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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
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- Age Rating: All
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 125
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Dai Guard
Dai Guard Vol. #1
By Gene Moy
November 16, 2002
Release Date: September 17, 2002
I love giant robots, and chances are if you're reading this review, you do too. I also love this series Dai-Guard. Due to its subject matter and its approach, I actually think it's a more intelligent and successful series in its pacing and storytelling than Gasaraki was. Dai-Guard is a very smart and highly original series that skillfully and subtly turns the super robot genre on its head by making it a real robot show. It even out-real-robots the real-robot genre. And the reason why this series is so smart is because Dai-Guard isn't really a giant robot anime. Good giant robot anime aren't ever about giant robots alone, which is why a show like Transformers is awful. Truly good robot anime are all about engaging characters and their finite chase for something pure and just. Just as, say, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is actually a period romance/commentary on Confucian roles with kung fu action thrown in, Dai-Guard is a good natured story about very unusual challenges in modern working people's daily lives a
Dai-Guard is a robot built to fight mysterious alien invaders called heterodynes after one showed up 12 years ago and the military had to destroy a city to get rid of it. In the ensuing years, nothing happened and the robot was relegated to little more than a gaudy industry show attraction, which is how it winds up with the Second Publicity Section of the 21st Century Security Corporation. Who would have thunk it, but a heterodyne shows up during a consumer products show, and three employees of this publicity corps find themselves trying to save the attendees and fighting the alien threat, as well as contending with their jobs, family life, and the political maneuvering of the company's directors and the military. That's the real story.
The characters are fairly well thought-out as approachable and relatable people, albeit people who fight monsters in a giant robot as part of their job, very far from the usual publicity work of stuffing envelopes for a direct mail campaign or demonstrating consumer products. Each of the characters has their own distinct personality quirks and their own stories which will be fleshed-out in due course, but there are some interesting political fears and motivations as part of the background that characters have to deal with. Dai-Guard is at its smartest when you suddenly realize that everything has been told in the opening scenes of the series, and the real main character of the story is not who you think it is. But the way this is done is so subtle and masterful, it still surprises me, even if the episodes are structured in typical manner.
The quality of the video is sharp, the sound is good, and the translation style seems appropriately lively and accurate. My old copy of the series being what it is, the quality of this release is well worth the reinvestment, but it's certainly not for the extras.
I do think a fraction more time and effort could have improved the Dai Guard experience. Besides the lack of interesting extras, there are some minor issues. Perhaps production budgets were slashed due to damage at ADV during the summer floods of 2001, who knows. It is good you can just go straight to a menu and select options without something like that annoying extended opening menu for Excel Saga. I like the ability to just choose an episode and go, and not having to repeat the bloody menu segment over and over when I change or select different options. The interaction designer responsible for that fiasco should be shot, after all these years of web history.
I also would have liked it if the titles and Japanese credits could have been preserved to a greater extent, like in Blue Gender. To their credit ADV is moving far and away from those terrible overlays they used on Nadesico by using a video layer for notes, but title and credits should not be replaced. In some places the choice of typeface is questionable and visually doesn't match the onscreen Japanese type style. The person responsible should either turn in their design license or get one.
There are also a few gaps in the translation which are a little puzzling given the comprehensive treatment given to Excel Saga. Why, for instance, anzen hoshou gun (security/defense forces) remains untranslated when it could easily have been. The kanji are there, it's not a terribly technical term, and even someone with middling Chinese ability like myself can understand what it is. The second episode title which includes the name Odaiba, a part of Tokyo and home of the fictional 21st Century Security Corporation, was translated to "the Fort at Night Huge Offensive Defensive Battle". Indeed it is, but, this translation seems a little hamhanded. I shudder to think how terms like "OE heiki", "Fractal Knot", and "Kokubouga" will be handled. Speaking of which, explaining a few in-jokes and cultural references would add considerable value without a whole lot of investment. For instance, the names of the pilots refer to different colors (red, blue, and pink), a reference to sentai series where characters are colorful.
All in all, a great series that's receiving decent treatment by ADV. Oddly enough, it didn't start this way, but this is one of my favorite anime series.
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