Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: A-
- Extras Rating: A
- 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 David Owens
January 04, 2003
Release Date: September 17, 2002
Baaaa ba ba baaaaa ba ba baaaaaaa ba ba bara ra ra ra ra ra...
A big-robot anime, and I enjoyed it. I'm getting too old for this.
One of my friends, with a peculiar sense of humor (and apparently a bursting wallet), knew I hated big-robot anime since it's usually cheesy, filled with silly stuff like the Nadesico-mentioned "voice-activated weaponry" and all that.
So, naturally, she bought me volumes 1 and 2 of Dai-Guard as a Christmas present.
I couldn't really be rude, so I sat down and watched Dai-Guard #1: Hostile Takeover.
The first thing I noticed, even prior to watching it, was the packaging. And the packaging is all right I guess. It's not a really extravagant packaging scheme, a lŕ Pioneer's X with the individual slipcases and reversible covers and pretty box and all...but it's not exactly...well, I won't name a bad package and put anyone on the spot. But, it's not that bad. It's basically just the three main characters, Akagi, Ibuki, and Aoyama, all with Patented Dramatic Expressions on the cover, and Dai-Guard, the aforementioned big-robot, in the background beating up on a Heterodyne (or for Eva fans, "angel").
Once I put the disc in, I laughed. The main menu's music was some weird J-punk song. Yup, J-punk, I guess...very unlike most other opening themes I've heard to date. Ha ha! Funny stuff. The menus themselves are pretty easy to deal with...the main menu is a full list of the episodes, plus the standard Extras and Setup menus.
As usual, I tend to check the extras before the show itself, because darn it, I love finding spoilers that companies don't warn you about. There's none of that here, really. There's a bunch of production sketches included, plus the textless opening and closing. I decided to watch both of them first.
I must say, the opening song won me over once I watched the entire textless opening, and I am still singing the "ba ba" part and humming the rest, even a day later. The animation of the opening is synchronized with the music very well (something that really impresses me about a series, when it's done well), and some of the animations are just really amusing, such as the rather-cute Ooyama depositing a huge stack of forms on Akagi's desk and smiling happily while he makes an exasperated face. Funny stuff. I also thought the whirling-carousel-like approach of showing all the main characters from the 21st Century Security Company was pretty cool, and again, was very well-synchronized with the theme song.
The closing theme is a lively, almost folksy song, arranged by Yoko Kanno, who I am guessing did some other music for this series as well. Neat. "Hashire Hashire" ("Run, Run") is a pretty acoustic song, and the only reason I mention it is because usually I'm not an ending theme fan. They always seem slow and depressing, like everyone that you liked in the episode you just watched will all die horrible deaths. Or something. But, this one is nice and upbeat...and also fits well with the ending animation (or in this case, still-images-with-camera-panning), which shows members of the cast in various civilian settings, such as Akagi overlooking a highway, Ibuki walking along a street and apparently window-shopping, Aoyama leaning against his car at night, overlooking the lit-up city...all kinda cute images.
Once I got to watching the actual show, I got into it fairly quickly. The video in it is nicely done...colors are bright and lines are bold and sharp.
The character designs are excellent as well; I really liked Ibuki's design, even though seeing her makes me think of a magenta-haired Nanami Jinnai. Hmm. Akagi and Aoyama are nicely drawn throughout, and even the supporting cast, the entire gang of 21 Century's public relations department, all have a fair amount of detail to their designs.
My only complaint is that the subtitling for signs and episode names and things seem to be extremely fuzzy and indistinct. I'm not sure if it was just a poor choice of subtitling font or what, but they just look moderately bad at times. As usual, I watched the dub, so I have no idea if the actual dialogue subtitles are serviceable or not.
Speaking of the dub, it's not bad, if you're someone who doesn't mind dubs. I haven't heard of any of these people, frankly, so I'm guessing they're from ADV's newer dubbing studio. They do their jobs well though, as I particularly liked Ibuki's voice actor (Lana Lesley) as well as Akagi's (Joey Hood). And I have to give credit to Shirota's actor, Mick D'arcy, for doing an extremely accurate rendition of Hugo Weaving's role as Agent Smith in The Matrix (you know, the bad guy). If he wasn't intending to emulate that role, then, uh...sorry. That's all I could think of anytime I heard Shirota talk.
The actual plotline of Dai-Guard seems Nadesico-ish mixed with Eva, and a little bit of perhaps Black Heaven for the office antics thrown in: the Earth came under attack by big bad angels--er, Heterodynes. So what did the earth's military do?
You got it! They contracted out the work to some private-sector company to make a big weapon to fight the bad guys! And thus, Dai-Guard was created!
Unfortunately, before he could be used, the Heterodynes sorta like, disappeared. If only all things in life were that simple.
After that, from what I could gather, the military didn't want to deal with the expenses of maintaining Dai-Guard, so they sold it back to the company, 21st Century Security, who stuck it around as a tourist attraction. As any responsible publicly-traded company would do, they kept pilots on the payroll...and had them spend their workdays as tour guides and animal mascots from the public relations division. Woohoo!
But then, twelve years later, a really bad thunderstorm causes a bad guy to appear in the ocean! Oh no! Mayhem!
So our heroes throw away their weird sparrow-head outfits and hop into Dai-Guard and go fight the bad guy, and lose an arm.
And then, in episode two, just when they were almost finished filling out the expense report for the lost arm, the Heterodyne comes back! And it looks angry! So they get a NEW arm and go fight it again! Only this time, they don't lose the arm! Woohoo!
I guess that's the basic gist of Dai-Guard, in a nutshell: take some interesting action, mixed with some office political jokes (expense reports, vacation time, the stock market...you know, the usual stuff), and a nice amount of character development (particularly Ibuki through the first few episodes) and you've got what this show essentially is.
I rather enjoyed it. I watched the first volume the whole way through, then watched the second, and immediately went and re-watched the first again. It's all fun stuff!
As Chris mentioned in his review, this won't change your mind about big-robot anime (I still scream in agony when thinking of Getter Robo), but since it's not a strict big-robot anime (they don't have colorful names for all their punches, after all), it may be more watchable to the general populace, myself included. I'm looking forward to the next volumes of Dai-Guard, and I'd recommend Dai-Guard to anyone who enjoyed Nadesico, Dual!, or even anyone who liked Evangelion but also appreciates comedy.
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