23 April 2010 | BrianDanaCamp
"Space Runaway Ideon" – Anime space series with echoes of "Gundam"
"Space Runaway Ideon" is a Japanese animated TV series that ran for 39 episodes in 1980-81 and was later condensed into a movie spin-off entitled THE IDEON: A CONTACT. It was created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, best known for "Mobile Suit Gundam" (1979), a similarly-themed giant robot anime series that also boasted movie spin-offs. "Ideon" has many elements in common with "Gundam." Both feature youthful protagonists who pilot giant robotic combat vehicles. Both feature human colonies in outer space being attacked by human competitors. Both feature a secret source of power with a mystical angle to it ("New Type" in Gundam vs. "the Id" in "Ideon"). Both have colonists being evacuated aboard a massive space ship, with groups of little kids getting underfoot throughout, although in "Ideon" this proves a Godsend.
The series is about an attack on the planet Solo, containing a colony of travelers from Earth, by an invasion force from Buff Clan, a planet 2.5 million light years away, most likely also descended from human colonists. The colonists of Solo have access to an ancient giant robotic fighting vehicle called the Ideon, as well as a massive ancient underground space ship, both powered by an unknown source, but suspected to be the legendary Id. The Ideon and the space ship on Solo are suddenly activated, after being long dormant, by the attack from Buff Clan and are used by the colonists to defend themselves and evacuate the planet and head off through space towards Earth, pursued the whole while by the invaders from Buff Clan, who are seeking the "Id" for themselves. In the episodes I saw, a total of three officers from Buff Clan manage to infiltrate the colony on Solo. One of them, Lady Karara, the Buff Clan Commander-in-Chief's daughter, is earnest about learning more about the colonists and trying to find the Ideon's source of power. She eventually becomes an ally of theirs. The lead characters on Solo include the no-nonsense redhead and ranking adult female, Sheryl Formosa, and young Cosmo Yuki, the Ideon's chief pilot and the counterpart of Amuro Ray from "Gundam." Unlike "Gundam," the older women tend to dominate the dramatics here.
I watched a Japanese VHS tape containing the first five episodes of this series without subtitles. I also watched a fan-subbed tape of THE IDEON: A CONTACT, the movie spin-off which condenses the events of episodes 1-32. I saw several scenes in the TV episodes that were used in the movie, as well as scenes early in the movie that had no counterpart in the TV episodes I saw. In the movie, the people of the planet Solo are evacuated by the 19-minute mark. On the TV tape, this evacuation happens at the end of episode four. Another notable difference is that in the movie, the colonists react to Lady Karara and her aide, Mayaya, as a distinct security breach and make sure they're locked up when they're first caught. In the TV series, those two, plus another Buff Clan officer, infiltrate way too easily and when they're caught no one thinks to restrain them or cuff them in any way, at one point leaving the three guarded by a lone inexperienced soldier who is then immediately overpowered by the captives. The lack of concern shown by the protagonists about a clear and viable threat to their colony is extremely frustrating to watch and stretches plausibility to the breaking point.
This is no lost classic crying out to be rediscovered, but I enjoyed watching these episodes nonetheless, particularly since I had some knowledge of the proceedings based on watching the subtitled movie. I would have watched more episodes if I had access to them. It's a fun, lightweight space adventure with lots of action and space combat in every episode and an awesome red combat robot. The mecha animation is superb, but, overall, it's no "Gundam." It has little of the complexity or emotional content of that series and is much less demanding. The character design is cruder than that in "Gundam," which had warmer, less harsh designs, as well as characters with a lot more substance. I suspect also that "Gundam" had a higher budget.