This is post 1 of 2 posts from DMAB participating in the Reverse Thieves’ Secret Santa Project for this year. Enjoy Link’s review of Armor Hunter Mellowlink.
Armor Hunter Mellowlink is the 1986 OVA spinoff and companion piece to the much-celebrated Sunrise real robot franchise Armored Troopers VOTOMS, telling the story of the ages-old conflict between the Gilgamesh Confederation and the Balarant Union, and the many lives affected by it. VOTOMS is known for depicting sci-fi war drama in a “hard” or semi-realistic manner without completely far-fetched technology for the most part. Per director Ryosuke Takahashi’s vision, the VOTOMS universe does not feature souped-up Gundam style mecha and alternatively utilizes the small, mass-produced Armored Trooper VOTOMS (Vertical One-man Tank for Offense and ManueverS), sans beam weapons, ridiculous armor, superpowered beings, etc. The protagonist himself goes through countless units, bucking the status quo in both super and real robot anime. Mellowlink is the only entry in the long-running VOTOMS universe that does not star perennial stoic wonder boy Chirico Cuvie. He is nowhere to be seen here. Every other animation in of the franchise is a prequel or sequel of sorts to the original TV series, while Mellowlink is an independent story taking place in similar, or in some cases, nearly the same locales. Oddly, while VOTOMS has several follow-ups, Mellowlink currently has none. That could be be intentional, considering how its story is wrapped up definitively, though I’ve always been of the opinion similarly with the franchise itself. I never understood why Sunrise saw it fit to endlessly milk their classic to pointless ruin, which sadly continues to this day. The only tenuous connection between the two series is how the events of Mellowlink slightly lead into what occurs during VOTOMS initially.
Armor Hunter Mellowlink’s protagonist is Ality Mellowlink, of the title’s namesake, a former hardened Gilgamesh AT pilot. Mellowlink mysteriously has his infantry unit’s, the Schweppes Platoon, mechs stripped from them near the end of the war and supplied only with outdated anti-AT rifles and little armor or other armaments. He ends up as the one and only survivor of his squad after the enemy gradually wears his mates down and is later utterly betrayed and killed by their own corrupt Gilgamesh commanders. This incident is deemed the Planpandoll Scandal. After he lives through the ordeal, Mellowlink is framed for stealing military supplies and realizes that he and his men were sent to die. On the run, he vows revenge on the military leaders who orchestrated this crime, going from planet to planet finding his targets. Naturally, as per genre conventions, Mellowlink meets a mysterious woman with connections to his plight, Lulucy, who becomes a recurring character and gradually supports him in his efforts. Other genre tropes rear their heads in regards to the rest of the cast, as assumed.
The notable, and dare I say, badass quality of Ality Mellowlink is how he chooses not to use an Armored Trooper to fight his opponents, a cue to how the same men supplied him with merely a rifle in war, many of which who do use robots in combat against him. Much of the battles showcase Mellowlink using his brains and brawn to outmaneuver and typical brutally execute his perpetrators, who are often piloting (variants of) the Gilgamesh Confederation’s signature mech from VOTOMS, the Scopedog. I love how Sunrise shows off many custom Scopedog units and our protagonist destroys the driver in satisfying fashion. I’ll admit that much of my enjoyment while partaking in this cartoon was watching this, for a better phrase, mechanical porn. The OVA certainly details its action scenes with Mellowlink’s rifle and various weapons he uses to surprise his prey. If nothing else, Armor Hunter Mellowlink is an example of high quality, purely fun action done right by 80s standards. On that note, the only very minor weak point of the show is how the writing and characters are fairly two-dimensional, a strong contrast to its VOTOMS lineage. But it doesn’t strike me as a significant factor, considering how Mellowlink doesn’t aspire to be more than enjoyable battles, light and free of baggage or drama. A manly man exacting vengeance on those who ruined him. Ality Mellowlink achieves this by the end in fitting fashion, surely.
I have to say that Armor Hunter Mellowlink was what I expected and I was not let down in any areas. Japan doesn’t produce shows like this anymore and it was a treat for that alone. All VOTOMS fans should watch it as soon as they can spare the time, if they haven’t before. Heck, watch it again for a grand old time. I can’t recommend this to others that have never seen the original TV series because it does somewhat spoil it. But hey, isn’t everyone a VOTOMS aficionado deep down inside?