Anime Review: Exkaiser – The first Yuusha

Kaiser Sword!

In the 70s, Tetsujin, Astroganger and Mazinger Z were broadcast on Japan’s TV, and the giant robot boom began in Japan – where we see hot-blooded Robot pilots battle against aliens, evil scientists and more. Then the genre divided into two: Real Robot and Super Robot. With the appearance of Mobile Suit Gundam, more and more Real Robot with a focus on traditional war slowly took over. The Super Robots went into a decline during the late 80s. Just when everyone thought those unrealistic and ridiculous shows were over, Takara Tomy – with the hopes of marketing their new toys – gave Studio Sunrise of Gundam fame a project that would revive the Super Robots and began a legendary franchise: the Brave Series. And starting with Brave Exkaiser in 1990.

After Tranformers G1 ended, Takara Tomy saw the decline of interest in the franchise, so they partnered with Sunrise to create new promotion material in the form of anime. And thus, a new mecha franchise using Transformer-ish design was created – combining the sentient vehicles of Transformers with the human element of traditional Super Robots. The franchise proved to be a wise decision – as it went on to give us 8 tv series, several OVAs and many video games and became a staple in many mecha fans childhood. That was the Brave/Yuusha franchise – with the first being Exkaiser.

Exkaiser’s story is about a team of Space Police captained by Exkaiser himself. They arrived on Earth in pursuit of the space criminals Geisters, led by Dino Geist. To maintain their form on the planet, the Kaisers assimilated themselves into vehicles, with Exkaiser picking the Hoshikawa family’s sport car. Thanks to that, Exkaiser met and befriended the young boy Kouta, and they embarked on the journey to reclaim justice and brought evil to light, putting a stop to the Geister’s plan to steal the Earth’s treasure.

The franchise main aim is, of course, children where they would sit down and watch an episode of the anime each week. So the show sought to remove “mature and complicated elements” to created a “childhood adventure” series. Brave Exkaiser has quite a simple story with a monster of the week format, and only progressed significantly when they get near the end of the series. The episodic nature of the series make weekly viewing ideal since even if you miss one or two episodes, the overall narrative wasn’t affected at all – similar to older Super Robot shows. Each episode’s plot is also quite straightforward, revolving around Kouta’s daily life, Geister’s plan and the Kaisers’ effort to thwart them each week.

Even though the episodes are self-contained and simple, they still delivered value both in terms of entertainment as well as a teaching experience. Each episode usually focus on Kouta’s life and troubles, and end with a valuable life lesson at the end. They also mix it with some comedy and some dramatic action scene. You can identify a familiar format as you dwell more into the franchise, even so, they are still interesting for weekly viewing. If you binge them all at once, you might feel that some episodes didn’t really stick that hard.

For me, my favorite episodes are the ones that delivere a meaningful message to children that watch the show, such as episode 11, where Exkaiser encouraged Kouta so he can confidently joined the class’ play, by telling him that “The thing that connect all living beings, no matter where or when, is the will to live life to the fullest”. Through the theme “treasure”, Brave Exkaiser show the viewers what is previous, what is “hontou no Takara” (true treasure) in life. These messages are valuable with a good medium to transmit them makes those episodes all the more meaningful and emotional.

On the other hand, the episodes that focus on the action has their own charm. In those ones, the Braves have to face unique situation with exceptionally high stakes (like when they have to stop a nuclear plant from exploding). Those situations contrast with the rest of the light-hearted stuff and excite the viewers to the edge of their seats, coupled with some badass action scenes by the Braves make those episode very exciting. However, not every episodes carry the same quality, and there are episodes that are true “filler” quality. It is understandable considering the series run.

The biggest plus about Exkaiser is the relaxing vibe that it bring. With simple and straightforward plot, and an easy to digest format, a light-hearted theme and meaningful lessons for children bring even the adults back to their childhood, recreating the feeling of watching a morning cartoon every week. Following the daily life of the Hoshikawas, seeing Jinichi and Yoko’s happy marriage, Kouta’s sister and the kids’ innocence, and above all the courageous heart of Kouta, it is hard not to feel optimistic and positive about life. Brave Exkaiser is far from complicated, but the value it brings is not simple.

Just like the story itself, character development in Exkaiser isn’t very extensive, even so, each character has their own unique personalities and still change as the series went on.

Kouta Hoshikawa is a brave 3rd grader, even though he also has his mischievous side. Throughout many adventures with the Braves, he slowly matured, becoming more steadfast with a stronger sense of justice. And most importantly, he became more courageous compared to the start.

Kouta’s growth is shown not only during struggles, but also in how he treat other people around him. His journey is marked with many emotional moment – especially his relationship between Kouta and Kotomi. Their relationship went through very reasonable steps, and in episode 35 and 36, their moment was truly emotional.

Though not much developed, Kouta is still a good character for me, because the writer’s aim is to create a character that is simple, whose life is closest to the viewers’ daily life, so that they can relate themselves to the character, thereby imbibing the lessons of the series to the fullest. At the same time, Kouta and his life is also a beautiful and sweet picture that heals the heart and energizes the viewers.

The leader of the Kaisers, Exkaiser, is an extremely loveable character – although he can be a bit impulsive at times, he has a solid sense of justice, tolerance and courage, all the qualities of a leader. Throughout the series, he is Kouta’s protector from the Geisters, as well as his inspiration and motivation. Exkaiser’s personality isn’t boring either, as he doesn’t know much about things on Earth, leading to his occasional humorous situations. Besides Kouta, Exkaiser is a character who directly shows viewers what true courage is, and what it’s like when people bravely face challenges and live to the fullest, setting an example for the audience to follow.

The synergy between the two is great, as Exkaiser protects, cares and inspires Kouta, helping him to grow, Kouta also cares and protects Exkaiser, supporting him in various situations, and explaining to him everything on Earth.


 The supporting characters, although not in the spotlight like Kouta and Exkaiser, but their special personalities are indispensable spices for Brave Exkaiser.

Jinichi Hoshikawa, Kouta’s father, is a good father, boss, and journalist. He has a solid work ethic and discipline in his work. Besides, he really cares about his family and relatives, often putting family above work. Jinichi especially loves his wife, which is evident when in the series the two have many romantic moments together. He is also very kind to his subordinate, Tokuda, being both strict with Tokuda so that he can grow up, and treating Tokuda as a member of the family, sometimes allowing him to stay and to have meals with his family.

Jinichi’s wife, Yoko, is depicted as a beautiful, gentle young mother who deeply loves her husband and two children. Her signature personality is her extreme innocence, to the point of being silly, but in many key moments, she has a strong conviction, and in the end she’s often the one right. Perhaps, through the character of Kouta’s mother, the writers wanted to convey the message that sometimes stupidity can be confused with bravery and steadfastness.

The eldest sister of the Hoshikawa family, Fuuko, despite inheriting her mother’s beauty, her personality is very different from Yoko’s: she is fierce, pragmatic, and sometimes selfish. Fuuko gets into trouble many times due to her own personality, but is still a wonderful older sister who cares and loves her younger brother.

The fifth and most important member of the Hoshikawa family is Mario the dog, simply the bestest boi of the series. This Chow Chow crossbreed is very intelligent, loyal, and after episode 41 “Mario and Juliet”, he deserves the title of Brave no less than Kouta and Kaiser team.

The “non-permanent” member of the Hoshikawa family is the journalist Osamu Tokuda – Mr. Hoshikawa’s subordinate. As his name suggests, Tokuda longs to earn his own scoop, but throughout the series, clumsy and bad luck keep him from missing opportunities. Although clumsy and dumb, Tokuda has many good qualities: he is always ready to sacrifice himself to do good, as shown in episode 20. In the final episode, all his good deeds and willpower are rewarded when Tokuda finally caught a huge scoop thanks to Exkaiser.

With the exception of Dino Geist, the Geisters don’t make much of an impression on me, partly because these villains are more humorous and fumble a lot, partly because they don’t have interesting personalities. Dino Geist’s four subordinates, with the exception of Ptera Geist, all have in common that they are quite dull and brutish, and have few outstanding personalities. Because of their clumsy and impulsive personalities, they often spoil things at the last minute and are easily defeated by the Kaisers.

Contrary to his “goons”, Dino Geist is extremely dangerous, sly and powerful. Since he showing up, the situation between the Geisters and the Kaisers has almost been turned upside down. Having a giant body larger than the King Exkaiser, he is so powerful that even God Max, Ultra Raker, and King Exkaiser combined force could not defeat him alone. Besides, the plans he outlined and directed many times were almost successful, only if his subordinates did not get in his way. On top of that, Dino Geist had the aura of a bandit general, and a determination not inferior to that of Exkaiser, making him a worthy villain for the Braves. Dino Geist’s final moment reinforce that aura: he jumped into the sun to commit suicide, believing that “Every life is a treasure”, determined not to let Exkaiser have his treasure. I wish Dino Geist had had more screen time, or that the rest of the Geisters were just as dangerous as he was, since he’s a really good villain.

Compared to the later Brave series, the animation quality of Brave Exkaiser is lower, but still smooth enough for a children anime series at the time. Like the animation, the art style of this series is not as polished as other Brave series, a bit simple and sometimes the bodies of the robots are deformed or unproportional, but still above average and enough to make action scenes attractive.

Speaking of action scenes, I actually like Brave Exkaiser’s action scenes more than Gaogaigar TV series’s, simply because they have varied fighting scenes interspersed with special move scenes, as opposed to Gaogaigar where most of the action scenes are just Gaogaigar or Yuusha Robo using their special moves.

It is impossible not to mention the biggest visual highlight of the anime, which is the sakuga segments made by extremely talented animators of the mecha industry at that time such as Sawako Yamamoto, Tatsufumi Ito, Hirotoshi Takaya, Toru Yoshida and Masami Obari. All the important transformation, fusion, and finisher scenes of the series are impeccable, among them, I love the Exkaiser combine scenes, the Dino Geist transformation scene and of course the original Obari pose – the Thunder Crash scene.

The character design is done by Masayuki Hiraoka, simple and not very impressive, but still enough to bring out the personality of each character. For example, Kouta’s dynamism, dreaminess and manly nature is evident in his pointed hair, red jacket, and figure, in contrast to Takumi who has a suit, glued-up hair, pointed face and round glasses, showing wealth and arrogance due to being spoiled.

With the exception of the Blue Raker brothers Green Raker and four subordinate Geisters (whose designs were taken from previous Transformers projects), the Brave Exkaiser mechas were all designed by Kunio Okawara, the veteran mechanical designer who I’m sure every mecha fan has heard of. Every robot design in the series is stunning, from the body to the colors and details (lion head on mecha chest = peak mechanical design). It’s hard to choose a favorite, because every design is excellent, even those of the Geister Robos that appear in each episode, but if I had to choose, it would be Dino Geist’s – the most detailed and cool.

If there’s anything to criticize about Brave Exkaiser, it’s definitely not the audio. Singer Hidemi Miura contributed to the series with two wonderful opening and ending songs. The excellent opening “Gatherway” combines city pop music with the spirit of Super Robot, creating melodies that are both heroic and stylish, while the ending  “Kore Kara no Anata he” has a very peaceful feeling of a lullaby.

The anime’s soundtrack is made by composer Kohei Tanaka, who has created memorable soundtracks for mecha series such as Gaogaigar, Gunbuster, G Gundam, etc. Just talking about it, you can probably imagine how good the soundtrack of Brave Exkaiser is. As a matter of style, his songs in the series are ostentatious, each one so different and unique that it’s unmistakable. On top of that, the Kaisers’ heroic and epic theme songs, especially those of Exkaiser, such as “Kyodai Gattai”, “Sanou Gattai”, “Victory Sword”, etc., enhance the emotions of the combining and finisher scenes by ten thousand times. To say that Super Robot soundtrack is in the palm of Kohei Tanaka’s hand is not an exaggeration.

The voice acting in the anime is also very professional. Everyone did their part, especially Sho Hayami, the voice actor of Exkaiser. His deep, masculine and powerful voice really gives much of the heroism to Exkaiser, and increases the force of Exkaiser’s special moves. Uncle Shozo Izuka also did a good job, putting a lot of cunning and danger into the Dino Geist character. In addition, I was also impressed with the performance of Chie Koujiro, VA of Fuuko, through her high-pitched voice that perfectly matched Kouta’s sister’s fierce personality. 

Brave Exkaiser is an excellent children show with heart-healing poetic themes, thanks to its thoughtful production and fiery spirit. The anime is proof that it’s not just children who can feel the lessons in children anime, and anyone of any age can enjoy these shows. So, be brave, and don’t let preconceptions or prejudices stop you from enjoying whatever anime you want.

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