Gatekeepers 21 Vol. #2 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, June 27, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2003



What They Say
Miu continues to shun the AEGIS Network because she hates the idea of hurting people, but Satoka, a Gate Keeper Kageyama recruited from Kobe seems to be the opposite - she hunts them for pleasure! Unfortunately, the Invaders don’t allow the Gate Keepers the luxury of time for debate: Ayane is ambushed and goes into coma, Count Akuma returns, stronger than ever, and Ghost Girl can’t wait to turn everyone into invaders… but why does Ghost Girl have a soft spot for Ayane?!

The Review!
With all of the setup behind us in the first volume, we get some exposition here and then the show manages to get even darker and more deliciously evil.

Audio:
With the Japanese mix being a fresh from the start 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, things here sound fantastic. While there isn’t a huge amount of directionality to the rear speakers, they do get some good ambient sounds and the forward soundstage is very sharp and crisp with a dynamic mix. Dialogue is sharp and clear throughout and we noticed no dropouts or distortions. With the Japanese track in 5.1, the English track also made the grade for 5.1 so everyone gets to enjoy this sweet mix.

Video:
With the OVAs being so recent, the transfer for the majority of it really stands out, particularly with the shading of the blacks and all the other dark gray shades. There are some areas where it looks grainy, but these tend to be at night where they’re trying to simulate real highway street lights or the fog in a park, which gives the area around them a fuzzy feel that almost looks like pixellation. There’s a bit of cross coloration showing up in a few scenes but other than that there’s hardly anything to nitpick with here.

Packaging:
The front cover provides another dark look to match against the first with the night time locale of the park but also quite a bit of light colors in the various cast member shots. This is a good looking cover, but I can’t but help to think something else would have worked better, such as the 3rd or 6th VHS cover art done to the black background. The silver bar across the top doesn’t stand out as much this time since there’s more light to the top of the image. The bar itself is fine, but it’s just advertising that it’s Dolby 5.1, something better suited to a burst sticker on the exterior than anything else. The back cover is a touch lighter with a shot of the Ghost Girl and more character artwork to check out. The discs Features and basic technical information is all clearly listed as well as the primary creative and production credits. The insert has Miu surrounded by black (while wearing her schoolgirl uniform) and it looks great. The interior is a small poster of the two lead girls and our villain for this second half of the series. Pioneer also continued the tradition from the TV series by making this a reversible cover in a clear keepcase, as the Ghost Girl gets the reverse front cover while the back lists the discs chapter stops set against artwork of Reiji and Yukino. Both covers here look good, so it’s definitely a tough choice.

Menu:
The folks at Nightjar make their way back to Pioneer with another really excellent set of menus that definitely helps build the creep factor of this darker show. The main menu plays with the Gate itself while mixing the shows animation behind it in a blurred style while some truly creepy music plays along with it. Menu transitions are very brief, as the Gate goes towards the viewer, and access times once in menus is solid. Excellent looking menus here.

Extras:
The concluding volume has a handful of good extras, some that made me drool a bit. The first is a complete rundown of the Japanese front cover packaging for the DVD and VHS run as well as the box set artwork. There’s also a few static screens that show the various licenses for cast members this time around. There are two art sections included, one being the “Art of GK21” that has a handful of interesting sketches and the second being the more standard conceptual artwork section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After enjoying the first volume of this series and the way the world has and hasn’t changed since the 60’s incarnation, I found that this volume managed to easily surpass the first as well as bring new insights into the TV series itself and illuminating some of the aspects of the entire Invader creation issue.

One of the biggest appealing factors with the first volume of the OVA series is just how dark and gritty things feel. While the TV series had its moments where you wondered what would happen next, this one just injects a sense of fear and creepiness into things. After the last episode and the chaos inside the karaoke bar, things for Miu and her friends are definitely unsettled. With over sixty people now completely missing due to their transformations into Invaders and word from higher up in the police department to ignore it, many people are become highly nervous.

Those events also bring Satoka more into play here after her battle-entry to the series. Naturally, she ends up at the same school as the Ayane and Miu and tries to force Ayane into discussing things with her. Sine Ayane has the reputation as one of the best hunters out there, Satoka’s naturally trying to establish some ground and a chance to take her on in her own way. But Ayane refuses to budge, her thoughts always on the fact that she simply doesn’t like humanity. Combined with the wishy washy nature of Miu and her either being a Gatekeeper or not wanting to be involved, and this is the farthest thing from a unified group.

One of the most amusing things does happen though, the kind of event that you really do wonder why it doesn’t happen more in these kinds of series, but through certain forces Ayane becomes removed from the events that are about to unfold. With the two previous big leaders of the Invaders now in gem form, things have shifted to our mysterious pale blonde girl and her plans for the world. This starts to play out along the same time that Reiji brings Miu into his lair and starts to explain what Ayane is really like and what mission she has knowingly been performing for a number of years. Reiji also talks quite a bit about the darkness that’s overcome the world in the years since his youth and things turn rather despondent, almost to the point where he wants to give up because it’s useless.

All of this is prelude to the remaining 45 minutes that’s not necessarily pure action, but it’s beautifully driven and choreographed end-days destruction with only a few people able to avoid the immediate change. The way all of this is animated is something I simply can’t see being done properly with a TV budget or without the leap to digital animation in the last few years. The amount of motion among the skies is gorgeous and the end tale plays out beautifully.

Gatekeepers 21 has played out much like I wish more of the original series did and almost seemed like it intended to at first, once it got past some of the lighter introductory material. The links to the past here are strong without being in your face and the characterization of Ayane is just spot on, from her issues with her father to how it affects her powers and sense of being within the world. The chance for more appears to be slim, though an opening is left of course, so my hope is that we’ll see more of this world and its dark dangers again. This story closes out just right and doesn’t leave you in a bad place. This was one of the better OVA series I’d seen recently and I’m looking forward to taking it all in again.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Packaging Artwork,License Gallery,Art of GK21,Conceptal Artwork Gallery,Reversible Cover

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.




Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gatekeepers