The Brave series (勇者シリーズ Yūsha shirīzu?) is a toy and animation franchise that began after toy company Takara had ended the animated "Generation One" storyline of Transformers in Japan. Following a decline in the series' popularity that led to the cancellation of the OVA series Transformers: Zone, Takara struck a cooperative deal with the animation studio Sunrise (known for its mecha series, most notably Gundam) to develop a new franchise and set of toy lines. The franchise, in fact, would play a key role in the reintroduction of the Super Robot genre to the Japanese mainstream in the 1990s, which was in a decline after Neon Genesis Evangelion's severe deconstruction of the genre.
All of the main hero robots' mechanical (or mecha) designs in the Brave series were those of prolific Sunrise mechanical designer Kunio Okawara. In most of the Brave series, there is a main hero robot (usually the most or second-most expensive toy in the line), backed up by one or two support combiner teams and later receiving one or two combiner partners, upgrading the hero to more powerful forms. (The most or second-most powerful form of the hero robot is usually known as its "Great," "Dai," or "Super" form.)
A number of supporting characters and enemies across the Brave Series had designs or remolds derived from earlier and present (for the day) Generation One Takara Transformers designs, most notably those of Transformers: Zone and Transformers Battlestars: Return of Convoy (the latter never having its own animated series). The enemy "Geister" characters in Brave Exkaiser (save for their leader, Dino Geist) were actually remolds of first-generation Dinobot toys, for instance.
Toys for these robots were created in two sizes: DX ("deluxe") versions that contained more gimmicks and more complicated transformations, and STD ("standard") versions that contained fewer gimmicks and more limited transformations, but often also higher accuracy in reproducing the look of the robot from the anime series. Generally, the transformation of the robots was created by Takara, while the look of the robots was created by Kunio Okawara, legendary Sunrise mecha designer.
Brave series overview
There are currently a total of eight original entries in the Brave Series: one new series released every year, from 1990 to 1999, each with an episode count exceeding 40 in length. Each series is set in separate, unrelated timelines from each other. No further series appear to be planned for development in the near future.
They are the following, sorted by year of first airing:
- Brave Exkaiser (勇者エクスカイザー Yūsha Ekusukaizā?)
- The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird (太陽の勇者ファイバード Taiyō no Yūsha Faibādo?)
- The Brave Fighter of Legend Da-Garn (伝説の勇者ダ・ガーン Densetsu no Yūsha Da Gān?)
- The Brave Express Might Gaine (勇者特急マイトガイン Yūsha Toukyū Maitogain?)
- Brave Police J-Decker (勇者警察ジェイデッカー Yūsha Keisatsu Jeidekkā?)
- The Brave of Gold Goldran (黄金勇者ゴルドラン Ōgon Yūsha Gorudoran?)
- Brave Command Dagwon (勇者指令ダグオン Yūsha Shirei Daguon?)
- The King of Braves GaoGaiGar (勇者王ガオガイガー Yūsha Ō GaoGaiGā?)
To date, only the GaoGaiGar television series has been licensed for distribution in the United States. None of the remaining series have been licensed for distribution outside of Asia.
Show summaries and context
The first television series to come from the combined Takara/Sunrise Brave concept was Brave Exkaiser, whose fundamental premise and concept was very similar to that of the original Transformers series: an intergalactic "policeman" chases after space pirates called the Geisters as they descend on Earth to steal all of its "treasures," having no idea of what those "treasures" are to mankind. When he arrives on Earth, Exkaiser and his "Space Police Force" possess a variety of vehicles in spirit form, converting them to transform into humanoid robots. The relationship between Exkaiser and the son of the family whose car he had taken possession of served to establish a human-robot friendship not seen in quite the same way as Transformers had ever portrayed it, and would lead to establishing a recurring theme that many believe established initial appeal for the Brave Series in Japan. Exkaiser was far more popular than anticipated, and in some ways kindled a new desire for the production of Super Robot-style mecha among the Japanese audience.
The next show in the series—The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird—used a similar concept, focusing more on self-parodying humor by having the robot leader take possession of a humanoid-simulating android instead (which interfaces with the Fire Jet to form the robot Fighbird). This forces him to coexist with humanity on their terms, causing a great deal of trouble. The concept of the "Space Police Force" otherwise remains intact (though not connected to the earlier series), a key difference being that the mecha that Fighbird and one of the combiner teams use was developed previously by a human scientist, whose nephew accompanies the Space Police in their battles.
The Brave Fighter of Legend Da-Garn marked the first serious thematic turning point in the Brave Series. In the previous two shows, the "boy" was a supporting character, not allowed to place himself in any danger; Da-Garn is instead centered around an older youth, Seiji Takasuji: a "latch-key kid" from whom the robots receive orders—forcing the boy to command them in the field. The robot-possessing spirits themselves are no longer "aliens," but forces created by the planet Earth to protect itself from invaders—notably the invading aliens who are the antagonists of the piece.
The villains, although all nominally part of one faction, are usually at odds with each other and have separate armies and modus operandi, including one who becomes a turncoat; this theme would be developed in later Brave series. Da-Garn is noteworthy for being the only Brave series to tell a single running story with its episodes, rather than focusing on 'done in one' episodic adventures, until GaoGaiGar was produced. Unsurprisingly, these two series shared a single writer. Likewise, Da Garn foreshadows the more violent themes that would crop into later Brave series and GaoGaiGar itself, by featuring a Tomino-style ending where many main characters die.
The Brave Express Might Gaine takes these newly-crafted themes to their logical conclusion. Here the robots are no longer "spirits," but have personalities granted by advanced Artificial Intelligence. These robots were designed and built from the ground up by the late father of the main character: billionaire crime-fighting teenager and railroad magnate Senpuuji Maito. He acts as a Bruce Wayne character of sorts, taking command of the Brave Express robots in the field and fighting crime himself on the front lines. The antagonists are separated into multiple criminal factions, some at odds with each other, extending the basic villain structure used in Da Garn. Some Japanese fans consider Might Gaine the best of the Brave series, and it is often cited as the one that best expresses the idea of the Brave "formula".
The main exception is in the series' controversial ending, which is often interpreted by critics as signs of relations souring between Sunrise and Takara. In the ending of Might Gaine, the characters find out that they are merely fictional characters whose conflicts are artificially generated so that their evil otherdimensional mastermind can sell toys and merchandise. Maito reacts to this with a speech that Japanese critics interpreted as a defense of Da Garn's character-driven storytelling style, which Takara is generally believed to have disliked. After making his speech, Maito destroys the enemy, thereby asserting his own "reality" as a true character and not a merchandising tool. This analysis of the series often considers many plot elements throughout the series as Sunrise effectively "striking back" at Takara for forcing them to create shows with less plot in order to cram in more toy designs and action sequences. For instance, many robots in Might Gaine appear with no explanation, or arbitrarily transform into alternate modes that make no particular sense.
Brave Police J-Decker returns to a much lighter tone, focusing more on Might Gaine 's concept of "robot as human-built AI construct." Grade schooler Yuuta Tomonaga stumbles upon Deckerd, a humanoid robot under construction by the Japanese police, built to fight advanced forms of crime. Yuuta's constant contact with Deckerd gives the robot a "heart," or personality; when Yuuta is recruited as the "boss" of the "Brave Police" as a result, a true human/robot partnership occurs. It has been claimed that one of the major Da Garn villains, Redlone, makes an appearance in J-Decker; this is not true. Because of Redlone's immense popularity (compared to other Da Garn villains), it became somewhat traditional to have the first villain of a given Brave series resemble him (there is a similar character in Might Gaine). The character that appears in J-Decker is not named Redlone, nor is he supposed to be Redlone. Some confuse the two characters and then claim that Da Garn and J-Decker are connected somehow, which is untrue.
The Brave of Gold Goldran was intended as a throwback to the light-hearted, whimsical tone that pervaded the original three Brave titles, which had become somewhat subdued under the direction of the creative team that oversaw Might Gaine and J-Decker. Goldran follows the adventures of three young boys who are tasked with finding alien robot fighters, or Braves, that are sleeping in the form of crystals. Their major antagonist is the flamboyant and thoroughly incompetent Walter, and the villains that follow him are often similarly humorous. The entire show is extremely focused on comedy and silliness almost to the exclusion of much in the way of storytelling, although the series does develop some running plotlines towards its end. In terms of television ratings, Goldran was the peak of the Brave series' popularity.
Of the Brave Series, Brave Command Dagwon is the most divergent from the themes established throughout the other shows. Reputedly, it is the result of Sunrise seeing the enormous success of its Samurai Troopers series and wanting to duplicate the basic formula, five pretty and thinly-written young men having primarily episodic adventures, across its other main franchises. If this origin is true, then both New Mobile Report Gundam Wing and Dagwon are the direct results of it, and intended to appeal both to traditional male audiences and a crossover audience of female viewers drawn in by the attractive male protagonists.
The premise involves five teenage boys recruited by an alien policeman to prevent the destruction of Earth by inmates let loose from an intergalactic prison. Using transformation items, these teenagers can transform into "Dagwon," a team of sentai-like action heroes who can "combine" with their vehicles to attain humanoid robot form, similar to the "Headmaster Juniors" and the "Godmasters" ("Powermasters" in other countries) in Transformers: Super-God Masterforce. Though the "card" robots helping Shadow Rei are presumed to have some sort of basic AI, no human-robot relationship seems to exist in this show at all. Instead, it plays with the idea of the boys "becoming" the robots through a sort of mystic fusion, a theme later explored in an incredibly-similar Sunrise series by Dagwon's creative team, called Chouja Reideen. Although nominally a re-imagining of Sunrise and Tohokushinsha's Brave Raideen, which was developed by staff that would later be members of Sunrise, Chouja Reideen resembles Dagwon far more so than the original Brave Reideen.
The King of Braves GaoGaiGar was the final television series to be produced, and has become arguably the most popular of them all. Created by Sunrise's internal "Studio 7" under the guidance of Yoshitomo Yonetani, the show combines previous elements of the Brave Series with an ambitious throwback to the Super Robot mentality of the 1970s, presenting a sharp contrast and commentary to the harder-edged, more complex television anime emerging in the wake of Evangelion. Focusing on the concepts of "courage" and "bravery" in a light-hearted setting, this show would obtain a large fanbase after its airing in Japan, and eventually go on to spawn multiple non-animated projects and an OVA sequel, The King of Braves GaoGaiGar FINAL.
As of this writing, a new major project called The King of Braves GaoGaiGar Project Z has been announced, which links the show closely with another Studio 7 series, Betterman. Like most of the other Studio 7 anime and GaoGaiGar sequels, it seems designed to appeal to a much older audience than the traditional Brave demographic. GaoGaiGar also suffered poor television ratings in contrast with enormous DVD sales, which supports the idea that children tuned out of GaoGaiGar while older fans grew interested in the show's unusually complex, epic cosmology.
Initially a show titled The Saint of Braves Baan Gaan was to be the show to follow Dagwon but fledgling ratings and toy sales promted Sunrise to produce a show with big name talent and a superior budget to reignite interest in the franchise. Baan Gaan eventually saw life in two forms, it was used in a Brave Saga video game as well as the concept for a future show entitled Gear Fighter Dendoh. Before GaoGaiGar ended, another show, Photoizer (フォトグライザー), was planned to continue the franchise but shelved. Fully titled Brave of Light Photoizer, the show would involve designs based on, at the time, the new technology of digital cameras and then-modern cell phones.
Post-Brave series events and influence
Thanks to the unusual popularity Baan Gaan achieved with Yuusha through the Brave Saga games, the slated creative team (including character designer Hirokazu Hisayuki and probable director Mitsuo Fukuda) were allowed to make an independent Super Robot series for Sunrise a few years later, called Gear Fighter Dendoh. The plot and concept similarities between Dendoh and Baan Gaan are extremely numerous, including the mechanics for how the machines combine with their animal-robot helpers, an emphasis on a running conflict between two particular Super Robots, the dual-protagonist structure, and the idea of child pilots fighting with the support of a group of older pilots and technicians (VARS in Baan Gaan, and GEAR in Dendoh). While Dendoh was only a modest commercial success, the show was received warmly by critics, and the team has since gone on to become responsible for profitable series such as My-HiME and Gundam SEED.
Following Dendoh, Sunrise took a final stab at resurrecting the Brave style of television series by having some Dendoh staffers return to work on Machine Robo Rescue, based on a modern-day reworking of Bandai and PLEX's own Machine Robo toy line. Rescue combined all of the basic storytelling tropes of the original six, kid-friendly Brave series with a truly vast toy line and an early Sunrise attempt at blending 2D animation (the characters) with 3D animation (the robots). While the toys were popular and the anime did well with older audiences, the 3D animation was widely criticized, and overall the effort failed to recapture the original popularity of the Brave Series. Sunrise would not attempt another 2D/3D series until 2006, with the well-received series Zegapain.
Takara briefly returned to the Brave series' overall premise—that of producing interstitial properties with themes similar to that of Transformers—with the release of Web Diver and Dai Gunder. Both properties yielded TV anime and toy lines and featured transforming robots with either their own minds or the ability to "meld" with heroic children. However, both Web Diver and Dai Gunder seem to have faded into obscurity.
There are currently no plans to continue the Brave Series, nor produce another children's anime series in its vein—although Studio 7 has been allowed to continue GaoGaiGar projects for older fans. A "15th Anniversary" occurred in 2005, with DVD box set re-releases of each show and re-releases of many of Takara's original Brave toys.
Additional Brave works
There have been Yuusha "series" that are exclusive to Takara's Brave video games. They are:
Brave Saga and Brave Saga 2
The Saint of Braves Baan Gaan (Yuusha Seisen Baan Gaan) (title has also been translated by fans as Brave Crusade Baan Gaan). Also occasionally transliterated as Burn Garn. It is worth noting that Sunrise's official Yuusha web site considers Baan Gaan the ninth Brave series, even though it was not fully produced.
Brave Saga 2 can be consider a final re-tale of the Yuusha series as it feature virtually all Yuusha characters, mecha and human alike, from the previous generation. Although parallel universe and outer dimensional idea is use to explain why series such as Brave Express Might Gaine can be involved in the plot, the story assumed that at least some of the series, noticeably GaoGaiGar and Baan Gaan, happen at around the same time and in the same world. Generally, GaoGaiGar storyline is consider to be the 'side-story' while Baan Gaan served as the main event, with other Yuush participate in either of the story. Also, a general time line is given to some of the work, such as stating that the entire event within The Brave Fighter of Legend Da-Garn inspired the creation of Grand Police Department in Brave Police J-Decker, while the event in The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird is part of the reason why Brave Command Dagwon is formed. There are some none-Yuusha series being involved in the plot, and it should be noted that they are consider to be Real Robot, opposed to Yuusha's Super Robot setting.
As the consideration of toy-safety measures, sharp edges and parts were avoided in animated Yuusha Series to prevent redesigning parts. As Baan Gaan was not made into animation, the mechanical design were slightly different to other leading Yuushas - many sharp edges can be seen in Baan Gaan, Machba Spheion, and Great Baan Gaan. Combination process of aforementioned Yuushas basically proceed features of every previous Yuusha Series' combinations.
New Century Brave Wars (Shinseiki Yuusha Taisen)
Quantum Leap Layzelber (Ryoushi Choyaku Layzelber, title can also be interpreted as Quantum Leap Rayzelver and Quantum Leap Rayserver. It is worth noting that Layzelber is not counted among the Brave series by Sunrise).
The first entry in the Eldran series, Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh was also added to the game. This is mainly because of the many similarities between the Yuusha series and the Eldran series as they all featured transforming and combining robots and both series were animated by Sunrise. The only key difference was that the Eldran toys were produced by Tomy. However Tomy later brought Takara and formed Takara Tomy, which meant that both companies had access to the rights to each other's toys, so Raijin-Oh ended up being part of the game, along with Might Gaine, J-Decker, Dagwon, GaoGaiGar and the non-canon Layzelber. The other Yuusha robots and the other Eldran robots were not featured in the game. Now all the Eldran robots are considered to be part of the Yuusha series after the Takara Tomy merger or at least it can be seen as such due to the similarities of both franchises.
Relationship to Transformers
The initial concept designs for Brave Exkaiser, the first Brave Series, were intended to be Transformers designs. While the Brave robot Ultra Raker was very far along at this stage, the Max team and King Exkaiser bore little resemblance to their final designs.
There are also similar design elements between the Brave toys and Generation 2/Beast Wars Transformers, which were released around the same time as the Brave toys. For example, many of the Da-Garn toys have light-piped eyes thanks to transparent pieces of plastic in their heads, a design element which many Generation 2 Transformers share. The Goldran DX toyline contains many projectile launchers, something Generation 2 shared as well. In particular, the Goldran toy "Advenger" contains a rotor-launching gimmick identical to that of Rotor Force from Generation 2. Lastly, the elbows of Leon from DX Leonkyzer contain ball joints, a design element that gained much broader use during Generation 2 and even more so during the Beast Wars toy line.
The Brave Series also reused character designs and toys from previous Transformers series. (A complete listing of those reuses follows in the section below).
Similarly, subsequent Transformers lines have also been influenced by the Brave Series. The Japanese Mini-Con Kingbolt's coloration and characterization are homages to the Brave series Exkaiser. Also, the Cybertron cartoon featured many homages to the Brave series King Of Braves GaoGaiGar, most notably the way Optimus Prime combines with Leobreaker and Wing Saber, which is similar to the way GaoGaiGar combines with Goldymarg (Who coincidentally shares a voice actor with Leobreaker) and Stealth Gao and the fact that Hot Shot was identical to Volfogg because of his appearance and transformation. The cinematography for Energon Optimus Prime's stock-footage combination sequence with his Prime Force limbs is also very reminiscent of Brave series stock footage.
One striking difference between the Brave Series and Transformers is that very few villain robots were released for the former. This is in sharp contrast to most of the Transformers series, for which heroes and villains were and are released in relatively equal numbers (with the exception of Zone and Battlestars). Generally speaking, the lack of villain toys is more the norm for such toy lines in Japan, with the various Transformers lines (save for aforementioned two) being the exception there rather than the rule.
Toys and character designs recycled from Transformers
- Ptera Geist - Swoop
- Thunder Geist - Sludge
- Horn Geist - Slag
- Armor Geist - Snarl
- Red Geist - Deathsaurus (without the Eagle Breastplate)
- Hiryu - Sonic Bomber
- Mega Sonic 8823 - Sonic Bomber
- Goryu - Dai Atlas (without handle for his shield)
- Atlas Mk. II - Dai Atlas
- Atlas Epsilon - Dai Atlas
- Shadow-maru - Sixshot (featured significant remolding to incorporate a ninja motif)
- Kagerou - Sixshot
- The Micromaster Stations 1234(sans Micromaster and including non-Transforming Brave Police figures; never appeared in the show)
- Duke Fire - New Rodimus
- Revibaron - Hybrid of Deathsaurus, Sonic Bomber, and Dai Atlas
- Zazorigun - Scorponok
- Death Garry Gun - Sky Garry (canabilized trailer launchers)
- Thunder Dagwon - Galaxy Shuttle (significant remolding, including an additional motorcycle/robot that combines for the shuttle's robot mode)
- Dag Base - Grandus (significant remolding, does not combine with Star Convoy)
Note: Italicized names are non-toy characters.
- Official Sunrise Brave Series website
- The TFW2005 forum Brave thread
- GaoGaiGar-Betterman Wiki
- Japanese Brave fansite
- The Ultimate Gattai! - English Brave fansite with in depth information -- http://www.freehyperspace.com/forum/index.php?topic=619.0 "Currently down for the month due to FreeHyperSpace being compromised by a hacker"