Gravion Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, September 14, 2004
What They Say
Here Comes Robotic Mayhem on Cruise Control! This is one robot war like no other - because this giant gravity-powered god known as Gravion is on autopilot! With the Zeravire aliens becoming more lethal with each fierce battle, the Gran Knights powering the mighty Gravion are going to have to fight harder than before with a new weapon ? the White Steel Fang!
After starting to grow on me, Gravion hits the third volume and pulls every cliché out of the book and uses them.
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.
Originally airing back in 2002, the transfer for the four 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.
Using the original Japanese, the cover art looks ok with a shot of Mizuki and her watermelons sticking way the heck out there while the Gravion is once again used in the backdrop. 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 Character Design Works", and it opens to highlight Eiji and Mizuki's character designs. In addition, there's a three panel side story, presumably translated from the original Japanese release, entitled "G's Tragedy". This release also has two clings included inside, one for Ena and one for Leele, both of them in their combat uniforms.
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.
The extras don't change too much with this volume but there area few new additions. The opening and ending sequences are provided in their clean format and there's a series of design sketches included in a video gallery. In addition to that regular material we also get a couple of Japanese made music videos which just takes footage from the show and uses it to the songs from the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the release of this volume, the first season of Gravion comes to a close and it all plays out like the first "part" of a book, sort of like a prologue maybe. Everything that has come so far has been to put the right characters in the right places and set up the events as needed so that they can move forward with the bigger and more detailed plot. It's also leading me to believe that I may only like the even numbered volume of this series and probably its follow-up season as well, since this volume takes what was interesting from the second set of episodes and ignores it to bring out every giant robot storyline cliché you can think of.
This volume brings out the last four episodes, which as you can tell from just about any series, is where all the various strings start to come together to form the final plot and move it all along to something exciting. As is normal with this section of a typical anime series, there are more than a few clichés that make their way into it. With Gravion, it's done so masterfully that if you've seen almost any giant robot series in the last few years, you know, after they stopped taking chances with series, then you can plot out how this volume ends without even watching it.
A lot of what the focus on this volume is, outside of the big action sequences that fill up a lot of it, is the emphasis on the characters having to learn just how important what they're doing is. Fighting the Zeravire day in and day out for as many months as they have been means they've forgotten what they're really doing, especially since the enemy always seems to show up at the most inopportune time for the cast and their days get shot to hell because of it. For Eiji, it becomes a real issue when he realizes that because Touga's been kept so sequestered all these years, he's got no real idea about what he's doing when he's actually fighting in and around the various cities that the Zeravire continue to attack. It gets personal for him when he's caught in the city himself during an attack and the Zeravire end up accidentally capturing one of the maids, Cecile, and she's close to being sucked in as raw material for the thing or completely obliterated during an attack launched by Touga in the Gravion.
The entire incident serves as a catalyst that has Eiji running off like a wounded child and leaves Touga questioning his own humanity with his special quirky smile. Eiji decides to go back to school where he's run over roughshod by his teachers for his lengthy absences and by his friends for the stories he makes about piloting the Gravion. But just like those "very special episodes" of your favorite sitcoms, it's all designed so that when the Zeravire attack again and Eiji has to run to a shelter, he's forced to realize just who it is he's been protecting and fighting for and that he really does belong up there. Cue up the music and a gung-ho attitude and he's back in the seat and working out things in a manly way with Touga. Of course, this is just in time to deal with the enemy learning from its past mistakes making its latest attacks something that completely overpowers the Gravion, forcing the revelation of "secret weapons" that can save the day at the last minute.
All of this just goes on and on, hitting each cliché note by note, that I almost felt like clutching my head and screaming to make it stop at times. It's all so telegraphed and foreshadowed, but down with such drama, that it goes beyond being humorous. It's been said that if you've seen one giant robot show you've seen them all and I've tried to avoid taking that road in how I view things, giving each show its own chance to prove itself and to show me what makes it different than all the others. Gravion simply seems to want to revel in what the clichés are while bringing in the other elements such as the maids and excessive fanservice like Mizuki's massive mammaries into play. What was good in the second volume was that it went a bit further into actually giving us some interesting looks at the characters, particularly the stylized parts for Mizuki that even made her look human, and brought in some unusual humor for a show like this. But this last set of episodes really goes back to the drawing board and doesn't deviate.
My brain hurts. Gravion fans, this volume is solid through and through. Getting thirteen episodes on three volumes definitely helped and it probably kept a few undecided people around to the end, especially if they liked some of the second volume material. For me, this volume turned into a real chore to watch. It's all competently done and plays out like you'd expect, but that's where the problem really lies at this point I think.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Exclusive static cling decals, Design sketches, Insert with an extra Gravion story, Japanese music videos, Clean opening and closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, 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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2