Despite the Top Gun reference, this is decidedly not a post about the famous Tom Cruise film. It is, instead, a piece about my favorite mecha anime – Zoids: Chaotic Century. Part of the reason for this author to revisit Chaotic Century is that the series has a brief cameo in my story “All the Lamps Are Lit,” the first entry in Unbound III: Goodbye, Earth. If you have not read it yet, you can find either the ebook or paperback copies of the anthology here. Feedback has been a little slow on this short piece, but from what I have heard, it seems to have hit the mark.
As this author has noted elsewhere at Song, the Zoids anime had an enormous impact on her career in fiction. Without the first two series in this Japanese franchise, it is doubtful that she would be the writer she is today. Zoids had and still has a lot to teach her about the art and craft of creative writing, and while it may not appeal to everyone, she does recommend giving it a try if it interests you. If it does not, feel free to stop reading this post.
Still here? Excellent! Below are three videos delving into the history of Zoids. Two of these focus on the franchise’s roots as a toy line, while the third is a fellow fan’s fond recollection of the story in Chaotic Century. That in itself should offer future writers a particularly valuable lesson; fiction used to promote a product of some sort is usually viewed as thin storytelling, so it is often held in contempt by authors and audiences alike. Yet alongside such series as Transformers, G.I. Joe, Gundam, etc., Zoids managed to tell remarkably substantial tales at the same time it endorsed a plaything.
These stories in turn made the manufactured goods sell better than they would have otherwise. Zoids would have interested me at least slightly because they were based on animals, but that fact in itself was not enough to make even me put them on my Christmas list. It was the narrative and the characters that inhabited it which began and fed my interest in the merchandise.
So if you are ever faced with a challenge like this, future writers, you need not fear it is impossible to design a good story while endeavoring to sell toys. In fact the opposite has proven true. It is quite feasible for an enthralling piece of fiction to be based on nothing but a set of plastic, mechanized playthings. If product-based anime were horrible stories, after all, then there would not be any calls for #AGundamforUs or #ReturnOfTheZoids.
The first video below tells the story of the toys’ emergence on the world stage:
History of Zoids
Zoids World is an original advertisement for the second release of the Takara Tomy model kits in the early 1980s. It is unquestionably good for its time and quite reminiscent of the kaiju films that helped inspire the toys:
Next we have a half-hour review of Chaotic Century, done by youtuber Kohdok. For the most part, I agree with his assessment of the series; we differ on a few points, but that is to be expected. No two fans ever have an identical perspective on the same story, and that can be a good thing. But if you want to avoid spoilers for Chaotic Century, you may wish to watch the show before listening to his review, since he recaps the entire series after the seven minute mark.
He also knows details about the series which I did not. Kohdok can tell you why the CGI for the show was so good, he plays the original Japanese opening theme song (which I have never heard in full) in his video, and he includes several scenes that were cut from the American release. Best of all, the series’ amazing sound track is almost constantly in the background, so you are treated to most of the music from the show without actually turning on an episode. He also does not use foul language, which makes the listening easy and pleasant.
If you want to know why this author raves about the anime so much, future writers, listening to Kohdok will help you understand her enthusiasm. He makes a number of extremely good points about the series’ storytelling which are very important for prospective authors. Listen to his review when you have the time, and you will see what I mean:
Zoids Chaotic Century Retrospective
Finally, if you have not got time at the moment for the above videos, or if you have saved them for later, I leave you with this music video. Whoever set “Eye of the Tiger” to Zoids was a genius. This song nails the magic of being a zoid pilot, as it truly is “the thrill of the fight/Risin’ up to the challenge/Of our rival”…
Eye of the Saber Tiger (a.k.a. the Zaber Fang)
I hope you enjoyed this little post, readers. Please pick up Unbound III: Goodbye, Earth if you have not already and tell me what you think of it. If you have bought the book, please leave a review either on Amazon or your own social media platform. All authors need feedback to keep moving forward, and it would be really nice to know what you thought of “All the Lamps Are Lit.”
And if you have seen any of the Zoids series, feel free to drop me a line. This author is always open to reminiscing about the anime and toyline. I am not (yet) so busy that I cannot discuss this or any other Zoids series with fellow fans. Nor am I averse to seeing an old zoid fighter on the battlefield! 😉
I’m ready when you are, readers. Mobilize!