Digimon. Pokemon. Cardcaptor Sakura. That is the sort of company which Medabots keeps. And you know what they all have in common, besides being kids’ anime? They’re decades old.
With three decades of anime fandom behind me, I have to say, I haven’t encountered that many anime which are clearly geared towards children. It still confuses Western audiences how animation can be used for something other than kids’ shows, but things seem to go the other way in the East. I can think of barely a few wholesome anime which children can watch, but I cannot recall anything produced in the time since my own childhood that is clearly meant for children. Where’d they all go?!
Thus, for me, when I recall Medabots, it’s not only with the nostalgia of my youth, but also a somewhat sad feeling, the kind that people get as they progressively age: they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Not that Medabots is some sort of masterpiece or anything like that. For a masterpiece kids’ show, you need the likes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and this ain’t that. What it is, is a fun little show about people – mostly kids – and robots.
In the 22nd Century, in a world where almost everyone owns a medabot – a small, robotic friend, protector, and servant – Ikki stands out for not having one. Which he dislikes because, as young boys are wont to do, he envisions himself as a great medafighter, directing his medabot companion to glorious victory in matches against other people’s medabots. A twist of fate delivers to him a mysterious “medal,” the metal core of a medabot which is their mind, heart, and soul, and dire circumstance drives him to spend what little he has getting a robotic exterior to put it in. Thus does he gain his medabot, Metabee! …who turns out to be much more feisty and independent than Ikki bargained for!
The show is mostly episodic and pretty formulaic, as was the way of most shows back then. The good guys are doing something, going about life, when some baddie of greater or lesser quality shows up and forces a conflict. A battle is held between medabots to settle the matter, a life lesson is learned, and everything goes on as it was before. There are threads of overarching plots that come to a head in each season finale, but that’s basically it. Mr. Referee makes hilarious entrances and referees all the matches, a chicken peddler offers perfect insight and wisdom but is actually always talking about selling his wares, and the evil Rubber Robo gang keeps getting thwarted by Ikki and Metabee in much the same style as Team Rocket in Pokemon.
It’s simple, it’s sweet, and it entertained the kids for half an hour every Saturday morning.
The animation style, by today’s standards, is obviously nothing to write home about, but it’s not atrocious either. It gets the job done, conveys the characters, their movements, their feelings (even when they’re robots), and all the humor, action, and drama of the story. Said story also had some surprisingly powerful themes about growing up, finding your place in the world, being a good person, and, my favorite, the question of whether a robot can be seen as a person, which I briefly mentioned on one of my most favorite posts that I have produced. And though the soundtrack isn’t some epic masterpiece either, I find that I can still recall some of it, even so many years after the last time I watched it. Not a bad accomplishment, that!
Of course, if one takes even a moment to consider, it makes little sense for the Rubber Robo gang to be trying every sort of cash-getting ploy they can think of in every episode, since they’re apparently the overall authority of medabot tournaments, but plot holes will abound in most any kids’ show, ya know?
Some of the jokes still make me laugh today as I recall them. “Please, no autographs, I need this hand to wave.” Or the weather lady during a rainstorm, “If you must go out, please remember to bring your kayak.”
And I still love that lone medabot samurai, Rokusho! A wise and noble ronin if ever there was one! 🙂
In short, Medabots was simply a fun little ride for the kids in my day, filled with action, humor, and life lessons presented in an interesting way. The third season might have been entirely extra, such that I didn’t even realize there was a third season until recently, but I have nothing but fond childhood memories of the first two. I kind of wish they still made more anime like this.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.