characters did show they were often given bizarre, arbitrary cameo roles. Early on it was also standard to see characters that weren't actually featured in the toy line, Ashi having seemingly been given character models for all extant Machine Robo.
Midway through the series this focus changed considerably. The show gained a semi-regular setting in the shape of Emerald City and later the Battle Base, the plot was made more solidly arc-based and toy-based characters became a lot more visible. Roles for the other Battle and Jet Tribe characters—notably the expensive Tough Trailer, Pro Truck Racer and Land Commander 5 figures—were beefed up, Cronos generics largely disappeared and the Gyandlar's Ashi-devised troopers were replaced almost entirely by the Gyandlar Devils. Rom, Leina, Jet, Drill, Jim, Gadess, Garudi and Diondra remained the leads of the series during this period but their presence was less dominating. The show finished naturally after 44 episodes, with three clip show episodes rounding out the run in May 1987.
The series may have been planned at 52 episodes, a more common length for a Japanese cartoon of the period (Japanese shows of the period were made in "cours", blocks of 12-13 episodes; a series completed without interruption is therefore usually some multiple of those numbers); French dub Revenge of the GoBots was announced as having 52 episodes and it remains a mystery what the other five would have been had that version not been cancelled. It is possible Revenge of Cronos was truncated, either due to low ratings or Bandai wanting to promote the newer Battle Hackers figures. While no major plot threads were left dangling at the end of Cronos there is undoubtedly a rushed feeling to the coda that sees most of the series' cast leave the planet at the end of the final regular episode.
- Rising Storm - the Fighting Style of Justice!
- Wolf Sword! Call Forth the Thunder of Courage!
- Steal the Metal Laster!
- Devil Trap - The Enslaved Village
- Hot Fight at Absolute Zero!
- The Rock People and Mizuchi the Mysterious Dragon
- Sophia, Warrior Woman of the Leo Clan
- The Demon Sea of the Lost Civilization of Mu
- Dash Out, Tank Trancer!
- Defeat Bug, the User of Darkness!
- Pledging Love on the Great River
- Legend of the Elmedia Hero
- Jet! Defeat the Double Death Blade!
- Burn and Run, Brother and Sister Warriors!
- Sending Love to the Horizon
- Phantom Monk Preacher's Challenge
- Death in the Demonic Castle in the Sky
- The Demonic Castle - Farewell Grujios
- Run Through the Race of Death!
- The Man from Gyandlar
- The Heart of a Protecting Angel
- Rockgiran versus Rockdon
- Underneath a Burning Sky
- Gather All Machine Robo
- Attack, Land Commander 5!
- Cross Rock's Great Prophecy
- Knight of the Devil's Mountain, Mask Rock
- 10 Seconds Before the Explosion! Run, Tough Trailer!
- Escape from the Underground - Pro Truck Racer Appears!
- Fire! Big Blazer Cannon!
- Curse of the Demon Sword Medusa
- Battle Rock Mars' Tears
- The Four Treasures of the Mysterious Ruins
- Baikanfu Disappears in Space
- The Secret of the Jewel People
- Save Amber Man, Blazer Cannon!
- Close Call, Land Commander 5!
- Raise Your Gun, Heli Transer!
- Full Power, Wheelmen!
- Secret Valley of the Fossil Men
- Power Riser, Break Through the Enemy!
- Baikanfu - Cry of Anger!
- Mighty Fortress, Heavenly Sword - Jet Don't Die!
- The Final Battle of Cronos
- Machine Robo - Steel Warriors!†
- Machine Robo, Fight! Part 1†
- Machine Robo, Fight! Part 2†
† = Clip Show
‡ = voice actor unknown † = character has no dialogue
The series seems to have gone down moderately well with contemporary audiences. Animage's 1987 Anime Grand Prix survey saw the series rated as 20th best of the year by readers, with Rom Stol as 19th best male character and Leina Stol as 14th best female character. Leina was the only element of the series to be placed the following year, ranking as 13th best female character.
Bandai and/or Ashi don't seem to have laid down much in the way of rules which can lead to a lot of confusion when watching the series; as such a few basics about the Machine Robo as shown in the series probably need clarifying.
Multiple Machine Robo
One of the most baffling aspects of the series is the way the toy-based Machine Robo are actually utilised. Some—such as series leads Rod Drill, Blue Jet and Triple Jim—we only see one example of. Others—most notably Submarine Robo, twenty-odd of which are seen on-screen in their only appearance—are obviously widely used body types. Throwing things into the mix are the names used; some Machine Robo—such as Trim Sponsor, Vilion or Pithus—are given individual names. Others are just referred to by their toy names—for example Bike Robo, Fire Robo or Apollo Robo; occasionally the 'Robo' bit is dropped, but not consistently. In between there are some strange grey areas that can cause confusion. Combat Buggy for example first appears as a named guest character and reappears for the mid-season two-parter. Later on a Combat Buggy is seen onboard the Battle Base in several scenes; is it the same guy or someone different? There's nothing solid to say either way. Even more confusing are the characters who get fairly unambiguous deaths (such as Phantom Robo or Skyline Robo) and then turn up again later without any reaction or explanation, yet are only ever seen one at a time. And then there's the likes of Supercar Robo, who is seen as a criminal in Bug Newman's gang and then as an elderly-sounding scientist.
In short there seem to be very few hard and fast rules set and it's best to judge on a case-by-case basis. Unless there's a solid reason to think otherwise it's fair all the actions of a Machine Robo are the actions of the same guy, for reasons of neatness if nothing else.
Genders, Relationships and Families
Cross-Tribe relationships seem normal—Blue Jet (Jet Tribe) courts Rury (Cronos Tribe), Combat Buggy (Battle Tribe) gets with Melodia (Cronos Tribe), Tough Trailer (Battle Tribe) has a thing for Diondra (Gyandlar), Apollo Robo (Jet Tribe) fancies Leina (Cronos Tribe) and so on. Apart from Diondra the only females seen are Cronos Tribe (that we know of, anyway—it's always possible that some of the non-speaking Battle and Jet Tribe characters are female) with the exception of Sara.
Family units also exist, though again solid information is scattered across the series. The Stol family are the most obvious example; while no mother is seen or mentioned Kirai is clearly the father and his three children Rom, Leina and Gardi are seen, though they are aliens. The kids get bigger at some point after their arrival on Cronos and the implication is there that they grow—this sort of thing is complicated by Ashi largely treating the Cronos Tribe as humans up until the point they get torn apart and there are circuits everywhere. Sure, metal beings that grow with age aren't especially scientific but Revenge of Cronos dabbles with a lot of stuff that is closer to fantasy or even magic. Much the same conclusions can be drawn around whether Machine Robo reproduce sexually or build new robots and program them—on the one hand the latter is probably the most sensible explanation but it's not always a particularly sensible show; Combat Buggy is in a relationship with someone the size of his leg.
Other siblings seen are the brothers Pro Truck Racer and Tough Trailer, but most family units shown are Cronos Tribe. There are a couple of exceptions—small, chibi-style versions of Supercar Robo, Skyline Robo and Battle Rock are seen as children on a couple of occasions, usually with dialogue making it obvious they're kids and not just midgets. The most curious character from this point of view is Sara, resident of Cleo City. She is the daughter of town chief Pithus, a Bulldozer Robo, but outwardly resembles a Cronos Tribe female. However, she transforms into a scooter. What exactly this means—whether her mother is/was from the Cronos Tribe, whether she was just build this way by Pithus and so on—is unclear but she's the exception to just about any rule you can come up with.
Beyond being metal robots it's difficult to tell what exactly Machine Robo are. They all seem to be sentient beings with a full range of emotions, though there's absolutely no clue to the origins of the species in the cartoon. Most seem to have basically good personalities and the species doesn't seem particularly warlike, often being very passive and easily quelled by the Gyandlar invaders. Few seem to have natural fighting skills—the most formidable are generally those trained by off-worlder Kirai Stol. Apart from some who turn into military vehicles they have no built-in weaponry, being reliant on rifles or swords. They are able to eat, drink and sleep—how much of this is actually necessary is unclear as these actions were generally played up for comedy value, being Rod Drill's favourite pastimes that no-one else seemed to bother with.
How big the Machine Robo actually are is open to conjecture as the entire series takes place on an alien planet with nothing that's definitely the same size as it is on our world. If Rom was 6ft tall that would make the average Battle or Jet Tribe member only around 8–10ft tall. There isn't much cheating with mass shifting but toy size seems to play a bigger role in how big a character is than the size of their alternate mode—Shuttle Robo and Police Car Robo are roughly the same size in both modes despite one being a space shuttle and the other a police car; Pro Truck Racer towers over both as his toy was much larger even through he turns into a truck cab and should still be much smaller than a Shuttle. There is the odd exception – notably Battleship Robo—but it's the closest thing to a constant.
Most Battle/Jet Tribe members can take a Cronos Tribe pilot but then any example that would really show this up as a scale problem—someone piloting Blackbird Robo, for example—is avoided, possibly intentionally; notably when they need a shuttle to go into space the larger Big Shuttle Robo—who is roughly the same size compared to Rom as a real Space Shuttle would be to a human—is pressed into action.
Why do so many Machine Robo turn into recognisable Earth vehicles if the show is entirely set on an alien planet? Good question. In Challenge of the GoBots the question was vaguely hand-waved as it was hinted that Gobots had been to Earth in the past and had some ability to monitor the planet. The people of Cronos have no idea Earth even exists; it might not in this fictional universe, so it's impossible that the same is true. So it's either parallel evolution or best not thought about.
Incidental music for the show was composed by Tachio Akano. As is common for anime series, Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos had pop songs as start and finish music. In this case, they were performed by the artists of the Futureland label. Music videos for all the songs featured in the show, along with a comedic short named "Leina's Holiday", were compiled into an OVA called Memories of the Battlefield, released on April 22, 1987—timed to coincide with the end of the series.
- "Machine Robo Honō" by Martin — Episodes 1–18
- "Shōri no Machine Robo" by Masato Shimon — Episodes 19–47
The series ended with the regulars and assorted friends crossing a dimensional gate, at which point the cartoon's universe branched. A selection of characters were 'reborn' with no memories as the population of Electronic Planet B-1 in the Battle Hackers series.
Meanwhile the Stol siblings and the star characters were span off into an OVA series mainly focusing on Leina Stol. These bore very little resemblance to Machine Robo but do—sadly—continue the Revenge of Cronos storyline.
- Leina Stol in Wolf Sword Legend I (released 5th February 1988)
- Leina Stol in Wolf Sword Legend II (released 4th September 1988)
- Leina Stol in Wolf Sword Legend III (released 26th April 1989)
- Lightning Trap: Leina and Laika (released 23rd May 1990)
- In France, where Challenge of the GoBots had been a huge hit, the Revenge of Cronos cartoon was imported and dubbed as Revenge of the GoBots ("La Revanche des GoBots"). The dub renamed characters to reference the French version of Challenge of the GoBots.
- The first 15 episodes were released in North America by Central Park Media with English subtitles. The subtitles notably called Baikanfu "Vikung-Fu" and Kenryū "Blade Dragon", changes which have never caught on with the fandom.
Central Park Media released two tapes containing five subtitled episodes apiece in 1997 via their Software Sculptors imprint.
Pioneer released the entire series across two box sets in Japan on 8 June, 2001.