Giant Robo Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, February 07, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2005



What They Say
Daisaku and Giant Robo must overcome Von Volger's most maniacal creation, the Eye of Volger and the explosive Big Balloon! When Daisaku is trapped aboard the burning Greta Garbo, it's up to Gin Rei and Tetsugyu to rescue him. But a deadly adversary is lying in wait for Tetsugyu, and he won't give up until he has his vengeance!

The Review!
As the Earth gets closer to standing still, the Experts of Justice put into motion a last ditch effort to try and stop the chaos.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese and in the original 2.0 mix. Having not cared for the 5.1 mix due to its weak feel, we opted to continue what we did in the first volume and shifted to the stereo mix. The Japanese 2.0 mix is noticeably better in that you get a noticeably more full feeling mix, which is what we'll be listening to in the remaining volumes. During regular playback of both Japanese tracks, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally starting its OVA release in Japan back in 1992 and taking quite a bit of time across the run of the series to complete, the show is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. More than likely the transfer here is based off of the Premium edition source materials but all I have to compare it with is the Giga Premium collection from a few years ago and the two look just beautiful. The transfer for this release is just clean and clear throughout with lush colors, great visible detail and essentially no problems that I could see. The openings and endings are all left intact with the full credits translation done as an additional chapter at the end of both episodes. With this being the first DVD release in region one, it's a winner with its visual quality.

Packaging:
The cover art for this keepcase is a great piece that has some very detailed images to it that come together and pretty much demand a poster release. With the Eye of Vogler in the background looking down over Giant Robo, the foreground shifts into a scene of a few of the Magnificent Ten making their away from the exploding chaos. The characters look great, Robo looks great and the menace of the eye is spot on. The back cover is nicely laid out in a very dark and menacing fashion with a good summary of the premise for this volume along the top and a slew of small shots from the show just below that. The discs episode numbers and titles are listed along with a detailed listing of the discs extas. Add in more character shots just above the production credits and the detailed technical information and you've got a solid looking package all around. No insert is included with this release but they do provide the inserts for the jewel case if you want to put your DVD in that for the special model kit release.

Menu:
The menu layout is really nicely done by providing a faux letterbox image in the center where it plays footage from the show in black and white with some of the minor newsreel kind of effects added to it. The top and bottom provide the usual bits such as the logo and various selections, all set to some of the choral music from the show. With its black and white look it gives the animation an interesting feel and almost a nod towards the old live action show. Access times are nice and fast and the menus load quickly. Due to the arrangement of the audio and subtitle tracks, the disc did not correctly read our players' language presets.

Extras:
While not as copious as the first volume there's some good extras included here. There's a new section of animatics which is just fascinating to watch as it shows how things come together. A couple of new 3-D intros are included for episodes three and four and these are just plain neat, albeit far too short. And in addition to the still gallery, the audio commentary continues with these episodes from the Japanese production staff.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the number of times that Giant Robo was originally released over the first couple of years, we've seen the first two episodes more times than I want to remember, which resulted in some minor feelings with the first volume of the series again. The plus being that we'd mostly seen it repeatedly through dub only tapes made the DVD release enjoyable since we hadn't heard the Japanese version all that often so that remained somewhat fresh and new to us. But now with the second volume, where I had stopped picking up the tapes during its original release, we get to material I've not seen much since only having the import Giga Premium box set.

And what great material it is. This is the kind of stuff that OVAs are supposed to be, shows that reach for that epic nature within a campy layer and break through both with an audacity to it. As I had seen recently commented that I think is true, series director Imagawa really needs to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. His work here, when viewing it in retrospect again after seeing much of his recent material, is just fabulous and it's one of those times that you get to see him really cut loose with a project and just go full barrel. If there's any downside to the Giant Robo show it's just that there's so much that's not stated because of its previous incarnation that this all follows up with in a sense. While the show has ever so many questions that sadly won't be answered, the questions within the context of this storyline and given proper due course.

The three episodes here really barrel forward with storyline – and in a rare treat have some great running times. The first episode runs just over thirty minutes while the second is an hour long and the third runs out close to thirty minutes. This is actually important in a way because while watching the second episode, so much goes on and on and on that it starts to wear you down as a viewer, which is the intention based on the way the situation goes. Hour long OVAs are very rare these days but they use this masterfully here to do a lot of ground work as well as providing some of the best battle sequences yet.

After the events of the first volume and the death of Professor Shizuma, the world is finding itself falling backwards due to the anti-Shizuma field that's being emitted by the Eye of Vogler. The situation has actually become worse as it's started its movement across the Atlantic Ocean and is spreading its chaos across the American continent. Watching its movements, Professor Go summarizes that their intent is to take out much of Japan once they finish with America and the proceed on to the Shanghai Oil Fields, which is the last source of the fossil fuel in the world. As the world can't get its act together for solar power or other aspects, a lot is riding on the safety of the Oil Fields so the Experts of Justice put into plan a two prong effort. One team will head to the Fields in order to fend off the Eye while another will go to Ryongpanza where they will analyze the sample even more to try and discover exactly what it's intended to do.

For Daisuke, the plan is a chilling one as he's told that Giant Robo will not be going to Shanghai but instead will be taken north where it will be sealed up forever and never to be used again. The world is so completely paranoid about the possibility of nuclear power being used anywhere that if they find Giant Robo working within the anti-Shizuma field they'll know instantly what's powering it and the tide of opinion will sway against them faster than they can believe. Daisuke fights against this to no avail and is left to go with just Tetsugyu to get this mission accomplished while the Commander and Professor head off for their experiment. This leaves the Shanghai mission to most of the rest of the team, which is a really interesting one as it comes to light. The plan is that once the Eye is within a certain location over the city of Shanghai, a series of strategically placed electromagnetic "web" devices will shoot forth and hit the sphere from all sides and begin to repel it upwards until they can literally fling it out into space. Now that's ingenious.

Their plan goes off rather well at first until Ivan starts wrecking havoc down on the ground and destroying the emitters left and right. But everything really goes to hell with Giant Robo shows up with Daisuke feeling that he can take on the Eye himself after dealing with Ivan. The entire city looks like it gets shredded over this incident and things go terribly bad for the entire Experts side. One of the best sequences out of this is the battle between Alberto and Taiso as they go to settle their old scores. Visually it's a great sequence and it stands out as one of the great moments, but verbally it just has some of the best material. Even as the fight gets more desperate, Alberto realizes suddenly that Taiso is actually treating it as his last stand and is staking his life on it. Youssi gets some really good material in this volume as well as she fights against Enshaku on board the air carrier. Though she only came in at the end of the last episode she made a great impact across this volume and really changed the feel of a lot of things.

Some of my favorite areas came in the post-battle though when things get to be more personal in the mountains, as Genya has his hands on Daisuke in the tunnel while Tetsugyu and Ginrei remain in the wreckage with the case and try to figure their best plan of action. When they all finally come together, it's a mix not only of great action sequences as they fight it out but the revelations that come from Genya as he reveals more of who he is and his relationship to Ginrei are just so well animated and told that it really reaches that epic feel. It's often just the set action pieces with the giant robots knocking each other out across the city that really feel bigger than life and take on a certain feeling that overrides everything else, but with Giant Robo a lot of those scenes come from the dialogue and exposition pieces like this.

So much is revealed here about the truth of what happened at Bashtarle that it makes rewatching the first volume important to be able to understand the lies that were told and to see how they figured into everything, from what Professor Go had stated as a truth to what others understood as their basic reality. Finding out what really happened there across these episodes changes much of the perception of the show and of who is really right, though with Genya mostly being on a vengeance kick now it's not hard to guess who is going to get their rears handed to them, it's no longer as clear cut as it was given to be at the beginning of the series. With people on both sides feeling betrayed and being betrayers, the dynamic of the relationships has the potential to really change and to change the course of events.

In Summary:
This volume just kicks ass up and down. So much of what goes on here is in a non-stop feel that even when it does slow down you've still got a lot of adrenaline flowing from what's happened and more happens before you know it. Between the big action pieces in Shanghai and the fantastic battle in the air there is a lot of well played out exposition and dialogue that gives practically every character a lot more depth than they were given in the first two episodes and fleshes them out beautifully. The characters move from stereotyped action pieces to something much more, particularly as the relationships deepen across the spectrum and much more of how this has all come together is revealed. This is just fantastic material and it's no wonder that it's remained hugely popular all these years both in Japan and here. Very highly recommended.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Original English 2.0 Dub,Japanese 2.0 Commentary Track,Still Gallery,3D Intros,Animatics

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: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Giant Robo