When UPN debuted Teknoman some Sunday afternoon in the mid-90’s, I felt like something special was occurring with American releases of anime. The series debuted with a mini-movie featuring the first four episodes, and then the show was aired directly opposite of syndicate channel WXYZ 20’s Dragonball. This was the time to be an anime fan. This was the renaissance.
This was the hyperbole of emotion felt by a pubescent fan who thought that everything good did not have American origins. Dragonball ended after the very first story arc 13 episodes into the series, and Teknoman never reached its climax. Anime’s popularity would not be driven by a fantasy comedy or soft scifi series. Instead, a few years later, Dragonball Z’s mindless, endless action and Pokemon’s obvious support of slavish consumerism took the United States by storm. Teknoman faded into obscurity, despite the occasional fan’s asking, “Remember that show Teknoman? That seemed cool.”
Which is hilarious because, years later, I found out that it was the American version of Tekkaman Blade, itself a remake of Space Knight Tekkaman – which was also dubbed for American audiences in the 70’s and similarly fell into obscurity. To be fair, however, the original Tekkaman was a goofy and silly looking series, and the American version had horrendous voice acting that serves to set the bar extremely low for everything to follow.
Then comes Tekkaman Blade, which starts off incredibly good before falling into storytelling that Freud could easily interpret to say the worst about its writers and director. Takaya Aiba and his family (minus his dead mother, of course) are caught by a parasitic alien species called the Radam while on an expedition in space. Each one is placed into crystal and provided an extra powerful form called Tekkaman. Takaya’s father is rejected from the process for indeterminate reasons, so he uses that time to save Takaya, his favorite son. Takaya escapes to Earth and befriends the Space Knights, who rename him D-Boy (for “Dangerous Boy”, but “Douche Boy” fits better) because he refuses to provide them with his real name. They join forces to fight the Radam monsters.
Where the story gets more interesting is that Takaya’s central conflict comes from Shinya, his twin brother. While Takaya transforms into the good, pure, Tekkaman Blade; Shinya turns into…well, Tekkaman Evil. Shinya claims that the conflict was a long time coming not because he was taken over by the Radam but because as twins they came from one being – so only one should be able to survive. This “blood destiny”, as he calls it, exists because of the natural drive to prove who should or shouldn’t exist. (Or a battle for authenticity.)
Tekkaman Evil is eventually made into a sympathetic character in a one-off special taking place during his inevitable death. He flashes back to his childhood where he accidentally knocked over a candle while only he and his mother were home. She stuffs him in an old grandfather clock to keep him safe, and he watches her burn to death. He then grows up with his father obviously resenting him and favoring brother Takaya. Then we see what happened to the father after he freed Takaya from the Radams – he runs over to where Shinya is being processed and is promptly killed by the guy. Treasuring memories of the mother while slaying one’s father is certainly suggestive of Oedipal themes.
Later in the series, it’s discovered that the rest of the Tekkaman are of relation or close crewmembers of the Aiba expedition. Tekkaman Omega, the actual leader of the group, is never before mentioned older brother Kengo; Tekkaman Sword is Kengo’s fiance whom he never got to marry because they were waiting until they reached Jupiter – but they were attacked before that; Tekkaman Axe is their martial arts instructor and mechanic; Tekkaman Dagger is a dude named Fritz; Tekkaman Lance is a guy oddly named Molotov; and Tekkaman Rapier is cherished little sister Miyuki. Miyuki also manages to get away from the Radam. She is also a calming visual for Takaya. Even someone bearing a passing resemblance to the girl is enough to soothe him during critical moments.
Naturally, Takaya needs to slaughter his family and crew in order for the human race to survive and also to become a man in this tale of xenowar. Some are emotionally easier to kill than others, interestingly enough. Takaya didn’t show any hesitation in fighting Sword, for example. This is a story about a man’s having no problem with killing his male family members or the women they love.
What really struck me, though, was when Shinya was freed of the Radam parasitic brain slug. He looked at Takaya’s love interest, one of the very few female characters, and said that he knew Takaya was in love with her because she bears a passing resemblance to their mother. If this isn’t Freudian, then I don’t know what is. To add to the statement in the last paragraph, this is a series about killing off the male legacy of one’s family and fantasizing about the female side. The writers certainly had things to work through when writing this story.
I want to say that this was a good series otherwise, but I don’t like lying. The first 26 episodes showed true promise and direction. The latter 23 were an obvious extension that were written due to the series’ popularity. The story got dumber and longer, which I dislike. A concise story is a strong story (says the guy with the overly long write-up for a series he found disappointing). The series lost its way. At least there was a drastic improvement in animation and art.
The worst part is how the series ended – with an obvious rip off of the 80’s Z Gundam. The hero, having witnessed first-hand the death of his friends and family but having won the war nonetheless, is reduced to a state of psychic shock via some convoluted means – which is ultimately supposed to symbolize the tragedies of the natural disaster known as war and the horrible PTSD-inducing effects it would have on anyone but especially our pure-hearted hero as he comes of age on the battlefield. It’s horribly tragic, but the inability to remember is a sweet relief for our hero. However, Z Gundam did it first and better a decade prior to Tekkaman Blade. Plagiarism is flattering, but sometimes people need to learn how to copy things right.