Space Runaway Ideon (anime review)

Review provided By Luther

Title: Space Runaway Ideon on Blu-ray

Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Maiden Japan

U. S. Release Date: Feb. 5th, 2019

Format: Blu-ray / 39 Episodes and 2 Movies / 1158 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Drama

Age Rating: MA

Overall Personal Rating: C+


Space Runaway Ideon contains anime episodes 1-39 and movies The Ideon: A Contact a movie compilation and The Ideon: Be Invoked the sequel all directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino

When Earth archaeologists on the planet Solo dig up a set of strange vehicles, they have no idea that they’ve unearthed something that will change the course of mankind. Even more shocking is the discovery that a SECOND human race called the Buff Clan is also seeking the mechs! A deadly competition ensues as the two races battle to secure the secrets of what the Buff Clan calls the “Ide”. While the fight initially favors the Buff Clan, everything changes when young Cosmo Yuki and his friends accidentally power up the ancient machines that form the most powerful robot the universe has ever seen! But even with the Ideon defending them, the return to Earth won’t be easy, and there’s a long hard journey filled with combat and sacrifice ahead!


Space Runaway Ideon aired in 1980, as such while watching the show I indulged in some of the 80’s culture surrounding the show, that being building a model kit. 80’s animated television being a vehicle for merchandise sales, especially toys, is a fairly well known phenomenon. In the United States the toys based on shows were typically action figures or dolls, but in Japan a common thing to see was model kits, especially models of giant robots or mecha. Mobile Suit Gundam is the most well known example of these model kits, but Space Runaway Ideon was no stranger to model kits. The titular mech, Ideon, received several model kits, as well as some of the space ships and the enemy mechs. The model I built was one of the enemy’s crafts, a blue saucer with three long flimsy legs it barely manages to stand on. The design of which is reminiscent of the alien crafts in H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds. My experience building the wild looking model kit was rather similar to building Gundam models of the same age, just cut out the pieces and glue them together, only when finished the model from Ideon had difficulties standing. As such building the model was rather analogous to my experience watching Space Runaway Ideon, both were basically the same as Gundam, just not as good.

Comparisons between Space Runaway Ideon and Mobile Suit Gundam are going to be inevitable, in part because Ideon aired a little over one year after Gundam, but the main reason for the comparison is that both were done by the same studio, Sunrise, and directed by the same person, Yoshiyuki Tomino. Furthermore, Tomino included a number of references or easter eggs to Gundam, with the mascot character Haro showing up in the background of some scenes as well the protagonists and mechs from Gundam making brief caminos.

Overall Grade:

Brief cameo characters are not the only thing Space Runaway Ideon shares in common with Gundam, for both stories share some rather similar story beats. In both series a young man, who’s father is working on a project relating to mecha, winds up in the middle of an unexpected battle were he accidentally ends up piloting a powerful mecha he used to fight a space faring people. Of course both series do their own twist on this narrative set up but, especially for the beginning of the series, Space Runaway Ideon just feels like a rehash of Gundam.

Gundam as a franchise has made a history of roughly duplicating the narrative of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, to some success. Thus the problem Space Runaway Ideon has is that it uses these narrative elements in a setting that is less engaging and with characters that aren’t as sympathetic. The central conflict of the battle between the two main factions is sparked from misunderstandings and both group’s militaries shooting first before trying to understand what is going on. Compare that to the complex political drama Mobile Suit Gundam takes place in and Space Runaway Ideon presents a far less intriguing story. The story of Space Runaway Ideon is further dragged down by an overabundance of uninteresting characters. At the start of the series far too many characters are introduced in a short amount of time, as such none of them are able to be portrayed as unique or complex characters. Both the issues with the story and characters are eventually overcome as the narrative deepens and as the characters get more and more screen time, but the first 10 episodes or so feel like a slog to get through, and the overall narrative does not take the series in a particularly unique direction.

Yet, despite any shortcomings with the characters or narrative, Ideon’s biggest flaw is the age of the show. Not to say that old anime are fundamentally flawed but rather compared to some of its contemporaries, Space Runaway Ideon has aged rather poorly. In its time Ideon was a fairly unique in many ways. The use multiple vehicles to form a single mech was not common in mecha anime, nor was ancient technology being advanced as established of a narrative device. Additionally, Ideon’s depiction mecha as tools of war and the suffering such conflicts can cause was fairly unseen, with Mobile Suit Gundam being the series that started the such trends only a year prior. While it is neither the fault of the series or the creator that Space Runaway Ideon struggles to compete with the anime that came after it, the show is still difficult to recommend to a general audience. However, Space Runaway Ideon is still a solid classic science fiction anime and can easily be enjoyed by fans of such anime. Space Runaway Ideon would also be a curiosity for fans of the Gundam franchise, for the series is deeply entangled with Gundam. Fortunately, for those curious about the Space Runaway Ideon but don’t wish to sit through a 39 episode series, the first movie included in the blu-ray set is a recap of the series, making it a good jumping in point. Thus for anyone looking for some classic giant mecha action or who enjoys exploring the mecha grene’s history, then Space Runaway Ideon a great title to check out.  

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