Gaogaigar Vol. #01 (also w/box) (of 10) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, September 28, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2006
What They Say
This is the story of the brave men and women who will defend our world. On a desolate road in the snowy mountains, a childless couple wished upon a falling star. The star is revealed to be Galeon, a mechanical lion who delivers the baby Mamoru into their arms. Mamoru grows into an ordinary grade school student, until the day when his class is caught up in a ferocious attack by the mechanoid alien Zonders. The young cyborg hero, Gai Shishio, is sent by the UN alien defense force "3G." He risks his own life without question to protect Mamoru's class and all of Earth. Drawn by the power of his mysterious origins, Mamoru becomes a member of 3G, joining the ranks of humanity's bravest defenders. They wage all out war against the Zonders with they're advanced vehicles, weapons and AI robots.
Something of a rarity for shows that are brought over in that it's not being kiddified, Gaogaigar is a giant love letter to a generation of creators who influenced much of what has come since.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series mix is surprisingly good considering it's a stereo channel mix as there is a decent amount of forward soundstage directionality to it in the action sequences. Dialogue also gets a decent amount of placement throughout as there are some busy sequences with lots of characters running about. While it doesn't stand out with a lot of sharpness that you'd get in a 5.1 mix, it serves the material very well. In checking out both language tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1997, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. GaoGaiGar reminds me a lot of Gundam Wing, another Sunrise production from near this time frame, in that there is a fairly grainy feel to the show that gives it a bit more of aged feel. Being done with only a minimal amount of real computer animation mixed into it, rather seamlessly in several scenes I might add, this is the kind of show that simply will never look gorgeous but the transfer here looks to be spot on for the source materials. The grain aspect is what will have the most effect as well as the fact that most of the colors are fairly drab and lifeless, lacking the kind of vibrancy we're used to in more recent shows. This is a solid transfer of the materials and it scores well on that but I can see opinion easily swaying to saying that it looks bad. With a lack of cross coloration and aliasing as well as the generally solid feeling colors, I have little to complain about here.
The first cover for the series is rather busy and filled with a wide variety of somewhat soft and not terribly vibrant colors which gives it a very poor look when seen via the web images and not much better in person. It has a number of the main key characters so far and mixes in the giant robot action as well but it feels just a bit too busy and muddled. The back cover flows a lot better with a hexagonal block along the top with shots from the show while the center has a decent summary of the premise and a shot of the giant robot. The episode listing is condenseed and we get a good listing of the extras and production information. The technical grid continues to be one of the more solid areas from Media Blasters and looks good here as well. The insert's front page is a copy of the front cover of the DVD while inside there are designs on the Brave's and information on some of the staff on the series and what they've done in the past. The back cover is a nice piece that has the original air dates for all eight of the Brave shows. Here's hoping that they all have US release dates at some point.
Keeping very much in theme with one of the computer screen designs from within the show, the menu here looks kind of basic and almost cheesy but it sets the mood as it has the selections lined along one side and the cursor moving down the other as the opening music plays along. It's a very basic menu but it does work within the context of the piece in that it's not terribly flash or trying to use the cover art in a new way. Access times are nice and fast but I was disappointed that the disc didn't pick up our language presets, particularly since full English subtitles are the second English labeled track.
The extras are a bit basic for the opening volume in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a design gallery. This being an older show and some Sunrise shows being notorious for having precious few extras to begin with, I'm not holding out hope for much more than this over the course of the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a length of forty nine episodes plus there being an eight episode OVA series, Gaogaigar has a similar build and make-up to many Sunrise shows of a similar origin. While I don't expect it to follow the same routine as a Gundam series of the same length, it won't be surprising to see this show take its time in really getting to the heart of the story. It's going to open with some big scenes and then really get us familiar with this world. Going by the first five episodes, it looks like it will certainly be an interesting time.
The series has something of a history to it that places it in an interesting context I think. Taking over the gap left by the end of Transformers in Japan at the time, a lot of those behind the creation of the show came into it with a real love for the genre having grown up watching similar shows. Their intent through a number of "Brave Series" shows which came before Gaogaigar, which has come through in various publications over the years, is that they wanted to return that affection to a new generation of fans while also having some fun with it. That's not exactly new and we see that in almost all storytelling mediums at one time or another. For me, the series that they grew up enjoying were ones that I tended to avoid in its westernized form and I never really had an appreciation for. Certainly the first thing you notice is the lion aspect which harkens back to Voltron but there's also the numerous combination pieces that played in the same vein.
The concept is fairly straightforward but it's done with a lot of energy and fun. We're at first introduced to the Amani's, a husband and wife who are hoping for a child. Their wish comes through when out driving in a snowstorm, a giant mechanized lion appears out of the sky and deposits a baby from its mouth for them. They take in and raise Mamoru for the next eight years without thinking twice about it but still realizing there may be something grander for him in store. Some time during his sixth year, unknown to most people, is that something called a Zonder appears and starts attacks on the Earth, but the GaLeon that originally brought Mamoru appears and it takes down the creature. But before it can finish it off, it disappears underground and takes with it numerous machines in order to repair itself.
While the GaLeon ends up going quite again, the governments realize that there is something they need to be prepared for. Building it in secret underneath the newly created Space Center in Tokyo Bay, the GGG is formed to deal with the future threats of the Zonders. They've got a creative line-up of weapons, including ones that distort the physical world, and have worked to expand the capabilities of the GaLeon by having it go into "Final Fusion" mode that allows it to combine with other devices to become a very powerful giant robot. The professor that's behind all of this is amusingly quirky as you'd expect but he's also got a personal investment in all of this. During the first extraterrestrial intelligence attack, known as EI-01, his son was caught up in it and he's now basically a cyborg as his body has been almost completed replaced. Gai is completely into his role as this protector and while he's not overly rash you can tell he relishes every moment.
Everything changes for the GGG team though when EI-02 appears out of a trash dump though and it gets a group of third graders caught up in it, including young Mamoru. As it turns out, Mamoru is able to interact with the Zonder cores that are used to create these massive and deadly machine creatures. His arrival on the scene causes the GGG to re-evaluate its approach to the Zonders as they start to understand more of what they really are. Mamoru isn't sure about any of it but his simple innocence and positive outlook on life allows him to get more involved in it. The attack by EI-02 is just the start of a new wave of terror that's coming and the GGG team realize that they need to utilize everything while trying to figure out how Mamoru and his fairy-like abilities fit into all of it.
I won't say I went in expecting to dislike this show but I wasn't exactly completely keen on it after seeing the entire GaLeon part of it with the lion face and the transformers aspect. Some of that worked well for me twenty years ago but it doesn't have the same feel anymore. So I will say I was surprised at how much I did enjoy this show in its first five episodes as it introduced the general concepts and premise. It does feel like it's borrowing heavily from other shows that have come before it while slowly putting its own spin on it but its spin is what draws you in more. It's not exactly a monster of the week show yet though it has all the trappings; it's more interested in teasing out the mystery at first than continually bringing in new EI creatures to deal with.
The other part of the appeal is definitely in the animation itself. While the grain does make it feel older, I think it adds something to it that gives it a bit more life and warmth. Particularly in comparison to some of the overly shiny and practically sterile shows that come out today. In a way, it's felt like shows of this nature were few and far between in coming over unless they were Gundam or completely warped for children. With there being a lot of "Brave Series" shows out there, I'm hoping that this one does well enough that we see more so that particular genre can get the notice it deserves. Gaogaigar is unfortunately at the end of that particular franchise, not including the two OVA series, but if I'm reading the listings right then there's almost another 250 episodes of these kinds of shows out there. Gaogaigar starts off good and by all appearances it gets stronger as it goes along. Hopefully it'll do strong enough to bring over more of these since they look just as fascinating.
My only hope is that there are far fewer strobe light effects in future episodes. Nothing proves you're getting older than seeing scenes with this and suddenly getting a massive headache.
With many of the trappings of popular eighties anime series and nods to franchises that came before it, Gaogaigar is off to an interesting start with this volume. There are plenty of explanations and details given in these episodes that helps to set up the premise but many mysteries remain. The series has plenty of charm and even a cast of kids that aren't all that annoying. With its nods to the past and "traditional" animation style, it feels like a fish out of water amongst today's shows but it has such an energy and enthusiasm that is infectious " especially if you find yourself singing along to that opening song sequence. Definitely worth checking out as it has a lot of long term appeal.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Design Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2