The early 90s wasn’t exactly the best time for cartoons. The Ninja Turtles had basically died off by this point, and the Power Rangers craze was kicking in, spawning a ridiculous amount of clones with shows like Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, VR Troopers, and probably the highest offender; Tatoo Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills (I’m not joking). On top of this, American companies weren’t to keen on importing vast amounts of anime yet either, only testing the waters with shows like Sailor Moon and Teknoman (originally Tekkaman Blade in Japan). Worse yet, Cartoon Network hadn’t yet made old cartoons like Volton and Thundercats hip again with their Toonami block. In the midst of all this was one of the most underrated cartoon series of all time, Exosquad.
The show started in 1993 and only lasted a short two seasons. Following in the footsteps of classic anime “space opera” serials like Gundam and Macross, Exosquad featured a fairly serious, ongoing storyline, that tried to include some mature themes (they actually killed people). The overall story arc is about a war between the Humans and the Neosapians, a race created by humans and used as slaves in the colonization of Mars and Venus. Throughout the two seasons, the show follows an elite group of E-Frame pilots called Able Squad, made up of Lt. J.T. Marsh, Nara Burns, Alec DeLeon, Kaz Takagi, Wolf Bronsky, Rita Torres, Maggie Weston, and the Neosapian, Marsala.
Like all cartoon shows trying to sell a product, all the characters had different uniforms and different types of E-Frames (and also the worst hair cuts ever). An E-frame is basically a small Gundam, a suit that the pilot hops into, flies around in and blows stuff up with. This is really what they wanted to sell, so needless to say, the show had some cool toys. In fact, I have a decent collection of E-Frames sitting in my closet.
These were awesome toys
The weird thing about Exosquad is that it seemed like it was becoming popular, yet it was canceled in only two years. The show was set to continue, wrapping up the Neosapian war, but giving us a glimpse at a new threat, toys were still made after the series ended, and there was even a Genesis game after the series was over. Rumor has it that the series was somehow going to be tied into the Robotech/Macross universe, and that the new threat at the end of the second series was in fact the Zentraedi from Robotech. While I’m sure rights were the biggest issue, Exosquad just wouldn’t fit in with what was already established in the Robotech world. Thankfully, this crossover never happened, but at the cost of ending the series. Regardless, a handful of toys under the Exosquad/Robotech moniker popped up without a cartoon series to support it. It’s also worth noting that the Exosquad E-Frames were repainted and repackaged in 2001 under the brand “Tech Wars.” They were budget toys designed a make a quick buck and were exclusive to KB Toys, where I worked at the time.
From what I understand, there are no plans to release the series on DVD. However if you’re interested in checking the series out or watching it again, you can find plenty of episodes over on Youtube, and buy bootleg DVDs through eBay.
At the end of the day, Exosquad is a one of a kind show that I’ll never forget.