Back in the nineties, I spent many a day trying to build up my own movie collection, and for poor folk, that’s tough. Imagine my surprise when after receiving my allowance I retreated to the local dollar store and saw some VHS movies for me to purchase with my own money. Granted, they weren’t blockbuster films, but they were public domain cartoons, and some pretty interesting gems that only bargain hunters discovered.
Much to my surprise one fateful day, I found a cartoon called “Robo Formers,” an anime about robots, and for a dollar it was all mine. For forty three minutes I had no sense of continuity or familiarity with the characters. All I knew is that it was all mine for a dollar. Almost two decades later, I discovered Robo Formers was actually called “Starvengers” which was an English title for the Japanese series “Getter Robo G.” What I bought were edited and dubbed versions of “Getter Robo G” for a bargain basement price. What’s worse is that the VHS was piss poor quality.
Often times the cartoons had no opening sequence, and the VHS’ themselves were recycled records of wildlife footage taped over with the animated series. In spite of the horrible quality and manufacturing, I still have my VHS of “Robo Formers” to this day and this rarity is pretty much impossible to find. “Robo Formers: Star of Fear” is one of the half a dozen VHS “Robo Formers” cassettes released since the eighties and I’m lucky enough to own a copy. Granted, “Robo Formers” in its bargain basement state, is about as generic an anime as you can get, but it gets the job done when you’re living in the mid-nineties sans cable or internet.
Much of the episode feels edited and out of sequence as many moments are pretty pointless. The trio of male star fighters form a robotic fighter with their ships only to disengage for no reason, and much of the dialogue makes absolutely no sense in the context of the story. I was never sure why the female star fighter never joined the battles, nor did I really understand why each men had specialty outfits of their very own. And who is Joey related to? What purpose does he serve on the team? After war ships begin exploding at sea, the Robo Formers are on the hunt for the source. Meanwhile young Joey Copernicus is falling for young Maria, a girl with an odd aversion from anything round and shiny.
Much of “Robo Formers” is an absolute mess, but by virtue of nostalgia, it’s not completely unwatchable. I’d love to see the original series someday. For a child looking for generic robotic fun, “Robo Formers” was a welcome treat with some interesting characters that wasn’t any different from “Robotech” or “Transformers.” It was bought by Americans in hopes of becoming a huge hit, and while the latter titles succeeded, “Robo Formers” is pretty incoherent. Years later, it just doesn’t age well at all, and remains basically obscure, save for a copy on Youtube. But it’s worthy of experimentation for anime fans.