Gasaraki Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2000
Gasaraki is giant robot anime, but not like Gundam giant robot anime. In the same vein as Evangelion, Gasaraki takes the tried-and-true method of super-powered robots and turns it upside down and inside out to differentiate itself. The best part is, Gasaraki does a fantastic job with a concept that's all too easy to screw up. Where Eva was a character study coupled with cool (although somewhat improbable) fights, Gasaraki mixes spirtuality with a mecha design that just seems "real".
Before I go on to talk about the show's content a bit more, some people will question my content grade of this volume. I have nothing but good things to say about the show in general but upon viewing later volumes, I've found that this disc just isn't as exciting or as good as what follows it. If you can give the episodes beyond this disc a try, you will most likely be easily hooked by this series.
Gasaraki uses a rather unique form of storytelling compared to other anime of this style. The story seems as though it starts in the middle. The storytelling begins with a simulation being run with four bipedal robots called Tactical Armor (TA) controlled by the JSSDF. We quickly learn that they were developed mostly by the powerful Gowa family, and that these robots seem to have a special connection to one of the test pilots, Yushiro Gowa. We aren't told how they work yet. Later on, through the character's discussions, we learn of how the Tactical Armor works and the puzzle of the connection between the TA and Yushiro begins to come together. It's this retroactive method of storytelling that moves the story forward. It also uses the more unique way of describing the results of certain character's actions on a news report. You did read correctly, a news report. These news reports are designed so that we see a character plotting something, and see the end result through a "public" eye. It sounds strange, but works really well. You would miss many plot movements if you try to pass them up.
Beyond this, I'm not going too much more into the plot. Gasaraki really must be experienced to be enjoyed. Here's a quick summary of these 4 episodes: they revolve around the overseas deployment of the TAs in a battle situation remarkably like that of Desert Storm. It's just a little creepy for those who watched the events of Desert Storm, but provides a good sort of "what if" situation.
While there is a huge cast, it's not too hard to pick up on each character's motivations and how they act. Thankfully, the DVD insert contains a chart of all the characters introduced in this volume. It's a handy extra that you'll probably have to refer to once or twice.
On the subject of extras, there are quite a few on the disc, including some Director memos and the like. There's also an interview with Rynosuke Takahashi on the disc, but only a portion of it. The rest is continued on ADV's Gasaraki website. While I realize it's a cost cutting measure, that site better stay there for a good long time if I can't have the entire thing on my DVD. It's my main issue with the extras, beyond the lack of a creditless opening/ending.
Despite the few flaws I mentioned, it really is a fantastic disc overall. It looks good, sounds good, and the plot really has me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next volume. Highly recommended.
Sigma Designs Hollywood Plus DVD decoder card, Region-free Toshiba MD-1202 DVD Drive, 17" Trinitron monitor, Sound Blaster Live
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2