Stories revolving around giant mechanical robots or mechs have existed since the earliest of sci-fi classics, most notably in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, where Martians used mechanical ‘Tripods’ to lay waste to humanity. In later years, Japan’s obsession with mechs imparted more complex dynamics to the genre, which evolved into narratives concerning the relationship between human beings and sentient robots, culminating in some particular Gundam series and Transformers.
Netflix’s latest release, Mech Cadets, an adaptation of Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa’s Mech Cadets Yu, combines some of the best mech series out there, like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Pacific Rim, to present a vibrant, fresh take on the mech genre. While the lively 3D animation might hook some of the younger generation onto the series, for veteran fans of the genre, it fails to offer anything new or exceptional that hasn’t been done already. That being said, Mech Cadets respectfully acknowledges its multitude of anime influences, which might work in its favor, as it will need all the traction to increase the chances of a second season hinted at through multiple plot points.
Everything About Robos, Shargs, and Mech Cadets
Mech Cadets takes place on an alternate Earth that has been invaded by crustacean-like monstrous alien creatures known as Shargs, who nearly destroyed the entire planet. Just as inexplicably as the Shargs appeared to terrorize humanity, a unique species of noble, courageous, sentient giant robots appeared from space to aid humankind in their battle against the Shargs. Humanity named the mechs ‘Robos’, whose involvement helped humanity survive and eliminate the Sharg threat for the time being. But knowing that their vulnerability to alien threats was exposed, humans realized the era of peace was temporary; hence, they created the GDR (Global Defense Ring) across the globe, which is basically a protective shield covering the entirety of the planet. To aid humanity against future Sharg attacks, Robos decided to bond with hosts (sixteen years old or younger) of their choice through a neurological wave link, who use their combat skills and tactical prowess to operate the motor functions from the inside of the Robos; these hosts are known as Mech Cadets or Robo Pilots. Both robots and Mech Cadets are held in high regard by humankind. After being selected by Mechs, chosen cadets also name them, and a symbiotic bond is created between the two.
In the present timeline, General Aiden Park is the chief of Skycorps Academy, an organization that oversees Earth’s defense by monitoring GDR and preparing new generations of robot pilots in their Mech Cadets program. Captain Tanaka, the best veteran robopilot of Skycorps, is an old friend and comrade of General Park, and along with his Robo, Tombo, is one of the most vital parts of Earth’s frontline defense.
Who Are The Current Generation of Mech Cadets?
As Mech Cadets begins, we are introduced to young mechanic Stanford Yu, who dreams to become a robot pilot. Stan shared a strong bond with his late father Paul; the memory of seeing Robos launch with him is one of his most cherished ones; therefore, he wishes to become a Mech Cadet to honor his promise to his father. Paul’s profession as an automotive engineer influenced Stan to become an adept engineer himself. However, his dreams seem to be far from his reach, as Stan failed the Cadet screening test and is stuck with a job as a janitor along with his mother at Skycorps. Stan’s childhood friend, Ava Patel, is an engineer at Skycorps. On the other hand, Olivia, the ambitious, headstrong daughter of General Park, feels constant pressure to prove herself and seek validation from her overbearing father.
On the day of the Robo Pilot Selection Test, two Robos arrive on Earth as the GDR is briefly opened, and the young trainees of the academy, wearing their exo-suits, prepare to display their combat skills in front of the Corporal and Robos. Stan overhears an argument between Olivia and Aiden, which Olivia notices. Later, as Stan infiltrates the ranks of trainees by stealing an exosuit with the help of Ava, Olivia detects him, pins him down, and creates a scene. For violating Skycorps’ regulations, Stan is dismissed from the academy. As the test results are out, Olivia ranks first, with Maya Sanchez and Frank Olivetti being second and third, respectively, but none of the two Robos choose Olivia. Instead, the red one, the demolition type, chooses Maya and is named Big Red. The green one selects Frank to bond with and is named Thunderwrecker. On the other hand, Stan comes across a bit smaller, blue Robo on the outskirts of the academy, whom he helps fight a suddenly appearing Sharg. The grateful blue Robo bonds with Stan, whom Stan names Buddy—the same nickname his father had given him. Thus, Stan is given the opportunity of a lifetime by appearing as one of the Mech Pilots, and despite his reservations, General Park allows him to operate as one of the Robo Pilots.
Ava gets promoted to field engineer, and in the engineering sector, Chief Max takes her under her wing.
A Heinous Conspiracy: What Is The Secret Behind Hero Force Mechs?
On the other hand, Olivia is disgruntled about not being selected as a pilot and knows that she doesn’t have any more chances to continue as a trainee due to age constraints. General Park introduces her to a covert program that even Chief Max doesn’t know much about: Hero Force Units, which are man-made robots with increased artillery and firepower. Olivia gets into Hero Force Unit 01 and joins the rest of the three cadets.
Captain Tanaka trains the cadets and notices a lack of teamwork among them. The leader of the bunch, Maya Sanchez, had a tough past, as after the tragic demise of her parents, she had to tend to herself and her brother from a young age. She needed to earn her spot by any means, which resulted in a selfish, loner mindset that is detrimental for the cadets who need to operate as a team. After her win-it-at-all-cost attitude physically harms Big Red, Maya comes to her senses. Frank Olivetti, an amputee since an early age, is the son of legendary pilot Claire Olivetti, and he has the strongest spirit among the bunch as he is determined to not let his disability weigh him down. Gradually, the team starts functioning in sync when a Sharg-spore-related accident leads Stan to make a tough choice between saving his mother and General Park or endangering the rest of the world. Stan chooses the former, which once again results in him getting expelled from the Skycorps. General Park is a hard-boiled rationalist, and the only concern he likes to invest himself in is the security of humankind, no matter the cost.
Under General Park’s command, Buddy is being forced to be assigned to Cadet Adam, but Ava’s interference allows them to break free and eject the new pilot. Stan is once again reinstated as a pilot as Buddy is unwilling to be operated by anyone else, and this time, Stan learns that his personal stakes should also align with the greater good of humanity, not oppose it. Meanwhile, Ava gets promoted to temporary engineering supervisor by Chief Max and uncovers a heinous secret: the Hero Force One units are being fuelled by a dead Robo’s energy core. In fact, one of the Robos named Veritas, who was merely injured in their last battle, was killed by the Skycorps to harvest their energy core, and that is now fueling all of the HF units, along with Olivia’s. Ava shares this revelation with Stan and Max, and as they inform Olivia of it, she confronts her father about it. General Park is unapologetic, as he deemed it to be fair to harvest energy even by killing humankind’s best allies if it ensured the safety of humanity. He also reveals that HF units were assigned to become drone-like mechanisms, which could have allowed them to stop the tradition of sending adolescents to war.
Where Did The Black Hole Take Olivia?
During investigating the sudden appearance of Sharg spores across Earth, Tanaka comes to know that Mars is the current station of such creatures, and upon further searching, a giant Sharg spaceship is located at the surface of the planet. As the team apprehends one of the Shargs that broke free during the spore accident, Chief Max manages to access Buddy’s memory, which reveals that while arriving on Earth, they encountered Shargs, who had spread their spores all over the Earth. All of a sudden, all the different GDR units seem to be under attack as the long-hidden Shargs have awakened and have started invading Earth’s security from within. At the same time, the Sharg spaceship stationed on Mars starts progressing towards Earth.
After Tanaka and Tombo get grievously injured in a battle, all of the cadets are called back to base, but a headstrong Olivia decides to accelerate her HF-01 into space in order to inspect the Sharg spaceship. The ship turns out to be a queen Sharg, who destroys one part of the GDR satellite unit and releases a multitude of Sharg spores in space to infiltrate through the barrier gaps. The rest of the cadets rush to aid Olivia and engage in a battle while Stan repairs the damaged GDR unit. Tanaka joins the battle soon enough, and in no time, they manage to kill most of the spores and turn the GDR unit into a running unit. In order to eliminate the threat of Queen Sharg, the team causes an implosion using Veritas’ remaining Robo energy core, which creates a black hole. Stan uses Buddy’s newfound powers of gravity control to pull the monster inside, and to ensure the success of the mission, Olivia uses her HF01 to push the queen Sharg. In the end, Olivia gets sucked inside the black hole as well, leaving everyone else devastated at her heroic sacrifice, especially her father, Aiden, and Captain Tanaka, who is revealed to be her uncle. Mech Cadets Season 1 mentioned her sister, Charlie, numerous times, and at the end, Tanaka and Tombo are seen to be making a promise at her grave that they will find Olivia by any means necessary.
Later, the cadets led by Stan decide to search for Olivia, and they are joined by Tanaka and Aiden as well. As the first season of Mech Cadets ends, it is revealed that Olivia was probably transported to a different dimension, as, from a blinding light source, someone is seen to be approaching her. The identity of the person and the location of the place remain unknown, which the next installment will shed some light on. There are still tons of unanswered questions, like the origin of Robos and Shargs, and we can speculate that wherever Olivia has arrived, she might hold the answer to some of these questions.