On planet Koam in the Pentagonia Star System, young hero Daba Myroad (voiced by Hirokazu Hiramatsu) and his bequiffed buddy Kyao (Hochu Otsuka) are ambushed by space pirates after their awesome giant super-robot, L-Gaim. Smitten space babe Amu Fannellia (Chieko Honda) helps Dabu outwit her former pirate allies, whereupon a dying man urges the three teenagers to return a valuable credit card to billionaire arms dealer Amandara Kamandara (Ryuichi Horibe). This deceptively simple errand leads to Daba discovering he is the last heir of Camon, hidden away on a backward world when the cosmic entity Poseidal (Saeko Shimazu) killed his family and conquered the galaxy. On his adventures, Daba forms a mystical bond with Lilith (Maria Kawamura), a pink-haired little fairy with magical powers, sparks a semi-affable rivalry with ambitious space warrior Gavlet Gablae (Sho Hayami) and joins the crew of a starship captained by gutsy girl pilot Gaw Ha Leccee (Maria Kawamura, in a second role) using the formidable L-Gaim to save the universe.
After scoring tremendous success with the epochal Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), anime auteur Yoshiyuki Tomino dominated the giant robot genre throughout the ensuing decade. Among his innovations, Aura Battler Dunbine (1983) combined giant robots with Dungeons & Dragons style-fantasy, a high concept he continued to develop in Heavy Metal L-Gaim bringing on board Mamoru Nagano as chara designer and creative consultant. A former J-rock drummer turned manga artist, Nagano went on to create The Five Star Stories (1989), arguably the most mind-bogglingly complex anime science fiction epic of them all. Heavy Metal L-Gaim establishes so many of Nagano’s reoccurring motifs throughout its sprawling narrative (baroque chara designs, densely detailed alien cultures, a melange of medieval and futuristic visuals, an abundance of arcane techno terminology and characters with wacky names) that he most probably qualifies as joint auteur of the piece. Nevertheless, the serial features several of Tomino's favourite themes, notably the alternately antagonistic and friendly rivalry that develops between Daba and Gavlet Gablae, who emerges a more complex, even amusing semi-villain than is first apparent.
Narrated in semi-satirical fashion by comically clueless sidekick Kyao, the set-up is undeniably reminiscent of Star Wars (1977): young boy with big dreams stuck on a dismal planet discovers his greater destiny fighting an intergalactic conflict. However, the plot grows increasingly, pleasingly complex and grander in scale as Tomino once again uses a deceptively simple sci-fi shoot ’em to cloak his philosophical inclinations. The story develops into an intriguing debate on the nature of free will as character embark on their individual goals only to discover they are pawns in a greater galactic scheme. Tomino dallies somewhat detailing hijinks on planet Koam before launching his heroes into outer space but this maintains a fast pace with plenty of exciting action scenes.
While Nagano’s robot designs are somewhat primitive by today’s standards, the characters remain faceted and engaging. It is an anime with elements appealing to youngsters of both genders, with fetchingly feisty heroines as courageous and capable as the boys. Tinkerbell-like fairy Lilith adds an intriguingly offbeat note of Disney-esque whimsy and also eroticism, dressed in her Eighties leotard and leg-warmers. Like Marina the mermaid in Stingray, Lilith says very little or else nothing at all yet has a seemingly significant role to play in the broader scheme of things. Rocking soundtrack by Kei Wakakusa complete with Cylon sound-alike chorus.