Anime Review: Infini-T Force – Traditional Heroism Meets Modern Storytelling

Because that’s what heroes do!

After many years of standalone series being told as self-contained plot, fans are more eager than ever to get crossovers – where characters from many different series come together to fight back-to-back against a greater evil. With Dynamic Pro, DC and Marvels pioneering such crossovers, Tatsunoko figured it had the necessary resources to create one such story as well. Of course, with many henshin heroes in its hands, it isn’t difficult for Tatsunoko to make its own “Avengers”. And that’s where Infini-T Force come from, combining four of its 70s series into one, from the space-faring knight Tekkaman to the apocalyptic cyborg Casshern, with the henshin detective Polymar and finally, the Science Ninja Gatchaman!

Infini-T Force has a very basic formula for a crossover – combining different universes by using multiverse shenanigans. It is one of the simplest and easiest way to bring characters from different franchises/series together. For this one, all 4 of our heroes are pulled into an all-new universe altogether. And the main story revolves around a young girl named Emi – who somehow came into possession of a magic pencil that grant her wishes. However, Emi has her own issues of reckless abandonment due to her life situation. With the heroes coming into her life, dark forces also pop up left and right to achieve their goals.

As mentioned, the multiversal happenings in Inifni-T Force pulled our 4 heroes into a new world, which is also a cheap (but fast) way to disregard their own settings and just conserve the characters. Only the characters matter, their old world and their consequences aren’t taken into account. In a way, this is quite a cheap cop-out, but with the amount of episode count, budget, etc… they had, this is probably the only option to make it work. And of course, the main point of the series is to show off the heroism of our characters that they displayed in their original series, invoking nostalgia as well as giving them some post-series characterization.

The series are split into character arcs, with each arc focusing on each of our hero with Emi growing throughout all of them. It’s a very traditional setting for a Tokusatsu/Hero style series. With the episode count of 12, each character got about 2 episodes each – with Ken the Eagle from Gatchaman being the most prominent one of the cast. We also get a brand-new cast of villains for the heroes to go up against.

The story is quite simple in terms of explanation and progress. The heroes were pulled into Emi’s world due to some mysterious guy in a mechanical suit. At first we started with Takeshi (Polymar) and Ken (Gatchaman G-1), then Jouji (Tekkaman) joined shortly after. We get just enough accompanying background explanation to roughly understand the settings without having to go through 100 episodes worth of 70s anime. For Casshern, I really like what they did with his intro because he’s the only one in the cast that is a cyborg – mostly mechanical. He’s the only one susceptible to programming brainwash which they used to debut him – as a temp bad guy. Of course, the gang quickly got him to wake up to his senses and joined the team.

The series also did a good job establishing the heroes’ basic personality – which were taken from the original show (but not entirely). Their personality is actually quite typical – which is easy to express their heroism through their actions. The series progress sequentially where each corresponding villains execute their own scheme in order so that the team can take them on one-by-one. Each arc fleshes out both the hero and the rival villain, as well as Emi as a main heroine. And as our heroes fight side-by-side together, they began to bond as a team. Although compared to other crossovers, there are not so much internal conflicts, mostly just Ken being a bit stubborn but it is quickly resolved soon after.

And after all the focus on the heroes, the final boss is of course, Emi’s relative – or more precise – her father. We discovered his true motive – which is not uncommon amongst villains – was to save Emi from her multiversal demise. This is quite similar to some alternate universe plotline in superhero comics where an event is canon and cannot be different in all universes. So the only way to save Emi is to literally break the multiverse. Of course, his motive is relatable, but his method disregard everyone else and selfishly satisfy his own, therefore he cannot stand against the combined power of our heroes. A very conventional crossover plot that isn’t ground-breaking, but at least was executed decently. One of the aspect I wish they did better on is the pencil make-a-wish thing. They never really explain that part and mostly just used it as a Chekhov’s gun when they need a plot device.

The ending is also a typical crossover ending where it hints on possible sequel/future adventures (which did happened which is amazing) to maintain the connection between Emi and our heroes, showing that even though they have returned to their own universes and all’s right with the world(s), the bonds and memories they made will always be there connecting them.

With this crossover, there are 5 characters that we need to keep our eyes on – Emi and obviously, the 4 dimensional knights in shining armor.

[Emi Kaidou]
Now she is a curious case. She started off very standoff-ish and generally unlikeable through her behaviors and how she presents herself with a devil-may-care attitude. Despite being 17, she acts quite childishly and selfishly. But we found out it’s all because of her upbringing (or lack thereof). Her father is absent for most of life. She lives alone in a luxury condo and was implied to be very well-off (what kind of teenager can afford a motorbike?). And yeah she’s anti-social, rebellious and all that jazz. But underneath many, many layers of wall is just a child yearning for familial affection, and when Ken and the others came into her life, it’s like she gain a new family even though they aren’t related. So she gradually warmed up to others and show more of her emotions as well as displaying more concern for the world. In episode 1, she was ready to throw away her life for a stupid self-bet, but later on, she is determined to stop her father no matter the cost.

[Ken Washio]
Straight from the Gatchaman universe, G-1 Ken the Eagle is the main hero of this crossover. It seems they took him from a time much later than the tv series since he’s aged quite a bit here. But thanks to that, he can be a father figure to Emi. His sense of justice is still the same, but he acts more like a middle-aged uncle that is a bit out-of-touch on how to do with teenagers. A lot of his values are quite old-fashioned as mentioned by Emi, but still his care for everyone’s safety and the world is still going strong. Of course, that’s why his main rival is Z/Kazumichi Kaidou. It’s pretty much a surrogate father vs biological father in a battle of ideology and strength. Ken also has a self-sacrificial tendency where he doesn’t hesitate to put himself at risk to protect others. His old-school sense of justice shines through even in modern day standards.

[Takeshi Yoroi]
 Takeshi/Hurricane Polymar is our chill and easy-going brother. On the surface, he’s quite relaxed and has a modern sense-of-humor, but in reality, he’s a skilled detective that can uncover important clues when he put his back to it. This is also quite similar to the original series where his agency was always on the brink of bankruptcy but he didn’t mind it that much. What he cares about is getting justice for the weak and punish the bad guys. In Infini-T Force, his counterweight character is quite great. Damian is a charismatic playboy with enough swag to land him in ANY villain club. However, he played it off quite well at the start pretending to be Takeshi’s friend. But still, it may not be pretending since he honestly believe in his own sense of beauty. These kinds of “villains” are the most captivating as they aren’t inherently evil, but has a skewed perspective of reality. Takeshi – being an ally of justice – is a perfect contrast for such character. He’s also the person who lift the mood whenever Ken go off on his old-man rant.

[Jouji Minami]
Jouji/Tekkaman is both the brain and the brawn of the team. He has the most advanced tech and the highest combat power. The series doesn’t shy from showing how OP he is compared to the rest of the characters, which is very nice that they stay lore-accurate for the most part. In his own series, he shoulders the heaviest responsibility compared to the other heroes, and his experience fighting powerful foes is really obvious. In terms of relationship with Emi, he is the reliable brother/uncle who can be a stable backbone of the household (which he is). His charm is also quite high, rocking a pink sweater but still has that incredible ikemen look. His rival villain is of course – a beautiful and ambitious woman. While Jouji knows all about the hero life, it can be easily observed that he neglect his own mental health and social life. So when he meet someone whose life revolves around herself only, his gentleman and paternal instinct kick in. This show that with all that power and tech, a person can be vulnerable behind an invincible mask.

The adorable lil-bro Casshern is here. Casshern is the most different of the four when compared to the original series. The Infini-T Force Casshern is very much like a blank sheet of paper (maybe they attributed it to the brainwashing thing). He acts like a robot which devotes himself to protecting Emi. Even so, he is capable of awakening to human emotions as displayed in his clash with Raja Khan – someone whose background is similar to him. It is worth noting that his arc contains the most humanity of all 4 despite being the only non-human character. It’s a very nice touch to call back to Casshern background: a normal boy who was forced to become a cyborg to save the world – by his own father no less. That also give him motivation to be protective of Emi – one of the few humans he interact with. In his old world dominated by robots and humans are ostracized, feeling the warmth of the human heart really brightens him up. Oh and not to forget Friender – he’s the best boi.

Z aka Kaido Kazumichi – is Emi’s biological father. After the realization that Emi will lost her life in all timelines one way or another. So his only choice is to create a world specifically for her to survive, while destroying and absorbing other world’s possibilities to fuel her existence. It’s a very, very extreme method which we usually see in supervillains that went off the rails due to their loved ones. Of course his motive is very tragic and all, and the pain he went through must be unimaginable, but sacrificing worlds just for Emi will make her crumble when she found out, and it’s also unfair to literally trillions of others. It is a conundrum of life – if you have the power, would you save your loved ones in exchange for many other strangers. I guess Z being like this is more meaningful than just some greedy guy that want total domination. While this trope is common, it’s not as common as evil overlord wanting more power just for the sake of it.

The anime is full CGI by Digital Frontier and Tatsunoko. And of course, like we have mentioned many times before, CG is very limiting when it comes to human models. Their facial expressions are stiff, their normal routine looks janky. And the only thing that CGI human can pull off well is action scenes which employ many exaggerated movements. For Infini-T Force, only the character’s faces look a bit awkward, but the model is very similar to those we see in video games like Final Fantasy or Metal Gear and not something from Solar Digital Arts (Sidonia). So they look not entirely off, and besides, Emi and Casshern kinda got away with it because they are quite stoic. Ken got the short end of the stick since he’s easily the most emotional and expressive character in the show.

In exchange, the combat cinematography and special effects look pretty amazing, especially hand-to-hand combat and the combination attacks from our heores. That’s pretty much a wombo-combo moment which is super cool to see. Even Marvel’s Avengers has some but not as extensive as Infini-T Force which is saying something. The fight scene are all good and felt weighty thanks to the CG render of the character has quite a bit of depth. It’s also great to see traditional scenes recreated using modern animation – like the Teksetter sequence, Gatchaman’s henshin, Polymar’s transformation and Casshern and Friender’s combo. Those hit right in the nostalgia!

In terms of design, of course after 30 years of technological advancement, our heroes will be getting a major upgrade to their original cel-shaded costume. The costume design looks more sturdy and has solid armor pads instead of just looking like Superman’s spandex costume. The modern look is pretty good, and not too over-designed like the ULTRAMAN manga style but rather build upon the og design. It also helps since they are CG model so the details are consistent through out the show and it’s possible to add surface details to it as well.

Well, since everyone’s original seiyuu are quite old, they recast all of them with new voice actors and I think they did a very good job. Their voices match their personality and the emotion behind those battle shouts is very genuine.

The songs for the series is actually quite uplifting and breathtaking for how…emo Emi was during the first half of the series. It shows off a lot of brightness and color as well as the coolness of the heroes. Overall, pretty good OST. To be honest, I haven’t seen many series with “bad” music. They are either good or very good.

Inifni-T Force is a great old-school traditional superhero crossovers from Tatsunoko’s franchises. It’s a modern style story using the classic characters that we know and love. And there’s no super cheesy plot (just a lil bit) and the overall story is quite serious. While the story aren’t too groundbreaking, it’s always great to see different heroes band together to protect justice. And it’s not even against a super evil guy or anything, but just a misguided father wanting to save his daughter. The series combine the emotional plot and heart-thumping action quite well. Even if you’re just in it for the combos, it’s still worth it. And if you like what you see, you might want to check out the manga version as well with a very, very different and much cuter Emi.

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