Gasaraki Vol. #3 (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001



What They Say
The battle moves to Japan as the T.A. team members find themselves prisoners in their own country. As opposing forces in the government tear each other to shreds, the Gowas make plans to exploit their new discoveries. But the Symbol strike teams are already in motion. Yushiro's past and future collide as a shocking revelation strips him of both his soul and identity in the third shocking volume of Gasaraki.

The Review!
Another batch of episodes to feed my addiction as well as the needs of many others. Gasaraki continues to ask more questions and provide few answers, yet the layering gets even more interesting this time around as the spiritual aspect is brought more into play. And the word Gasaraki is used for the first time as well!

Audio:
For our primary review, we listened to the Japanese language track. Throughout this track we had no problems with it at all, no dropouts, no distortion, no odd crackling in the background. With this being such a heavy dialogue driven sound, the majority of it comes through the center channel. The action sequences made good use of the stereo speakers and the opening/ending music comes across just as gorgeous as it did on the first two discs. We listened to the English language track while writing this review and liked what we heard for the most part.

Video:
Yet another impressive looking transfer. While it doesn't look quite as flawless as the first disc, it's definitely a great looking transfer. And our quibbles with it are pretty darn minor to begin with. There were a few noticeable rainbows early on and some jaggies along some of the more curved lines, but that's about it. One or two areas of interior corridor looked a bit grainy, but that's more source material related than anything else. Otherwise, if you liked what you saw on the first two volumes, expect more of the same here. Great looking flesh tones, solid darks and grays, some flashes of really vibrant colors and just an overall detailed picture.

Packaging:
When new pictures show up on the net with future covers, a few of us in the chat get all giddy and just ramble on about how cool they look and how well the design of the series seems to be holding up. This set continues that tradition with a solid green appeal with a couple of Fakes on the cover. The back cover has a solid design with a brief summary and a full listing of the extras alongside some animation and menu shots. The foldout insert has a great picture of Miharu with the Gasaraki logo under her. The interior to the foldout has a great black and white schematic of the Fake TA and all of its functions. This is a great piece!

Menus:
The menus are just about identical to the first volumes with the exception of what's actually available for selection (such as episode titles and the different extras this time around). This is a good thing if it stays consistent for the rest of the series and doesn't change mid stride. The menus worked flawlessly for me and everything accessed pretty quickly. The sound and animations set the mood perfectly. Definitely some great work here.

Extras:
There's some really nice extras included this time around. The text interview provides some interesting bits behind the technical direction the animation took, especially in its detail. The production sheets provide some really sweet pictures and something I may have missed on earlier volumes. You can select the Japanese text associated with each of them to learn more about each item, which reveals some really great background information about it. The glossary provides some quite useful information, such as why the Fakes are called that and a few other neat tidbits as well.

What was surprising to have though was a recording session segment. Monica Rial, the voice actress for Miharu, is taped while doing a performance for an episode on this very disc. You can see/hear Matt Greenfield directing her along the way. The only minor gripe I have with this segment is the audio is low (but only turning it up a few notches made it easy enough to understand), the video is inside a menu segment so you don't know the running time and its bathed in green. Otherwise, it was a really fun little piece to see the ADV dubbing style. Even though I'm not a dub fan, I really do enjoy these segments a lot.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Where to even begin. The show picks up practically where the last one ended, with the fleeing plane full of TA's landing in Japan. The military personnel are escorted away to be kept out of the public eye for their involvement in the Belgistan incident while the Gowa's are swept away to their corporate headquarters to play with their new information and materials.

The big play in the news is the debate over whether the involvement of the TA's constitutes a military action forbidden by the Japanese consitution or whether it was part of normal peace-keeping duties that went awry. While this may not mean much in a lot of shows, this debate is part of the overall storyline that's being pushed throughout the show. One of the Gowa's ends up meeting with a respected power broker who blinded himself with his sword in the past (so as to not see the travesty that the Japanese people have become). With the military advisor between them, they debate over the best way to bring the dialogue of Japan's place in the world to the front of the countries consciousness.

Not your typical anime in the US. I'm loving it.

Another storyline follows Yushiro as he heads home after an encounter with Miharu in Japan. While she and her colleagues are trying to steal back the materials stolen from them, she tells him what she's learned of him since their last encounter. Primarily the fact that he died eight years ago. This sends Yushiro into disbelief and causes him to leave the Gowa headquarters (in Gowa City of all places) and head back to the family home.

This eventually leads him back to the shrine where he did his first dance of the Gasara. Meeting up with his master there, he's told in cryptic bits some of his past. He's led into the shrine that's there which reveals a huge sealed vault. When they step through the vault, prepare to enter the X-Files world as things take yet another twist.

The next segment will be mighty spoilerish, so keep that in mind and highlight it if you want to read it. [Spoiler start: When Miharu ends up following Yushiro in, and his body gets essentially possessed and he starts the dance, I got a chill. It was just a perfectly executed sequence. The kugai coming to life behind him was played well, with bits and pieces slowly moving and then finally the chest area opening its bones, allowing Yushiro to be sucked into it.

The fight sequence between Yushiro/kugai and Miharu and the other Fake is quite deliberate and violent. Watching the way the kugai moves with precision and something akin to sentience is eerie. The one scene when it moves away from Miharu and goes towards the other Fake, removing its sword from the scabbard, it just looks so intense! The Fake is firing its guns over and over to no effect, yet this ancient kugai is going to nail it with the sword. And when the sword arm gets blown off, the kugai gets bloodlust of sorts and totally trashes the Fake. This entire sequence from where the kugai awakens to the end of fighting is intense and illuminating, answering some minor questions while raising a host of others. :End spoilers]

There's also an arc going on with the next level of TA's and a new injection drug that's being tested on the pilots. There's plots all over the place, and some are starting to be tied to other plots now. This is great stuff, something that's really been missing from the domestic anime scene for quite awhile. The complexity of the show with numerous characters, agendas and mysticism combined with technology is just up my alley. Much like people on our chat, there's just so much goodness in this show that we see that we get tongue tied talking about it.

Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Director Interview (text),Glossary,Behind the Scenes,Production Sheets

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gasaraki