Aoki ryûsei SPT Reizunâ (1985) Review
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first 24 episodes of SPT Layzner are terrific. These shows are military focused science fiction that have the grit and mood of Votoms, but with a more likable cast and far, far better animation. It's the same director/creator, Ryosuke Takahashi, so likely he was given more money this time. I adore Votoms, but the animation timing and colors on that show aren't great (unless you like mauve and lavender explosions that happen at the same slow speed as a person walking). SPT Layzner contains some of the most wonderfully detailed television cel animation from Japan. The intricate shading, the dynamic key frames (often in the Yoshinori Kanada-style), and the fluid in-betweening in the fight scenes often compare to OVAs of that era. The mecha are incredibly well designed. In these regards, I'm hard pressed to think of SPT's rival.
For 24 episodes I thought I had come across something that would rank amongst my favorite real robot shows and OVAs, which are Macross, Macross Plus, Votoms, Gundam 08 MS Team, Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), and Metalskin Panic Madox 01.
But then the second season begins on episode 25 (actually 26 since 25 is mostly a recap episode), and things get different. The dark, atmospheric backgrounds are replaced with mostly bright daylight, and science fiction and military conceits are jettisoned in favor of an action story that was probably equally influenced by Fist of the North Star, The Road Warrior, Macross, and possibly the V mini-series. Although I like all of these things, they are not SPT Layzner, and the experience of watching the second part of SPT Layzner is frustrating and disappointing.
The temporal jump and overall concept of this second season are from Macross, and the freedom fighter angle is from there as well. The ensemble characters that worked so well in 1-24 no longer function as an ensemble---and they are less interesting as individuals than as a group. The villains in 25-38 are cackling buffoons (including the lone cackler who was resurrected from the first season). Some of these guys look like Jagi from FotNS, except Ru Cain, who looks like Shin from FotNS. And our once reluctant warrior Eiji is now a killer Kenshiro martial artist. These latter episodes have an increased amount of sadism, but not really comparable to what was going on with OVA stuff at the time--or even on a level with FotNS, so not notable in that regard. The mild version of Baoh or Violence Jack or MD Geist is a sad digression from what SPT Layzner originally was .
There is only one thing that gives these latter episodes any value: there are an abundance of very well animated mecha battles. But that's it, and that's a shame.
Also worth criticizing is the last episode, which is bad and mostly a clip show. So my suspicion is they ran out of money and this lackluster "conclusion" was only there to set up the OVAs. I will check these out when I've recovered from my disappointment with the last 14 episodes, but for it's first 24 episodes, this show was everything I want in a real robot anime and executed at a higher level than I've seen in eighties television anime. A bittersweet viewing experience.