Gravion Season 1 & 2 Box Set (Thinpak) (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, February 01, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2007
What They Say
When mankind faces an alien force with technology light years ahead of its own, will they be enough to save the Earth from destruction? The fate of humanity rests in the hands of the mysterious billionaire Sandman and a young band of orphaned misfits. Sandman's units control the Gravion, a robotic deity forged of circuits and steel. But can his erstwhile pilots stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to fight the Zeravire? Or will the Earth be lost before the fight has even begun? Hold onto your seats! With plenty of bouncing, gravity-defying breasts, enough merry maids to staff a small hotel, lots of deep, dark secrets and non-stop battles, the Gravion series has all the fan service, intrigue and outright action that you've been looking for. In Gravion Zwei Sandman and his ragtag crew of misfits and loners are back at it again, only this time, they wonâ€™t be the only ones on duty! Enter the elite G-Soldier Squadron, the first unit of the governmentâ€™s attempt to mass-produce Gravion technology. Led by ace pilot Faye, will the G-Soldiers push the Earthgertz gang out of a job?
Giant robots, epic action, Earth threatened and a slew of hot girls in maid uniforms that can help save the day. Add in lots of bouncing breasts and a real love of the genre and Gravion Zwei makes the best of things with what it has.
The bilingual release of Gravion is pretty solid as ADV Films gives it the right treatment since it's an action show. The original Japanese track is presented in its stereo form at 224kbps and comes across well. The English mix is done in a 5.1 format which is encoded at 448kbps. The series has a lot of things going on during it as well as some in-series specific music, so the stereo mix gets used pretty heavily here. Dialogue is generally center channel based but does spread out a bit throughout the show, but it's the music that really fills things up. There are a lot of action scenes throughout here as well so those tend to use the stereo channels a lot to emphasize their location on the screen. The English mix notches things up a little bit more with some greater bass and more obvious dialogue placement which works well. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with it during regular playback.
Originally airing back in 2002, this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer for the series on this release tends looks really good. The show isn't blended as smoothly as some other Gonzo series of the time, but it definitely looks to be done by design, so you have some very vibrant foreground characters and animation that almost feel like they're sliding over the backgrounds instead of being a part of them at times. The colors are rich and solid without any noticeable breakup (from a proper viewing distance at least. Cross coloration and aliasing are both very minimal throughout and there weren't any real playback issues at all.
Video: (Gravion Zwei)
Originally airing back in 2004, this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer for the series on this release tends looks really good. The show has resolved the blending issues of the previous series and the foreground characters feel much more natural against the backgrounds and they look far less like they're on top of things instead of in a setting. The colors are rich and solid without any noticeable breakup. Cross coloration and aliasing are both very minimal throughout and there weren't any real playback issues at all. The colors are rich and solid without any noticeable breakup (from a proper viewing distance at least.
Using some of the elements that made up the two previous thinpak collections of the seasons, this installment brings the entire series under one roof and gives it a newer and cleaner feel. The heavy chipboard box uses a yellow backdrop which is a surprise but it manages to work well with the artwork. The main panel features a nice shot of Luna giving a thumbs up in which her design shines very well with lots of detail and vibrant colors. Behind her is a soft shot of Leele and of the Gravion itself which brings in a good number of different colors. The other main panel uses a piece of artwork of Faye where she shows off her backside quite well while a different shot of the Gravion is there along with a soft shot of Ayaka. It's pure fanservice for the spine though as that's where a busy Mizuki is in her skintight outfit just above and below the two logos for the series.
Inside the box are the six black thinpak cases which utilize a different design overall than either of the two previous collections, for better and worse. There is a strong sense of continuity among all six volumes now with the background designs being the same but with different colors for each volume. The artwork for each of them is pretty good even if some of it is familiar from the previous collections and singles. Some of them work better than others, such as the Luna and Mizuki pieces being solid, but others just lack the same kind of impact, like Ein's image just coming across as soft. The back of the covers features a list of the episodes and titles for that volume along with some shots from the show and general design features that are carried across each volume. The production credits round out the bottom along with the technical grid, but there's still a good deal of dead space across all six of them that seems to be a consistent design choice on several thinpak collections that ADV Films puts out. No inserts are included nor are there reversible covers.
Going with the futuristic computer layout style with bright blues and pinks for the selection portion, the main menu looks like some of the monitors the characters use in the show, albeit a bit busier. Animation plays along the bottom in a couple of windows, showing parts from the opening sequence, while a brief spell of instrumental music plays over it. The layout is a bit awkward at first since selections are all over the screen but it's easy to navigate after a minute or two.
Menu: (Gravion Zwei)
The menu design changes from the first season as it features an image of the Gravion in the center done with a blue and white filter that is slightly murky and not quite so distinct. Individual episode access is available from the top menu and the only other thing available is the language selection section. We didn't have any issues in moving around considering what little is here and the disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gravion's a thirteen episode series from 2002 that paired up the slickness of Gonzo with the ideas of Masami Obari. In its original release, it was pretty easy to mock and not take the show too seriously and that's still pretty much true now. The series has a straightforward story it wants to tell and it gets bogged down in the usual formula that's taken to tell it. Every episode a newer, stronger and stranger looking alien shows up for the Gravion team to fight and they have to come up with newer and stronger weapons to take it down. If that's not enough formula, they decide to throw in a ton of maids that work as security, servants and medical staff in order to bump up the fanservice content. .
Taking place in 2047, the world has changed drastically. It's been ten years since the Earth Federated Alliance has gone and merged all world governments together leading to an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity. One of the most prosperous people is the elusive and seldom seen in public Klein Sandman. He's the standard massively wealthy billionaire that has his fingers in more pies than could ever be counted. His castle, an elaborate structure that's basically a rock formation that holds it up off the ground, is massive and intricately laid out with five towers and many smaller buildings throughout it. When Sandman sends out invitations to a party, anyone who is anyone attends no matter what, which is why we have some of the most powerful people on the planet now there wondering just who he is and what he's up to.
When Sandman does finally introduce himself, he reveals some amazing looking footage of aliens attacking outposts along the solar system where humanity has started to explore. Everyone assumes that it's movie footage but he reveals that it's really happening, something that's quickly confirmed as the heads of various government bodies are hit up on their cellular phones there. The aliens, called Zeravire, move quickly and are about to hit Earth as well. The EFA is convinced they can handle the job but their weapons and ships don't seem to do any damage. This is when Sandman reveals that he has the technology to do it, and we see the giant robot Gravion dealing with the invaders.
Sandman's been preparing for this for some time, though a lot of it is left to mystery in these early episodes, but he's intent on handling this problem himself and sends his envoy, a masked red-haired man named Raven, to the EFA to hammer out that agreement. The Gravion, as made up by the pilots and their various vehicles, have specific weapons and moves that are used against the continually evolving Zeravire. This actually proves to be problematic for the Gravion team as once they find a way to defeat one of the enemy, the enemy learns from that mistake and then that move fails to really do much damage, or the enemy figures out a defense for it when it comes back in its next form. That's actually a nice change of pace.
The Gravion team is something that gets solidified early on here. Those who pilot the vehicles are somewhat special among humanity in that they have a special attribute to them, not necessarily genetic per se, but an inborn talent that allows them be labeled as an "Earthgertz". Sandman refers to the pilots as that, people who are special and able to handle this. The last of the pilots he needs arrives in the castle just before the Zeravire attack. In his teens, we're introduced to Eiji, a young man whose come to Sandman's castle in search of his missing sister. Having received a note from her with the simple words of "Help me!", he's tracked her down to here and has snuck into the castle to find her. Of course, the castle is state of the art in surveillance so everyone gets to watch as he sneaks throughout there trying to find where she could be. His luck goes sour though when he stumbles into the room where the Gran Kaiser is located and its pilot Toga is. Eiji's on the defensive but Toga's almost like an innocent child at times and just wants to be friends with someone who's similar. With the Zeravire attacking, events tumble and Eiji finds himself falling into one of the vehicles, forced to pilot it and to go through the combining process to deal with the first of Earth's new enemy.
The series goes in pretty predictable directions for the first few episodes, especially once you get past the really poorly paced first episode. There's just too much being introduced there and it doesn't work well. Once past that, you get Eiji trying to figure out what's going on with the situation he's been thrust into while also trying to find his sister. He gets to meet the various cast members, learn about the vehicles and how Gravion works in addition to trying to get a handle on Sandman, since he supposedly tricked him. There's a subplot that gets worked in about the mysterious pilot of the G-Shadow and how that person isn't part of the regular group. This actually becomes the main point by the end of the first volume and introduces the only character I halfway liked.
When looking at a show by Obari, I can't help but wonder if it would have been better if he had done it as an adult release. The character designs for the series are all ones that would certainly be appealing in that genre, especially since he runs the gamut from the big breasted types to those that are rather flat chested. They don't avoid going down the erotic path on occasion as well as you have characters like Mizuki who basically straddles the seat in her craft. You even have Luna going into a quasi-bondage gig when she uses certain elements of her drill machine as it has to keep her in place. Putting most of them in maid derivative outfits doesn't help push the sex down either. There are show since then that have taken this even further though which in turn makes this look a bit more quaint than I would have guessed.
Coming out in Japan nearly a year after the first season, this one is made up almost entirely of payoff sequences. The first season introduced us to a lot of basic material with an alien invader and someone on Earth who has the ability to stop them through the combination capable giant robot Gravion. The characters were introduced and the setting laid out well enough and they gave us a decent point through which to end the season, enough so to tease you into wanting more. As good as the climax was for the first season, it wasn't what you would want for the series overall.
With Gravion Zwei, with zwei being the German word for two, we're brought back into the swing of things with the group but it's been fairly quiet in the interim. The Zeravire haven't attacked since we last saw them and things are getting a bit lax around the castle. Things are so out of control in fact that after Eiji completely blows a bet with some of the maids, he ends up promising that he and all the other Gran Knights will be maids for a day in exchange for another shot at winning. Naturally his streak continues and the next thing we know we've got all of them in maid outfits and doing duties for a day. They do go over the top here with putting both Eiji and Toga into the same kind of maid outfits and wigs, something that completely freaks Raven out when he comes across them. With Sandman out of the castle on business elsewhere in the world for so long, things have simply broken down here.
One of the big issues in the first season of the series was the EFA's distaste for relying on a mysterious group like the Gran Knights and Gravion for the planet's defense against the Zeravire. That appears to be shifting in this season as they're close to building their own equipment to deal with things as we see the President viewing a simulation session with five pilots who are set to take on the job. Though we don't see much of the gear itself since it's all simulation, it's a mostly hardcore crew but they have their own quirks from what little we see of them but they've also got busty women in slick uniforms much like the Gran Knights. This is given a few minutes in the first episode and is essentially the entire real plot we get for the entire first volume.
The Gran Troopers bring a nice new facet to the series but it is one that doesn't overwhelm the main one. It provides an outside look at what's going on and allows for the characters on the Gran Knights to be tweaked nicely as it progresses. There are some interesting ties to the Gran Knights that come about, things that could certainly be explored in a larger sense, but taken in the small doses here it works well. Faye's relationship with Toga would merit more time in general, but what we get here is ideal as it keeps the flow of the series moving forward and avoids the show becoming solely about any one character. Even with Eiji as the supposed central character, Gravion really takes on a large ensemble feeling this time around which works to its benefit.
The most interesting material in this release of Gravion revolves around getting the goods on just who Sandman is and what his history is. And not just of him, but of his relations and of the Zeravire. This episode, revealed to most of the characters that are pilots of the Gravion, is something that helps them understand the true nature of the Zeravire and just how terrible they can be so it does reinforce their desire to fend off the things. But there's such a personal drama wrapped around it with Sandman that it really surprises a lot of them. There is a lot of information given here that's still done in the standard episode template (which means the required Gravion action scenes are indeed here) that it really is surprising that they covered as much as they did. Between the revelations here and the way it affects the team, it's almost like they could have hit a high by learning the reality but it whacks them so hard that they're almost all the way down.
Which of course is when the Zeravire attack and the Gravion isn't up to handling it all that well. But it does allow for the EFA forces to bring their craft into play and this starts to open up some of the hinted at relationships and connections that the cast of pilots from there have with the larger storyline as well as bringing in a lot of varied action. While they don't have maid outfits on, they do wear similar to what the rest of the Gravion folks where so there's still a lot of style to it. Style does continue to be the main fuel of this show and it's well displayed here. Between the flashbacks which only ups the style quotient to the revelations made about certain characters that will change how cosplay is done for them, this is the volume that really manages to do a good job in at least one full episode of combining style and substance without one overwhelming the other.
In watching this second season so soon after the first season in marathon form, my opinion of the series in general has certainly changed. I don't think I consider it high art or anything near it, but it stands out as one of Obari's better works. What's most noticeable about the show is just how much more improved the production values are. The animation is much cleaner, which is saying something, and has a stronger sense of vibrancy and fluidity to it. They do up the fanservice as well to balance it out, but this season just looks so much more alive and, well, animated than the first that it's a very striking difference at times.
Going through Gravion and Gravion Zwei again after so many years since seeing the singles has been an interesting experience, not one that I would have expected. The shift from watching this over the course of a year with the six volumes on a bi-monthly basis to taking in the entire run over a week can certainly change one's opinion of a show. While I won't hold Gravion up as a work of high art, it did turn out to be rather good entertainment when taken in this form and having had a bit more familiarity with the giant robot genre in the last few years. Obari is a director that I have a love/hate relationship with and much of the reasons are apparent in this show. Yet there was something that was simply a lot of fun with it and they provided a great amount of payoff in the second half of the series which gave it more character drama and seriousness that helped to balance it. This collection is the best way to take in the show and ADV Films has put together a good looking release, even if it is short on the extras that were sparsely available during the original run.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 625
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2