Getter Robo is another foundational series for the Mecha genre, since it’s an older series a lot of younger fans might not be familiar with it outside of its Super Robot Wars appearances. While Mazinger Z gave us our first piloted super robot, Getter Robo gave us our first combining robot which would become a staple spectacle in the Mecha genre. In this post we’ll cover some entry points to the Getter Robo franchise. If you are here looking for recommendations on where to start go ahead and scroll down to the end of this post.
Getter Robo’s first entry began in 1974 both with a manga and an anime by Toei. We’ll start with the Manga since that is the most pivotal work in the Getter franchise and truly the magnum opus of creator Ken Ishikawa. As mentioned in our Mazinger Z post, Getter Robo was helped launched by Go Nagai, Ken Ishikawa joined his production company as an assistance and the two quickly became fast friends. Ishikawa would continue to work with Nagai for some time on various projects but he would always return to Getter Robo over the decades, until his death in 2006.
The first Getter Robo was from 1974, it’s sequel Getter Robo G came out in 1975. The next Getter series, Getter Robo Go wasn’t until 1991, followed by Shin Getter Robo in 1971 and then lastly Getter Robob Arc (sometimes written as Getter Robo Āḥ) in 2006. Several manga were released after his death by various authors but we’ll cover those later.
The general plot of Getter Robo features humanity under siege by the Dinosaur empire, a race of well, Dinosaurs-men, who were driven underground with the advent of cosmis ‘Getter Rays’ which are lethal to them and beneficial to mankind; now that they’ve returned to the surface they’ve come to take revenge. If reading that sounds a bit silly, don’t worry, the Dinosaur Empire and Getter Robo is anything but, it is hyper violent, extremely dark and the general theme is that humanity is willing to go through hell in order to stop the Dinosaur empire. Expect to see people being brutally killed, dismembered and eaten by dinosaurs and mechasaurs from the opening pages to the final curtain call.
Standing in for humanities defense is Professor Saotome who has been researching Getter Rays as a power source which he uses to create the Getter Robo, our eponymous mecha. The problem is this combining robot requires pilots who can withstand the extreme forces put on the body to fly the individual machines and extreme concentration and timing to combine them into Getter Robo.
Professor Saotome ends up recruiting rowdy delinquints with impeccable constitutions and fighting spirit to pilot his robot, namely Ryoma Nagara and later Hayato Jin. In Getter Robo, you fight bad guys with bad guys.
Overall the manga has incredibly pacing that takes its straightforward plot and keeps looking forward to what happens next. Humanity always seems to be on the back-foot with casualties mounting but the Getter Team tears through swarms of man-eating dinosaurs and often takes the fight straight to their leader who often overestimates Getter Robo.
That’s not to say Getter is invincible, quite the contrary, Getter Robo gets damaged very frequently and doesn’t possess the invulnerability often seen with the Chogokin Super Alloy Z of Mazinger or the Luna Titanium of Gundam. As violent as Getter is, so are its enemies and its not uncommon for Getter or the team to take grievous injuries throughout the course of each chapter.
Getter Robo is comprised of three Getter Machines, aircraft more or less, that when they combine form Getter Robo. Each has a name and color, the Eagle machine is red, the Jaguar machine is white and the Bear machine is yellow. The order in which the Getter Machines combine determines the form Getter takes, with Getter-1 being formed by the Red+White+Yellow machines, Getter-2 being the White+Yellow+Red and Getter-3 being Yellow+Red+White. Getter-1 is the most iconic, followed by Getter-2 and it’s large drill arm and lastly Getter-3 with it’s elongating segmented arms and shoulder mounted missiles.
One trump card Getter Robo always has is the fact that it is a combining robot. They can separate mid battle to form a different Getter that may be better suited for the environment they are fighting in, for instance Getter-1 is often used for aerial combat, Getter-2 and its extreme speed and tunneling ability for ground (or underground) combat and Getter-3 rounds out the trio with a water specialty. More importantly by separating the machines they can often avoid an attack or get themselves out of an enemies grasp. Getter combining has led to some gorgeous animated sequences that we’ll cover in a bit.
Getter Robo concluded with the apparent defeat of the Dinosaur empire. Getter Robo G (1975) picks up where they left off with a new foe, the Hyakki Empire, who appear to be actual Oni. Getter Robo is replaced with Getter Robo G and its forms are now Getter Dragon, Getter Liger and Getter Poseidon which correspond to Getter 1, 2 and 3. Getter Robo G follows similar storybeats to Getter Robo and continues the path of hyper violence and humanity bearing the brunt of casualties while the Getter Team stops at nothing to take down the Hyakki empire. If you enjoyed Getter Robo 1974 then you get to enjoy even more with G.
Ken Ishikawa returned to Getter Robo in the 90s with Getter Robo Go (1991) which along with a time skip has an all new cast and robot, Getter Robo Go, this time powered by a Plasma Reactor as Getter Reactors and their research had been outlawed on the global stage. It stars Go Ichimonji, Sho Tachibana, and Gai Daido who take on the roles of Ryoma, Hayato, and Musashi/Benkei respectively. Hayato Jin returns as the leader of the group, taking the role of Professor Saotome.
Getter Robo Go is known for portraying the mecha in more of a real robot fashion, with repairs and logistics concerns being a pressing issue for much of the manga. The team often find themselves outnumbered or outgunned when fighting the metal beasts of the new enemy. Eventually, they encounter robots from other allied nations and eventually overcome their differences and national divides to strike back against the encroaching metal beasts. Getter Robo Go is often celebrated by fans for taking Getter in a new direction and introducing some gorgeous artwork by Ken Ishikawa who has been refining his art style for decades now. Getter Robo Go finale has an impressive climax and ends on a hopeful note, that I will avoid spoiling here but it’s well worth the journey.
Ishikawa later penned Shin Getter Robo (1997), which takes place between Getter Robo G and Getter Robo Go, and discusses what happened with the Saotome laboratory during the Shin Getter Robo experiments and the subsequent banning of Getter Rays. It also begins to incorporate the cosmic horror that Getter has become known for, as Shin Getter gives Ryoma horrifying omens of the future.
There is also Crater Battle (1998) which is a short story taking place on the moon. This story would later be used in the Getter Robo Armageddon OVA.
In the 2000s Ishikawa started Getter Robo Arc (2002) taking place many years after Getter Robo Go, and stars Ryoma’s son Takuma Nagare, with Hayato Jin returning as a professor now. Set farther in the future, Getter machines are being mass produced to deal with invading aliens and other cosmic heroes, with Getter Arc being a more manageable version of Shin Getter Robo. Unfortunately, Ken Ishikawa passed away in 2006, and Getter Robo Arc has been on a cliffhanger ever since, including its recent anime adaptation.
Speaking of anime adaptations there are quite a few for Getter Robo. The important thing to note is that most animated Getter works put their own spin on Getter Robo rather than strictly adapt the source material, especially with the OVAs which often take several plot points from different parts of the manga and condense them into a brand new story. We’ll start with the OVAs.
First up we have Getter Robo Armageddon in 1999 also known as Change!! Getter Robo: The Last Day of the World. This 13 episode OVA, released on the 25th anniversary of Getter Robo is beloved by many, it puts a very radical spin on things by having Ryoma Nagare start off as a prisoner accused of killing Professor Saotome who turns out to be the initial primary antagonist. Getter Robo Armageddon takes several pieces from the manga most notably Crater Battle (1998) for the initial premise with Getter machines fighting on the moon and then many parts of Getter Robo Go (1991) for the second arc of the OVA and of course Shin Getter Robo (1997). Designs adhered closer to the manga compared to the initial anime by Toei, and they even managed to include the Atlantean Dragon from Getter Robo G as the final form for Shin Dragon. There is also a prequel audio drama called Getter Robo: Moon Wars
Armageddon distills many elements from the manga and remixes them into an entirely new story with minimal retreads and more than a few homages. The series is very highly regarded although some fans were disappointed that some characters were either replaced or omitted from Getter Robo Go, namely Go and Sho with Go having a different personality and background and Sho’s role going to Kei who herself has a very interesting backstory twist. In any event, Getter Robo is entirely self contained so it’s not a bad launching point for the Getter Franchise, but the more you read the manga the more you’ll appreciate it. It also has some jaw dropping animated sequences such as the initial combination with Ryoma and Musashi seen here:
It also has a terrific opening sequence with the JAM Project hit HEATS
Next up we have Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo (2000) (真ゲッターロボ対ネオゲッターロボ Shin Gettā Robo tai Neo Gettā Robo) a four episode OVA featuring the Dinosaur empire as the primary antagonists. With only four episodes and a focus on Getter Robo and Getter Robo Go it offers a short stepping stone into the Getter Robo franchise.
Shin vs Neo Getter may surprise you if you’re expecting a fight between Shin Getter Robo and Neo Getter Robo. Instead the versus in the title is the same as the versus movies from the 1970s such as Great Mazinger vs Getter Robo where the heroes team up to fight an extra dimensional villain. In Shin vs Neo’s case, we do see the two titular robots clasp hands in the opening but they are only share the screen briefly.
Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo opens with the ending scene from the 1974 Getter Robo manga with Musashi at the helm of the Getter Robo. It features crisp beautiful animation and excellent choreography, all the way till the iconic moment with the Getter Reactor.
The series then goes through a time skip and seemingly jumps straight into Getter Robo Go, introducing the new cast of Go Ichimonji, Sho Tachibana and Gai Daido with Hayato as their leader. While Go and Sho are fairly close to their manga adaptation, Gai is more of a sidekick character, but its not unexpected considering there’s a lot of content to pack into only four episodes.
Instead of Getter Robo Go, Go+Sho+Gai are piloting Neo Getter Robo, which design wise resembles a hybrid of Getter Robo Go and Getter Robo G. It’s attacks are very similar to Getter Robo Go, with some deviations, for instance the plasma sword is used by Getter-2 instead of Getter-1. We also see many classic Mechasaurus’ designs from 1974’s Getter Robo on the big screen such as Doba and Bull.
Overall, the mecha scenes are great, although many of its appearances have a very dark filter applied, and each Getter form gets a good chunk of screentime. Arguably one of the most fun sections comes from the Getter Graveyard where we see Neo Getter fight failed Getter Prototypes (a plot line from Shin Getter Robo) who are piloted by the Chiryu clan from 1974’s Getter Robo.
Eventually we get to the Dinosaur Empire resurgence, with Emperor Gore making use of ancient alien technology (a reference to the Hyakki empire’s space age technology from Getter Robo G + Shin) and Shin Getter Robo is needed to defeat him. Along the way the previous cast helps out with Ryoma, Professor Saotome, and the crazed Dr. Shikishima. If you’re a fan of Getter Robo Go you don’t need to worry about the original cast overshadowing the new cast.
The series closes out with Shin Getter Robo’s true awakening, and the unique blue form. This being a reference to the “Ancient Getter” artwork by Ishikawa.
Oh and how can I forget the best part. Shin vs Neo Getter brings back Texas Mack from the original Toei anime, a cowboy robot invented by American scientists who had a rivalry with the Getter Team. The old design got a very nice refresh, a very funny pair of pilots, and of course a robot horse which should get a cheer from all the G Gundam fans.
Lastly for OVAs we have New Getter Robo (新ゲッターロボ Shin Gettā Robo) made in 2004 at 13 episodes. This OVA is notable for two reasons, the first being that Musashi and Benkei were combined into one character rather humorously named Benkei Musashibo. The second is that this OVA involves the Getter Team facing off against a mystical enemy from Japan’s past who had been in control of the Oni attacking their fortress. A mystical enemy from the past was certainly a unique direction to take Getter.
New Getter Robo provides an OVA adaptation covering the original Getter teams and the primary antagonist draw heavily on the iconography of the Hyakki Empire with their Onis, however, they are reduced to a monster of the week villain bereft of the interesting premise the Hyakki Empire had in the manga, the ending is also a bit rushed compared to other OVAs. New Getter also leans more into the eldritch horror aspects of Getter and concludes with a brief appearance of the Getter Emperor.
New Getter Robo can be commended for spending a lot of time developing the Getter pilots and gives a lot more than the other OVAs. That said if you are primarily interested in the exploits of the original Getter Robo team your best bet would be to start by reading the manga, to appreciate the differences that are made. If you’re going to start with the Getter manga you may also want to consider watching the original Getter Robo TV show made by Toei which ran in parallel with the manga.
Toei Getter ran in parallel with the manga both debuting in the same year. Getter Robo being the 2nd piloted Super Robot followed Mazingers success for Toei and the toy company’s sponsoring it. That said Toei-Getter was on broadcast television and as such had significant changes to make sure it was fit for the younger viewers. While the Getter manga is hyper violent, the TV series is significantly less so. Characters were also adjusted as well to be more amicable and less of the devil-may-care anti-heroes of the manga.
Getter Robo (TV) runs for 51 episodes and then is followed a 39 episode series Getter Robo G (TV) although unlike the Mazinger Z to Great Mazinger transition it kept most of the primary cast for the sequel while swapping out the robot. The Getter Team would also star in several versus movies with Mazinger and Grendizer.
Getter Robo is a long running franchise with many different animated works that all have their own spin on Getter. When deciding where to start with the Getter Robo franchise your best bet will always be with the Getter Robo manga. The manga is one continuous story which moves at a fast tempo, keeps you engaged for a very wild ride and eventually gives a very satisfying conclusion at Getter Robo Go.
If you’d like to start with an anime then Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo might be best bet. It is very short, stars both Getter teams and the changes to the manga are not as extraordinary as the other OVAs. That said, watching this will get your feet wet in Getter and it would be best to start reading the manga afterwards.
After reading the manga you’ll have some great perspective on how the various writers and directors reworked Getter for their animated appearances. Consider watching Getter Robo Armageddon to start after finishing the manga, the animation is crisp and gorgeous and the action sequences are superbly well done. More than 20 years later it is still regarded highly by many fans of Getter Robo. From there it’s up to you where you’d like to branch out to another OVA or the 70s TV series.