Getter Robo: How Ken Ishikawa applied the concept of Body – Mind – Spirit to the Getter Team trio

Ken Ishikawa is an author who loves bringing inspirations from Buddhism into his works. As Jun Kawagoe recounted in his Getter Robo Arc interview, although not religious, Ishikawa sensei often talked with a monk friend about the world, and his works were often inspired by inspired by these conversations. In Getter Robo works alone, you can see many Buddhism images such as the Four Heavenly Kings in “New Getter Robo”, or Getter Mandala in “Getter Robo Arc”. Among them, the Buddhist inspiration I find the best is how Ishikawa sensei applied the concept of Body – Mind – Spirit to building the three main characters of Getter Robo.

Perhaps you have heard of the concept of Body – Mind – Spirit at least once. This concept, which appears in religion, philosophy and psychology, holds that the body, soul and mind are one unified entity and interact with each other. In Getter Robo, author Ken Ishikawa humanizes each component of this unified whole, and shows the connection between them in very interesting ways.
The original Getter Robo pilots, also known as the Getter Team – Ryoma, Hayato and Musashi, represent the Body – Mind – Spirit of Getter Robo itself. Musashi Tomoe, the pilot of the third machine Getter Bear , is the “Body”. Former captain of the Judo club at Touyou High, Musashi possesses far greater physical strength than his two teammates, and has a large, muscular body.

Musashi often overcame adversity through physical perseverance. In chapter 7 of “Getter Robo” manga, when rushing inside Gera, the giant Mechasaurus jellyfish sent by the Dinosaur Empire, the Getter Team got hit by all the energy from this jellyfish, and was knocked unconscious, except for Musashi, who still conscious enough to finish off Gera. In terms of personality, he is the least intelligent of the trio, but is the most lively and carefree.

Getter-3, the combined form of Getter Robo that he takes the main control, uses mostly physical strength to overwhelm opponents, with his ultimate move being the Daisetsuzan Oroshi – a Judo move he came up with himself.
The “Mind” of Getter Robo – Jin Hayato is the completely opposite to Musashi Tomoe. In the first manga “Getter Robo”, Jin Hayato was portrayed as intellectual, calculating and sharp, as well as a cold and cruel man. A physical and intellectual genius from a young age, he led an extremist student organization before becoming the pilot of Getter Robo. In his first appearance, Jin Hayato presented a plan to kidnap the Minister of Education with his accomplices, and immediately afterwards personally punished the two cowardly members who wanted to run away, by ruthlessly tearing off their ears, eyes and nose.

After becoming a member of the Getter Team, this character gradually becomes more friendly, open and especially attached to his teammates, but still retains his super intelligence and a bit of craziness. The battle plans are all devised by Jin Hayato, and when not fighting, he is a valuable assistant at the Saotome laboratory (later he becomes its leader, carrying on the legacy of Dr. Saotome on his shoulder).
Possessing an exceptionally flexible body and an IQ higher than 300, Jin Hayato’s fighting style focuses on “speed” and “precision”. Getter-2, the combined form of Getter Robo that he takes main control, possesses the fastest speed of all three forms, and is equipped with a drill in one hand and a plier-like hand with great grip strength in the other, both requires high precision. When not piloting the Getter Robo, Jin Hayato also uses this method of fighting. Typically, in volume 2 of “Getter Robo Go” manga, he performed a quick assassination by crawling into the ventilation duct, then timed his jump down right in the middle of the enemy faction in front of his target – Dr. Rando, aimed carefully and gave him a bullet right in the eye while still escaping in time.

What I like about the way Ken Ishikawa portrays “Mind” through the character is not only his intelligence, sharpness, coldness and sometimes cruelty, but also the difficult decisions he has to make, and his tragedies. When he was Professor Saotome’s assistant and when he became a leader, Jin Hayato had to make many rational decisions, most of which were cruel, even inhumane, but necessary. In chapter 6 of “Getter Robo”, he reinforced Professor Saotome’s decision to perform an autopsy on a human-ape, despite being reprimanded by his colleagues for being inhumane and violating human rights due to the fact that it is unknown whether the test subject is alive or dead. In the manga “Getter Robo Go”, he sent his fiancee on a suicide mission.

The pain of reason is thoroughly portrayed through Jin Hayato. In the two manga “Getter Robo Go” and “Getter Robo Arc”, because he shouldered a great responsibility, he survived and witnessed countless deaths of relatives, friends and dear comrades, many of them were due to his decisions. “I’m always the one left behind”, Hayato’s survivor’s guilt is always present and makes him extremely miserable, but he still has to use his reason to suppress his emotions, showing a cold and serious appearance to continue his important mission. Even when confronted, he could only sigh, “Don’t worry, I will ask them for forgiveness when I meet them in hell.”

The story that solidified Jin Hayato’s great mental power is chapter 1 of the manga “Getter Robo G”. In this chapter, Jin Hayato must face his past, when the radical student gang he once led, now commanded by his cousin, Ryuji, makes a deal with the Hyakki Empire to be given powerful mechanical bodies. Hayato’s old friends kidnapped him, then created the Devil King, a giant mechanical beast, with the aim of destroying Getter Robo as well as the Saotome laboratory. In the final battle, Hayato was set free, and controlled Getter Robo G to fight a deadly battle with the Devil King made up of the entire gang. Having to choose between rescuing his blood and the brothers who once stood by him, or protecting Getter Robo and the Saotome laboratory, it felt like a war broke out inside Hayato between emotions and reason. In the end, reason tragically triumphed: he finished off the Devil King after convincing himself that his former brothers ceased to be anything more than “a lump of iron”.
Finally, Getter Robo’s “Spirit” is personified as Ryoma Nagare. Representing the spirit of youth, this character is extremely hot-blooded and reckless. In his first appearance, he attacked and defeated all the fighters at a martial arts tournament just because their captain humiliated his late father. After Professor Saotome gave him a purpose in life, Ryoma Nagare was the one who came up with crazy plans when fighting (if Hayato didn’t come up with any ideas), always jumping into danger without thinking and was the person who fuels the spiritual fire of the entire Getter Team.

In most stories, Ryoma’s indomitable spirit and recklessness are what help the team overcome one difficulty after another. Ryoma’s fighting style blends those two elements. In “Getter Robo G” chapter 4, he and Hayato controlling the Getter Dragon stopped Kyoraiki, a rocket monster flying at super speed by letting it crash into the robot’s body to catch up to the speed, and then from there attacked the monster. Getter-1, the combination form mainly controlled by Ryoma, although does not possess outstanding physical strength or speed like the other two forms, can use will-based sure-kill attacks such as Getter Beam, Shine Spark (Getter Dragon), Stoner Sunshine (Shin Getter-1), and increases its power many times through the will or solidarity of the three pilots.

Not only that, throughout the manga stories, as well as shown in the anime works, Ryoma Nagare gradually develops a heart of sympathy and love for people. He always values human life and does not forgive anyone who dares to disregard or take those lives. Despite being a reckless lunatic, Ryoma tried to stop the kamikaze children in chapter 10 of “Getter Robo”. In the manga “Shin Getter Robo” and OVA “New Getter Robo”, after witnessing the terrible future that Getter leads to, Ryoma decides to retire in order to protect humanity from that future.
Ryoma’s indomitable spirit was raised to a new level in the manga “Shin Getter Robo”. In this manga, Ryoma understands the true nature of the Getter: it drives the evolution of everything in the universe, is the Truth of the universe itself, and is his destiny. Despite accepting that he will never escape the Getter, Ryoma’s will remains unyielding and continues to struggle despite facing the very nature of the universe. “If following destiny is destiny, then resisting destiny is also destiny”, this statement of his marked his development from a hot-blooded and reckless teenager into a person with true bravery. Complying, but constantly fighting in a never-ending battle with the forces of nature both outside and inside us: Ishikawa sensei brilliantly used Ryoma to praise the indomitable human spirit.
Having Ryoma Nagare retire from piloting Getter Robo and go back to normal life is Ishikawa sensei’s revolutionary counter argument to traditional Super Robot anime. If in the Super Robot anime series of the 70s, 80s, and even in the Getter Robo works of that time, courage and spiritual strength were to rush headlong into the problem, then through the manga “Shin Getter Robo”, Ken Ishikawa claims that walking away from the problem also requires an extremely strong will. This perspective was the inspiration for the ending of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where Simon gives up his powers and leaves everything to the next generation.

After giving the three elements Body – Mind – Spirit appearance and personality, Ishikawa sensei sought to express the connection between them, and came up with a great solution, which is to use the theme of comradery.
Solidarity and comradery are the main themes throughout Getter Robo’s works, imprinted in the memories of Getter believers through the saying: “Getter Robo can only draw out its full power when three hearts are as one.” If according to the concept of mind-body fusion, humans make full use of their potential when their body, spirit and mind function as one, then Getter Robo can only deliver a sure-kill blow of strongest power when Musashi, Ryoma and Hayato merged their minds and souls into one. The most iconic scene about this is probably the “Stoner Sunshine” scene in the “Getter Robo Armageddon” OVA, where Ryoma, Hayato and Benkei (the Getter-3 pilot replacing Musashi) turnt off all control screens, forfeited everything to their senses and put all their will power into the sure-kill attack Stoner Sunshine.

Not only that, the theme of comradery is also reflected through the mutual understanding of the three Getter pilots. Having gone through many difficult challenges together, while sharing an unbreakable bond, the trio know each other like the palms of their hands, thanks to which they can perform dangerous coordinated maneuvers. Chapter 1, manga “Shin Getter Robo”, the excellent coordination between Ryoma, Hayato and Benkei helped them be faster than their enemies and win, even though they piloted the Getter Robo G which had larger parameters than the robot that Getter team used. “Too bad! We can combine with our eyes closed!”

Above all, the bond between the three Getter Robo pilots best demonstrates the lesson of solidarity. The misadventures, quarrels, trash talks and especially the interactions during battle naturally formed the brotherhood of Ryoma, Hayato, and Musashi. From those interactions, Ishikawa sensei goes to big moments, like Musashi’s sacrifice in “Getter Robo” and the pain it left in Ryoma and Hayato. Most importantly, they inspire and change each other for the better. The crazy and bloodthirsty but cowardly beast Hayato gradually gained compassion, as well as will and courage thanks to Ryoma and Musashi; Lonely and withdrawn fighter Ryoma becomes more open-minded, compassionate, and gains true bravery thanks to Hayato and Benkei; and the strong feelings between the three of them gave Musashi the courage to fight to the death to protect his friends and brothers.

By applying the concept of Body – Mind – Spirit to character building, Ishikawa sensei not only created a trio of extremely unique and memorable appearances and personalities, but also conveyed a message about comradery and solidarity in an interesting and engaging way. Besides pioneering combining robots, Getter Robo also contributed to creating a character development blueprint for later Gattai Mecha works, in which “hearts become one” – portraying the the bonds between pilots is the most important thing. Because of this, Ken Ishikawa to me is truly a mangaka ahead of his time, deserving of the dearest compliments.

//Getter Andy//