27 January 2008 | BrianDanaCamp
"Dancougar," a mecha spectacle of mid-1980s anime
The mid-to-late 1980s marked the glory days of mecha in Japanese animation, i.e., mechanized fighting craft used in various sci-fi anime. "Dancougar" (aka Super Bestial Machine God Dancougar, 1985) takes a few pages from such previous mecha-dominated shows as "Gatchaman," "Mobile Suit Gundam," and a big hit from two years earlier, "Macross," but strips down the human drama to its bare bones and concentrates on scads of combat scenes, all executed with unusually intricate animation for a mid-'80s TV series. Alien Emperor Muge sends his forces to conquer Earth, which fights back with its Cyber Beast Force, consisting of four cocky and attractive young pilots (three male, one female), who operate land and air machines (three land, one air) that take on animal characteristics (Eagle, Cougar, Mammoth and "Liger," presumably a mix of lion and tiger), when engaged in battle. An interesting twist occurs when one of the pilots' peers, Shapiro Keats, defects to the alien forces and, after providing them with key information about Earth's defenses, is rewarded with a fancy costume, lots of eye shadow(!) and an alien girlfriend named Luna (blue hair, purple lips, but hot!).
It's 1980s animation style in full force with big mops of hair on all of the young characters and big, big eyes on the lead female, Sara, and one of the boys, Masato. There's a teensy bit of drama as Sara pines for Shapiro, much to the dismay of Shinobu, the lead pilot and the main conscience of the group.
I watched episodes 1-5 for this review and they were packed with battle action as the aliens target various points around the earth, including Kansas City, Los Angeles, Japan, and Nazca, Peru, where famous unexplained line drawings of animals are etched in flat rocky plains, visible chiefly from the sky. The aliens invariably send large fleets of flying craft abetted by insect-like giant robots, all of which do much damage to Earth's population centers before the Cyber Beast Force gets up and running and gives Earth a fighting chance.
Sara's gleaming black Cyber Beast Cougar is especially impressive as it pounces like a big cat and tears its opponents up into little metallic pieces. The animation is fluid, the craft designs quite detailed and the overall look of the piece imaginatively executed. It may not have the dramatic substance of "Gundam" or "Macross" (aka Robotech) nor the richly delineated characters, but sometimes anime fans just want to see vigorous young heroes in snazzy fighting craft blasting the hell out of alien invaders without too many breaks in the action. And "Dancougar" supplies all that. (Well, at least the first five episodes.)