Get Backers Vol. #01 (also w/box) (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2004



What They Say
Everyone knows the feeling of coming home and finding their home broken into. Your possessions thrown around, dresser drawers are ransacked and everything you own has the unmistakable feel of a stranger's fingers on them. Then you realize some of your belongings are missing. Don't despair, call Ban and Ginji, the Get Backers. They'll dodge bullets, go up against evil foes and risk their lives to get back your stuff. They're one phone call away, and they're ready to take your case!

The Review!
Willing to take almost any job that will get them a profit of one sort or another, two friends work to get back anything that their clients have lost.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is a solid piece of work with plenty of directionality across the forward soundstage that brings you fully into the action during the big sequences but also hits up the dialogue pieces just as well. The English mix is done in a 5.1 upgrade and that expands well upon the original mix by giving it some greater clarity as well as more oomph during some of the big chase scenes. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, Get Backers is presented here in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. For the most part, this is a great looking release that really shows a lot of detail to the image and is generally problem free. Colors are rich with a mix of vibrant pieces and solid real world style backgrounds. Cross coloration is virtually nil while there's a touch of aliasing during some of the panning sequences. We did not some very light blocking going on in a few scenes where some of the solid color sections didn't maintain their feel too well but we're still experimenting with our upconversion settings and it was only visible if you were right on top of it (and at either 720p or 1080i; it wasn't visible at 480p). For the bulk of people checking this out, it's going to be a near flawless looking transfer.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the first Japanese volume, the cover here is a good looking piece that features the two lead characters against the night time lights and bustle of Shinjuku. The original logo, complete with the small Japanese text at the top right end of it, is used and the volume numbering is there as well. The artwork itself is nicely detailed and gives you a good idea of what to expect in terms of character designs and the general feel of things. The back cover has a few shots from the show wrapped around a summary of the shows premise and the discs extras. Most of the important information for the technical side is listed in the information grid along the bottom just below the Japanese production information. The insert uses a variant of the front cover skewed a bit while the reverse side of it lists the episode titles and the discs extras. Essentially, this is a release that didn't need an insert.

The first volume of the series was also released in a disc + box format. The box is one of the standard soft boxes that ADV favors. While not as thick as the chipboard most people, myself included, prefer, it's not as bad as the overly thin boxes used on things like Aquarian Age. The box for this looks good with a full wraparound image that has the enemies the duo run into throughout the series on the main panels while the lead characters give their usual happy go lucky looks on the spine. Nothing extra is included in the box which means that it's a rather pricey piece for what's generally considered low quality material, regardless of how good the actual artwork design is. This is also the first of two boxes for the series as it only holds the first five of the ten volumes it's set to run.

Menu:
The menus for this release are simple and straightforward with just static images for the backgrounds with music playing along. The main menu features the lead duo on opposite sides of the screen while the series title and selections are between them. It's a decent looking menu but as a number of menus for ADV seem to be lately, they're becoming somewhat stale with all the static imagery. Access times are nice and fast and the submenus load quickly. The disc also properly read our players language presents which continues to be a huge plus.

Extras:
For English language fans, the extras on this volume are solid. There's a lengthy behind the scenes interview session with five of the main characters of the show and they talk about their experiences with anime itself, acting and the show as well. In addition, there are two different episode commentaries. The first episode and the fifth episode both get commentary tracks, each with the director and ADR writer and then a change up of voice actors for it. We didn't get a chance to really go through the tracks in much detail but for those wanting to know more about the entire writing/directing process and what they all think of what was needed for this show, this release really provides that in a number of ways. In addition to all of this, there's the standard clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a number of years where it seemed like a series was hard pressed to survive not only a twenty-six episode run but even a thirteen episode run, a surprising number of series managed to go past that and hit the fifty range once again. And since these have been popular both due to their manga being available or the general popularity of the show itself, they're making their way over more and more. Get Backers, which ran for forty-nine episodes, is the latest lengthy series to get a release from ADV across ten volumes.

I had read the first volume of the manga previously so I was familiar with the basic premise of it. That premise carries over nicely from there and the anime does a good job of standing on its own while still adopting the manga stories. Since I knew the anime was coming I stopped after the first volume so as to not spoil the series. The show takes place in a relatively present day setting of Shinjuku – a Shinjuku that doesn't seem to get ruined every five seconds like so many other series. While it's done to a real world setting, there are some elements to it that take it out of the ordinary. We're introduced to the two lead characters of Ginji and Ban.

Ginji, who has the hated title of Lightning Emperor, is an overly optimistic and generally happy smiling guy with blonde hair who has the surprising ability to generate electricity in his body. As is said during most of the times its used, it's similar to the electric eel that is able to use it in its defense when threatened. Ginji simply has this ability available to him due to his genetics and is fairly blasť about it, though it certainly surprises others. Ginji used to run one of the big local street tough gangs named VOLTS until things changed and he ended up joining up with his friend and partner Ban to form the Get Backers.

Ban is the somewhat darker and usually brooding type with the long spiky brown hair that is much more cynical about the world and generally with good reason as we see his past explored a bit during these early episodes. Like Ginji, Ban has some interesting powers himself. One is that his strength is a bit more when it comes to his hand where he claims something like a 200 kg force to it. This lets him be a bit rougher with it and do things like rip metal doors from their frames or absorb more impacts with ease. In addition to that, he has a power called Jagan that allows him to match eyes with someone and basically hypnotize them into a dream of their own making where they see their downfall in some rather nasty way. It's got its limits as we learn, but it's a power that can make the way an episode plays out change considerably in the space of a minute.

Like any couple of guys who take any job that come their way, they're often broke and desperate for work. They're usually found sleeping in their car when it's not being towed away for illegal parking or they hang out at the Honky Tonk, a nice little restaurant that's run by a friend of theirs named Paul who serves as something of an intelligence network for the two in more dire times. With their being broke, they use Paul as often as they can for food, which of course causes trouble and the usual arguments and near-fights that you can get from a lot of shows like this. What's amusing about the style used for Get Backers is that they shift so seamlessly between the serious standard character models to the super deformed types. Usually it's even a thing where the models simply snap from one to the other but Get Backers actually goes through some minor transformations of one to the other in a few scenes, something that's fairly rare.

While I had liked the manga, the anime managed to attract me even more to the property after taking in the first five episodes for a number of reasons. With the show running forty-nine episode total, I had figured it to be a fairly episodic piece that made it easy to just jump in and go with it, particularly with the premise of getting things back. To my surprise, the first volume has two standalone episodes that do a good job of introducing the setting and some of the morals that the two live by and then it jumps right into a three episode storyline that takes place over the course of one night during an attempt to retrieve a package from a group of highly paid professional transporters. The shift from simple small stories which I expected to fill out the series to one where we get a surprising amount of character information mixed into chase and fight sequences changed my expectations of the series completely.

Two other things have proven so far to be really interesting me in the show. The first is the character design where they're all generally very thin or lanky, giving them a very angular look at times when they're doing fast motions. While it's probably not completely intentional, it's highly reminiscent of the old Lupin styles. The way they move and look is just a draw for me. The other is the car that the two own. This again goes back to the Lupin influence because the car is so clearly coming from a similar direction, especially when they start pulling off these hysterically impossible moves during the three part storyline here. The car becomes just as much a character as Ginji and Ban that as the show goes on you can't imagine it not being there. And honestly, the heavy Lupin influences, whether real or imagined, are such a treat to me that it's hard to not like a show that's playing up a variant of one of my all time favorite properties. Get Backers feels like it's channeling the spirit of the series and just doing a modern take of it as a buddy series instead of the larger group of that piece.

In Summary:
Get Backers managed to surprise me a number of times over the five episodes here. The first couple of episodes suffer from the usual issues that a new series does in trying to introduce things and then having some of the powers feel like a crutch at first but then it really finds its groove as it hits the three part storyline and just goes full throttle. With a great looking transfer, interesting characters, lots of action and just the right number of episodes, this is a series I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how they build upon all of what they've laid out here.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening
and closing animation,Production sketches,Interviews with English Voice Actors J Shanon Weaver (Ginji); Kelly Dealyn (Natsumi); Corey Gagne (Paul); Ellie McBride (Hven) and Shannon McCormick (Akabane),Commentary for episode one with Lowell Bartholomee (English ADR director); Dan Deitz (English ADR script writer) and J Shanon Weaver, Commentary on episode 5 with Lowell Bartholomee; Dan Deitz; J Shanon Weaver and Shannon McCormick

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Get Backers