Gravion Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, May 28, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, May 25, 2004



What They Say
On the eve of an invasion by a soulless army of aliens known as the Zeravire, the enigmatic billionaire known as Sandman gathers the world's leaders at his castle to unveil the ultimate weapon that is Earth's last hope, a gravity-powered god of circuits and steel known as Gravion!

The Review!
Gonzo and Obari team up to bring lots of women together with a mecha that goes back to the traditional era of combining various craft together and throws it against a wall to see what sticks.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a lot of things going on during it as well as some in-series specific music, so the stereo mix gets used pretty heavily here. Dialogue is generally center channel based but does spread out a bit throughout the show, but it's the music that really fills things up. There are a lot of action scenes throughout here as well so those tend to use the stereo channels a lot to emphasize their location on the screen. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with it during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2002, the transfer for the five episodes of Gravion here looks really good. The show isn't blended as smoothly as some other Gonzo series but it definitely looks to be done by design, so you have some very vibrant foreground characters and animation that almost feel like they're sliding over the backgrounds instead of being a part of them at times. The colors are rich and solid without any noticeable breakup (from a proper viewing distance at least. I don't sit with my face a foot away from the display device). Cross coloration and aliasing are both very minimal throughout and there weren't any real playback issues at all.

Packaging:
Using the original Japanese artwork from the first volume, though with a slightly larger logo here, the cover art looks really good here with a shot of Luna in her standard outfit looking all perky and happy while the bigger image of the Gravion is behind her. It's an eye-catching cover with lots of good colors to it. The back cover uses some of the standard futuristic layout design items to provide a few shots from the show and a brief summary of the premise. The discs episodes are listed by number and title and the extras are clearly listed. The usual array of technical information is along the bottom in the easy to read and decipher technical grid. The insert is almost a mini-booklet that's called the "Gravion Mechanics Design Works", and it opens to four panels that highlight each of the ships that make up the Gravion as well as the Gravion itself. A mix of black and white and color pieces are used nicely here. In addition, there's a three panel side story, presumably translated from the original Japanese release, entitled "G's Tragedy". It's all text and is well done. This release also has two clings included inside, one for Toga and one for Luna, both of them in their combat uniforms.

In addition to the disc release, there's also a disc + box release to hold all three volumes of the series. The box is the fold-up type and not terribly solid. One panel has a good shot of Mizuki with Leele standing next to her blushing as she looks at her chest while the other main panel has a good shot of Toga and Luna together smiling. The spine is one of the better ones recently as it shows off a fair number of the cast together with the Gravion in the background, taking up most of the spine. Included as a bonus are two static clings, one for the Gravion and one for the Gran Kaiser.

Menu:
Going with the futuristic computer layout style with bright blues and pinks for the selection portion, the main menu looks like some of the monitors the characters use in the show, albeit a bit busier. Animation plays along the bottom in a couple of windows, showing parts from the opening sequence, while a brief spell of instrumental music plays over it. The layout is a bit awkward at first since selections are all over the screen but it's easy to navigate after a minute or two.

Extras:
The extras are fairly minimal here, but not terribly unexpected when there's five episodes on the disc. The opening and ending sequences are provided in their clean format and there's a series of design sketches included in a video gallery. The only other piece is a Japanese trailer for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Using your best Shatner voice, say the series name with me: Super. Heavyweight. God. Gravion! Yeah, it's not good when you start off by making fun of the show.

Gravion's a thirteen episode series from 2002 that paired up the slickness of Gonzo with the ideas of Masami Obari. I hadn't paid much attention to this release so Obari's being involved was a surprise to me, at least until I saw the Mizuki character and her gravity defying breasts. Beyond gravity defying, they must have their own gravity and they probably have moons orbiting them that we just can't see. Gravion's a series that tries to take some of the big things of the 70's, such as the giant robots that are made by combining together various vehicles, and combines it with modern animation techniques and the current fads. Such as the large breasted Mizuki, maids and effeminate men with a healthy dose of fan service. The mind boggles. Actually, Boggle probably would have been a more enjoyable way to spend the evening.

Taking place in 2047, the world has changed drastically. It's been ten years since the Earth Federated Alliance has gone and merged all world governments together leading to an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity. One of the most prosperous people is the elusive and seldom seen in public Klein Sandman. He's the standard massively wealthy billionaire that has his fingers in more pies than could ever be counted. His castle, an elaborate structure that's basically a rock formation that holds it up off the ground, is massive and intricately laid out with five towers and many smaller buildings throughout it. When Sandman sends out invitations to a party, anyone who is anyone attends no matter what, which is why we have some of the most powerful people on the planet now there wondering just who he is and what he's up to.

When Sandman does finally introduce himself, he reveals some amazing looking footage of aliens attacking outposts along the solar system where humanity has started to explore. Everyone assumes that it's movie footage but he reveals that it's really happening, something that's quickly confirmed as the heads of various government bodies are hit up on their cellular phones there. The aliens, called Zeravire, move quickly and are about to hit Earth as well. The EFA is convinced they can handle the job but their weapons and ships don't seem to do any damage. This is when Sandman reveals that he has the technology to do it, and we see the giant robot Gravion dealing with the invaders.

Sandman's been preparing for this for some time, though a lot of it is left to mystery in these early episodes, but he's intent on handling this problem himself and sends his envoy, a masked red-haired man named Raven, to the EFA to hammer out that agreement. The Gravion, as made up by the pilots and their various vehicles, have specific weapons and moves that are used against the continually evolving Zeravire. This actually proves to be problematic for the Gravion team as once they find a way to defeat one of the enemy, the enemy learns from that mistake and then that move fails to really do much damage, or the enemy figures out a defense for it when it comes back in its next form. That's actually a nice change of pace.

The Gravion team is something that gets solidified early on here. Those who pilot the vehicles are somewhat special among humanity in that they have a special attribute to them, not necessarily genetic per se, but an inborn talent that allows them be labeled as an "Earthgertz". Sandman refers to the pilots as that, people who are special and able to handle this. The last of the pilots he needs arrives in the castle just before the Zeravire attack. In his teens, we're introduced to Eiji, a young man whose come to Sandman's castle in search of his missing sister. Having received a note from her with the simple words of "Help me!", he's tracked her down to here and has snuck into the castle to find her. Of course, the castle is state of the art in surveillance so everyone gets to watch as he sneaks throughout there trying to find where she could be. His luck goes sour though when he stumbles into the room where the Gran Kaiser is located and its pilot Toga is. Eiji's on the defensive but Toga's almost like an innocent child at times and just wants to be friends with someone who's similar. With the Zeravire attacking, events tumble and Eiji finds himself falling into one of the vehicles, forced to pilot it and to go through the combining process to deal with the first of Earth's new enemy.

The series goes in pretty predictable directions for the first few episodes, especially once you get past the really poorly paced first episode. There's just too much being introduced there and it doesn't work well. Once past that, you get Eiji trying to figure out what's going on with the situation he's been thrust into while also trying to find his sister. He gets to meet the various cast members, learn about the vehicles and how Gravion works in addition to trying to get a handle on Sandman, since he supposedly tricked him. There's a subplot that gets worked in about the mysterious pilot of the G-Shadow and how that person isn't part of the regular group. This actually becomes the main point by the end of the first volume and introduces the only character I halfway liked.

Gravion simply feels like too much. Taking into consideration that I don't care for the combining robot genre in general, the character side of the show is problematic. Sandman has set up a number of people to work for him in the castle and therefore as part of the Gravion team, so when you go into the command center and have these various young women manning the stations, it's overkill in that they're all wearing maid uniforms, since that's their normal day job. Even worse, there's a set of young girls, like in the age ten range, that are also maids/servants that help out around the castle. So they're all dressed up cute as can be and end up in some lolicon style situations. Even Eiji comments on how something like this'd be illegal when they offer to help him change. Heck, having them work at that age would probably break some labor laws.

And then you have the pilot cast, which all wear very skimpy skintight costumes day in and day out. Luna's isn't too bad but it's definitely a swimsuit with a skirt. Ena's driving around in her vehicle with a maid uniform and glasses. And I don't think anything else can be said about Mizuki and her mammoth breasts. The only seemingly normal one is the one that gets introduced later on, though even her outfits fit into a few fanservice fetish areas.

In Summary:
It's never a good sign when you can't help but to make fun of the title itself (kudos to ADV for not translating the entire thing for the package) but then the show itself just leaves so much of it open for more fun. The genre itself isn't one that appeals terribly to me, but even that isn't given a huge amount of time as there's simply so much going on with as big of a cast as there is, never mind adapting to everything else that's going on around them. These early episodes feel like the monster of the week format with the Zeravire coming back (always at the most inopportune times, such as when everyone is going to a picnic) and the group having to figure out why their last plan isn't working this time. The trend of combining genres and current hot trends just doesn't seem to pay off well to me with this show, though I'm sure it'll make some others quite happy.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Sketches,Japanese Trailer

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gravion