Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 29.98/44.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Gad Guard
Gad Guard Vol. #1 (also w/Limited Edition Box)
By Chris Beveridge
April 07, 2004
Release Date: June 22, 2004
Gad Guard Vol. #1 (also w/Limited Edition Box)
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Many people have searched for it, many have stolen it, and many will kill for it. The Gad is a seemingly magical stone that, once making a strong spiritual connection with someone, will grow into a very powerful robot known as a Techode: a mechanical being that embodies the will of the bonded person. This is the story of Hajiki Sanada, a boy struggling to help support his fatherless family in an electricity-impoverished city known as Night Town. One day he encounters a Gad and special bond is formed. Now his life will never be the same...
Also available in a collectible box with room for the rest of the series containing a limited edition knit cap!The Review!
Gonzo continues to bring out new material, this time going in a more pulp-ish fashion with this twenty-six episode series about robots and the kids who pilot them.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we opted to listen to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a pretty decent stereo mix that mostly shows its flair of directionality across the forward soundstage during the action sequences. Dialogue is generally center channel driven and sounds good. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions on either language track.Video:
Originally airing in 2003, Gad Guard is another in a line of very slick looking clean transfers that Gonzo seems to be perfecting and Geneon has little problem working with. Presented in its original full frame format, I feel practically guilty by mentioning that there's a few minor instances where some aliasing crops up because they're so minimal that most people probably won't even notice. And that's the only real flaw I could find in this during a normal viewing. Colors look good with very solid dark colors and some really vibrant pieces here and there throughout.Packaging:
The first volume features what I believe is the artwork from the first Japanese DVD release (though I've only found the box edition of that) that features Hajiki and Arashi on his scooter with the background being the city of Night Town and its graffiti. It's a decent looking cover but not too eye-catching, unlike the reverse side cover that has a shot of Katana that was used for the second volume, which has some more distinct reds and whites in the background that work well against the darkness of his character. The back cover has a few animation shots along the right and a brief summary of the premise and a listing of the discs features and extras. The release does have the volume numbering on the spine but also provides the episode numbers and titles on the back. The insert has another shot of the from cover and opens up to a two panel spread of Hajiki and Lightning. The back just has some background artwork and a listing of the episode numbers and titles again.Menu:
The main menu is nicely done with animated headshots of a few of the characters appearing on either side of the screen while shots from the varied city appear behind it along with other animated venues, all set to some of the grooving music from the opening song. The menu layout is fairly standard and easy to move about with good access times. This release is also a departure from the standard Geneon style in one area though. In the extras section, selecting the previews selection brings you to a menu where you can actually pick which trailer you want instead of having it play all of them in a row. I hope this is an across the board change for new releases as it's much preferred.Extras:
The extras are fairly minimal but there are a few things here. The opening sequence is done up in a textless form, which is indeed a treat considering how much is going on in this sequence. The art gallery has about sixteen pieces from the show and the promo trailer is pretty much just the first commercial for the first Japanese DVD release.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When it comes to Gonzo shows, it seems they tend (not always of course) to fall into one of two categories. You get the wildly imaginative shows like Last Exile that are just overflowing with neat ideas or you get shows that are very derivative of other series, like Melty Lancer. It's not too often that they hit the mark in between the two categories, but Gad Guard so far is really feeling like that.
The story, which actually takes its time to be told here instead of just thrusting us right into the chaos, is fairly simple. It's the setting that's not nearly as clearly told. Taking place in an alternate world where the city we're dealing with is made up of various towns, we're introduced to young Hajiki Sanada in the Night Town. This is essentially the run down slum of the larger city, or Unit as it appears to be called. Within the Unit there's varying other towns, such as Day Town (where they have power at night, unlike Night Town) and Gold Town, the place where all the wealth is. The layout feels like there may be more as well. From some of the long shots, it looks like each of these towns within the city run right up against each other, to a point where you'd see a tall gleaming building and pan down next to it to see the slums and broken buildings that make up Night Town.
In Night Town, you get the feel quickly that anything really goes, particularly during the opening sequence where a half crazed man gets assaulted in a junk pile and has two small metal cubes stolen from him by a man named Katana who is piloting a Heavy Metal. These Metal's, or at least this particular one, harkens back to the old science fiction days style of robots and their use as machines to be driven. They're maybe a couple of average men tall but not much more. They're very simple in design with hard edges and curves all mixed together. Working for someone else, Katana keeps one of the cubes as payment for the job he did and heads off into the night.
The remaining cube is to be couriered to the buyer who is willing to pay a lot of money for it. This is where Hajiki comes in as he's the nephew of the courier business, run by his uncle Hachisuka. Hajiki takes on the job for the easy money and heads off to deliver it. His delivery run doesn't go quite as planned, though it seems it to him, as the buyer is substituted and the stone stolen without Hajiki knowing. When Hajiki learns of this later on from his uncle, he takes it pretty personally and makes it his priority to find the stone.
Before he's able to do that though we get to see some of his school life under the local church. Their routine is broken up by the nun bringing in a new classmate, a young woman around Hajiki's age named Arashi. She doesn't fit the profile of someone from Night Town and quickly proves she's got some amusing talents as she takes down the class flirt with a professional ease. Hajiki finds her later when she's moving into her building only to find out that she lives by herself and is completely unaware of the lifestyle of those in Night Town. She's even shocked when she goes off for a bit and comes back to find her furniture and clothes all ransacked since she left them in the street.
Hajiki's encounter with Arashi leads to more than ransacked clothes though, as the two end up down the street a ways after a minor accident Arashi has, which leads Hajiki to helping out only to come across the car that contains the woman who deceived him with the stone delivery earlier. The entire encounter quickly turns into a mess as the stone gets thrown out from the car and others involved start going after Hajiki since he's the only clue they have to finding the second stone, something Hajiki still doesn't know about. The really strange thing starts through when Hajiki grabs the stone and it begins to vibrate and seemingly activate. It starts to expand outward and then starts to suck in all the metal around them, from the car that they were in to the weapon that Jack had in trying to nail Hajiki.
Before anyone really realizes what's going on, a Heavy Metal is pretty much born on the spot, though it's much more streamlined and flashy looking than the utilitarian ones that we've seen elsewhere. And even more strangely, the thing only seems to activate and move when Hajiki is touching it. He ends up in an unbalanced battle with Katana at this point as he's working with Jack and the others seeking the Gad stone, though he hasn't realized or revealed that he has one of his own from earlier. Hajiki now finds himself somewhat on the run with the help of his uncle and a woman named Catherine who has a vested interest in the untouched Gad stones and is looking for them as hard as Jack was.
Even more interestingly, as events continue on, more of the Gad stones surface and are transformed into these slick Heavy Metal machines that start causing trouble around the city. Hajiki's not the hero type by nature, but he does have a sense of right and wrong and stands by them strongly, so as he's continuing to be hunted by Jack and the others, particularly Katana who feels some sort of hatred towards him now, he starts to take on the role of the one who really controls the Heavy Metal he spawned, even naming him Lightning. What's amusing about it is that when he decides to take an active role, he changes his outfit completely into something that sort of hides his identity but does, almost like the classic old super-hero mask that just covers around the eyes.
There are a lot of elements that are only barely touched upon here in the first four episodes and the history of this world and its people is one of them. We do get to see various areas of the Unit and the different people, such as a Night Town school and what's presumably a Gold Town school and how they operate, plus the political side of things as well. Night Town has its own intriguing element in that at midnight they get their power shut off entirely in an effort to conserve energy and avoid the slums becoming even slummier.
The action sequences are also rather well done during this between the Heavy Metals. Each are unique enough that they have different attacks and their controllers have different methods as well. With their size not being monstrously tall and the requirement of the controller to actively be standing/sitting on it, there's a very different feel to the way this plays out, unlike it being controlled by remote or the controller being inside it. There's a greater element of danger to it.
Gad Guard has some very intriguing premises to it and a lot of things that are just simply obscured right now due to this being just the first four of twenty-six episodes. While it does look to be another series with kids running around with robots under their controller, it's one that looks to play out different than the norm. There's a sense of fun mixed into this as well as the danger. Some of the surprising moments were the sexuality expressed by some of the older women in the show as they play around with the men who think they're in control. Some amusing purring and playing with emotions, never mind very nice looking character designs.In Summary:
Gad Guard looks to hit the mix of originality and derivative pretty well. And when it comes to the derivative material, they chose well. There are some great elements of shows like the Big O in terms of the Metal design and some of the character designs. When the kids start getting their Metal's into action and trying to figure out what's going on, the outfits they wear are highly reminiscent of the old science fiction pulp stories with the masks and goggles or just wrapping scarves around their lower face to hide themselves. Combine this with the slick digital animation that Gonzo has mastered and a lot of catchy jazz music and you've got something that keeps you watching and wanting more.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Art Gallery,Promotionl Trailer #1
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.