In a world devastated by devices known as Gads years before, a new generation of kids is coming up that's acquiring them now.
What They Say
It’s the future, and humanity is worn out. Hajiki’s struggling to make ends meet on the hard-luck streets of Night Town, where everyone is fighting for the same thing: the Gad. If you’ve got a Gad, you’ve got the power of a robotic Techode at your disposal. And if you've got a Techode - you've got a chance.
Hajiki is about to find out just how much life can change when machine and man form an incredible bond.
Gad Guard retains the same audio presentation as we had in the original release as we get a pair of stereo mixes encoded at 192kbps. The show has a fairly standard action oriented mix to it where the big scenes with the Techodes is what stands out, though the opening song has a really prominent piece as well, not to neglect the ending song either. The show is generally very dialogue driven with some accented music so it has a decent feel to it even at this low bit rate while the action scenes come across well though they lack any significant impact. The show isn't one that would stand out to begin with but what we get here serves the material well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular palyback.
Originally airing in 2003, this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series is spread across four discs in a seven/seven/six/six format that uses the space pretty well. Gad Guard is another in a line of very slick looking clean transfers that Gonzo seems to be perfecting and the Geneon release was a pretty strong one. FUNimation's release mirrors it for the most part, though changes in hardware means certain issues are a little more noticeable than they were before. There continues to be a few minor instances where some aliasing crops up because they're so minimal that most people probably won't even notice. The background noise is a bit more noticeable this time around as well which adds to some unstable moments in some of the dark scenes, but otherwise the colors look good with some really vibrant pieces here and there throughout.
Gad Guard is done up in a standard style for a FUNimation release where it's a thin slipcover over two clear thinpak cases that holds four discs. The front of the slipcover is pretty good as it features Hajiki and Lightning together against the backdrop of the city, which is just as gray and dismal as the two characters are. The logo is pretty dark as well with a deep red but it all comes together well, it just doesn't stand out all that much compared to other shows. But the design fits the show just right and the kind of atmosphere in it as well. The back cover has a mostly dark look to it with the logo and a lot of black space. The left has a bright spot that has several Gad cubes along it with shots from the show, including an amusing one of the dog at the bottom. The background artwork is intriguing though as it does a city shot, close-up, of Night Town that gives it a very strong lived in urban feeling. The summary is kept simple and it cleanly litss the episode and disc count above some basic production information.
As moody as the slipcover is, the thinpak covers are the complete opposite. The first case has Hajiki and a couple of the girls looking bright and smiling with a graffiti design to it in the background. The second cover goes for the pure fanservice as it shows off the two girls in their swimsuits with even a touch of camel toe which is surprising on first glance. It's a good cover as it's not as busy as the first but has a good bit of life to it, showing us the characters in a way we rarely saw in show. The back covers are very basic with just a black background outside of a thin strip of illustrations along the side. The majority of it is given over to a breakdown by disc of the episode numbers and titles. Each cover is reversible as well, though these go back to the feeling of the slipcover. One has a good shot of Hajiki and Lightning against the city with a smile while the other has most of the lead cast against a similar background. No show related inserts were included with this release.
Gad Guard gets a basic but appealing set of menus as the overall design is the same across all four volumes, with a grayscale side along the right and soft pastel colors along the left. The right side has the very basic menu navigation to it that most FUNimation releases do, especially as there are no extras here, but it all works smoothly with quick access times to them. Each menu uses a different piece of character artwork for it and they look good, though they're not terribly detailed. The menus don't feel hugely in-theme to the show, but the work well and have a good look to them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally released by Geneon in seven volumes, FUNimation picked up this license and brought the series down to four volumes. When the show was first released, it's one that really had me interested in the first couple of volumes but became more difficult as it went on. Because of the length of the release and the time between volumes, I wondered if that impacted it enough to make it difficult to get into when the story goes for less linear turns later on in it. So taking in the series again, some six years later, I was curious to see if the flow of it worked better and to see how well the show aged. With it being an original story, that also had a light novel series released alongside it, it has a very different approach to begin with than a manga serialization adpated into anime form.
Gad Guard takes place in a future, some couple hundred of years from now, in which the world has not fared well. Talk of incidents years ago in particular highlight that the various cities that people live in, seeming mini nation-states called Units, engaged in a bloody fight over devices called Gads that were found and mined heavily in one particular Unit. While that one originally had a good monopoly going, it ended badly by having the whole thing destroyed because of greed and the actions caused by the Gads themselves. Because of that, the Gads have been largely absent for years, but there are those that collect them as a symbol of power and status. The more Gads you have in their small box form, the higher your standing.
It's this aspect that kicks off the series as sixteen year old (but younger looking) Hajiki works as a courier for Hachisuka, a small business in Night Town. Night Town hasn't had it well for quite some time as the money to be used to get the Unit up to speed was stolen years ago. Because of that, they don't have enough infrastructure and power to run at night all that well, hence gaining the name of Night Town. In his latest courier job, Hajiki ends up causing a couple of Gads to be set loose, one of which he eventually comes into possession of. When he does so, it generates an immense amount of power and forms into an oversized humanoid robot that doesn't speak, but seems to understand Hajiki and obeys his commands. Mostly. Hajiki spends some time coping with this but he ends up believing that he can use the Gad, now termed a Techode because of its activation and named Lightning, as a way to do good in the city as something of a masked hero.
At the time that Hajiki gains this Techode, so does a slightly older young man named Katana who deals in the underworld of Night Town. He's not explicitly a bad guy, but someone who has a very different moral compass than Hajiki and the two invariably clash, but they also find a lot of common ground throughout the series as they deal with various issues that arrive. The story of these two young men forms the basic of the core storyline, which ends up becoming the key moments in the final episodes as it reaches its crescendo. Each of them takes a very different path, such as Hajiki making a lot of friends and dealing with family issues compared to Katana having only one person that becomes dependent on him and spending more of his time being a bit of a thug in Night Town. Though they're together on some things, it places them at opposite sides when Hajiki reaches a decision about where he wants his life, and that of his Techode, to go in the final arc.
While that covers the beginning and end of the series to some degree, it's the middle part of Gad Guard that's less clearly defined. The show has a growing cast of young kids of different circumstances who also end up acquiring Gads and creating Techodes out of them. In addition to those, there are Gads that become something different called Atechodes which merge with a human and become something twisted and cruel. The cast that's added is decent, and we get a few episodes for each of them over the course of the run where their situations are revealed and they get to conquer some personal issue, but they do manage to tie some of it into the core storyline as well, such as Aiko, whose father is a collector of Gads and through him we learn a lot of the larger structure of society and power. The secondary characters that flesh out the lives of both Katana and Hajiki are alright, but they never feel truly connected in a way, even though you have a young woman like Arashi who becomes quite interested in Hajiki and does what she can to gain her own Gad so she can spend more time with him.
The individual character stories are alright, some a little more interesting than others, but it's when Hajiki decides to head out of the city on his own because of an incident that the show takes a strange leap. It turns into a quest about his father eventually after he spends time in another Unit and doing agrarian work, which he does with Arashi tagging along. When it shifts to an island where there is the remains of a rocket launcher involving sending coffins to the stars, Hajiki's past comes in full force. It's not a bad concept and I like parts of it, even if it isn't really explained in the end, but it's told so awkwardly that it's difficult to get into the final arc because of that. The visuals for it and the ideas are fun, but execution is rather lacking.
Gad Guard certainly has a distinctive look to it. The Techodes have a retro look to them, influenced by how the characters think of them when they form. The characters are all fairly varied but have a good consistent feeling. Unfortunately, they all wear the same clothes throughout. There's a hilarious moment where upon learning that Hajiki has left the city, Arashi worries for him that he doesn't have a change of clothes. None of them change at all. In fact, Hajiki even wears his same outfit under the spacesuit and when he makes it into the strange location in the stars, he walks around wearing his hat, making him look even more out of place. Beyond the basic character outfit issues though, things have a good look to it and it certainly has a certain presence and atmosphere to it that makes it feel a little less than standard and by the numbers.
At the end of my second full viewing of Gad Guard, I'm not sure my opinion has changed much. It's certainly a show that tried to do some things differently, but the execution and lack of clarity at times made it hard to get into. Up until it hits the island arc, there doesn't seem to be a really specific story in mind but rather a series of slightly connected events. It brings in a lot of secondary storylines and supporting characters, but they never quite gel even if some of their stories are pretty interesting. I like the visual design of it overall, though with some qualifiers as mentioned, as it definitely has its own ideas about what it wants to do. But at the end of the day, I'm still not sure what the point of the series was outside of some daddy issues that come up more firmly in the final arc. There's plenty to like about the show, but it's parts are better than the whole.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.