Pilot One-Offs: Mega Man
Time for another Pilot One-Offs blog. This one was closely in mind when I made the first one on Captain N. Mega Man is another favourite video-game cartoon of mine. This time there were relatively substantial elements that were only ever seen in the series pilot which we never did in any other episode.
Mega Man’s pilot episode is “The Beginning” which explains the origin stories of Mega Man, Proto Man as well as why Dr. Wily is so hell bent on world domination. This shouldn’t be confused with the 1994 promo video which still used the original Mega Man art style but was never adapted into a full episode (though segments of it survived into the show’s intro).
Let’s get cracking…
Probably one of the most regrettable omissions from the pilot was Roll having a side-kick. Yeap, Roll has a little yellow Met robot following her around called “Doc”. Although Met’s are traditionally an enemy character in Mega Man, it’s notable that this is one of only a few iconic Mega Man enemy characters ever seen in the cartoon (the most consistently depicted were the Bomb Bats or “Batontons” as they were called).
In the pilot episode, Doc proves very helpful. He’s somehow able to fabricate a gurney when Mega Man is damaged during the episode and also helps Dr. Light with Mega Man’s repairs.
So how come didn’t Doc survive past the first episode? Probably because the Ruby-Spears crew decided that Mega Man already had plenty of support characters with Roll, Rush, Dr. Light and Eddie. Notably, this episode features a rare moment where Eddie laments he didn’t give Mega Man enough Energy Cans before his mission, which is another problem with Doc. He might be pretty adorable, but he doesn’t display much personality through the first episode and unlike all the other support characters, doesn’t really even speak but instead just makes unintelligible noises.
While it’s true that the Robot Masters have a tendency of falling into pieces in a lot of Mega Man episodes, they never did it quite as consistently as in this episode. Literally, every single one of them falls apart as if their connective joints suddenly just disappeared whenever Mega Man or Roll finishes them off.
It’s a minor difference, but for instance, we see Guts Man taking a whole variety of abuse, from having his legs cut off to having a big hole in his chest in future episodes.
The episode probably did this to establish that, unlike in the games where the Robot Masters blow up without leaving a trace, Wily is always able to rebuild them after he’s salvaged their literal and individual parts.
The episode also explains the origins of Proto Man’s creation although they are more than a bit off if you consider the game origins. However, it is shown from the very start that a robot that definitely resembles Proto Man was the original prototype used by Dr. Light and Dr. Wily, before it goes haywire and starts destroying the lab.
Later, we see Dr. Wily reworking the robot into Proto Man. However, it bares noting that the original version of Proto Man is roughly the size of a child. The episode never comments on how Proto Man becomes fully man-sized.
This explanation of Proto Man’s origins also kinda throws a wrench into the whole “Brother”-angle he keeps pushing in every episode, since Wily stole the original robot’s plans before ditching Dr. Light. Sure, if Light built Mega according to the plans from memory, that would still sort of make them brothers… I guess… eh, they’re just robots.
This element is surprisingly in line with the actual video-games. Before becoming Mega Man, Dr. Light’s assistant is of course called Rock and simply wears regular clothes as opposed to the iconic blue suit we all associate with him.
More importantly, Mega Man/Rock is seen without a helment for the first and only time during the whole run of the series. This is sort of neat, especially since you can tell that the animators did have a look at the opening of Mega Man 4 (where Mega Man was also helmetless) and designed his hair-style to closely resemble the game counterpart.
I do find it funny that Mega Man never takes his helmet off in any other episode, but I suppose it was a way of keeping production costs low and to avoid animation errors with the over-seas animators (this is also why Mega Man never changes colour when using master weapons).
Another element of the video-games that fans usually just take for granted but is rarely expressed is how the original six Robot Masters were actually created by Dr. Light and that Dr. Wily simply stole them and converted them for evil. The pilot episode sort of establishes this as well, sort of…
There is a scene where Dr. Wily uses a reprogramming “gun” which instantly turns Guts Man, Cut Man and Ice Man to his side. Yes, only those three. For whatever reason Bomb Man, Elec Man and Fire Man are excluded from this scene either due to budgetary reasons or because, possibly, in the show’s canon they really were built by Dr. Wily. Since this is the only episode that ever makes mentions of the Robot Masters being built by someone other than Wily (Dr. Cossack doesn’t exist on the show) it leaves a few questions up in the air.
Funny enough, the Reprogramming Gun does make a reappearance in The Curse of the Lion Men, one of the absolute worst episodes of the entire show.
Another cool ability which we never see in any other episode actually comes from Proto Man. When Mega Man comes back at the end of the episode to stop Wily’s plot, Proto Man jumps in to join the fight.
He touches Guts Man’s arm which causes his own arm to extend and he uses this to knock Mega Man into a hangar. Essentially, the pilot establishes that, just like Mega, Proto Man has the ability to copy the powers of the Robot Masters.
It’s really a shame that this is the one and only time Proto Man is seen using this power, since it would have made the battles between these two a whole lot more interesting in future episodes. It could be that the writers simply forgot they gave Proto Man this ability or chose to ignore it since writing in scenes where he copies others’ abilities would have taken away from the running time of each episode.