Little Things: Cyberbots

Cyberbots isn’t my favorite fighting game, but it’s my favorite obscure one. It’s a mid-1990s experiment by Capcom’s talented designers, paying tribute to the orbital-war intrigue and clanking, realistic robots of Gundam. It’s full of huge, well-animated mecha smashing each other in front of richly drawn backdrops, and I often wonder why it doesn’t command even a fraction of the attention given to Street Fighter and Darkstalkers.

And then I remember why Cyberbots isn’t popular. It’s far too shallow to entice the combo-memorizing players who take on fighters competitively, and it doesn’t have the marketing to pull in the anime and model-kit fans. Yes, the giant-robot collectors of the world will buy variations of the same Gundam and Mazinger figures year in and year out, but they don’t want a big plastic version of Blodia, the flagship machine of Cyberbots; its spokesmecha, if you will.

Blodia is the Ryu of the game: a well-rounded combatant and the chosen robot of the game’s ostensible hero, the gung-ho Jin Saotome. Blodia also embodies the impressive level of detail in Cyberbots. When it comes to the small touches in the game, I can’t think of a better example than the spent shells that fly out of Blodia’s arm with each punch.

Mind you, that happens with every regular punch. It’s not a special move. Just tap one of the game’s two attack buttons (I told you it was shallow), and Blodia will spew tiny casings from its elbow.

Blodia and Jin Saotome later showed up in the Marvel vs. Capcom series, gaining some hilarious, excessively damaging attacks. Still, nothing really strikes my admiration like those little empty cartridges tumbling through the air.

The Vague Search for Gu Gu Ganmo

In my days at Anime Insider, the magazine occasionally got letters from people trying to identify Japanese cartoons they’d seen long ago. Most of these requests were easily answered by pointing out semi-obscure ‘80s creations like the Unico movies, Macron-1, or Galaxy Rangers, the last of which is, shockingly, not even anime.

One stumped us, though. A reader wanted to know the name of an anime comedy shown in France in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and two major details about the show were offered: it featured a giant yellow alien bird that came to live with and irritate a human boy, and one of the show’s running gags involved the boy’s older sister kicking him in the crotch when she was riled. No one at the magazine had the slightest idea of what this show could be, and I gave up after a few Google searches revealed places offensive even to an office wallpapered with anime posters.

Years later, I looked over some of the old series represented in Konami’s shonen-manga crossover fighting game for the PSP, and I noticed a 1985 cartoon called Gu Gu Ganmo. The bird is pink instead of yellow, but everything else about it matches up. It was shown in France, it features numerous crotch-kicking jokes, and it stars a trouble-making bird of possibly alien origin.

In fact, Gu Gu Ganmo seems more popular among nostalgic French viewers than Japanese audiences. The first French-dubbed episode was uploaded here, and it reveals a fairly standard comedy in the Doraemon mold. Young Hanpeita’s pet bird flies away one morning, so his sister gives him a huge egg that she finds in the street. Soon a giant pink creature hatches out and takes up residence with Hanpeita’s family. Mostly unremarkable antics ensue as the self-centered Ganmo torments our hero by hogging the bathroom, snoring loudly, and embarrassing him in front of girls and nose-picking neighborhood bullies alike. It might not be particularly imaginative, but Ganmo found enough of an audience to last 50 episodes and get a movie deal.

As far as I’m concerned, the highlight of the show is its opening, which has all of the characters dancing on stage for no real reason. I love this sort of thing, and I wish every anime show, regardless of genre, led with some pointless Broadway-style musical number. Even Code Geass might've been good with a big chorus line to start it off.

As is often the case with old cartoons and the Internet, the edifying clips of Gu Gu Ganmo are outnumbered by the clips that suit someone’s fetish. This can be seen in a YouTube account dedicated to nothing but the girls of Gu Gu Ganmo farting. An entire account.

So, possibly French letter-writer, there’s your answer: Gu Gu Ganmo. I hope you found it before the farting fans did.