Proof that you can’t keep a good robot down for too long, Shotaro Ishinomori’s Robocon returned to Japanese television screens in 1999 in a brand new reboot. Moero!! Robocon (燃えろ!!ロボコン) occupies a particularly interesting place in the tokusatsu timeline, bridging the gap between the end of Robotack (the last of the Metal Heroes series) and the beginning of Kamen Rider Kuuga. The updated Robocon even got to meet his past self in a special direct to video crossover movie. Much like its predecessor, Toei have added it to their channel under the alternate title of Go! Robottie (aka Robocon) presumably used for international press.
The premiere of this reboot roughly follows the same beats as the original Robocon, but does change the scenario a fair bit as well. Here Robocon has assigned via a televised lottery to the Kurihara family, where the robot is to learn all about befriending and serving humans. Professor Gantz’s score system has also been streamlined somewhat – every time a robot receives 100 points from their creator they’ll earn a heart, and if Robocon can earn ten hearts in a year he’ll graduate robot school!
Unfortunately, this version of Robocon turns out to be just as hapless as the original. First he crashes through the roof of the Kurihara household to make his grand entrance, and then he tries to persuade the whole family to take a bath because “the best way of getting along with humans is by getting naked together”. Of course by Japanese customs and sensibilities he’s not exactly wrong, but the family are still a little overwhelmed by how insistent this strange robot they’ve only just met is being. Robocon’s still deathly afraid of cockroaches too, so one showing up in the bathroom causes all kind of destructive shenanigans.
The Kurihara family aren’t putting up with any of this nonsense, so they quickly make their escape in the family car. Poor Robocon gives chase, meeting a number of Gantz’s other creations along the way. Eventually the Kuriharas loose control of their car and it’s up to Robocon to save the day. The family can’t understand why he’d help them considering all they did was run away from him, but Robocon tells them it isn’t about the grades – all he’s ever wanted was human friends. Well I hope the Kuriharas feel terrible.
The episode ends with Robocon being welcomed into the family, but failing to gain any points because of all the needless destruction he caused along the way. This only makes him more determined than ever, but of cause his clumsiness will always have hilarious consequences!
It’s nice that despite the 20 year age difference Toei didn’t play with the designs too much for this reboot, with both Robocon and Professor Gantz still very recognisably the same characters they were back in 1977. All they’ve really done is sharpened their looks, as well as updating Robocon’s interior and gadgets. His chest has also been slightly reshaped to make the car bonnet motif far more pronounced. This version of Robocon sadly isn’t anywhere near as sassy as his 70s counterpart though, which is a little disappointing but definitely sells him harder as this wholesome mascot character.
Moero!! Robocon isn’t quite as fun as the original, but it’s still a very heartwarming and wholesome tokusatsu show that provides plenty of laughs. The opportunity to compare and contrast the two versions is very interesting though, and with yet another reboot (this time as a movie) set to drop later this year I’m curious to see how the story will be mixed up yet again. If you decide to check out one of these weirdly endearing robot shows on the Toei channel, make it a Robocon one.
You can now find Go! Robottie (aka Moero!! Robocon) as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.