How I got into it:
Way back in the day, some year in high school, I started to frequent the only anime related store in town that stocked up on comics, magazines, and would occasionally loan out VHS tapes of fansubs. This lovely little shop was about an hour round-trip from my house, which I always had to get a ride from my dad to go; therefore, I could only go about once a month. Due to my severe dislike for English dubs, I was instantly drawn to the world of fansubs (there was such a thing!?). I watched all of Rurouni Kenshin this way as well as many other previously unknown shows that I have since forgotten. I think the Panzer Dragoon OVA was another. One of the other random rentals was the first VHS of B't X with episodes 1-4. One of my sadistic rules of thumb says that if the main character gets beaten up pretty good in the first episode, whether it be physically or mentally, chances are I will like the series as a whole. lol Lame, but it has worked out pretty well.
Basic summary about the show:
The overall gist of the story revolves around two brothers who find themselves in the middle of a war for power, waged mostly in secret. The eldest of the brothers, Kotaro, is a genius. He eventually goes off to study in Berlin, leaving his younger brother, Teppei, to fend for himself back on a tiny island off the northern coast of Hokkaido.
Fast forward five years to the start of the series. Kotaro & Teppei make plans to meet in Shanghai during a technology world expo where Kotaro was scheduled to give a seminar on his new research, the study of human-like robots or robots with a human mind/heart called "B't" (abbreviation for the word "beast" hence the animal-type designs). Unfortunately, though, the secretive Machine Empire refused to let this knowledge go public. They kidnaped Kotaro and killed everyone in the seminar hall who heard his speech. [SHOW EXTENDED INFO]
During the five years since the two brothers were separated, Teppei had gone through a lot, including some sort of specialized battle training. Although Teppei was not permitted to hear his brother's seminar (he was denied access), he broke into the hall just in time to see his brother being taken away by the Machine Empire and what they had done to the entire audience: death by toxic gas. Luckily, Teppei comes prepared or anything as he quickly put on a gas mask. Furious that anyone would lay a finger on his passive/peaceful brother and horrified that the Machine Empire would go to such lengths to extinguish anyone who heard Kotaro's speech, Teppei set off in hot pursuit. And so begins Teppei's quest to rescue his brother from the evil Machine Empire...
Aided by his mechanical "Messiah Fist", Teppei was able to hitch a ride on the gigantic "hornet" type B't that captured his brother. Unbeknownst to him, the speed at which each B't can travel is extreme. Teppei quickly found himself transported on the back of the B't all the way to the center of the Gobi desert within mere seconds. It is here where Teppei was suddenly attacked by another and knocked off the giant B't, crashing down hard into a junk yard of scrap metal. Note to point out here: Every B't is born or awoken when it receives the blood from its donor, who then becomes its relative master or operator in a way. But the main point lies with the HUMAN aspect to each B't. They're not just machines but also free-willed, cognizant beings that both live and die. Although they are often considered less than humans or even a mere tool, they have the mind and power to choose their own destiny. For the sake of this story, however, the possibility of rogue B'ts are left to the imagination. Generally speaking, every B't is initially loyal to its donor and will do what is commanded of them.
Teppei's new assailant is the griffon type B't Madonna and her donor, Lieutenant MetalFace. Here, all three engage in a ruthless battle, both sides suffering great damage and bodily injury. It is here we find out that MetalFace is just that: half cyborg. The entire left side of his face, his upper torso, and his left arm are completely mechanical. Eventually, Teppei is cut and slashed to the point where his blood freely flows into the cracks and crevasses in the junk yard... until something huge from underneath pushes its way up, through the surface, and into the sky. While Teppei is half conscious, he still recognizes what it was, however impossible: the Legendary B't X!!
Bonds of Blood: The Brothers: The one constant from the very beginning of the story is the unbreakable bond between the two brothers, Teppei & Kotaro. Having lost both their parents at a young age, they've learned to survive on their own--together. It's only when Kotaro leaves Japan for school/work that Teppei realizes how much he needs him. Upon his departure, Kotaro uses an analogy between the light radiating from the sun and the reflected light from the surface of the moon to illustrate how he wishes Teppei to be strong while he's gone. Without the light from the sun, the moon cannot shine. Kotaro then tells Teppei to become a man who can shine on his own, just like the sun, with no help from anyone else. I thought this was a tremendously powerful analogy that I had never heard before.
Bonds of Blood: The Twins: Another hugely moving story involves the major antagonist throughout the entire series, the proxy of the Machine Empire and the one that even Commander Aramis takes orders from, the child Miisha. His twin sister Nasha is shown in some sort of catatonic state for much of the show but we do see some very heart-wrenching background flashes that depict a very hard and tragic life they've had. We eventually learn at what great lengths and sacrifices Miisha has done in order to protect his sister--always. Even if his methods of doing so are not unlike that of a demon...
Bonds of Flesh and Steel: Likewise, the bond between friends is also extremely important in the show, especially between donor and B't. For much of the TV Series, Teppei & X fail to resonate well together because one is always trying to best or control the other. It's not until a great sacrifice is made that they are finally able to connect and shine together as one. It might be very corny sounding, but it's really quite moving. I like the idea that one no longer lives for himself but also for the other, as X so eloquently put: "Your life is my life; My life is your life." Also, the extreme lengths at which a B't will go to protect its donor is quite possibly the greatest show of humanity there is on the show.
Bonds of the Master & Subordinate: This is also a theme that covers a variety of characters in different ways. It mostly deals with hierarchy and its relation or irrelevance to friendship. There are many cases in which an individual views himself higher than his subordinate but eventually those hierarchies begin to crumble and all that's left are the bonds between people--with no ranks or hierarchy involved. Sometimes individuals also neglect their subordinates by viewing them as less than themselves only to find out too late just how important those people are in their lives...
Coming of Age:
It's a typical plot devise used in many shows depicting a character's growth into adulthood. This is also true for Teppei but also shows his development into a selflessly heroic leader.
Human Vs. Machine: One is not greater than the other but are equal, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It is when these powers are combined that they become a great force to be reckoned with.
Leadership: Personal Vs. Global Responsibility: Teppei only gets into the clash with the Machine Empire to begin with because he wants to save his brother. There's a point, though, when this personal goal shifts into a larger goal when he realizes his role in the war. It's only after he acknowledges and accepts his necessary role as essentially the ONLY ONE who can end the war does Teppei attain true leadership. And it is often through great self-sacrifice that one not only becomes a great leader but also a great hero.
The Nature of War and Its Children:
War often includes bombs, radiation, hunger, famine, and death; but it is out of the darkness that faith, hope, and love shine the brightest. The series is a brief commentary on modern-day warfare and its byproducts in relation to children raised during wartime. Many of these children are orphaned and taken in by the governing body, raised to become the next generation of loyal soldiers for their cause.
Disillusionment: False Gods
It's also a commentary on blind faith and having the strength to challenge one's own faith even if it means denouncing "God" in the end; or comparatively, having such unmoving faith to be oblivious to the surrounding world--all that matters is obeying "God" and doing his will, no matter what.
I've been very shocked to realize that this show has consistently been one of my absolute, favorite shows for such a long time, especially since Samurai Troopers had always held the #1 spot. Nevertheless, B't X has rocketed up to my most coveted and sought after series. So much of the story and themes strike a resounding chord with me. Teppei is really my epitomized archetype reluctant hero turn selfless savior. The show really isn't all about Teppei, although I often make it out to seem like that.
This is really the first series that I have been more happy with the anime version than the manga, and I must confess that I have yet to read the manga in its entirety. The problem I had with the manga was the ending. It was so very against the majority of the themes that the story set out to achieve that I was thoroughly disgusted by it. I would seriously love to ask Kurumada-sensei *why* he ended it like he did. *ahem* Spoilers...