Everyone’s going retro nowadays. It’s so lame that it’s cool again. Haven’t you heard about the recent trend amongst men to call themselves “retrosexuals?” These men hate “limp-wristed candy-asses” so much, they’ve decided that being even more of an oafish jerk is the way to go. It’s kinda camp. And you know what Heroman feels like to me? Total camp.
Even the title screams 1970’s Sunday morning adventure cartoon and — you know what? — the ending too:
It’s thus no surprise that the anime harkens back to the good ol’ days of black and white, when heroes are light (Heroman himself is mostly white) while the villains are dark (and very red).
But most importantly, it harkens back to a time when men were men and the manly decisions men have to make to become great men. Essentially, this is a coming-of-age story of how a young boy learns to grow up and defend his planet from intergalactic invaders. Why are the bug aliens invading? They’re just mean and they want to steal our resources. The motives are simple: heroes are good because they’re heroes and villains are bad because they’re villains. We don’t need to delve into complex feelings.
The aliens even fly around in freaking saucers.
(The scene ends with the saucer flying away from a broken planet, presumably the latest victim of these dastardly bug villains. Oh boy, are the aliens in for a surprise.
Sorry guys, we’re already beating you to the “destroy this planet” phase!)
I’ll just say upfront that the plot doesn’t matter. No, really… it doesn’t. This isn’t a complex narrative. It’s actually extremely simple, and it’s the type of story that’ll no doubt be retold again and again. The meaning of the story only comes out when you decide to set aside the mundane details of the plot.
What is Joey’s problem and how does he go about solving it? The first episode doesn’t deal quite so much with the aliens yet. For now, the serious threat is his emasculation. Worst of all, it’s emasculation in front of his woman.
Seeing Joey slammed against the fence by a tall, broad-shouldered All-American like Lina’s brother, it’s not hard to see Joey’s shortcomings. Y’see, Joey’s a bit of an effete young man.
He’s shorter than his love interest, he’s got long hair and the way anime is drawn nowadays, you really can’t tell from a distance if he’s a guy or a girl. He’s employed as a waiter(ress), and hell, he’s got one of those ambiguous names like Leslie or Taylor. None of the above qualities are inherently bad, but keep in mind that this is the launching point for the anime. In a coming-of-age story, Joey’s at his most nascent, underdeveloped stage. He’s supposed to grow and change from this point. Most heroes don’t start out as heroes at the beginning of a story. Let’s cut to the chase: you usually start out as a loser and only become a hero after going through much difficulty and many trials. The cold and simple fact is that a young boy like Joey’s a loser.
What’s so bad about being a loser? The message here is that girly losers like Joey are undeserving of the anime babe. We may pose questions like… why should he care about the anime babe? But again, this anime is retro. The motivations are simple: “You want the babe just because she’s a fucking babe. Why else? What are you, a homo?”
The way Lina is led away by her brother without nothing but an ineffectual verbal protest gives us another clue to what the anime’s truly about. Joey’s gotta get the anime babe, but he can’t get the anime babe. Why? ‘Cause he doesn’t have the approval of Lina’s male authority figures. In essence, Lina’s brother acts as a surrogate father.
(Yes, I know Lina has a real father and I love how quaintly old-fashioned he looks.
A handlebar mustache in southern California? Seriously? It’s like the creators Googled “manly,” took a long look at this, and decided that yep, this is the “end all, be all” of manliness. All he needs is a top hat, pipe and monocle.)
Simply put, Joey’s gotta man up; he’s gotta prove himself to Lina’s “father” before she can be “given away” like a bride.
But how do we get there? How do we change the hard facts of Joey’s character? As a hero, we’re supposed to identify with Joey and see a bit of him in ourselves. We thus ask ourselves… “Well, I guess I could get a haircut, but I have no muscles and I dunno how to get them. I’m short and I really can’t change that either. I also can’t really change the fact that I love robots. Oh God, what can I do?” The solution?
Now who’s broad-shouldered?! Long hair? Heh, Heroman doesn’t even have hair. Feelings? Sorry, Heroman only knows two emotions:
And determineder. What we need to do to save the world and our anime babes is to hide behind pure manliness, stripped of color (except the good ol’ RED WHITE AND BLUE WOO AMERICA), emotions, and crucially, a voice. I’m sorry but the values here are just a little too traditional for me.
Bits and Pieces
– There are other things to consider. Like how Joey’s an orphaned boy with no father figure so he’s turned out this way (it’s all your fault grandma!), but thank God Heroman’s around to show him a thing or two.
– Central City huh? Oh hey, I drive past the place above everyday.
– Whose fault is it that aliens are invading? Goddamn scientists with no sense of responsibility! The brilliance of mankind apparently only leads to destruction. Even Heroman, created by man, is nothing more than a child’s toy until “divine intervention” literally strikes Heroman from the skies (Zeus, is that you?).
– These? These are the villains? Skruggs. They’re like Megaman villain rejects, but I guess that’s why Joey gets that stupid arm thing:
To wrap things up, I’ve seen two episodes and I think I’ve seen all that there is to see.