Dancougar 14: Taking Chances

Ryo asking the all-important question to Shinobu ans Sara, from Super Beast Machine God Dancougar

My previous post might have had the unintended effect of making people think that I don’t like Super Beast Machine God Dancougar.  This couldn’t be further from the truth, actually, as I find the show to be genuinely engaging and tonally unique among contemporaneous super robot shows.  My complaint was solely with whoever was in charge of drawing the last minute or so of episode eleven.  Shit was fuckin’ terrible, is all.

So, partially as a mea culpa to Dancougar and partially because episode fourteen was pretty awesome, I want to extol the virtues of this particular installment of the show.  These include a handful of experimental moments and some glorious shark-jumpery.

Suggested Soundtrack for Reading – Jay Z “Empire State of Mind” (it will make sense when you read below)

Sara from Dancougar, hand on hipSara drawing her pistol, from Dancougar

The fourteenth episode of Dancougar has the Cyber Beast Force (our scrappy team of good guys) operating outside of their collective comfort zone.  Up to this point in the series, they have basically taken on the Zarbados empire in straight-up, large-scale combat, from both attacking and defensive postures.  For the current assignment, General Igor (yes, that is his name) wants his elite CBF troops to essentially “break in” to an occupied New York City on foot.  These dudes are mecha pilots, of the super robot genre no less, but they are now required to employ stealth tactics as well as team work (which they are fairly poor at).  A mecha battle is not permitted because there are survivors holding out in Harlem.  As you can probably imagine, given the unfortunate track record of Japan, the creators do not miss this opportunity to depict a handful of surviving Harlem-ites in…a stereotypical and not-so-progressive manner.

Back to the positive.  There is a ton of New York fetishization in this episode, which I find fairly endearing.  The characters are dropping names of landmarks, buildings, and streets in reverential tones.  That they mention such places as Washington Square and Greenwich Village at all should be an indicator of where the hearts of the creators lie.  One thing that jumps off the screen is Masato’s visions (for lack of a better word) of New York City in all of its former, pre-invasion glory.  The CBF has chosen to sneak into NYC via the sewers, and when Masato emerges from underground, he sees New York as it was before, only with this sort of abstract, stained glass overlay.

Masato's vision of the former New York City, from DancougarMasato's vision of the former New York City, from Dancougar

Perhaps the stained glass allusion underscores the fetishization/adoration of New Yoek as sacred?  It is kind of interesting to ponder, I suppose.

My absolute favorite part of the episode, though, comes shortly before we are treated to Masato’s weird mental states.  The CBF team is going through the sewers when, all of a sudden, Ryo fights a lion with…well, I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.  I was totally not expecting it; however, it isn’t truly as random as it might initially appear.  Clearly, when the Zarbados empire invade the Earth, they lay waste to New York.  Despite the aliens’ near-total victory, they weren’t able to obliterate every living organism.  This goes not just for surviving humans such as those holed up in Harlem but for animals as well.  This lion was clearly an occupant of a New York zoo and smartly escaped underground.  Though the lion may indeed be swift upstairs, it is obviously not as fleet-of-foot as it is quick-of-wit.

Finally, there is a bit of a mutiny in this episode, and its point-of-origin is quite unexpected.  Shinobu, the team leader, and Ryo, the kung fu master, are the genre-token volatile, hot-blooded elements of the robot team.  One might think that, if anyone were going to take issue with military policy, or Igor generally, it would be one or both of these guys.  Well, insubordination occurs within the CBF via officer Geral, a respected dude and a seemingly level-headed one as well.  Granted, he shows up onscreen for the first time in the series in this very episode, sneaking into group shots when he wasn’t there before (which is kind of unintentionally hilarious), so one could claim it was a bit obvious Geral would do something this episode; however, it is implied that he has been working behind the scenes all the while.  This being the case, I expected him to die a la a Yuu Watase story, not start a mutiny.

At any rate, the officer’s disobedience ropes in our heroes.  At the end of the episode, Geral and the CBF are put in solitary for their disobedience.  Geral cryptically foreshadows some “grave decision” that General Igor is wrestling with.   The potential turning-point in the story that this episode could turn out to be is another reason that I enjoyed it so much.

On the whole, I thought the creative staff took quite a few chances with this episode, and they mostly paid off.  I liked the show before this point, and I’m even more excited now to see where things end up.  I hesitate to whole-heatedly recommend a series when I’m only a third of the way through, but I think Dancougar is worthy of a look for someone who is looking for a not-brand-new super robot show that isn’t necessarily trading on either over-the-top hijinx or angst.  Thus far, it’s kind of a real robot guy’s super robot show…complete with jungle cat disposal.

Dancougar 14: Taking Chances

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