Gad Guard Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, December 24, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2004
What They Say
Everyone wants their own gad. But is it really something to be desired? Could it actually be a curse? A hitman comes to town to hunt down Katana, Catherine uses her friends for the chance of finding her own gad, and Aiko's father appears to care more for gads than his own daughter... A blessing or a curse? Even Takumi will come to know the horrific reality these gads represent...
Going with a few more standalone stories before what looks to be the next arc, Gad Guard gets a bit more interesting but still ends up simply waffling a lot.
For our primary viewing session, we opted to listen to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a pretty decent stereo mix that mostly shows its flair of directionality across the forward soundstage during the action sequences. Dialogue is generally center channel driven and sounds good. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions on either language track.
Originally airing in 2003, Gad Guard is another in a line of very slick looking clean transfers that Gonzo seems to be perfecting and Geneon has little problem working with. Presented in its original full frame format, I feel practically guilty by mentioning that there are a few minor instances where some aliasing crops up because they're so minimal that most people probably won't even notice. And that's the only real flaw I could find in this during a normal viewing. Colors look good with very solid dark colors and some really vibrant pieces here and there throughout.
Takumi and Thunderbolt share the cover this time and the way that the coloring works here seems to add a bit to it, giving it a bit more of an edge and sense of style. Takumi at least isn't wearing his almost comical face mask which covers up half his face with his hair in that form. It looks decent, as did the past covers, but nothing all that eye-catching. The back cover has a few animation shots along the right and a brief summary of the premise and a listing of the discs features and extras. The release does have the volume numbering on the spine but also provides the episode numbers and titles on the back. The insert has another shot of the front cover and opens up to a two panel spread of Hajiki, Arashi and Aiko in some weird Jet Set Radio kind of montage. The back just has some background artwork and a listing of the episode numbers and titles again.
The main menu is nicely done with animated headshots of a few of the characters appearing on either side of the screen while shots from the varied city appear behind it along with other animated venues, all set to some of the grooving music from the opening song. The menu layout is fairly standard and easy to move about with good access times. The disc unfortunately did not read our players language presets and went with English language and song/sign subtitles.
The extras are the same as the last volume, which is just a full color art gallery. The gallery has some nice pieces in it that show off the cover art for this volume and its individual pieces before going into stills from the episodes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the last volume and the way the storyline seemed to just up and disappear, leaving us with just a bunch of stand alone stories that didn't really add all that much to either the characters or the setting overall, I wasn't looking forward to this volume too much since I feared more of the same would be coming. While there are mostly just more stand alone episodes here, they are at least a lot more interesting this time and the hints of something bigger coming along starts to show up in the last episode.
The opening episode in fact surprised me more than I expected. It starts off with a strange man walking around trying to make friends with people. The difference is in that when he makes friends, he takes their bodies and merges them with all kinds of metal and machinery that may just be lying around. His first victim that becomes known in Night Town has his body ripped in half but it's all still functional and working, barely, as it's linked together with the bizarre machine parts. He's looking for more friends though and eventually comes upon Katana. Normally this wouldn't be an issue for him and Zero but the cloaked stranger manages to take Zero out of the picture. Even worse for Katana, Hijaki comes calling on him thinking that he might be the target and only ends up on the run with Katana. What makes the episode work is the continuing relationship between the two who want to fight each other but seem to find themselves on the same side but with just different opinions on things. The two working together here is amusing and well paced and the villain of the week is surprisingly effective compared to past ones.
Catherine actually gets herself something of an episode on this volume as well, from getting to see just how poor her residence is (as she obviously puts most of her money into her clothes) to starting to understand more about what motivates her. Her search for the Gad that she had lost some time ago is becoming more of a driving force, particularly as more of them seem to be showing up these days, and any hint of one now has her trying to get someone with a Techode to help her locate it. The show introduces a new one that's been causing troubles down on the docks and mixes in a couple of different Techode operators who refuse to take on the job but try to help her in different ways. Getting to know anything about her has been a plus since she's been a relative mystery so far other than what we've learned of her working with Hachisuka in the past.
There are also some interesting revelations about the Gads themselves, which comes about when Aiko invites everyone to a dinner meeting with her father who is the head of the Cobalt Unit. To their surprise, she's told him at least their first names and what they've been doing so they're a bit taken aback by it, particularly Takumi who is really trying to live up the super hero image of the entire thing. The actual dinner, at which Catherine and Hachisuka are also invited to, is really fun to watch since they all tried to dress up some for the event. Takumi gets so caught up in the moment during one scene that when he gaze falls to Aiko's now apparently ample cleavage, he's just dumbstruck for a minute which is just very amusing to see considering how much he's on the whole justice kick. Aiko's father has an interesting take on the entire Gad subject and his apparent massive collection of them only shows that he's deeper into things than any of them knew, but there's still a lot of mystery to be had.
Unlike the previous volume, the stories here just seemed to click better from the start and were well paced and enjoyable even if they didn't add to the overall story that much. The last episode starts to bring that into play though but I have to wonder whether it'll be a short term gain and then back to a meandering show or whether it'll pick up again. There's so much promise and intriguing aspects to this world that's been created but much of it is tossed to the side as window dressing for characters that have the simplest of problems and have a minimal amount of personality. So far the series started off with a lot of promise but has squandered it halfway through and I'm unsure whether it'll manage to recapture any of it for the rest of the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery
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: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gad Guard