Dagram is an attempt to pirate ideas from other famous mecha anime of its time, such as the war drama of Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam (even the names are similar) and the robot designs of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. The problem here is that the director is Ryosuke Takahashi, mostly famous for his work on Votoms. His style is simply to make everything slow and moody and hardly tries to offer some plot continuity. Thus the good premise is ruined by being stretched as much as possible and then to end it in a rushed way. Thus follows a list of the things I didn’t like.
1) The story doesn’t make good use of its potential. It begins and unfolds so mature and interesting for about 10 episodes and up to then it’s plain perfect. After than though it turns to an almost aimless adventure where the good guys roam around and blow up stuff in the name of justice. There is still a plot somewhere in this mess but there is no progress in terms of story; after the premise is looked into at its basics, it is dumped for dull military missions. Heck, you can skip all episodes after 10 and go to the last two; the only thing you missed is how a few comic relief characters are now in the team to fool around. The worst part is how this is not a 24 episode show. It is not a 50 one either. It is 75! Do you believe that number? 75 episodes, around 60 of which are nothing more than storyless and repetitive guerilla warefare. How long do you think it takes for an average viewer to get bored with this? Not long I say. Even the finale is simple; you would expect something special as a reward for managing to survive through all those dozens of boring episodes and all you get is a soup of an ending. Very disappointing.
2) The action is unrealistic in a series that is full of serious war drama. People outrun bullets, get jettisoned out of exploding cars and get up without a scratch, pilots use machineguns when missiles can finish it all in a single shot, and soldiers fall for the most juvenile war tactics. All that would be very fitting in a slapstick comedy yet this is supposed to be a serious war setting.
3) The action is not cool. Gundam action for example is highly unrealistic too yet it is soooo cool. And don’t go telling me that it is too immature to expect something like that in a serious war story; robot action is meaningless by default so it might as well be cool. This is plain boring; there is no variety in robots or tanks, and the battles repeat after awhile in a similar manner so it gets old fast. Plus, as usually the leading robot is plain indestructible while all others drop with a few shots.
4) The main character is so annoying! He is practically a stereotypical shonen hero, full of impractical idealism and dumb as a monkey. Plus he keeps screaming during the battles in an extremely annoying way which makes you turn off the sound.
5) The production values are not good. The robots are ugly, the helicopters are drawn simplistically, the characters have very jerky motions, and the main music theme is plain boring.
This does not mean the show is not good. In fact it has a superficial maturity that on a basic level makes it more captivating than most anime and can fool most to think it is a great show if they only watch the initial episodes. So now I will mention the good parts I found in it.
1) The overall story is very smart and almost realistic. It reminded me of the Cuban revolution when Fidel Castro and Che Guevara overthrew the regime in the name of liberty. Well just like there, the new governor was an equally bad apple and his left hand ended up continuing the war for an ideal that never came to be. There are several political mind games present that drive the plot through deception and not military prowess, so the basic idea is far smarter and more captivating than your average story of good guys and bad guys. Yet as I said, it loses all progress after 10 episodes and the finale is a soup.
2) The action involves guerrillas (the military type) who actually fight against the status quo they originally supported. Also, despite the lack in variety when it comes to robots and battle choreography, it is true that actual military equipment is mass produced and identical. There isn’t a custom robot or weapon for every fighter, as we see in any fighting shonen; so it makes it more realistic. It sure does not make it more enjoyable though; there is no plot to keep you interested for long.
3) The lead hero and most others have motives that make sense and are not simply defined by pure idealism. Some are just practical, others are willing to do all it takes for the good of the many in the long run, some are just doing what their hearts tell them to do. Their personalities are interesting and it is a shame that besides the lead hero they do not develop at all. Also, many of them are there simply as comic relief or short termed antagonists that makes them easily forgettable. It is also too hard to accept how the main group of heroes survives no matter the odds while anyone else introduced usually kicks the bucket in a few episodes.
Bottom line. If this was a 12 episode series with more exiting action and a main hero who does not shout like a pig hanging from a tree, it would be one of the best war dramas of all times. Unfortunately its initial good impression on you gets too watered down by the ridiculously long and uneventful duration, as well as the dull action, and the protagonist’s Banshee yelling. As such, Dagram is a 100 meter world champion runner, forced to take part in a marathon. Of course and he will drop out early on.