What is “Armored Trooper VOTOMS”?
The Plot and Setting of VOTOMS
In 7198, the most famous Armored Trooper mecha model of the 3rd Galactic War was put into the field: the ATM-09-ST “Scopedog” of the Gilgamesh Confederation. Just a few years prior to that, the main character of the VOTOMS universe was born, Chirico Cuvie on planet of Melkia. In the original 1983-1984 TV series, the former elite Red Shoulder Battalion pilot was questioned, tortured, imprisoned due to his unique nature and involvement in an off-the-books mission. As the 100 Years War ends in an uneasy treaty, Chirico breaks out of prison and is on the run in the ruined city of Uoodo on Melkia. Throughout his journeys and the new people he meets, Chirico learns his destiny and a hidden force controlling current events. With the success and loyal following, the original 1983 TV series formed the spine that the rest of the VOTOMS titles are centered around. Most of other titles in the vast VOTOMS franchise focus on Chirico or other people during or around the 100 Years War era.
The Iconic Mecha of VOTOMS: The ATM-09-ST “Scopedog”
In the bitter interstellar war between Balarant Union and the Gilgamesh Confederation, the war was mostly waged with smaller CLASS-II Armored Powered Suits known as: Vertical One-man Tank for Offense & ManeuverS or V.O.T.O.M.S and it immediately became an iconic of anime mecha design. One of the most often cited iconic elements of VOTOMS was that the primary mecha and it was not some massive transformer war machine like those seen in Macross or a towering pilot robot like Gundam, but more like the Marauder suits from the Starship Troopers novel. That was not by not chance, but was the vision of smaller combat mecha (about four meters in height) was laid down by both Takahashi & Okawara. This combat mecha, the ATM-09-ST “Scopedog”, would become the overall symbol of the VOTOMS universe and a longtime favorite among modelers and collectors. Even if you did not know the original source of the Scopedog mech suit, you knew intrinsically how good the design was. This was true of me when I would see the Scopedog model kits in the comicbook store in the 1980s. I knew of the Scopedog APS mech long before knowing the name of the source.
The Historical Context of Armored Trooper VOTOMS
Armored Trooper VOTOMS in the West
Why is VOTOMS Considered Military Sci-Fi?
The Impact and Legacy of VOTOMS
The List of VOTOMS Anime:
VOTOMS: The Last Red Shoulder (1985)
On August 21st, 1985, Sunrise would immediately go back to the VOTOMS universe after the end of the original VOTOMS TV show and tell the tale of the time between Part 1 and Part 2 of the original anime series via this hour-long OVA. From the comments made about this OVA, it seems to be a critical and important part of the overall story of the central character of Chirio as well as VOTOMS universe as a whole. I do not believe that this was imported into the USA.
VOTOMS: Big Battle (1986)
The Red Shoulder Document: Roots of Ambition (1988)
Airing in March of 1988, the Roots of Ambition OVA was a story taking place while Chirio was in the service of the Special Operations Red Shoulders unit. This was a much requested storyline by the fans since the original TV series. Chirico and others new in the "Red Shoulders" Special Operations unit were pitted in a virtual battlefield to test their abilities. Again, it was likely this was not imported and some have written this off as just okay.
Armor Hunter Mellowlink (1988)
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Brilliantly Shining Heresy (1994)
This marks the only entry into the VOTOMS franchise in the 1990s, and continues the story of Chirio and Fyana after they went into cryo to avoid a new war. They awake some 32 years after the events of the original series to take on the Church of Marteal. This was imported to the west just this year. Some have claimed online that this entry failed and prevented anymore VOTOMS anime projects until the 2000’s.
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Pailsen Files (2008)
To somewhat save VOTOMS, the original production crew of the original TV series developed an entry of Chirio during the 100 Years War, but with then “cutting edge” CGI effects. Yeah…I'm sure that aged well. The reviews are all over the map on this 12 part OVA series, and many criticize the dated and hated CGI effects. However, many have praised the story and what the OVA shows of the universe of VOTOMS.
Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Phantom Chapter (2010)
I’ve always been surprised by the lack of the overall cohesion in the VOTOMS franchise and the six-part OVA only reinforces that. This has the three friends of Chirio reuniting and yeah…that’s not why I would want to watch VOTOMS. A number of reviews speak of nostalgia and an semi-ending to the original VOTOMS storyline, but that was replaced with the 2011 entry: Alone Again.
VOTOMS Finder (2010)
This is an odd entry into the whole of the confused VOTOMS universe. Finder could take place in an alternate universe of VOTOMS, we are not 100% sure, and it does not involve the typical players in VOTOMS works. The main character is a mecha junk finder and deal, but when he is tapped to rescue a kidnapped girl, the plot thickens. This has yet to be imported and it is a stand-alone, spin-off title one hour long OVA.
Case: Irvine (2010)
There have some bold experiments within the VOTOMS spin-off media and Case: Irvine was one such attempt. The story was centered around mech technician Irvine Lesterand and those much featured gladiatorial mecha games. While somewhat interesting from the review, it was never imported in the west and it never led to another work based on the character.
Alone Again (2011)
This is a OVA love letter and goodbye to the main character of the VOTOMS series, Chirio. In this hour-long OVA from 2011, Chirio visits his friends for the first time in over 30 years in a dusty western town. Of course, some violence gets kicked up. From what I read, this ends the Chirio character in VOTOMS and allows for a new beginning. At the time of writing, this was not imported to the west and is the last/current VOTOMS title in the franchise.
The VOTOMS Video Games
In the west, we are often not treated to a vast collection of Japanese video game titles on many of the home consoles and for one reason or another, they were never imported. One of those was the entire VOTOMS video game catalog. It seems almost natural that the VOTOMS universe would translated into mech shootin’ video games! The first three titles on the VOTOMS video game library are confined to Japanese PCs like the Sharp X68000 Computer, which were not imported to the western market and that makes sense. It wasn’t until the fourth title that the VOTOMS video games came onto a system that we know and love: the SNES.
The apex of the VOTOMS mecha-combat centered video games came on the Sony PS and PS2 systems. The odd thing is that a full 11 titles featured some element of VOTOMS, likely the Scopedog APS, as a guest character. After reviewing gameplay footage of the VOTOMS games on YouTube, the majority of games are centered on a third-person POV mecha combat, while other titles (like the SNES title) are focused more on gladiatorial style arena game. After watching the footage, I wished that some of the PS2 titles had been given the western treatment and imported so that they could have been sold alongside works like ROBOTECH: Battlecry and MechaAssault series (FWS needs to talk about these titles!).
The Models and Toys of VOTOMS
When VOTOMS came on to the airwaves of Japanese TV in 1983, it was a time that some of the most iconic mecha was designed and developed and then recreated in plastic and metal. It would be impossible to catalog and explain each of the Scopedog (and other mecha) kits that the Japanese model industry pumped out and this speaks to the popularity of the VOTOMS brand. Muddling the waters much like Macross and Gundam, is that the VOTOMS franchise is ongoing to this very day, allowing for the demand to keep pushing more product into the market place. This market place also includes the west as well. What it is interesting is that VOTOMS, like Dougram, had their Takara made model kits and even some of the diecast toys come over to American shores without the show airing here. In VOTOMS case, it was more than a full decade before US Manga Corps released the original TV series on VHS and Laserdisc in 1996. This was not a full-on assault like the Revell ROBOTECH Defender model line, it was more a local effort by importers. Today, you can buy the iconic OD green Scopedog APS in all shapes, sizes, and price points both in Japan and in America.
The VOTOMS RPG
Another nearly organic product evolution of the VOTOMS was into the realm of tabletop mecha combat game in the same vain as BattleTech or MechWarrior. After all, Dougram had no less than two mecha 3D combat tabletop boardgame made for the Japanese market. The first was Armored Trooper VOTOMS: Battling that released by Tsukuda Hobby in 1992 and was rooted in the gladiatorial mecha combat featured in the original series. This hex-and-counter game was noted for being very complex and not released in the USA. In 1997, Washington state based R. Talsorian Games finally developed and release an official VOTOMS RPG using their own mecha Fuzion system and under license from Central Park Media. There are no sources on how popular the game was, but it seems to have only had a single game released with no addition modules or miniatures (some 10mm VOTOMS mecha miniatures were released in Japan though). This was likely an marketing strategy on the part of Central Park Media as this was the time with the VHS tapes were released along with the comic book “series”. One of the things that the R. Talsorian VOTOMS RPG is known for today in VOTOMS circles is that game manual is packed with tons of information on the VOTOMS universe. Until the release of the R. Talsorian gaming system, the Canadian mecha RPG game, Heavy Gears, was developed in the image and influence of VOTOMS in 1994.
Is VOTOMS Worth Watching Today?
Next Time on FWS...