Gatekeepers Vol. #2 (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001



What They Say
From Gonzo, the creators of Blue Submarine No. 6!

Team Chaos! The AEGIS Agency scours Japan searching for more Gatekeepers to join the fight against the invaders. Soon, Bancho (Big Boss) and Kaoru Konoe are recruited to join Shun, Ruriko and Reiko in their training for battle.

Unfortunately, they quickly discover that making these wildly different teenagers work together may be more challenging than fighting the invaders!

The Review!
Three more episodes of Gatekeepers and I still find this to be a really guilty pleasure. The show continues on as one would expect, with more members being recruited and a few more action sequences. There's little that's really surprising here, but it's still highly enjoyable. It's all in the execution.

audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Throughout the show, we got a decent sounding forward soundstage centric track. There's a fair bit of directionality there, with things moving nicely across the front speakers, but nothing thrown to the rears at all. Dialogue is nice and clear and there weren't any noticeable dropouts on this track, or from the English one we listened to while writing this review.

Video:
Much like the first volume, the excellent video quality here meant I spent more time simply enjoying the show than being bothered by all sorts of problems. The cross coloration issues from the first volume are non-existent here. In fact, the only real problem I saw with this disc was in some areas, smooth lines were somewhat jagged when you look closely at them. It was more noticeable on the Apex player than our Skyworth though. Colors look wonderful here, very vibrant and layered. Great transfer.

Packaging:
It's going to be overused, but the word great applies to the packaging here as well. Another clear keepcase with a great reversible cover. The primary one is the Japanese VHS cover while the reverse side is the Japanese DVD cover. As much as I like the VHS artwork, I'm definitely going to switch to the DVD side and get some white keepcases to give it a really nice solid feel. The back cover gives a brief rundown of the episodes as well as listing episode numbers and titles (the only way you'll be able to tell which volume you have). There's a variety of artwork on the back that meshes together, and it has a good feel overall. Pioneer's also listing the extra running time of the special endings in their running time section, but not noting that it's part of the extras. Boo. The insert has some of the artwork from the back cover with the episodes and their respective chapter listing breakdown. The insert also folds out to reveal a nice mini-poster of the Japanese DVD cover.

Menus:
A solid set of menus here, utilizing one of the gadgets from the show, the wrist video communicators. There's a good amount of animation and audio playing during the main screen, while selections are still quick to access and the layout is solid. Language selection is a breeze and knowing what you've selected is obvious. Gatekeepers is yet another series that I look forward to just to see what kind of menus it'll have.

Extras:
A good selection of extras are included here. Fans of the original endings that accompanied each episode get them in their "pure" form (with Japanese credit roll and all) along with soft song subtitles. All told, I prefer the one that's used with the US release with the Ruriko imagery, but I'm really glad that Pioneer provided these here to appease those who want it and to avoid another Trigun issue. Another great piece here is the inclusion of the Japanese box art. We get 8 pages of Japanese VHS cover art (mmmm, #4) and 8 pages of Japanese DVD art. After seeing all the Japanese covers, I can't wait to get them all and have them lined up. There's also a good section of conceptual line art included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
What fun!

As said earlier, you can easily see the progression of this show if you've seen any amount of anime or shows that deal with teams like this over the years. We've gotten our primary characters introduced and now more team-building is going on. After all, three people can't handle all the bad guy stuff coming down the road (literally!).

Our first new member introduction comes with Shun, Ruriko and Reiko heading off on the bullet train to outside of Nagoya to locate their latest potential target. The trip on the train itself was a good bit of fun, with Shun and Reiko just being fascinated by being on the train and how fast it goes. This is 1969 after all, a fact which can be easily forgotten as the show goes on with all the technology littered throughout it. When the train stops at one point, poor Reiko gets off to get a box lunch, not realizing that the train is stopping only for a minute, which means she gets left out of most of this episode. We do keep up with her a bit though.

Ruriko and Shun eventually get to the point where their target was located, and after validating it with another secret AEGIS agent, the two don their "disguises" and make contact with the target by challenging him. The target is named Bancho, which literally means Big Boss. And he fits the stereotype perfectly. If you've seen Jubei-Chan, you'll know this type of character instantly. Loud, brash, overconfident and good at using his strength and fists. Bancho is exactly like that, except he's on the "side of good" for a Big Boss, a real rarity.

If you don't laugh at Ruriko's "disguise", there's something fundamentally wrong with you.

The entire incident goes awry however with the Invaders arrive chasing after someone in a van. Shun and Ruriko go into butt-kicking mode, and when her disguise falls off, Bancho falls dramatically in love with her. He ends up offering to do anything and everything he can to serve his new Princess Ruriko, which leads into the remaining battle with the Invaders and their plans.

We also get introduced to another potential Gatekeeper candidate in another episode. Kaoru Konoe was requested to come in and test at AEGIS for her powers, since she's clearly got the Gate ability. Ever since she was young, she was practically unbeaten at any physical sport she attempted. Her running record was three seconds better than the Olympic champion at the time even. Apparently AEGIS also keeps track of those with the ability, even if they have no interest in joining. After her tests, she ends up meeting the three fighters so far, and both Bancho and Shun make their challenges to her.

Of course, they promptly get their asses kicked. And spectacularly at that.

As things would have it, Konoe heads off to go back home, only to find herself stuck in the middle of an Invaders plot. She hadn't really believed anything that was said about the Invaders, but after now seeing them, and rescuing a busload of kids no less, she becomes quite determined to fight them off. Konoe's an interesting addition to the group. She essentially fills the position of "supergirl" sans flying ability. She definitely has the ability to take things over completely, but ends up being fairly deferential to Shun, to the point where she nominates him for team captain fairly quickly.

This disc managed to keep up the energy and feel of the first couple of episodes nicely, even with things being the typical plot of bringing in more teammates. It really comes down to the old adage of there being nothing new to tell, but an infinite number of ways to tell it. It's all about the execution of the story, and Gatekeepers succeeds in spades.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Reversible Cover,Earth Defense License (Ukiya),Special Endings,Line Art,Japanese Box Art

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gatekeepers