Superior Defender Gundam Force Vol. #08 (of 9) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2004



What They Say
The Dark Axis is back, and now they're really mad as they begin a full-scale invasion of Neotopia. Zapper Zaku, Grappler Gouf, and Destroyer Dom are piloting their newest weapon, the monstrous Big-Zam! With it, they easily destroy the SDG Base as it crashes to the ground.

Left with no other choice, Mayor Margaret reveals the truth, and tells everyone in Neotopia about the existence of the Gundam Force. But the Dark Axis has already moved on to stage 2 of its invasion, and soon all of the robots of Neotopia are under the control of the Dark Axis! As Captain acts to save them, his Soul Drive is stolen! Now, with Neotopia about to be defeated, Captain Gundam is helpless!

The Review!
Tired of getting the beaten up every time they have a plan, the Dark Axis brings out the truly heavy guns this time and launches an all out attack on Neotopia.

Audio:
With this being an English designed production, the only language here is English in a solid sounding stereo mix. There isn't a ton of directionality across the forward soundstage, but there are a number of notable areas throughout the show. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, SD Gundam comes across rather well on our setup. The transfer here is a very good looking one with a very smooth feel with the vibrant cel shaded animation. The colors throughout here are vibrant and fully saturated without much in the way of noticeable cross coloration. There's some aliasing visible during various panning sequences, but it isn't too distracting in general. Regular anime shows would probably not work well in this format, but a show like this really takes advantage of the tools provided to it and churns out a great looking piece of work.

Packaging:
Not looking quite as cel shaded this time around, the various other Gundam Force members get a good looking piece that's not quite cel-shaded again so that the Gunbike, Guneagle and more get some time on the cover. The back cover loses its Neotopia look and now goes for a basic grid look with artwork of the Gundam's in varying forms as well as a few shots from the show. The shows premise and episode summaries are listed here alongside the episode numbers and titles. The usual array of production and technical information is easy to read and laid out as expected. Unlike previous volumes, no insert was included in this release and it really has no need for one anyway.

Menu:
The main menu is a simple static piece with the image of the Captain set against a cloudscape backdrop alongside the episode selections. With nothing here beyond the show, this is one of those very simple menus that works effectively but has no bells or whistles attached to it. Access times are nice and fast and the layout quick to use.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the fun and more serious stories on the last volume, it's not too much of a surprise that this volume ends up falling short of that one in a few ways. Instead of moving along with the same energy or events it instead decides to go down a different path and try something else, which is unfortunate since I think the last volumes episodes had really started to move the show beyond some of its kid oriented nature and was able to serve both potential markets well enough.

The show does start off fairly amusing though as the group is doing a movie again. They even start it off so that it's in widescreen so that you can tell the difference and it certainly sets the stage well enough for the classic battle that they're all fighting. But things like this never last long and the peace is shattered when the biggest gate yet opens from the Dark Axis. To the surprise of everyone who is watching, a massive gun battle cruiser comes through and it goes right towards the SD Gundam Force base that's floating up in the sky. In doing so, it reveals the secret of what's protecting the city all this time and at the same time it sets the city in danger.

The massive cruiser, called the Big Zam of all things, lands directly on the Gundam Force base with the intent of shattering the link cable to the satellite above the helps it stay in orbit, so the less than brilliant trio that get to drive the thing each try their own methods for shooting it down while having to deal with the second tier team of Gundam Force members there like Gunbike and Guneagle. Everyone else eventually makes their way up there while convincing some of the people watching that it's just special effects for their movie and do their best to save the city from the Big Zam and the plan to knock the base out of the sky.

Surprisingly, the Dark Axis folks make a clumsy advance and they cause a number of changes to happen for the Gundam Force folks, which then leads into more fun situations as the Dark Axis continue to attack from different angles. One of the parts I liked about this was that we get to see something unusual, Neotopia at night. Launching a new force to try and take control, they come through the gate at night which casts the entire city and the show itself in a different look. So much of it has been set to daytime events and what few darker events have been off-world that having something like this happen is fairly noteworthy. The city and locale doesn't change in a huge fashion but they did some nice bits in making it come alive even more at night than the already busy daytime.

In Summary:
After such a good set of episodes in the last volume, this one ends up being something of a letdown since some of the promise from it gets left behind and it goes down a different path. There are some surprising changes that do happen in a show where you expect little to really change but it's well done and it sets things to happen in the finale of the first season that gets everyone into a different position and ready for a new season of fun. One of the things that's definitely missed with these episodes is the Zako Zako Hour though and the general inclusion of them in the episodes, something that's been minimized during these more serious episodes.

Features
English Language

Review Equipment
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: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Superior Defender Gundam Force