Guyver Complete Series (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
When a high school student ends up with one of the most powerful alien devices ever, it's little surprise that he's hunted down by a worldwide corporation bent on world destruction.
What They Say
It is a world controlled by a sinister brotherhood who hide their fangs behind masks of humanity, known as the Chronos Corporation. While investigating a mysterious explosion near his school, Sho Fukamachi happens upon the Chronos Corporation's greatest weapon: a techno organic suit of bio armor known as "the Guyver." But Chronos is determined to conceal their secrets at any cost. Sho soon finds himself relentlessly pursued by its army of horrific bio-monsters. With nowhere to run, Sho is forced to call upon the fearsome power of the Guyver and rip his opponents limb from limb in a desperate struggle for survival.
Contains episodes 1-26.
FUNimation did a good job with this release by giving us two lossless Dolby TrueHD audio tracks for it. The English language track is in 5.1 while the Japanese is 2.0 but they both work very well overall for what they're trying to accomplish. The series has a rather good stereo mix to it with a good balance of directionality during both the action sequences and the general dialogue areas. The show isn't all out action so the balance is definitely appreciated and it works well here. There are a lot of quiet discussion scenes and some big action pieces and the mix handles it all quite well. The English 5.1 mix also does quite a good job as it gives it all a bit more clarity and precision in placement. It's not one that uses a whole lot of rear channel action but the few times it does it of note are pretty good. We didn't have any issues with either language track during normal playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is upscaled standard definition material to 1080p using the AVC codec. The show has twenty six episode spread across three discs in a ten/ten/six format. This upscale, or SD remaster as they label it, looks really good which isn't a surprise as the DVD release I had seen originally was one of the better ones out there. The backgrounds in particular for this release look amazing, maintaining a very solid feel to them. Typically there's some amount of noise or posterization to most shows but this one is one of the best looking upscales that FUNimation has done to date, if not the best.. There are occasionally a few areas where some of the digital animation has its quirks, such as very mild jaggies along Tetsuro's eyeglass frames or occasionally around the edges of someone's mouth. Looking at this as a total work, it's one that left me very happy throughout because of how solid it looks, the depth of colors and the amount of detail throughout it.
This release mirrors other Blu-ray box sets from FUNimation with a thin but effect slipcover that holds the two standard Blu-ray sized cases inside. The front artwork looks really nice even with the Blu-ray band along the top. The central focus is fairly minimal as it has two of the Guyvers together from their upper body on up with a bit of shadows going against them. The background is kept very simple with an off-white grid that allows the really nicely colored Guyver artwork to stand out even more. The back of the slipcover is kept pretty simple as well with a full red background with white text. The images used are good if unexceptional as one of them is of the Guyver while the other is of a version of the transformation sequence. A decent strip of shots from the show are through the middle while the top has a rundown of the premise for the series. The bottom section has a good blurb about the content count followed by the technical grid which accurately lists this as an SD Remaster, a detail that I'm very, very glad to see happen since clarity in what the materials is like goes a long way towards helping the consumer make their purchase.
Inside the slipcover we get a pair of Blu-ray cases where the first one holds the first two discs and the second holds the third., The cover artwork is among my favorite as it uses illustrations rather than shots from the show itself where we see the various Guyver units and some of the Zoanoids that populate the series around them. They're action scenes to some extent but they're filled with such detail and a sense of placement about it that they both stand out really well. The soft white backgrounds help a lot as well as it draws your eye to the detail elsewhere a lot. Both of these covers are strong and complement the front cover well. The back covers use the same background as the front but through a red filter so they're fairly bland overall. Each back cover is given over to just providing the disc number that's inside and a full breakdown of the episode number and titles for that respective disc. It's a minimal approach but one that works well enough for a set like this. Each cover has artwork on the reverse side as well, though they're done sideways, with some really strong visuals of the Guyver units looking all powerful and tough. It's unfortunate that they don't use clear cases for these kind of releases yet since it's be nice to see it without the blue filter. No show related inserts are included with this release.
FUNimation works their standard style with the menus here but they do a nice couple of touches with it to make it stand out a bit more. While most of their menus tend to be small strips with text across it, the text here is a bit bigger and they use some of the font aspects of the series packaging to let it stand out a bit more. The bulk of the menu is the usual stuff with clips from the show playing throughout and it looks good as it has a nice bit of action and some of the more striking elements from the series. The navigation strip is clean and easy to access with a simple pulldown style to it that works well, especially in the full extras section on the third disc. As is usual, the discs did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles.
The extras are all on the last volume outside of the commentaries that are found on their respective volumes. There's an interesting selection of extras associated with this release that got carried over from the original releases. The first and always welcome ones are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. The extra I liked the best though is the manga to anime comparison piece. There area bout ten segments of these total, all kept together compared to the single volume releases we originally saw, they show how the sequences were originally done in the manga and then the anime form. Some of it is nicely shot for the shot at times but there's plenty of variance as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My history with Guyver isn't a clean one, though this is the series that repaired the problems I had with it. Way back in the early days of domestic anime releases, Guyver was one of the more popular properties to be brought over as we had about half of the TV series at best and an OVA that was made. It was all good violence and felt pretty representative of the 80's manga that it was based on. It never got completed properly and it wasn't the kind of anime show I was looking for at the time, though I was gobbling up anything and everything I could get my hands on. The OVA in particular, unrelated to the TV series production, left me feeling like the property wasn't for me so I ignored Guyver for years and years.
After being off the radar for basically a decade or so, a new series was launched in 2005 and has changed hands in the US, finally ending here in this new Blu-ray edition. Thanfkully, it's not a sequel or a prequel or a strange offshoot or even a re-imagining. It's gone back to the source material and has adapted it anew in order to tell the whole story. While I doubt this adapts the twenty-four volumes that are out, it'll certainly do more than the few episodes that were released the first time and potentially more than the seven translated volumes of the manga. This new updated version manages to retain a good deal of the designs and general nature of the original but it does tweak things slightly so that it doesn't have an eighties feel to it outside of the Guyver design itself. And even that isn't too terribly indicative of when it was made.
The series revolves primarily around high school student Sho Fukamachi, something of your average but good student who doesn't have any real problems. He lives with his father, his mother having passed away some time ago, and he's best friends with Tetsuro who heads the schools science fiction club. He's also got some feelings for Tetsuro's sister Mizuki but she's completely oblivious to this and far more interested in the student body president, Agito. He's the epitome of the cool student with both the looks and smarts to capture the position and woo most of the students. He also happens to be the foster son of a man named Genzo who is the president of Max Pharmaceuticals. There's some interesting history that is slowly being revealed about their relationship and that of the company, but where it stands now is that Genzo is in charge of the Japanese branch of a company called Chronos. This is the epitome of a malevolent corporation that's seeking only power and will use its wealth to get what it wants.
Genzo's feeling pressure from the higher-ups of the Chronos organization after two of its highly classified top secret units are stolen and lost in the wild. One of them literally lands in the woods where Tetsuro and Sho are enjoying some quiet time and the two have a bit of fun about who gets to hold it until its owner shows up. But this bit of fooling around ends up leading to the unit being activated and suddenly Sho finds the things wrapping its tendrils around and into him, fusing itself with him into what we know as the Guyver. Sho's freaked out by it and unsure of what's going on but he finds himself in a really precarious position now. The Chronos people who are after it come across him quickly and they've got some very ugly looking but powerful humanoid beasts with them called Zoanoids, genetic creations made by Chronos that are simply brutal.
This sets the stage for the series as Sho now finds himself being the only thing that can stand in the way of Chronos and its plans. His having the Guyver unit puts him and all his friends and family at risk and it's an element that Chronos has no problem playing. But there are power struggles going on within Chronos as well so they aren't constantly attacking and tracking down Sho and Tetsuro, which gives the two young men a chance to try and figure out what to do on their own. In a nice change of pace, both of them are very concerned about how this will impact others and Tetsuro even goes so far as to suggest changing schools and going underground. They also update things nicely by having Tetsuro be somewhat online savvy and using that particular tool to try and figure out what's going on, something that keeps the show in the here and now and not just the past.
Guyver thankfully avoids becoming a real monster of the week show. While we do have several Zoanoids that need to be taken care of early on, and we do get one that becomes really powerful as time goes on and is a threat up through the end, it’s the larger material and the character drama that shines. Sho’s life is thrown upside down and there are no compunctions about making it worse, especially in relations to his family and friends as Chronos plays dirty by threatening them. There’s also a lot of material given over to the rest of the world in a way as we have the Guyver III unit who has his own plans and goals within this framework as well as a disciple of sorts of one of the original researchers who discovered all of this. So many shows tend to have it as a small group against the world, and we do have that here overall, but there’s such a good support system that’s gradually revealed that it makes so much more sense. To have Sho meet up with those who have been fighting in their own way, waiting for the right time to really strike, adds the right kind of balance to things and gives everyone something and someone to lean on when the times get very tough.
Being based on older material and having been adapted before, there isn't anything that is terribly new per se about the series, so I don't expect anything to stand out strongly or have it go in a radical direction. What it does do is execute the original concept in animation form and it does that beautifully. This is a very glossy and solid production, the kind where you can watch it and say that it's finally getting the adaptation that it has long deserved. This is the kind of show that is able to adapt to new scientific discoveries and technologies and not come across as antiquated or outdated. If anything, it feels far more possible now than it did fifteen or twenty years ago. The updated character designs are also a plus in that they don't toss out their basic designs but tweak them just right so that they work well with todays basics. They don't feel like they came from an eighties manga.
This incarnation of Guyver was a real surprise to me the first time around and I loved finally taking it in over the course of two days as opposed to the longer journey of the single volumes. The story takes on a proper epic feeling as it progresses and I love the way it uses this large scale idea yet keeps everything very human and full of emotion. My only regret with it is that as we get into the second half and start to explore the twelve Zoalords is that they really don't get much in the way of real detail. The series could have easily run double the length to deal with all of it and still would have kept things moving smoothly and enjoyably. Guyver has all the classic elements of the manga that have been brought into the modern anime world in a way that works beautifully. It has the classic beauty of the designs for both characters and backgrounds with the smoothness and styling of modern animation. I could practically get all fanboyish about the show and I'm already looking forward to taking in the show again sometime. Definitely a favorite and one that I can easily and happily recommend.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Tracks, Manga to Animation Comparisons
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.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 625
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC