Gad Guard Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Friday, September 29, 2006
Release Date: Monday, September 19, 2005



What They Say
The carefree life of these teens appear to have ended. Takumi has a new loss to deal with and things explode between Hajiki and Katana bringing Hajiki's family directly into the conflict. The life that Hajiki once knew has come crashing down and his life will never be the same. Will Arashi be able to bring Hajiki back to the home he has abandoned?

The Review!
Gad Guard takes an unexpected change in direction, as Hajiki and Arashi abandon Night Town for a life on the road...

Audio:
Audio here is presented in English and Japanese, with both soundtracks being in 2.0 stereo. I listened to the Japanese track for this review - there's a decent amount of directionality used, although the mix is never really outstanding. There were no obvious problems with the encoding.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format, and as with most Gonzo shows looks great, with good use of colours and background detail giving the presentation a real sense of depth. Again, there were no obvious problems with the encoding.

Packaging:
Another double-sided cover with this volume - the main cover features Sayuri, carrying her stuffed bunny with Zero in the background, while the alternative front has Katana and Zero again. The back of both sides features the usual screenshots, technical information and promotional paragraph. Nice enough, but nothing particularly special.

Menu:
The menus are simple but functional. After a brief introduction, the image of Takumi, as used on the cover, appears in the centre of the screen, with the episode numbers and other selections off to the right. The show's opening theme tune plays throughout. The two sub-menus use static pieces of artwork. As with most ADV releases, it's all pleasingly quick and easy to use.

Extras:
Not much in the way of extras here, with just a gallery of screenshots from this volume's episodes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
An agent from the police Special Ops department comes to have a word with Hajiki, about someone in possession of an illegal Heavy Metal - specifically, Katana, and they want the help of Hajiki and Lightning to bring him in. Of course, he'll be suitably rewarded if he agrees, which makes it a very tempting offer, but Special Ops don't appear to be a group you really want to get involved with " and the police don't seem to be the only ones who are after Katana now, either. Meanwhile, Katana's busy destroying every Gad he can find, starting with those belonging to Aiko's father, Takumi's techode continues to rampage out-of-control, and Hajiki's eventual confrontation with Katana draws his family into the conflict.

If techodes are a reflection of your inner feelings, as is revealed here, then you have to wonder about Takumi's state of mind after seeing Thunderbolt go berserk " you can't help but think that the kid's got to be a little unstable underneath all the "warrior of justice!" bravado. Aiko also has to come to terms with her feelings for Messcher here " what she's been using him for, what she needs him for (if anything) " and comes to her own decision that neatly opposes Takumi's. One grows up and moves on, another is stuck not knowing what to do, and the way it plays out as the two of them deal with each other over the course of the volume is quite touching in its own way.

The main focus of the volume is on Hajiki, though, and how he reacts to seeing Lightning destroy his family's home. It's his first real realisation that his techode is far from being completely under his control, and a combination of guilt at what has happened and a desire not to see anyone else hurt leads him to leave Night Town behind and head out into the country. Arashi, fresh from another confrontation with her father, decides to follow him, and the two eventually end up in a remote village, where Hajiki works as an orchard picker while Arashi recovers from an illness she picked up during their travels.

These episodes are a complete change in tone over what Gad Guard has done before now, and a welcome one at that. Fair enough, running away from your problems is never the way to solve them, but Hajiki and Arashi are beginning to learn that now through the time they're spending away from the action. There's also some good "quality" time for the two of them to spend together, as Arashi finally begins to live up to her potential as the show's romantic interest. There's a similar sort of feel to the arc in SaiKano where Shuji and Chise attempt to get away from it all (albeit without the same levels of angst and destruction), and for me this was the first part of the series where I actually felt the story was going somewhere, rather than just rehashing the same ideas over again.

While Hajiki eventually gets the urge to return home, though, Arashi's quite happy to stay on the run " until in one of those fortunate coincidences, Hajiki learns from the family he's staying with that his father may still be alive. With Hajiki having always though he'd been killed years earlier, there's a powerful draw from him to learn who's been telling the truth, and so the volume ends with Hajiki and Arashi determined to head for Unit Khaki, where his father was allegedly last seen, to see what they can find. This all came a little out of the blue " more evidence that Gad Guard has significantly changed track " but I do like the direction events are now headed in.

In summary:
This volume starts off pretty much sticking to the same formula Gad Guard's used all series, but by the end of the volume there have been some significant changes to the setting and Hajiki's travels have taken him and Arashi away from Night Town and into a far more interesting story, and that makes this volume a far more enjoyable experience than what we've been given so far. It's just a shame it took this long for Gad Guard to really get into its stride.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: �19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gad Guard