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Vintage 70s pop culture from Japan
on March 8, 2010
Super Robot Red Baron is an immensely entertaining item of televisual sci-fi culture from 1970s Japan. A group of young people work for a super-science organization that battles a crime syndicate / evil empire from space. Central to every episode is a climactic battle between the good-guy giant robot, Red Baron, and the equally enormous bad-guy robot-of-the-week. They fight it out, Godzilla-style, in an H-O scale landscape complete with model cities, refineries, factories, and little toy tanks that actually shoot. Generally speaking, the production values compare well to some shows from the same era, for example, Doctor Who of the 70s. There is a certain amount of the quirky-seeming (to western eyes) comic relief that is often present in Japanese productions. And while character development is limited, it is not altogether absent, and there are also moments of genuine drama and pathos. Most importantly, there are occasional flashes of visual brilliance. For example, in the series finale there are scenes of a surreal virtual reality beach and a clockwork throne room that would be at home in an episode of The Prisoner or in one of Andrei Tarkovsky's science fiction films.