Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: A+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- 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 Way Jeng
June 13, 2003
Release Date: September 17, 2002
Giant robots are one of the staples of anime. It's not exactly clear what makes a giant robot so much fun, but it's hard to get away from the fact that it's pretty cool to watch giant robot save the world from alien invaders. A large number of these shows have been made, and a pretty high standard has been set by some of the previous works. The question then becomes how is one to create a show with an original concept and keep the show entertaining? Enter Dai-Guard, one of the most amusing and entertaining giant robot shows to come along in quite some time.
The best way to view Dai-Guard isn't as just another example of a giant robot trying to save the world, but instead as a witty parody of the giant robot genre. In many ways Dai-Guard conforms to a number of conventions set by older and more traditional shows. For the most part the episodes are fairly predictable. A giant monster appears, and it's up to a team of robot pilots to save the day. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there are a large number of differences.
The most salient difference between Dai-Guard and many other giant robot shows is a much lighter atmosphere. Neither the robot pilots, nor the Dai-Guard robot itself, are widely respected by the people, and instead of having praise and reward heaped upon them the pilots of Dai-Guard are often scorned for causing collateral damage. The focus of the show is not so much on the monsters or the robots, but instead on the characters behind the robot and the overall situation that all these scenarios take place in. Every action has consequences, something that many people forget. It's a refreshing change from shows where at the end of the day all that matters is that the monster was destroyed.
It might seem counter-intuitive to watch a show about pilots who aren't the cream of the crop or a robot that's not the most powerful ever seen in anime, but both elements work firmly to advance the humor behind the show. Watching the pilots come up with solutions on the fly by improvising with whatever they've got and pulling off victory just in the nick of time through luck as much as skill gives the show a thoroughly comic feel to it that has been lacking in a lot of other animes. It's especially funny to watch the pilots argue amongst themselves, though the show does have an underlying optimism as they cooperate when it's important.
The plots themselves are fairly well contained episode to episode, though the beginning of the disc are understandably slower due to the need to introduce the characters and world. The plot does have a running theme of the little guys versus the world, as exemplified by numerous arguments between the three main characters as the Army, but the show avoids the ultra-convoluted plot structuring found in some anime the associated confusion of always wondering what's going on and continually waiting for an explanation. Monsters show up, a robot shows up to defeat it in single combat, and along the way hijinks ensue. What more can you honestly expect?
Dai-Guard probably won't appeal to people looking for an audience watching for realistic robots and the gritty reality of war, but for people wanting to be able to pop a disc in the player and get back to some good old fashioned fun that giant robots used to embody it's hard to think of a better show.
In the case of Dai-Guard it's difficult to give an overall rating or description of the audio for the show because the theme song for the show is just so great that would have overshadowed most any other problems the show had, not that there were any. I will be commenting on the English language track of the show because I more strongly prefer it. All around things sound good. The voice acting was solid, and the sound effects were appropriate. Dai-Guard itself sounds big and clunky, as befits the show's general image and design, and the monsters certainly have an otherworldly quality to their screams.
Though not much attention usually gets paid to the theme songs of shows I feel they're an important part of the viewing experience. While the opening titles for a show can almost always be easily skipped they are still part of the show and as such deserve to be watched as much as any other part. The theme song of a show is responsible for putting the viewer in the right mood for the show, and that's exactly what the Dai-Guard theme song does. I found it fast and catchy, and most importantly of all I found the song in character with the show. Too often shows feel like they just have a song stuck to the front. In Dai-Guard's case it feels like the show and song compliment each other perfectly.
To be fair it must be stated that appreciation for music is a very subjective experience, and the opinion of one can differ widely from the opinion of another.
As far as the ending music goes I found it a good song, better than average but not exceptional. It's certainly slower and more sedate than the opening music, and provides a good cool down from the show.
Visually Dai-Guard leaves little room for complaint. Backgrounds and character designs are all well detailed, though with such a large cast some of the minor characters can be difficult to tell apart from one another initially. The design for Dai-Guard itself is somewhat reminiscent of older robot designs. Dai-Guard certainly looks like a robot designed for strength rather than subtlety and speed with its rounded shoulders and legs and thick forearms. The monster designs are somewhat minimalistic, but appear sleek and elemental more than rudimentary.
Packaging for Dai-Guard is mildly disappointing. The front cover is good, showing the three main characters and a picture of Dai-Guard fighting a barely seen monster that is hard to recognize without having seen the show itself. In a sense this is an excellent symbolic representation of the show, as it places the focus on the characters and portrays the giant robot in the background. In the scene, but almost out of the picture, is the monster. The volume number is clearly labeled on the spine.
The first disappointment is that the back of the package fails to give a listing of the disc's extras. This is a small complaint, but when buying a disc of anime it's always good to know what kind of value can be expected before needing to commit. The insert is also a mild disappointment. One side has a picture of Dai-Guard, but the reverse has a chapter listing that provides nothing descriptive about the episodes, and as such it's not entirely clear what the listing accomplishes other than to prove that the episodes were in fact broken into chapters. In fairness it must be reiterated that these are small complaints, though why they exist in the first place is a mystery.
Menus for this disc are about what you'd expect from any other. All the usual options are available, and episodes are selectable directly from the main menu. The main menu plays the entirety of the theme song along with the opening animation, and given how much praise I've already given the opening the show it should be obvious that this is seen as a definite plus.
Extras on this disc include clean opening and closing sequences, as well as a large gallery of production sketches. These are relatively standard extras to have and there's nothing exceptional to note, but given that five episodes were included on the disc the extras seem relatively robust. One problem was detected, however, during the clean close. The last few seconds seemed to be cut off. Whether this is a problem unique to me is unknown.
Sharp 13" television, Sony Playstation 2