Space Runaway Ideon (Densetsu Kyojin Ideon) is a Japanese animation series of 39 episodes and a two part film feature. It was aired in Japan in 1980-1981, and the films were released as a double bill in 1982.
The series was the creation of Yoshiyuki Tomino, who is better known for the classic mecha anime Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), the forefather of the 'real robot' genre of mecha anime, where the robots are treated more realistically as tools that can malfunction or require maintenance, not invincible, sentient superheroes or 'super robots'.
I am going to spoil the story of Ideon almost completely, so reader beware. The likelihood of the show being released on DVD outside Japan is very remote, although there is a fansubbing project going on. So, let's get to know...
Space Runaway Ideon
Ideon continued in Tomino's style of real robots, and uses many of the themes in Mobile Suit Gundam. The story begins in the 24th century, when mankind has begun colonising space. An archaeological expedition on the planet Solo uncovers a large starship, which they name the Solo Ship. They also discover three trucks, which are the components of the titular giant robot, Ideon. Meanwhile, an officer of the military arrives with a group of tanks to take over the excavation.
While the archeologists are busy with their new find and arguing with the military, an alien civilization, the Buff Clan, who are very similar to humans but far more advanced, arrive on the planet on an exploration mission. The commanders of the alien vessel debate over whether to make first contact, but the daughter of the other takes the matter out of their hands and takes a ship down to the planet. The commanders send their own ships after her. When they arrive, they notice the tanks near the excavation site and attack them to protect the commander's daughter. Three people at the dig site flee, each to one of the trucks, which triggers the trucks to transform into the giant robot, Ideon, which repels the attackers.
The incident incites a war, as the forces of the Buff Clan proceed to obliterate the colonies on Solo. The remaining survivors, the Ideon, and the scientists at the dig site flee to the Solo Ship, which takes off and leaves the planet and the Buff Clan behind. The Clan explorers, however, learn that the Ideon is the Giant God, the legendary saviour of the Clan, who rescued them from destruction with its immense power source, called Id. They decide to hunt the Solo Ship down to get Ideon, which they have been exploring the galaxy for.
The bulk of the series follows the reluctant crew of the Solo Ship, as they are time and again forced by their pursuers to fight for their lives. Slowly the true extent of the power of the Ideon emerges. At first the giant robot only comes with a couple of missile launchers and guns, but over time three new weapons are discovered, each more powerful than the one before:
- The Black Hole Gun, which can create a small black hole to swallow up annoying enemy ships.
- The Ideon Sword, a beam of light that springs from the robot's arms, and which can be infinitely long and slice planets in half.
- These both pale in comparison, however, to the Ideon Gun, which the robot wields with its hands. The Gun uses the full strength of the Id, and shoots a bright wave of energy that can destroy absolutely everything, perhaps even entire galaxies.
The crew of the Solo Ship are, as they begin to realise the full power of the Ideon, absolutely terrified at what they have in their hands. While the Ideon allows them to protect their own lives from the Clan, they are quite rightly mortified at the thought of such power being wielded by anyone. They traverse the galaxy and leave behind a wake of destruction, as their use of the Ideon for self defence also causes innumerable deaths and collateral damage. When they finally arrive on Earth, they are driven away out of fear.
The Buff Clan makes repeated attempts to destroy or capture the Ideon, but the only result is more death and carnage, as the casualties mount. At the height of this prelude to the ending of the story, at episode 39 with four more to air, the show was cancelled due to low ratings.
A Contact/Be Invoked
The uproar in Japan was however too large to ignore, and a two part film feature, A Contact/Be Invoked, was devised to conclude the story.
The Buff Clan, having failed to destroy the Ideon so far, comes up with a final plan. They create the Ganda Rowa, which is possibly even more powerful than Ideon itself. Talk about an arms race! The Clan manages to engage the Solo Ship and the Ideon with their fleet and the Ganda Rowa, and a colossal battle ensues.
The Ideon uses its Ideon Gun to annihilate the entire fleet of the Buff Clan in a matter of few minutes, but the Clan manages to send a boarding party to the Solo Ship, whose passengers and crew fight back only to be killed violently, one by one. On top of this, the Buff Clan homeworld and Earth are devastated by meteor showers.
The Id turns out to be the combined essence of all the souls of the people that created Ideon. It has a mind of its own and decides to end the perpetual violence and war between the Earthlings and the Buff Clan. It decides that they are far too corrupt, and that their lives must come to an end.
The Ideon goes into close combat with the Ganda Rowa, which fires its main weapon, destroying the Ideon, the Ganda Rowa itself, and the Solo Ship. When Ideon is crumbling to pieces, the Id is released, destroying the entire universe. The souls of the humans and the Buff Clan, finally at peace, float in the void and watch as the universe is reborn, while singing Happy Birthday, Children!.
Yes. There are many things to deal with, but let us start with the Ideon itself.
The Ideon is by far the most powerful and destructive thing ever thought of. You really can't top off annihilating the universe, now can you? As far as size goes, it's not the largest of the giant robots at a mere 100 meters of length, but with an energy sword that can cut planets in half, a gun that can wipe out galaxies, and a main power source that can end the universe, there's no contest. Naming the source "Id" was probably no coincidence, either, and a plot point in Xenogears may have been inspired by Ideon.
Before Ideon Yoshiyuki Tomino had also worked on Zambot 3, another mecha anime where the entire cast was dead when the credits started to roll. Ideon's ending, which is the bloodiest ever in fiction, confirmed Tomino's nickname, "Kill 'Em All", or as translated directly from Japanese, "The Slaughterer".
Later Tomino himself was surprised at the degree of tragedy and depression he had poured into the ending. The series' view of humanity as a whole is not too bright, either. Tomino has said that one motivation for killing everybody off was that he didn't want to do any sequels.
Ideon's ending featured (at the time) extremely violent deaths of people, even children, with one child getting their head shot off in a splattery fashion. The only notable character spared a death scene was a small infant. A collage of some of these scenes is available on Youtube1, set to an orchestral rendition of the series' music score.
Finally, let's bring out the thing that has probably been nagging on the readers who have watched their fair share of anime. Doesn't this sound awfully like Neon Genesis Evangelion? Its creator, Hideaki Anno, has admitted that Ideon was a huge influence on him. Similarities include:
- The concept of the Id is close to the Human Instrumentality Project in Evangelion, and Id's plan to end it all is not unlike SEELE's intent to end the existence of a corrupted mankind.
- The Solo Ship being attacked and its crew getting violently killed brings to mind the attack on NERV in End of Evangelion.
- The way the show was finished off with a two part film with a very devastating ending is exactly like the way The End of Evangelion is split into two apocalyptic parts.
- It also seems obvious where the "And to all the children, congratulations!" came from in the end of episode 26 of the television series.
- There are also a couple of characters in Ideon who sound familiar: a brash and aggressive female mecha pilot, and a haughty and arrogant female scientist.
It should be noted that Ideon was still just an influence, and Evangelion is a very fascinating and original creation in its own right. Ideon is not loaded with religious symbols
, the only overtly religious aspect is the moniker the Clan has given to Ideon ("The Giant God"), which is understandable given Ideon's power. A small child in the ending is also called a Messiah
, but this is not explored any further. The soul of this messianic child does lead the souls on after the end of everything, but the ending is very ambiguous as to what will happen next.
With its brooding atmosphere, tragic plot, and characters who are people in a desperate situation, not just props, Ideon was in a way first of its kind, and has been a major influence on anime ever since.
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