L-Gaim appears at first glance to be a typical mecha adventure when to its core is actually a space opera. The problem is that its production values are really low and that the feeling of the show is closer to a silly teen adventure rather than a serious sci-fi political drama. And that is exactly what ruins the show.
There is a very good story going on in here, concerning the struggle of a prince to revenge the devastation of his planet by an interplanetary empire. The whole deal is actually played out in a lot more complicating way than that, as we are not really told of most of the story from the start. In fact, at first it appears to be the silly adventures of a bunch of aloof teenagers as they roam a wasteland and are chased by bandits. As the episodes go by, this simple premise escalates into a solar-system-wide war for supremacy. In theory it could be quite the epic show but it failed because of various reasons, mostly aesthetic ones.
First of all, the director and writer of the show is Tomino. And in case you know the guy, I don’t really need to tell you how he is full of interesting ideas and terrible storytelling. THE GUY CAN’T WRITE A PROPER PLOT! Everything seems chaotic, random, and unsupported just because of him. Characters perform turn heals in 5 seconds and you don’t know why. Then, the others forgive them and allow them to be part of the team again… like it didn’t matter at all. That alone makes any personal drama or plot twist to feel like a poorly done ass-pull. And the show is full of those.
Secondary, the budget is so low that you are not allowed to like what is going on with the plot. The scenes are mostly rushed and crudely animated, making body motions and physics to feel like some c-grade cartoon with animals. In fact, there is so much slapstick humour in this show that sometimes you wonder if the whole war is just a prank or if the characters are really taking part in a war and not just fooling around. Furthermore, there is a rather high amount of romantic and erotic humour as well, that you again feel you are sometimes watching a silly rom-com and not an interplanetary war. Humour is good but only when it’s done with fineness and is relevant to the feeling of the show. In this case it wasn’t.
Thirdly, the characters are a very lively bunch and as far as personalities go most have different roles and goals in the show, which is very good for you to not be confused with who is doing what. They also have some of the weirdest names you will find in anime, such as Amandara Kamandara (male) and Daba Myroad. Sometimes it makes you laugh by just listening to these names, even when you shouldn’t. The problem is as I said called Tomino and it makes them behave completely chaotically when they are otherwise an interesting bunch.
Fourthly, the action scenes are to the most part enjoyable as far as choreography goes and there is variety in locations and means of fighting. It is mostly mecha but occasionally there are also spaceships and ground forces as well. What ruins it is not so much the crude animation which makes it hard to figure out what is going on but the various plot devises Tomino keeps using to cheap-save the heroes. The lead mecha L-Gaim appears at first to be vulnerable to simple weapons and it gets damaged all the time but always finds the power to do a comeback, even when it seems be impossible with the damage it sustained. Plus, Lilith, the cute tiny fairy of their team is more useful than an army of elite warriors as it is capable to do anything. I mean ANYTHING! It spies, it steals stuff from enemies, it even washes the dishes. And of course it is such a cute mascot to keep around as well.
The light atmosphere of the show ends up working against it as it ruins the dramatic side of the story. I mean all those scenes with the girls frowning over Daba and for some reason ending up undressed in front of him or having a catfight for who gets to have him. What’s so special about him that every cute girl falls for him in 5 minutes? Tomino sure didn’t point out if he has an inborn charisma bonus of +20 and thus you feel they fall for him just for kicks. Which creates a lot of confusion and turn heels and stuff happening for the heck of it.
It is a good anime if you can see it past its terrible screenplay and out-of-place humor. But chances are you will have already seen something similar and better in later works. For example, it is no secret that another director made The Five Star Stories just because he hated this anime and wanted to show how it should be done. You get to see a ton of similarities there. Even the cute fairy seems to be a rip off from Dumbine, Tomino’s previous project which is considered amongst his best. So down to it, good idea but could be handled much better.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (loose)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (messy)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 2/4 (it has some good ideas but that is all)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Art 0/1 (looks lazy)
Sound 1/2 (I liked the songs)
Story 1/3 (good ideas but presented very lightly)
Characters 0/4 (stereotypes)