Godannar Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, October 04, 2005



What They Say
Five years ago, as the Mimetic Beasts laid waste to Japan, Dannar Pilot Go saved young Anna Aoi's life. Now, as they prepare to march down the aisle, a new Beast appears and Go is summoned into battle once more. But he's not going alone if his blushing bride to be can help it! It's a honeymoon from hell as two stubborn mecha pilots bump heads, egos and other bits, but if Anna and Go can mate their robots' interlocking parts, they'll form the ultimate marriage of man, woman and machine!

The Review!
Giant Robots and oversized bug type aliens battle across the planet in a show that has a surprising amount of charm and copious amounts of sweet fanservice.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix for this track is really well done with a lot of directionality across the forward soundstage in just about each area. Be it incidental music, the large sweeping moments or just the dialogue itself, the stereo channels are well used throughout the episodes and certainly helps the show flow and move along considering the general fast pace of it. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback and overall found that track to be quite solid.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the color palette used for this series and the high frenetic energy and action of most of the scenes, the transfer here comes across practically sparkling. The colors are bright and vibrant throughout and maintain a really great solid level. The blues in particular are gorgeous in a lot of sequences when there is both water and sky in the same shot. The print looks to be free of problems as there wasn't any visible cross coloration or serious aliasing going on. This in the end was just a lot of fun to watch and admire.

Packaging:
The artwork for this release doesn't look to be from the regular DVD releases but is probably from that packaging somewhere as it fits in with the themes used. The cover has a fairly bland background of flames and the interior of a base but the foreground presents some nice characters shots of the two leads and the robots they pilot. It's not the best looking cover for selling the show but it looks decent and I really like how the logo looks with the two leads being together at the end. The back cover is much nicer and cleanly laid out with a mix of whites and greens that showcases the fanservice and attractive designs of the show along with a one paragraph summary of the premise. There's a good selection of ten small pictures to check out in-show images while the discs extras and technical information is all clear and easy to read as it surrounds the production information. Unlike a lot of other recent releases, there's an insert in this one that starts off with a really cute wedding image in front of the church and opens to a two page interview section with music producer Chumei Watanabe. The back panel of the insert has a few brief thoughts by the lead cast and others on their thoughts of the first episode of the series.

In addition to the disc only release of the first volume, a disc + box combo was also offered. The box is of the solid chipboard variety so it's nice and thick and has that good feel to it. It's designed in a comic book feel with the layout as various shots of the robots in action or the characters talking – in Japanese no less – are on the side panels. It's definitely very comic book-y in its feel and design there. The spine panel is much less so with a shot along the top of Goh carrying Anna with the Godannar behind them while below is the series logo and a mechanical design from within the show. It's a good looking spine in a world where there are far too few orange spines.

Menu:
The main menu continues the mechanical look from the back cover with the white and green rotating along the left while the main portion of the menu itself, a design of various angles and sections that are just "SF" in feel, are done up in a black and blue filter and have the instant episode access and other basic navigation features. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is very easy to navigate. Like practically every other release from ADV Films, our players' language presets worked perfectly and without issue. Why does it seem like nobody else is capable of this?

Extras:
There's a lengthy list of extras here but it's a bit deceptive. The clean opening and closing segments are welcome and right at the top of the list and they're followed by three sections of profiles. It's split up between character material, mechanical material and the top secret section which is filled with bits about the creatures that they're fighting. The Key Words section is basically a glossary of terms, some of which you hope don't really need to be explained but probably do.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I first saw the trailers and previews for Godannar, it looked like something I wasn't going to easily get into or just roll my eyes at as it struck me not quite as another Gravion but something in a similar vein. Giant robot shows in the new century have been all over the map but the number of ones that have really gotten me excited and into them is preciously small. When I got the release though and noted on the back that AIC was seemingly more involved than normal, I got a bit more curious. While they're a shadow of their former self from the early 90's when I fell in love with practically everything they put out, they tend to have some creative ideas and also really skirt the line with fanservice.

Godannar provides us with a bit of a history lesson at first as we see in 2042 about the world being accosted by creatures called Mimetic Beasts. These things had seemingly lived underground for longer than anyone can guess but suddenly raised up and started wrecking havoc on the world. The world united to fight off this terror that destroyed cities without almost no warning by coming up with a creative design in the robots that we see called Dannar's. Using the design of having the two robots combine into one and the pilots shift into the same cockpit to work together, it fostered the idea of couples being pilots. We see some of the battles that were focused around Japan and with a young man named Goh who is considered one of the best. While the beasts were defeated, Goh lost his wife in battle and never took on another partner.

In the five years since then, the Mimetic Beasts are still out there as not all of them were taken care of during the first round. Some have gone to ground; some are in transit around the world in different forms and others seemingly just surface out of nowhere. They continue to be a mystery and each of the beasts is considerably different from the others. One of the events we saw back in 2042 was Goh rescuing a young girl who got caught up in the destruction of a city and it appears that they became close. The pink haired young woman, now sixteen years old, is named Anna and she's actually the daughter of Kiriko. She's seemingly the commander of the Japanese branch that handles the Dannar's there. While Goh and her daughter courted, they all kept it quiet so nobody would know. As Goh had lost his wife in battle he was unsure of making much of an issue of even dating again, never mind somebody fairly younger than he was.

So now in 2047, the two are getting married and the secret event goes badly when some Mimetic Beasts attack using the shell of one of Goh's former friends Dannars'. While he races off to help even though he's just backup at this point since he has no partner, the disturbance reaches the cliffs where the church and cemetery are and it unearths Okusaer, a female robot that combines perfect with Goh's Godannar. Though Goh is unsure of what's happening at first, Anna's ease and familiarity with robots makes her an ideal candidate to use the Okusaer and she's able to provide Goh the help he needs in defeating the beast that's quickly taking down all of the teams Dannars. And even though she didn’t come out of the event unscathed she's still very much interested in becoming a pilot, something that Goh is obviously against.

The remaining episodes on the volume sort of play out as expected. Anna goes through a series of training routines in which she ends up proving that she's better than anyone else there, which of course her mother just nods sagely about with a certain smile, while Goh is convinced that he won't let her ever pilot that Okusaer ever again. Along the way we get to see the surprisingly large cast that's here, from other pilots – one of whom who has strong feelings for Goh and is shocked by his surprise wedding – to a very amusing and fun maintenance crew that reminded me of the ones from Patlabor. The command structure isn't fleshed out much but we get a lot of interesting material and subplot ideas from Kiriko as she seems to be manipulating things in an interesting way based on what she finds during the first episode.

There is a lot of really interesting material here that managed to suck me in over the course of it. One is that they go with the obvious idea of there being no world armies anymore but rather a series of Dannar bases around the globe that will respond at a moments notice. We get see these come into play as English, American and Russian Dannar's arrive during one of the emergencies and their differences are fun to check out. Even more interesting is that the expected rivalries really don't surface. There's some tension with one of the younger pilots but the usual bravado simply isn't there. This isn't treated like a lot of other events would be by these people. Maybe it's the incredibly slinky costumes they wear…

The idea of having the pairs work together isn't new but it's really nicely executed here as we see the various types that are doing it. Some seem to be friends, others are related by blood, some are married but all of them have a connection with each other that allows them to place faith and trust in the other in the crunch time. Through the actions of the first episode we see that a Dannar by itself is effective but it's much more so when there are two working in tandem or in combination form. Surprisingly, the designs of the robots didn't bother me much either as they did in a few other recent shows. The combination maneuvers and the animation associated with it of course shows up every now and then but that's a staple of this particular genre.

What was the best though and a very welcome change is that the lead couple is just that, a couple. They have some issues to work through at first as she wants to help fight against the Mimetic Beasts and he for obvious reasons wants her nowhere near any sort of fight. They both have to learn something about each other through this, him more so than her, as she's the type that can't walk away from a fight or from defending those who cannot fight for themselves. As a married couple though, that relationship just changes the dynamic entirely in how the rest of the characters deal with them and how they deal with each other. So much of a show would be based on the tension of will they or won't they that by skipping it entirely and going right to this angle it provides something new and interesting.

The age difference as well gives it something to work through at some point. In addition to the points above, the other thing that got me is that Anna Aoi really managed to win me over with her character in total. From the acting to the designs to the way the character is scripted, it all just worked perfectly for me. She provides great fanservice, has the right attitude, doesn't take crap and stands up to her husband when he's in the wrong. Even better, she kicks off her training by wearing an outfit that's strikingly similar to the ones worn in Gunbuster which only made me enjoy that entire segment even more. While I am very much enjoying the couple aspect of the show, she's definitely the star to me so far.

In Summary:
I didn't go in with low expectations but I went with very little beyond a few shots of character designs and a trailer that didn't exactly motivate me. I'm used to anime series surprising me and not being what they appear but Godannar really proved that twist again by being so much more than what I expected based on the trailer or opening sequence. The first volume provides just the right amount of episodes to get you into the basics, expand upon the world a bit and then hit you over the head with just how good the characters are and showing off the subplots that look to be major later. As much as a lot of areas of this show reminds me of other shows, from Patlabor to Gunbuster to Betterman, it's very much its own show and really stands out strong. Even better, none of the supporting cast wears maid outfits!

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation,Clean Closing Animation, Character Profiles, Mechanical Profiles, Top Secret Case Files, Godannar Key Words

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and 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: B
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Godannar