Good News, This Season's Homoerotic Mecha Anime Is For the Guys

Last year, Witch From Mercury radically improved the already pretty great world of Gundam by adding an amount of lesbianism that not even its parent company could deny. Alas, sapphics have yet to see a successor to the gay mecha throne yet, but lovers of men and giant robots may have found their own show to claim this season in Bang Brave Bang Bravern.

Produced by Granblue Fantasy architects Cygames and directed by the legendary mecha designer Masami Ōbari, Bang Brave Bang Bravern is set in a near future where the nations of the world have developed the first generations of militarized mecha suits called Titanostriders—but are suddenly outmatched when much of the planet is laid low during a surprise invasion by the Deathdrives, highly advanced alien mechas that vastly outgun the best humankind has to offer. That is, until the world gets a weapon of its own to fight back with: falling from the stars seeking a pilot and burning with a desire to save the Earth, the fabled super robot Bravern.

Image for article titled Good News, This Season's Homoerotic Mecha Anime Is For the Guys

Screenshot: Crunchyroll

On the surface for the most part then, Bravern is a send up of classic “Super Robot” mecha shows in the vein of a Mazinger or Getter Robo type deal. While the Titanostriders developed by human militaries lean more into a more realistic exploration of the concept, Bravern himself is not just a full on Super Robot, one who independently speaks and acts for himself sans-pilot as a sentient being, but one unabashedly aware of the tropes of the format. His personality is gregarious and full of that typical shonen burning spirit, he cannot help but yell his name every time he has to say it, he plays the show’s theme song (itself sung by Bravern’s voice actor, Kenichi Suzumura) as diegetic music in combat, and absolutely begs his eventual pilot—the incredibly reluctant JDSF mecha pilot Isami Ao—to scream his outlandishly named special attacks at the top of his lungs alongside Bravern for maximum effect and theatricality.

It’s a fun twist on the genre, keeping all the over-the-top giant robot vs. alien invasion action while also poking a lot of sincerely loving fun at this classic, largely retro mecha trope—especially with having Isami, an initially cool-headed hero rocked by the horrors he was unable to act against when the aliens invaded, be largely unwilling and unmoved by Bravern’s goofy shenanigans. But there is another side to Bravern and Isami’s relationship: Bravern, who mysteriously knew who Isami was even before he first arrived to save the day, endlessly yearns with as much innuendo as possible that Isami is the only person who can pilot him, and he wants this man inside him constantly.

Almost any time Bravern is talking about Isami, it is laden with this homoerotic undercurrent—but no matter how oblique it is, even if not explicit, it is far from the only homoerotic undertone thrumming throughout Bravern that makes this show feel like it’s constantly moments from just exploding its gay subtext into the text. The other key relationship in the series so far is between Isami and Lewis Smith—a U.S. Army mech pilot who is caught up in the invasion while the duo are training as part of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise in Hawaii at the start of the show. They’re the opposites-attract type of vibe, one calm and collected and the other outgoing and sociable, and what is first set up as a rivalry between two of the best pilots the U.S. and Japan has to offer quickly turns into this strange quasi-love-triangle between Lewis, Isami, and Bravern himself, when the former is rejected by the latter when Isami tries to refuse to be a part of Bravern’s desires.

There’s not been enough time for sparks to fly between Lewis and Isami on the show quite yet, but the potential is definitely there in their relationship, and while not as overt as the innuendoes yelled by Bravern, there is something that feels like hints towards a queer lens in the characters. Lewis is fascinated with Isami almost from the moment he lays eyes on him, and while Isami is seemingly uninterested in reciprocating that energy—being so distracted by the whole alien invasion terror/giant super robot constantly wants him inside him situation—both men on their own have been shown so far completely non-respondent to the more heteronormative fan-service elements of the series. There’s an underlying lens on Lewis and Isami’s bodies too, either keeping them as undressed or possible to show glimpses of their muscular frames, or in tight fitting shirts the show makes sure to emphasize are tight, in a way that usually feels saved for female characters in these kinds of show. And even when that aforementioned heteronormative material arises, it feels telling in the mens’ reaction to it: in a scene during episode three, an exhausted Lewis accidentally walks in on a couple of women using a locker room to change after a workout with zero reaction to their scantily clad forms, to which one of them even admonishes him for not even trying to leer.

And then there’s the ending song for the show, which sees Lewis and Isami dramatically sing to each other while stripping down shirtless and tenderly grasping each others hands:

オリジナルTVアニメ「勇気爆発バーンブレイバーン」EDノンテロップ映像

Like I said. This show has a lot going on and is frequently over the top about it, but it’s surprising to see that one element of that over the top nature is unrelenting homoerotic vibes. Time will tell if anything between any of these male characters—be it any combination of Isami, Lewis, and even Bravern—will become more explicit as the show goes on. Even if it doesn’t, Bravern still manages to be a whole lot of fun as a charmingly silly, albeit earnest, sendup of the Super Robot genre, and worth checking out for that alone. But if the homoerotic vibes persist, and even become something more, we’re going to be in for a delightfully wacky treat even on top of that.

Bang Brave Bang Bravern is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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