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Megas XLR
Reviewed by Kevin Pezzano, © 2004

Format: Anime
By:   Cartoon Network
Genre:   Sci-Fi/Action/Comedy
Released:   Currently Running on Saturday Toonami
Review Date:   May 11, 2004
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

"What's a Quantum Singularity?"
"It's like a Black Hole, but portable. And with a cooler name." -- evil space robot wrestling promoter Magnanimous gives Coop a physics lesson.

The crossover between Japanese and American pop culture may just have reached its pinnacle with this show.

"Megas XLR" is the heartwarming story of a talented young car customizer from New Jersey, his slacker buddy, the giant robot he salvaged from his local junkyard, and the ass-kicking girl who came back from the future to retrieve that robot so it could be used to fight off an alien invasion. Coop, our big-boned blond-goateed hero, is enamored with the idea of owning his very own giant robot (come one, who can blame him). However, the robot itself, Megas, was damaged during its travels through time, so Coop has... spruced it up a bit. It has a snazzy blue paintjob, stylin' flame decals along the side, an eight-ball shifter, and those mudflaps with silhouettes of naked women on them. Oh, and he had to replace the head with a classic convertible car, steering wheel, ten-disc CD changer, pine tree air freshener, and all.

Coop and his buddy Jamie are content to use the tricked-out Megas to terrorize the neighborhood (in a good-natured way, of course) and compete in auto shows (where even giant robots are no match for the bass and amp a good lowrider is equipped with). Kiva, the girl who has come back to the past, though, only wants her giant robot back so she can save the Earth from green tentacled robot-piloting aliens, and she is not pleased at all to be trapped in the past with a couple of primitives like Coop and Jamie (the term "monkey-thing" gets bandied about a lot). It's all she can do to work on repairing the time shunt on the Megas and corral those two ADD slackers long enough to use the Megas to fight off various giant robot and alien attackers, all of whom want the power of the Megas for themselves. In between getting slurpees at the local convenience store, that is.

This series throws the contents of your average Gen-Xer's brain into a blender, adds in some nitrous, spices things with a definite Japanese animation sensibility, and mashes the "puree" button. "Megas XLR" is a madcap mix of pop-culture-fueled antics from around the world, part anime and part "Jay and Silent Bob." It features karaoke sonic weapons, DDR machines used as manual backup controls, the entire bow of the space cruiser Yamato popping from Megas' chest, green-skinned alien catgirls, food courts on the Planet of the Space Amazons, Voltron's blazing sword, the one and only Bruce Campbell guest-starring as a wrestling promoter who's just a giant floating head with little dangly arms and legs (thus bearing a suspicious resemblance to Marvel Comics' oddball villain Modok), and enough "Transformers" riffs to make this particular reviewer's inner fanboy very, very happy.

The best thing about this whole show is the way it takes none of it seriously. It doesn't even take ITSELF seriously. The characters are likeable, but are often the objects of this series' humor as much as the pop-culture references are. Coop is a good-hearted but easily-distracted doofus who'd rather spend his time playing video games or tinkering with old cars than saving the world. Jamie is a self-centered, slightly cowardly slacker who is sort of like Shaggy from "Scooby Doo" crossed with Randall from "Clerks." And Kiva is stuck-up and disdainful of her two erstwhile partners, despite (or maybe because of) being the smartest and most competent member of the trio by far. Their odd character clashes and brief asides (especially Coop's, who often has "Family Guy"-like flashbacks to his many screwups, like putting squeezy cheese into a power coupler that looks an awful lot like the Autobot Matrix of Leadership) help keep "Megas XLR" from being just another lame anime parody, and instead transform it into both a satire and a loving homage to everything that's cool to people of my generation.

Though there have been just three episodes broadcast so far, "Megas XLR" has quickly become a must-see on Saturday nights, even surpassing the much-hyped "Gundam SEED"on Cartoon Network's revamped Toonami block. It's clever, it's funny, it's action-packed, it has Wendee Lee and David Lucas as two of the main characters, and it's just plain messed-up at times.

Other giant robot shows only WISH they could be this cool.


Anime and Comics Editor Kevin Pezzano digs giant robots.

 
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