Gatchaman: Collectors Edition Vol. #17 (of 18) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 23, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2006



What They Say
In the 21st century, the evil organization Galactor has its sights set on global conquest. Their use of tyrannical terrorism and high-tech mayhem has the world in the clutches of fear.

The only thing standing in the way of complete global dominance is the International Science Organization (ISO) and its chief scientist, Professor Kozaburou Nambu. Dr. Nambu's primary weapon in the fight for freedom is his top secret experiment: the five kids who make up the Science Ninja Team. Bird, Go!

The Review!
The penultimate volume of the series, Gatchaman gets dangerously close to uncovering Galactor and provides one of the best episodes of the series.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. Having never been able to hear it like this before it's an obvious draw for us and it's quite enjoyable. The mix for it is rather low though in comparison to other DVD releases out there, including ADV's own releases, but once kicked up a few notches it's still very clean and clear all things told for its age. There isn't much to really expect from this mix overall but it fills the forward soundstage nicely and it gets across the show as it was originally presented. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback though it does get a bit muffled during some of the louder scenes when played higher in volume.

Video:
Originally airing back in 1972, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this show being as old as it is, the transfer for it looks pretty much amazing. It's not problem free but it's something where I never expected the materials to look this good. There's a layer of grain to it that causes a lot of the solid color areas to look a bit alive but it was only noticeable when sitting about three feet away on my 23" widescreen set. When watching on the primary setup at a nine foot distance, it just looks all smooth and good looking. There are some visible areas of print deterioration and scratches along the way but these are fairly minimal overall and simply a part of the show. For something that as of this writing is thirty-three years old and who knows how badly stored over the decades, this is fantastic.

Packaging:
One of the more impressive and foreboding covers, the all black background works beautifully to heighten the dangerousness that Ken can exude even in an all white outfit with bright red. As comical as the costumes can look at times, Alex Ross continues to be able to do them in a manner that shows they could look imposing in the real world. The back cover is nicely laid out with several shots from the show and character artwork and the obvious plugs of its US relation to Battle of the Planets and G-Force. The summary covers the basics and a good clean listing of the extras. The rest of the cover is rounded out with the technical information and production material. No insert was included with this release.

Menu:
Done up in a very 60's/70's-ish layout of multiple boxes with animation and various imagery of the show playing throughout them, the menu invokes the period and feel of the show nicely while giving it a mixture of a more modern taste as it has CG logos, sketches and new artwork mixed in while the opening song vocal piece plays through for its brief thirty second loop. The layout is easy to use with one small box containing instant access to all six episodes as well as the standard subsections. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets without issue and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras mirror the previous volumes pretty closely. The opening and closing sequences are provided in a clean format once again and another episode is opened up for fans to do their own karaoke/fandub for. The commentary tracfk for this volume goes back to the actors as Luci Christian and George Manley talk about things after having done so many episodes now..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the series is about to draw to a close, the stories get much more focused on the aspect of the two sides discovering who each other really is. The last couple of volumes have played this angle well in having Galactor get dangerously close to the secret Crescent base as well as figuring out the real identities behind some of the members of the team. There have been some close discoveries of various Galactor bases but things get all the more intense with this set of episodes.

There are a number of leads that have Dr. Nambu sending the team to check out locations where Galactor could possibly be or have been recently that may give them some new clues. The first episode is particularly amusing in that the place they're going to requires them to not use the God Phoenix since it would be instantly noticeable. So the team takes a pickup truck through the desert canyon and then uses a canoe to go downstream to get close to where it should be. And they do all of this while wearing their costumes. It's priceless watching this disparity. At the same time, there's some local young man who thinks Galactor and the Science Ninja Team are basically the same so he's trying to off the group at the same time Galactor is. The episode also has a perfectly hilarious giant mecha in the form of a buffalo, but one where one of the horns is broken off and is ideal for dropping missiles into. The episode goes wrong in so many directions that much of the fun comes from watching the sheer goofiness of it.

Joe gets a good deal of screen time in some of these episodes as he continues to grapple with his old ways and having to deal with the kind of methods that Ken promotes. This hits home when he's assigned a special mission of capturing a Galactor scientist while the rest of the time fights the latest giant mecha. Joe's wanting to make some serious inroads in removing those who collaborate with Galactor and fights against what humanity stands for, or at least those are his given reasons as there's an edge of just wanting to kill to him. This is the internal conflict in him that works so well and continues to allow him to be a dark character even after so long. The storyline has him out of uniform quite a bit and interacting with an elderly woman that seems to reach him more than anyone else has. But it also has a great giant mecha called the Grape Bomber. It doesn't matter what powers this centipede like but just being named the Grape Bomber is all you need to know.

The best episode on this volume though is the last one, episode 100, Gatchaman 20 Years Later. The concept behind the episode is that the team has to escort a valuable scientist to a site where he can investigate a discovery that will allow them to really harness the power of magma that the ISO has been so keen on. Ken takes the lead on this and flies up in the plane with the scientist but things go awry along the way and the crash into the snow and ice covered mountains. When the two of them wake up, they find that they were thrown into the water and ended up in suspended animation for twenty years, only to be recently discovered and revived. Ken's supposed death twenty years earlier marked the end of the Science Ninja Team and before long Galactor ended up winning by using a solar bomb on the planet's surface. Now Galactor is in control and Ken finds his friends either dead or turned to Galactor's side.

Seeing Galactor's vision of the future is a lot of fun, from the design of the cities and it's very 60's and 70's feel, to the way the remnants of humanity were basically little more than mind controlled zombies. While the episode certainly isn't a surprise in terms of how it plays out, it's the little nuggets inside it that work so well. Having the idea of one of them betraying the team, Dr. Nambu being little more than a doddering old man or having Galactor actually build a decent gravesite for their enemy, it really touches on some of the fun stuff that the show is able to hit upon. As much fun as it was to see Ken react and deal with all of this, I think it would have been an even more fun and darker episode if it was Joe that had ended up in the future.

In Summary:
With the series almost over, there's an underlying tension to the episodes as it seems like things are building up to something. They still manage to hit on most of the characters and give them things to help them stand out in each episode, but these are definitely angled more towards Joe and Ken in the lead roles. Even with that, the episodes work through many of the same routines we've seen in previous volumes but it doesn't really get old or repetitive in a way. There's a certain freshness to all of it so that even when we see a similar story, there is enough of a twist to still make it fun to watch. The closer to the end of it that I get, the more I realize how much I'm going to miss it though.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing Animation,Episode Commentary,Gatchaman Karaoke

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray 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: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gatchaman