This past week, the Gaogaigar 25th Anniversary Exhibition in Japan featured a surprise announcement: A new entry in the Brave Series has been greenlit! Brave Universe Sworgrader is heading our way, albeit with a caveat. Unlike all its anime-based predecessors, it will debut as a web manga.
Sworgrader isn’t totally alone in regards to not coming out the gate as an anime. The sequel to Gaogaigar Final, King of Kings: Gaogaigar vs. Betterman, started off as a web novel series before being adapted into a manga. Other old anime have also received novel-only nostalgic sequels, such as Raijin-oh and even the magical girl title Ojamajo Doremi. One major difference is that Sworgrader is wholly original, though the teaser art and the whole “Brave Universe” thing seems to imply that the previous Brave Robots will somehow be involved—even the shelved sequel that only ever got a spotlight in video games, Baan Gaan.
I do feel a mix of joy and sorrow in all this: It’s great to see Brave franchise make something of a comeback, but also a shame to know how diminished it is compared to its heyday. I suspect that something like a 90s throwback robot toy franchise isn’t going to attract the massive kids market that was tuning into Exkaiser and such thirty years ago (otherwise this would at least be a mobile game). It’ll mostly be banking on the adults who had grown up with the old shows, and merch will probably be premium figures and model kits, as opposed to children’s toys.
That all said, it’s worth pointing out that despite likely having more “Big Friend” appeal than anything else, the main characters are clearly cut from the traditional Brave cloth: They’re kid heroes through and through. So many retro-style series prefer to have characters who are at least in their late teens in order to be more relatable to that older audience, but I kind of admire the creators of Sworgrader for trying to be faithful to the Brave spirit. Gaogaigar really hit its stride once the shackles of toy advertisement were loosened, and Sworgrader is potentially going to be like that from Day One.
In addition to overseeing the entire project, Gaogaigar director Yonetani Yoshitomo is also the lyricist on the main theme for Sworgrader; something he’s had experience doing thanks to Gaogaigar and Betterman. In fact, similar to Sworgrader, Gaogaigar vs. Betterman has “opening” and “ending” themes despite there being no anime. The theme will be sung by Tamaki Nami, who got her debut in anime singing the fourth and final Gundam SEED opening, “Believe.” All this takes me back to my very first time in Japan in 2005: a year when Gaogaigar: Grand Glorious Gathering was on TV, and I could hear Tamaki’s SEED openings while in the supermarket.
And while I believe a Sworgrader anime will have some trouble coming to fruition, not all hope is lost: One of the credits on the project is Aono Yuka (Shinkalion Z, Brave Beats) as “Animation Character Designer” as distinct from “Character Designer” Tsunashima Shirou, the artist of the Jinki franchise (talk about another throwback). Similarly, there are separate credits for “Mechanical Design” (Ookawara Kunio, Miyauchi Toshinao) and “Animation Mechanical Design” (Mutaguchi Hiroki) Maybe we’ll see some cool shorts, at the very least?
Whatever form Sworgrader takes, I look forward to seeing its arrival. I will neither automatically love it or hate it, but I do hope it brings joy and excitement to all.