With giant robots, a samurai from the past, school kids forced into fighting for their planet, and a race of aliens searching for something on Earth, Kuromukuro covers a lot of the different genres of anime all at once. Even with all of these elements, everything manages to run quite smoothly and the story unfolds at a consistent and easy to understand pace. The story will never leave the viewer behind and it offers up most of the answers, as this is only the first season, with another 13 episodes hopefully on the way. Kuromukuro is now available exclusively on Netflix, and the only thing left to hope for is that they get the final 13 episodes up as soon as possible.

The show follows Yukina Shirahane (Mao Ichimichi), a quiet highschool student who wishes to go to Mars one day. Unfortunately, her grades just aren’t good enough, although her mother, a director at the UN, pushes her to achieve her goals. While visiting the UN building and observing a strange cube artifact that scientists have been studying for over 60 years, an attack from giant robots begins. They’ve landed around the world and appear to be searching for something. During the chaos, Yukina notices that the cube has a glowing square on it and when she touches it, the cube opens to reveal Kennosuke Tokisada Ouma (Yōhei Azakami), a samurai who has been asleep in the cube for 450 years. He mistakes Yukina for the princess he once fought alongside and protects her from the incoming robotic forces.

Kennosuke and Yukina must pilot the Kuromukuro in order to stop an alien invasion in "Kuromukuro."

Kennosuke and Yukina must pilot the Kuromukuro in order to stop an alien invasion in “Kuromukuro.”

The cube isn’t the only artifact housed at the UN building though. The other is a giant robot that they’ve been unable to even move since its discovery. With Kennosuke now awake, and with Yukina forced to be by his side, Kennosuke awakens the robot with the cube he was held inside and proceeds to defeat the other robots attacking the UN. We slowly learn through the first season that Kennosuke piloted this same robot, which he calls Kuromukuro, 450 years ago against other robots he refers to as ‘ogres.’ Yukina’s missing father had been studying historical descriptions of ogres as well, claiming they would return, which made him the laughing stock of the world and led to Yukina being mocked at school.

It would seem that her father was right though, and these ‘ogres’ have returned to Earth. While the UN does have robots similar to the ‘ogres,’ they’re just not as powerful as Kuromukuro, which can only be piloted by Kennosuke and Yukina. Together, they’ll have to decide where they fit into the world around them and the plans that everybody seems to be making for them, along with the realization that the aliens sending these robots down to Earth from an orbiting space station may not be as strange as they’re expecting.

The only real complaint to be made about Kuromukuro is some of the mech design. It leans into Gundam territory, but with some obvious differences that make these robots stick out. The hands and feet are very small in comparison to the massive upper bodies of the robots, and not all of them look like they should be flowing as freely as they do. Many of the alien mechs are outfitted with shoulder extensions that hold other arms or legs that can unfold or wield swords, giving some robots four arms instead of two. The style choices get lost once two robots start swinging swords at each other, so it’s really more of a minor complaint.

While the mech designs aren't perfect, the small details get lost once they start battling one on one in fantastic fight sequences.

While the mech designs aren’t perfect, the small details get lost once they start battling one on one in fantastic fight sequences.

Outside of that one specific design choice, the series is incredible in every other way. For once, the protagonist is a woman. That’s a rare thing in a mech anime like Kuromukuro. She doesn’t exactly handle herself very well, and needs plenty of saving from Kennosuke, but that’s actually the same thing that would happen to a male character in a series like this. I know I usually resort to a Neon Genesis Evangelion reference, but for the first time it felt like a mech series was mirroring the arc of the lead character from that series, instead of the robots fighting strange aliens aspect.

Yukina is similar to Shiji from Evangelion. She has a parent who works within the organization that controls the mech she pilots. Her relationship with her father is non-existent, although in a very different way, and she struggles to find her reason to even be a part of the battle. For Yukina, she at least has Kennosuke to not only help her on her path, but it gives her someone to relate to, as Kennosuke’s reason for fighting is revenge, something which he needs to change.

Kennosuke’s story also offers some of the best laughs, even if it does come from the slightly cheap excuse of being a character from the past. It’s hard not to laugh as he struggles to understand modern society, including a robot vacuum in one hilarious scene. It also offers some more quiet, emotional moments as well. He talks about how he can recognize the mountains, but everything around them is foreign to him. The world changes, but in many ways it stays the same, setting a comparison for his role in the show as well. He must change, just as the world has, but there are parts of him that will always be the same. These are the mountains of his personality.

As the series progresses, we start to learn more about what happened to Yukina’s father, as well as these ‘aliens’ that are sending robots to Earth. Questions arise as to the intentions of the aliens, as well as what they really are. They seem to know Kennosuke, and he is able to pilot one of their robots, which should only be able to happen if he was actually an alien. There’s even a Mulder and Scully looking pair who show up towards the end. They investigate extraterrestrial matters for the UN, and it seems like an obvious nod to the most famous alien hunting duo in television history.

Unfortunately, this is only the first 13 of 26 episodes, so the series ends on a massive cliffhanger. We’re not talking about a ‘where will they go next’ moment, we’re talking about one of those ‘I need to know what’s going to happen right now’ kinds of scenes. It’ll be tough to wait it out, but it hopefully won’t be very long. This is definitely a show that mech fans will want to check out. And don’t worry, even Kuromukuro manages to stick a bathing suit episode into its storyline, even if it has no relevance to the series whatsoever. You’ve got to get that fanservice in there somewhere.