Gaogaigar, a giant robot epic 65 million years in the making…
What They Say:
Gai, Galeon, Volfogg, ChoRyuJin, Goldymarg, Mic Sounders and Mamoru. These are brave heroes who hold the fate of humanity in their hands! The Four Machine Kings finally take the fight to GGG personally while all of Tokyo is turned into an enormous Zonder metal plant. Before every person in the city is Zonderized, the brave robots must fight with everything they have, revealing Mic Sounder's true purpose, sacrificing one of their own, and even activating the ultimate weapon, Bullet X, which supercharges the G-Stones with the side effect of burning them out permanently! But they have to hold out against the original cause of the Zonders, Gai's space accident and the death of Mikoto's parents...
Unlike the first collection and five volumes of the series, GaoGaiGar drops down to just a single language track, the original Japanese, for this set. Encoded at 192kbps, it’s not exactly a standout piece by any stretch of the imagination but it serves the show pretty well all things considered. With the series being done in 1997 for basic TV broadcast, it’s not utilizing much and in general runs with a standard full sound mix to it. The best moments tend to come in the big action sequences or the music portions but overall it’s serviceable enough and it’s free of problems..
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 packaging for the second box set mirrors that of the first, though I think they missed an opportunity with it. The box isn’t a very strong one but it’s not a flimsy piece as it features portions of the Gaogaigar along the sides of it which isn’t too terribly clear but fits well for the show itself. The missed opportunity is that the box is yellow. Yellow? Considering that the two planets that are talked about in the show are the Red and Green worlds, and the first box was green, it would make sense to do a red one I would think, or make this one green as well. Yellow? Inside the box we get the five individual keepcases – shrink-wrapped no less! – which mirror the designs of the first five but with new artwork to them. By and large they’re bright and colorful while having that soft feel since they’re older pieces pulled from the show itself but they look good. The back of the packages are the same design as well though these of course have had their UPCs removed from them and have a blank white spot instead. Perhaps someday Media Blasters will decided to put out a pair of thinpak cases that will streamline all of it and give it a more cohesive feel.
Keeping very much in theme with one of the computer screen designs from within the show, the menus 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 similar to the previous volumes of the series in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences, alternated at times, across the five volumes. Only the last volume has both of them together.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Whether you like giant robot shows or not, or even this show in particular, a real round of gratitude is due to Media Blasters for the simple existence of this set. The first half of the series, released on five bilingual single volumes, simply couldn’t muster up the necessary sales to continue. Especially in the wake of the work being done to get Voltron out the door. While Gaogaigar went on hiatus, Media Blasters eventually put out those volumes in a very sweetly priced collection and talked about finishing out the series. This box contains just that, the second half of the show but without an English language adaptation. With the cost per episode for a dub, plunking down the change needed to produce it for this amount of episodes in the current market really made no sense. But rather than leave fans without, we at least get the series completed in subtitled form at the least.
When Gaogaigar went into hiatus, I wasn’t exactly unhappy about that since the first five volumes really did very little for me. The series was playing to its traditional strengths but they were strengths that really do very little for me. My days of enjoying combinable robots faded many years ago in my youth and I’ve had little love for them in the last few years of current anime productions. Working as a very episodic show with almost no serious progression of a larger storyline for large chunks of time, Gaogaigar was an exercise in passing the time, five episodes at a time. And that didn’t have me eager to see an entire set like this.
Thankfully, the second half of Gaogaigar does redeem itself quite well overall. There are weaknesses to be had for sure, but by and large it succeeds in doing things that are very appealing and has a strong flow to it, especially when you take in twenty-four episodes under three days. The first set brings things close to an end point for what the show wanted to deal with at that point but it can’t finish it out. That has to happen here as we get the final episodes of the battle between the GGG and the Machine Kings. It’s taken some time for the four Kings to really figure out a plan that would work but they accomplish one here that really puts the GGG and citizens of Japan through the wringer.
Visually, it’s a great moment as the Zonders go through the motions and begin to actually raise Tokyo out of the ground. Utilizing their metal plants within the raised realm, they’ve got the possibility of creating some ten million Zonders that would be fully under their control. Letting them run wild would certainly turn the tide of battle across the world. And naturally, they’ve got a method of keeping the GGG away for awhile in order to accomplish their mission. It’s a rather strong set of episodes where everything finally does have that epic feeling to it and it ties together a number of small loose plot points into a decent conclusion for the arc.
With the distance between watching the singles and the start of this set, some of the impact is lost during this arc since we do come into it rather close to the end. It’s where Gaogaigar goes from there however that is so much fun. The scope of the story has been largely focused on Japan and Zonder attacks there on the locals, but with the devastation of Tokyo (which is unfortunately largely ignored thereafter outside of a few nods), the GGG transitions to its new role as the Gutsy Galaxy Guard. That means a very high-tech space station which can combine mildly with a number of spacecraft which gives it increased abilities and resources. The shift to an orbital platform allows the series something of a more global approach, which is good since the antagonists are shifting to a larger approach as well.
With the Machine Kings out of the picture and even the original EI that started everything gone, the main antagonist is that of Pagliaccio. Pagliaccio unfortunately isn’t a good villain for the second half of the series because she’s really without personality. Absorbing Pasder’s data at the end of the first arc, Pagliaccio begins a series of tests and encounters designed to figure out the GGG and how to defeat them. Pagliaccio’s plans are larger in scope and scale than the episodic tales we had in the first five volumes and that means we get a lot more continuity here as the stories take place over several episodes and with threads running past the individual storylines.
The stories generally are designed to expand the capabilities of everyone involved, especially in making sure the various robots are all prepared to handle the big bad when the time comes towards the end. Some of it is fun and amusing to watch, such as having all of Mic Sounders “brothers” activated and seeing them all actually perform together. Other stories are a bit hackneyed as you have the Chinese working on their version of the combinable robots. It’s good to see a more worldly view of things, but it really just introduces another set of robots to handle a plot point and to try and sell the same toy twice but with a different paint job.
While the second half of the series has a lot of good material to offer as the ante is upped with the level of disaster that’s about to happen, they do go a bit overboard at one point. This comes when two of the robots end up pushing back an asteroid that was being shunted into local space and that causes them to get thrown somewhere else into the universe. As it turns out, it wasn’t anywhere in the universe but anywhen as they ended up going back in time some sixty-five million years. That’s right, events in 2005 of this series caused the end of the dinosaurs, though it takes a little bit of time for this to be realized by everyone in the present and they don’t seem to make much hay of it. The entire idea is one that is amusing (the robots were the ones that really gave humanity a chance!) but it does offer some great marketing potential as you could have one of the robots heads done up like a Jurassic Park logo…
Barring this really laughable moment, the second half of Gaogaigar does a pretty good job of building things up towards a conclusion. As is the case with a lot of Sunrise shows, it’s the final ten that count the most and that’s not much of an exception here. Though it lacks some real impact back there isn’t a single strong villain to really rally around, it does have some fun with the advanced aliens that they’re fighting against and we get some really good background material on Mamoru and Ikumi that fleshes out their relationship and why they’re doing what they do. Ikumi in particular could probably carry the second half of the series by himself with his new partner and what they do. The downside to the second half is that there is a completely unnecessary epilogue with an even bigger and more dangerous villain that is disposed of far too quickly. If they had spent the last two episodes doing epilogue material with the characters and rebuilding the world it would have been so much better. This ending doesn’t leave a particularly welcome taste in my mouth.
Looking at Gaogaigar as a whole, it’s a series that certainly has some strong moments and has a good enough payoff for those that stuck with it and enjoyed it from the start. The first half of the series really was difficult to get through at times with its Zonder of the week mentality and the simple fact that while I adored combinable robots back in the 80’s, they hold very little appeal to me now. With Gaogaigar being a series that was trying to be different from the multitude of Evangelion clones of the time, it certainly achieved that and I have a certain affection for it because of its ties to Betterman. This box set in particular was a lot more fun to go through than the first half and it really improved my view of the show as a whole. It also has me giving some serious credit to Media Blasters for carrying through on releasing it – even subtitled only – and then putting it out at such an absolute bargain price. The two box sets for this are shows that I will wholeheartedly recommend people buying sight unseen online since you can get them for about $40 total with discounts. Show Media Blasters some love for this – someday it may be a series you want that will benefit.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening,
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.