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Zenkaikon 2011: Giant Robot Openings from 1963 to 1984

Not having a particular interest or background in giant robot anime, I would probably be the last person you’d expect to see at this panel. However, a panel I attended last year at Otakon provided some insight into the creation, production, and subtext of oft-ignored credit sequences, so I decided to see what there was to be said about this specific evolution. Starting with Astro Boy and ending with something pre-1984, the panel consisted of one un-subbed opening sequence after another (roughly 42 by my count) without the benefit of any explanations, explorations, or even names. After one of the presenters hit play on the laptop, the audience was left to marvel at one- to two-minute clips in rapid and seemingly infinite succession for almost the entire hour.

Despite being irked at the lack of introduction and discussion, I initially fell into a state of humored awe. There’s just so much giant robot anime out there … and the panel didn’t even reach its end! No wonder there wasn’t any time for intros (as frustrating as that was). After 10 or so openings, however, I felt a wearing tedium akin to being accosted by a friend whose notion of in-person entertainment is the sharing of endless Internet memes. While thorough in their acquisition of material, the panelists could’ve made a go of being more selective by grouping openings into trends and showing one example per group per time period and then discussing possible reasons for the noticeable differences.

After coming to terms that there would be no explanations, I sat back and tried as adeptly as possible to discern the evolutionary path myself. There was more than enough on which to comment, but among the things I found fascinating was the gradual swing in focus from violence to teamwork as saving grace. Within even this over-simplified observation there is much to expand upon: operator interaction with singular robots in the various recurring violent and teamwork eras, focus on detailed technological aspects of the robots themselves, form, weaponry, setting, fictitious and real word historical framing, etc. Alas, with but a minute or two of fury to note so many aspects, I simply put down my pen and enjoyed the relentless onslaught of visuals with the rest of the lip-syncing, bouncing crowd. And for the first panel on opening day of the con, maybe that’s all I needed.

Credit goes to yosefu2 for posting all the above clips to YouTube.

Click here for more of our Zenkaikon 2011 coverage

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