Get Backers Vol. #01 (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Release Date: Monday, January 17, 2005



What They Say
Based on a popular manga and animated by the respected Studio Deen (King Of Bandit King, Cowboy Bebop).

Everyone knows the feeling of coming home and finding their home broken into. Your possessions thrown around, 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....

But now is not the time to despair. There's no time for anger. There's only time to call Ban and Ginji. They're the Get Backers, and they live by a simple motto: "If it was taken, we'll get it back." No one will be refused. (At least not until that huge tab they've run up gets paid off!)

So prepare to meet your new heroes. The guys who will restore order where there is only chaos and justice where crime has run free. 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!

Episodes:
1. The Initials are "G" (Ginji) and "B" (Ban)
2. Get Back the Busted Bonds!
3. Operation: Recover the Platinum!
4. Recovery Service vs. Transport Service
5. Deathmatch at Sunrise: The Lightning Emperor vs. Dr. J

The Review!
ADV launch their longest series yet in the UK, unleashing the adventures of Ginji and Ban in Get Backers.

Audio:

I listened to the Japanese track for my main reviewing. The stereo mix comes across nicely especially during some of the action scenes and when the music kicks in. I enjoyed the performances of the voice actors a lot too, with Showtaro Morikubo showing quite a natural ability for comedic timing in his role as Ginji. I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

I also spot-checked the disc in English, and while the 5.1 mix is for the most part good, there’s a caveat in that the opening and ending songs have something of a tinny effect as they play. This is something that affected some other ADV 5.1 mixes last year, and it seems as though it’s rearing its head again. I noticed no other dropouts or issues with the track though, which had some good directionality during the episodes proper, though it didn’t seem a great deal different to the stereo mix.

Video:
With five episodes on this disc plus extras, you might expect the video quality to suffer somewhat. Not so, as this anamorphic widescreen presentation looks great, with colours coming across extremely well and no noticeable artifacting during regular playback. Like many recent ADV shows, Get Backers looks very good.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font (ADV’s usual), and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.

Packaging:
The front cover has a somewhat hectic image of Ginji starting his lightning strike, while Ban looms a little in the background. The background itself is a blurred image of the city. The artwork itself is nice, though below the logo there’s a little tagline, something which some people hate. Still, at least there’s volume numbering on the cover (important in my eyes for a long series), as well as the volume title and logos. The back contains the usual summaries and screenshots, with ADV UK’s excellent technical information boxes at the bottom.

This was one of the first releases for ADV which also did away with an insert. Since the covers weren’t originally reversible, and the inserts nothing more than sheets of paper, ADV opted to put the disc in a clear keepcase, with a clean image of the cover art behind the disc and the chapter and extras listings behind where the insert would sit. It works really well and is certainly something I won’t mind seeing more of.

Menu:
The menus are simple but functional, with a brief introduction sequence continuing to the static opening menu featuring Ginji and Ban on either side. The selections in the centre are thankfully comprehensive. You have the ability to select an episode, the usual languages and special features, as well as (in a nice change from later) scene selection. The opening theme plays over this menu. Submenus are simple and static, but all have different music from the show playing over them. The menus are nice and functional with quick access times, and the return of scene selection is a good thing in my book.

Extras:
ADV seemingly went all out on this series as the first disc shows. First up are the bog standard (but always nice) clean opening and ending. Then there’s a lengthy “Behind the Scenes” featurette with Corey Cagne (Paul), Shannon McCormick (Akabane), Kelly Dealyn (Natsumi), Ellie McBride (Hevn) and J Shannon Weaver (Ginji). All of the participants spend about five minutes (except Ellie and Kelly who are about five minutes combined) talking about their roles in the show, their histories and how they got their parts. It’s definitely nice to see a bit more of the English voice actors.

The other extras are two commentaries, one on Episode 1, and another on Episode 5. Both are good tracks that are fun to listen to, especially if you’re a fan of the extras, but they don’t particularly talk much about the show, so do occasionally come across as a bit pointless in places. Nevertheless, it’s certainly nice to see ADV putting in a lot of effort for the extras (even if they are heavily aimed at the English track audience).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I didn't really know what to expect with the first disc of Get Backers. The series is based on a manga by Yuya Aoki and Rando Ayamine and runs at 49 episodes, making it ADV UK's longest series to be released thus far in the UK. It's quite a gamble, but it is a fresh looking new series with some good character designs, that is also pretty good value for money when you consider it'll be released on ten discs in total, each but the last having five episodes.

The story is pretty straight forward, at least to start with. Ginji Amano and Ban Midou form a group known as the Get Backers, working to retrieve things that people have lost in exchange for a bit of cash. Their operation isn’t the smoothest, and while they claim to have a 100% success rate and they have a seemingly, they don’t tend to have the funds to back it up. They work in a diner of sorts called “Honky Tonk”, which is run by a man named Paul. Enter Natsumi Mizuki, who lost her cat doll when she oversaw a dodgy dealing involving a policeman and the yakuza, and now wants it back. Naturally Ginji and Ban are quick to decline such a job, but of course the cat was made by Natsumi’s mother on her death bed and is the last memory Natsumi has of her. So, despite Ban’s objections, he and Ginji set off to get it back at all costs.

The first episode is a nice introduction to the world of Ginji and Ban. The two make a hilarious pairing, with Ginji providing much of the humour and slapstick, while Ban is far more serious and calculating about what they do. They play off each other extremely well, and it seems as though they’ve been friends for some time and worked with each other closely for much of it. Both of them also have superpowers, with Ginji literally being like a human electric eel, able to produce electricity from his own body, while Ban demonstrates two abilities. He has a grip that carries 200 kilograms of force, and another ability called “Jagen”, for which he looks into the other person’s eyes and projects a dream into their mind for one minute.

While we don’t see much of Paul, he appears to take the somewhat stereotypical role of the older one who tells the young guns how it is (not being afraid to embarrass them or boss them about in the process). Meanwhile it looks as if Natsumi will be tagging along fro the ride, at least for a while yet.

The second episode is another stand-alone adventure that gives us a little more insight about the characters. Paul has kicked Ginji and Ban out because they can’t pay for any of their food, so they try to sell their service on the street. Nobody’s willing to give them a job, but they do befriend an old homeless man. He “saves” them by digging out some old tins of food that restaurants have thrown out, and when he finds out that they are the Get Backers, he asks them to find his daughter. He lost his factory two years ago, and in the process was forced to give his daughter over to the yakuza. Ginji takes pity on him and the pair set out to get her back, but the question is, does she really want to?

While the episode’s twist isn’t exactly unexpected, the second outing serves well to flesh Ginji and Ban out a little more. Again we see more of Ginji’s caring side, as it’s he who chooses to go after Rika, while Ban again shows his more tactile strategy. He smells something fishy from the moment they meet Rika, but he still lets things play out and tries to do the right thing. Indeed his softer side also comes across at the end, and I liked how the writers left a bit of ambiguity hanging over his actions.

It’s with the next three episodes that Get Backers really shows what it’s made of though, as the show enters a three episode story that kicks the series into high gear. The three biggest transporters in the business have been hired to carry some cargo as a group. Assembled are a man nicknamed “No Brakes” (Maguruma), “Lady Poison” (Himiko Kudou) and “Doctor Jackal” (Kuroudo Akabane) – this series has a penchant for nicknames. Back at the Honky Tonk, Ban and Ginji are being berated by Paul again, when a negotiator called Hevn comes in with a recovery opportunity. Despite both men’s reservations, Ban is brought round by the idea of a large fee. Naturally, the man who wants his item back (that has a value compared with platinum) knows who his enemies are, and sends the Get Backers after the three transporters. They initially decline, until Ban barters a tenth of what’s in the box.

The chase is on, and it doesn’t go well. Himiko uses her poisons on Ginji which makes him think he’s a monkey for a short time, nearly killing he and Ban in the process. Doctor Jackal proves he lives up to his reputation as the most ruthless and disliked transporter in the business when he kills some interceptors, while No Brakes proves exactly why he’s called that as he refuses to stop no matter what situation the transporters get into.

While Ginji ends up with a bit of a score to settle with Jackal, some of Ban’s mysterious past is revealed, as it turns out he was the man that killed Himiko’s brother back when they were a team. She’s out for revenge and there’s not a lot to stop her, other than Ban knowing some of her tricks from their past.

The tension and interactions between the characters is what makes this mini-arc a pleasure to watch. Ginji and Jackal both have a bit of a bite and their various fights are action-packed. The encounters do a lot for Ginji’s character, as he proves he can bring it to the table when the need arises. Himiko’s interactions with Ban are also good, and tease nicely for future encounters between the pair. While she holds a grudge and it’s easy to see why, you get the feeling that there’s something Ban hasn’t told her and that he’s not necessarily the villain she thinks he is.

Get Backers is a long show, so as you’d expect the animation quality isn’t anything particularly outstanding, though in these early episodes it’s a pretty good level for its length. The character designs are quite nice, and the show has that newer “shiny” digital feel to it that many others made in recent years do. I also found the music appropriate and fitting with the mood of the on-screen action. I particularly enjoyed the ending theme, “One Second Refrain”.

In Summary:
While it’s hard to judge a show this long just by its opening episodes, it looks like Get Backers will be an enjoyable ride. The director set the pace nicely with the first two episodes giving us a few of the character nuances of Ginji and Ban, while the mini-arc that followed seeded plenty of storylines for the future and showed the series’ potential off really well. Though it is a long commitment, you can’t argue with the value, given we get five episodes per disc plus a number of extras. This is a great new release from ADV that so far is very promising indeed.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Commentary,Behind the Scenes,Clean Opening and Closing

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Get Backers