Gasaraki Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gasaraki

Gasaraki Vol. #1

By Roman Martel     February 16, 2002
Release Date: September 26, 2000



The Review!
Overall Rating: 4.6
(on a scale of 1-5)

-Disc Ratings-
Sound: 5
Picture: 5
Menu: 5
Presentation: 4
Goodies: 5
Overall: 4.8

-Artistic Ratings-
Animation: 4
Sound: 5
Plot: 4
English Acting: 4
Music: 5
Overall: 4.4

Intro
I remember hearing about this title about 8 months ago. People were calling it an EVA clone and had already written it off as a cheap advertising knock off. I don't think any of them had seen it yet. A few months later, I ran into a rewiew of the first couple episodes. The whole concept sounded intriguing. Now, I'll be honest and say that most of my exposure to mecha shows has been Escaflowne, EVA, and Gundam Wing. So I know I'm not the best judge in this area... but I will say this about Gasaraki, you can't take your eyes away from the screen for a minute. And that in my book already has it in the high marks.

Technical Review
Well, watching this show on my computer wasn't the way I wanted to view it but I have to say it looked and sounded great, even on my little set up. The visuals were nice and clear, and right on par with Bubblegum Crisis 2040. The sound was also very good. Keep up the great work ADV! The menu is the best I've seen yet from ADV. Much like the menu from Sol Bianca, this one is based on the operating system for one of the mecha in the show. It's nice and fluid and has great sound and visuals. This menu is definitely gonna throw some competition to Pioneer. The keepcase is pretty good. It might be a little bland for some tastes but it fits the feel of the show. Almost all the information is on the keepcase except for how many channels of sound are used, and how many episodes are contained. But we did get region coding this time! Keep working on these cases guys. The extras on this disc are great! You get a section of an interview with the director, a concept art section with descriptions of each piece of art, you get some comments by the creators of the show (they're pretty funny too), and a glossary of terms from the show. I won't forget to mention the insert that has pictures of much of the cast and show's their relationships to each other. Trust me you will need all these tools, especially if you are doing something else while watching this show.

Well, here is the part were I mention the trailers again. Yes, they are the first thing you have to see after the FBI warning. I still like being able to choose the trailers from the menu and not have them forced at me when I start the disc. It's a annoyance, but at least you can fast forward past them. There is a link to the trailers on the main menu too. I don't know if it counts as omake, but if you click the little Gasaraki logo in the bottom right hand corner, you get to see the trailers again! I hope ADV goes back to the way the trailers were originally done. I really preferred that. And I watched them too... I'm a trailer buff for some reason!

Content Review
So let's get this EVA rip off idea out of the way. Gasaraki is not an EVA clone. So far the only comparison I can make to EVA is the fact that Miharu happens to look a bit like Rei. Other than that Eva doesn't jump to my mind while watching Gasaraki. I was thinking it reminded me more of Gundam (and yes Gundam Wing, since that's the only Gundam show I've seen). But there are vast differences stylistically and plot wise between the two shows.

Gasaraki begins in the middle of the story. There are no intros and there are no pauses to catch everyone's name and relationships. You are thrown right down in the middle of busy happenings, and you are quickly disoriented. To me it seems that this was done to give you the realistic feel that seems to emanate from the show. I'll get into the style in a just a bit though. First let's look at the basic plot.

The story starts with the protagonist Yushiro Gowa about to perform a dance from the Noh drama's (Noh is one of the styles of theatre unique to Japan. They are vaguely reminiscent of Medieval Morality and Mystery plays). Through this dance, Yushiro seems to be summoning something. During his dance he mentally connects to a girl named Miharu, who seems to be very afraid of what he is summoning. Yushiro stops his dance and the strange energy dissapates.

Yeah I know it sounds strange... it is.

Then in a 180 switch we go to a skirmish in a nation that used to be part of the Soviet Union. Multinational forces are deployed to handle the problem before it becomes a war. If this whole plot line doesn't smack of Desert Storm, anime style, I don't know what does.

Turns out that Yushiro is also a pilot for an advanced weapon system called the TA (aka mecha suit). His group is sent over to this skirmish to help out, but mostly to pitch the idea of the TA to the Multinational force and see if they will buy any.

Of course that's what they are told. This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. This story has so many twists and turns that if you aren't paying attention you will get lost very easily. I'm sure all the unconnected events will tie together. Already they are slowly becoming more and more connected, but with so many characters all saying one thing and doing something else... well you might need a flow chart ;-)

I'm exaggerating a bit... but not that much.

The animation is very good for a TV show. It's not quite up to Bebop standards, but it does come very close at times. It's very fluid and smooth. You can tell this was a recent show. There is an overall look to it that makes it gritty and more realistic than most of the other shows I can think to compare it too. This isn't just the case with the overall look of the backgrounds, but with the basic design of the suits and weapons in the show. These look practical and made to be used in combat. Compared to the Gundams in Gundam Wing the difference is very obvious. There isn't much that seems to be made for show. The TA's and the FAKES (the ones used by the group in the former Soviet Union) look like weapons of war. Where the EVA's were meant to look godlike, these look like they were made for humans, by humans. The whole show captures this feel very, very well. The character design is a bit standard for me, but it works well with the rest of the show.

While there was some style to the direction, the most interesting choice to me was the idea of putting the viewers in the middle of the story without any help at all. It's disorienting and a bit discouraging. You know you're missing key information, because you don't quite understand the motives and the relationships of all the characters involved. We have it a bit better than the first Japanese audience had; we can rewatch episodes whenever we like, instead of waiting for the show to come on again in reruns (unless you taped each episode). And it's very tempting to do so, especially after you view all 4 episodes. But this adds a bit of realism to the whole show. These conversations happen as they would in real life. There is no exposition in the dialogue, these characters know what they are talking about, so why explain it? This was an interesting choice that will work for some people and alienate others.
The sound design fit well with the rest of the show. It added to the realism that was being used in the animation. There wasn't anything to amazing sounding, but that should be the point. This world is supposed to be our own in a few years (or maybe decades). There wouldn't be all kinds of crazy sci-fi sounds. It's a tough line to straddle, to still keep the sound interesting but not go over board. It looks like Gasaraki is doing a good job so far.

I am enjoying the workings of the plot so far. The style with which it is presented makes it challenging to watch. The key is to have patience. Watch all four episodes and I think you will be able to follow what is happening. If not, go back and watch the first episode again. With the help of the insert and the extra's you can make heads or tails of the story. But it's not really that hard to follow... just keep your eyes and ears open. Truth be told this story has been done before, it's not that complicated if you step back and look at what we've got so far. The themes aren't that different than what we have in Gundam Wing (at least at this point). Things could change between this disc and the next so I'm not gonna go into too much detail. But it seems that much of the twists and turns are smoke-screening to make things look more complicated than they are, done to confuse the enemy and the audience. Technically the way the plot is being presented it very clever and well done. It's running the risk of losing the audience, but I think as more is revealed the easier it will be to follow. The plot itself doesn't seem that complicated or deep at this moment... but only time will tell.

The English dub is very solid. I only noticed a bit of overacting in some minor roles, but the main cast (all 20 or so of them ;-) does a very good job. Again this is not the type of show where overdoing the acting would help. This show needs to keep it gritty and real, and the acting needs to be up to par. So far this group of actors seems to be handling it very well. Keep up the great work!

The music is my favorite part of the show so far. It's a interesting blend of traditional Japanese music, traditional western scoring, and pop and rock backbeats. It doesn't sound like it would work, but it does and makes this show even more unique in that aspect. Looks like another soundtrack I'll have to get my hands on. Now keep in mind you have to enjoy (or at the very least not mind) traditional Japanese style singing and music. The Noh plays seem to have a large role in this show, so that style of music is important.

Gasaraki is definitely something I will recommend to anyone looking for a show more along the lines of a war film, than a sci-fi adventure. I don't think it's for everyone. It lacks the epic feel and directing style of EVA. And it lacks the flash and fury of Gundam. But Gasaraki makes up for it with a definite style, and a very intriguing way of weaving the story. It is a unique show that will be just what some people want, and just what some people want to stay away from. But I'm looking forward to the next disc.

Roman J. Martel
Tell me what you think! E-mail me at...
roman@animeondvd.com



Review Equipment
Hitachi GD-2000 DVD ROM, Cinemaster QI DVD Player (application), Dell Model UltraScan D1025HTX Color Monitor, ACS295 Atltec Lansing Speakers (right, left, Subwoofer)

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