Takara, along with Hasbro, was one of the companies instrumental in creating the Transformers franchise. During the early 1990s, however, the series was dead across the globe, with Takara still looking to use its concepts in some way. This resulted in a now dormant series of bombastic Super Robot mecha anime that was consistently more than meets the eye.
Yuusha, also known as the Brave series, replaced the battle of the Autobots and Decepticons with slightly more simplistic fare. Nevertheless, it had a wide variety of experimentation, resulting in a grand finale that’s considered by many to be an outright classic. With mecha anime not quite being what it once was in the anime landscape and Transformers now being mainly produced in the West, it may be time for the bravest transforming train and police car robots to make a comeback.
When Transformers had completely lost popularity, Takara and Sunrise took to creating a new franchise that would utilize similar ideas. The first of these was Brave Exkaiser, which was incredibly influential in a variety of ways. The series not only solidified many of the Yuusha tropes but also helped to revive the popularity of Super Robot anime. Its story featured a group of energy beings who bonded with Earth vehicles, transforming into giant robots in order to defend the planet against the criminal Geisters. Throughout the franchise’s different iterations, commonalities included young boys who befriended the robots or even piloted them in some capacity. Most of the robots transformed into police cars and trains, with The Brave Express Might Gaine featuring a train robot as the main mech.
Some of the shows made the robots into living beings like the Transformers, while others were more mindless mecha. Brave Command Dagwon took the latter idea a step further by using the team of three powered suit-wearing as a trend, meaning it bore more resemblance to Super Sentai and Power Rangers. All of these story beats would be utilized in some form in The King of Braves GaoGaiGar, which featured a child protagonist, mechs and transforming sentient robots. As a sign of the franchise’s creative roots, many of the toys for various shows were retools of Transformers. The Geisters in Exkaiser were new versions of toys for the classic Dinobot characters, and other, more obscure Japanese-exclusive Transformers were repackaged as Brave Robos.
Ever since GaoGaiGar’s 2000 OVA, the Yuusha/Brave series has been mostly dormant. Beyond appearances in the Super Robot Wars games and being unknowingly represented through the “Is it a pigeon?” meme (which is taken from an image from The Brave of Sun Fighbird), it’s now fairly obscure. This is further reflected in mecha as a whole being far less popular, especially old-school Super Robot shows. Ironically, such a situation actually creates the perfect environment for Brave to return.
With little in way of competition compared to how oversaturated the genre was back in the day, a mecha anime could make huge strides in today’s market. The anime industry as a whole is still mostly dominated by both slice-of-life romantic comedies and otherworldly Isekai shows, the latter of which may finally be losing at least some popularity. This presents a good avenue for another genre to gain a foothold, and with Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury somewhat reviving the appeal of Real Robot mecha, a new Yuusha (this time from Bandai, which has acquired Sunrise) could do the same for Super Robots.
Another big similarity to the era that birthed the franchise is that Transformers, while far from dead, is fairly dormant in terms of Japanese-exclusive productions. Yuusha could reach a new generation with over-the-top and action-packed stories, all while tapping into the modern hunger for figures and collectibles. It would vindicate a series that has a legacy as a mere Transformers stand-in, building it up into something unique that could showcase the unrealistic yet utterly fun appeal of Super Robot anime.