Gaogaigar Vol. #05 (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2007



What They Say
When the brilliant Professor Akiko Hirata develops a gravity control system, the Zonders take control of it. To stop them, Gai must be mobilized with the Goldion Hammer. But the Hammer is so powerful, just wielding it is enough to destroy GaoGaiGar!

In response, GGG creates a new AI robot with invulnerable armor, Goldymarg. Booted up with Hyuma's personality as a template, he's just as heroic as the Major and just as likely to ignore his orders and do whatever he wants. But what is Goldymarg's secret transformation that will let GaoGaiGar use the Goldion Hammer?

Meanwhile, in America, Gai's uncle Liger prepares the ultimate weapon and a new breed of AI robots!

The Review!
Gai gains a new tool that gives him the ultimate weapon as well as a new ally in the battle against the Zonders.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The cover artwork is admittedly a bit too bathed in oranges for my tastes but it's a good cover in that it lets the characters take precedence with some good looking designs. Some of the giant robots do show up here but in more of a background fashion. The back cover is the standard layout for the series with a few shots in hex form along the top and some robot action along the right side. The summary covers the basics of some of the episodes in this volume while below it they list the extras and episode count. The technical information is solid and very easy to read. No insert is included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras are similar to the previous volume in that we get a design gallery. New to this volume however is a clean version of the new opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Reaching the halfway point in the series and the release of the series, Gaogaigar gets its rhythm at long last as a sound based giant robot is introduced. Though the show hits more campy moments in terms of design and attitude, the series starts to ratchet up the serious aspects of the storyline as well.

With another five episodes of giant robot adventures, Gaogaigar continues to work in a fairly predictable form. After the last volume where Gai's new ultimate attack was causing immense strain on his body, to the point where it could kill him, it doesn't take long for a new giant robot to be added to the mix. Working to fix the issues that cause the strain on the system, the fifth AI robot comes into play. Unlike past ones which took months to develop and get ready they need to get this one up and running fast. So instead of a careful plotting of its development they opt to replicate a human's personality to get what they need. Amusingly enough, they chose Hyuuma for the subject. That leaves them with a very capable AI that can do the job but will shirk what it considers useless responsibilities. More than anything else, this new robot comes across more as a twin for Hyuuma in so many ways.

While the introduction of a new giant robot isn't a surprise, the introduction of yet another one in this volume is a bit of one. The show takes on a slightly global view as Leo's brother from over at NASA comes to visit and show off his latest and greatest. Though it has a distinct name, this particular robot prefers to be called Mic Sounders the 13th. Mic is a hilariously designed robot that's reminiscent of a child's toy from the 70's with its bright colors and squat shape. Mic's a happy and peppy sounding robot who is just so excited to be visiting everyone. He takes a special shine to Mamoru and gets along with everyone there. In some ways, Mic really qualifies as a "special" robot just because of his personality.

Mic's arrival does bring some new things to the table even as corny as he is. The introduction of Leo's brother brings some amusement but there's also a serious nature as Mic is something of a recorder. With almost unfettered access to the GGG HQ, he takes advantage of some of the quieter moments to download all relevant information since the Zonder attacks. Combined with some recap of who all the robots on the team are, this essentially constitutes a giant recap episode. They do mix in some new animation to it in order to tie it all together nicely but large chunks basically read off all the Zonders that were faced. When viewed in succession like this I ended up with the same feeling that I get when watching five episodes in a row. It's terribly structured and very predictable. That's to be expected of a show within this genre and age group it was trying to hit.

Though Mic does bring a significant amount of camp and cuteness with him, there is an element to him that I have to love. There's a bit of a lead-up to some of his capabilities but the one thing he does bring to the show is music. Between instrumentals and actual vocals, Mic adds some real vitality to the show. It's laced with camp of course and there's plenty of repetition as he simply is another bit of animation that can be played over and over for attack and transformation scenes, but he's very different from all the rest. Everyone has been fairly traditional in the classic Transformers mold here but Mic feels like some of the second generation guys that took a chance on what they could actually be about.

In Summary:
Gaogaigar continues on with adding new robots and expanding the cast. The actual plot is still pretty simple and predictable as the Zonders that are created by people like Pizza simply aren't all that interesting. With the villains being so cookie cutter and really just a monster of the week form it's the good guys and all their robots that really have to make it work. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. Gaogaigar is certainly fun and it has some great nostalgia aspects if you grew up on similar material but it continues to be easy to see why this isn't hitting the mainstream. If it hit the broadcast market it'd probably acquire a cult following and grow from there but it simply has too much against it otherwise. Fans of the show will just love to be getting more of it however and hopefully the delay between this and whenever volume six comes out isn't too long.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening #4

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BBD10 Blu-ray 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: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gaogaigar