Gravion Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gravion

Gravion Vol. #1

By Kim Wolstenholme     June 14, 2005
Release Date: June 20, 2005


Gravion Vol. #1
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
When mankind faces an alien force with technology light years ahead of its own, it may take a man obsessed with the past to save the Earth. The fate of humanity rests on whether the eccentric billionaire Sandman can build a machine as great as the myths of old. His creation is a god for the modern age, a deity forged of circuits and steel – it is Gravion!

Only a young band of orphaned misfits are born with the ability to pilot this top secret weapon. All life on the planet depends on how well they can fight the Zeravire – if they can only stop fighting amongst themselves!

The Review!
Big robots and rather large breasts abound (quite literally) in this rather lacklustre series from Gonzo.

Audio:

For my main review I opted to watch the show with the original Japanese 2.0 track. There’s not much I can say other than it’s perfectly functional, music and dialogue come across well and the front sound stage is used effectively. Music plays quite a big part in Gravion and this comes across well, although on a couple of instances the music did seem to overpower the dialogue to a certain extent. Most notably this tends to happen during the combination sequence when the dialogue is at a minimum anyway.

Video:

Presented in its full screen aspect ratio, the picture for Gravion is actually quite good, especially considering that there are 5 episodes included on this disk plus extras. Gravion is one of the many Gonzo shows ADV are currently releasing over here and as is usually the case the studio have opted to use very bright colours, and lots of them. Almost every scene makes full use of the colour spectrum and I noticed no colour bleeding at all. Edge enhancement and artifacting was also non existent. The only problem I noticed with the transfer was that at times it appeared a little soft and lacked definition.

Subtitles are in the usual ADV yellow font and I noticed no grammar or spelling mistakes.

Packaging:

The UK release of Gravion has the same cover that the US release used, we have a shot of Luna in her usual pink and red outfit and behind her is a picture of Gravion. Also in the background we have a faint picture of one of the Zeravire. The logo for the show takes up about a third of the cover and is shown on the bottom. The back cover has the précis for the show with a number of screen shots from the episodes displayed. The usual ADV grid contains the technical information and the extras are listed.

This release also comes with a booklet; entitled Gravion Mechanics Design Works this contains vehicle designs for the main components of Gravion and a couple of pictures of Gravion once assembled. Also included is the first part of a short story, G’s Tragedy, which will be continued in the next two volumes. The insert has a nice combination of design sketches for the individual machines as well as screen shots from the series. Overall the layout works well, even if it’s a little light on information.

Menu:

The main menu screen duplicates the layout of the computer monitors that are used frequently throughout the show. All the options are displayed on the main screen (one for each episode as well as language and extras) and a couple of panels at the bottom of the screen show clips from the show. Pinks and blues make up the colour scheme for the menu that means it’s quite colourful, but overall it looks messy and a bit too crowded. The opening music plays over the main menu and the submenus also have musical accompaniment. All menu access times are fast though, once you get the hang of the layout, which is initially slightly confusing.

Extras:

We start the extras with the usual clean opening and closing credits, Gravion appears to have 2 different opening and closing themes and both of them are included here. This confused me initially as I got the impression that the opening and closing credits made up the bulk of the running time. Next up is the Japanese trailer which I assume was aired to promote the show, it’s OK and gets the action aspect of the show across quite well.

Next up we have a slideshow of production sketches for the show set to music and finally we have the usual ADV Previews.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

I’ll start this review by letting you in on a little secret – I quite like the mecha genre. There’s something quite exciting about watching big robots battle other big robots or invaders from space, or just about anything really. One of my all time favourite music videos is Intergalactic, a video that’s really just an excuse for the Beastie Boys to have fun with this very Japanese of genres. So far I’ve not come across a mecha anime I didn’t like, that was until Gravion.

Set in the future, mankind has been at peace for many years and all the governments have combined to form one ruling body. However, this peace is soon to come under threat as an alien race called the Zeravire have decided to attack Earth and it’s numerous outposts in the galaxy. The only person who seems to know about this threat is the elusive Sandman, a billionaire who lives in seclusion in a huge castle.

The series opens with Sandman throwing a party for several major political heavyweights. This is a very rare event and everyone has made sure they can attend, if only to finally meet Sandman face to face. Politicians aren’t the only people at this party, a young boy (Eiji) has infiltrated the shindig as he’s been informed that his sister is somewhere in the castle and she needs his help. In order to find his sister Eiji has used the party as a cover to get into the castle, but he’s unaware that his every move is being monitored.

During his exploration of the castle Eiji comes across a room that contains a huge robot, and he soon meets the robots pilot Toga. With Eiji being the interloper here he is obviously on his guard and attempts to fight Toga when some sort of explosion knocks him off his feet and into a vehicle that he initially believes to be a variation of a motorbike. This explosion was the start of an attack from the Zeravire and Eiji is forced to pilot the vehicle against the attacking Zeravire.

Meanwhile, Sandman is showing his party guests footage of Zeravire attacks against Earth outposts. Most of these guests conclude that this must be footage for a feature film until they start getting phone calls from their support staff telling them of the attacks. Fighter planes are soon dispatched to deal with the attacker who has now arrived on Earth, but these prove ineffectual against the Zeravire, so Sandman unveils his ultimate weapon – Gravion, a set of 5 machines that combine to create an unstoppable force that is the only thing capable of defeating the Zeravire. Sandman wants the government to give him free reign in defeating the Zeravire, but they seem to have other ideas…

As already mentioned, Gravion itself is made by combining 5 different vehicles or robots that have different abilities, each of these individual vehicles are piloted by a young person who possesses a special ability that Sandman refers to as G force. Eiji was actually enticed to come to the castle because he has this special ability (as did his sister) and Sandman was one pilot short. The first episode gives us all this background, as well as briefly introducing the other main players in the series – the other pilots (Toga, Mizuki, Luna and Ena), Sandman and Raven.

The remainder of the five episodes on this disk really continue in the same vein as the first. In each episode we get a bit more story exposition and get a bit more information about the main characters, a Zeravire will then attack and the guys and gals have to go out and defeat the enemy. We do find out however, that Eiji’s sister was at the castle, but that she disappeared during a training exercise in the G-Shadow, which is now piloted by a stranger to the group (who we don’t actually get to meet until the 4th episode). The overall plot is slim, and at times the execution seems clunky with each episode having 3 main scenes – the Zeravire attack, the Gravion combination sequence (the same in every episode), and the defeat of the Zeravire.

Not content with the big mecha side of fandom Gonzo also seem intent on exploring every single aspect of fan service in Gravion. In a slight spin on the harem theme Sandman is surrounded by female servants, all of whom appear to wear maid uniforms. The only other males in the castle appear to be Raven - Sandman’s emissary, Toga and Eiji. Eiji gets his own little harem too, a group of three young girls (in maid uniforms) who seem determined to undress him at every available opportunity. OK this is mostly to give him new clothes, or a medical exam, but it just feels a little uncalled for. Anyway these frequent intervals give the females watching a chance to see Eiji’s super defined half clothed body (which seems to get more buff on each occasion) because after all there’s got to be something for the girls too.

But that’s not all; we also have shower scenes, hot bath scenes (male and female) as well as one female character having the biggest breasts I’ve ever seen in any anime, ever! Seriously they are that big that whenever Mizuki is on screen I can’t help feeling sorry for the poor girl, as she must suffer from some serious backache. Her piloting position in G-Striker is also somewhat, shall we say, sexually provocative.

It’s all a bit much really, and leaves you feeling a bit cold, because with all this gratuitous fan service there doesn’t seem to much time spent exploring the characters motivations or even the background behind Gravion’s creation, at least not yet. I’m not saying that we should have in depth exploration of all characters psyches in anime, but it helps to have likeable characters and so far the only characters I find remotely likeable are Leele, along with her pet ferret and Luna.

Not even the robots can escape from the vague feeling of having seen it all before. Gravion is incredibly similar to RahXephon in looks, while the Zeravire simply seem to be low rent Neon Genesis Evangelion baddies. Even their ability to evolve and learn from their defeats is something of a science fiction cliché.

The music is another area where Gravion is somewhat below par. The ponderous opening on the first episode is completely out of place with the rest of the show; while the soft J-Rock that accompanies the transformation sequence is just, well, awful. The closing music isn’t bad and neither is the secondary opening music, but these are the only good points music wise. If I hadn’t heard other anime soundtracks I would think that J-Pop was stuck in a time warp in the 80s somewhere. Mind you that could be intentional given the nature of the show, but it’s hard to be sure.

The one good thing about Gravion is the quality of animation. While not up to the standard seen in previous shows such as Last Exile the animation here is still quite impressive, even if the character designs are a bit stereotypical. However, it’s really not enough to save the show, especially when sequences are used over and over again.

In summary:
If I had to describe Gravion in 5 words or less, the phrase that springs to mind is style over substance, and unfortunately even the style is slightly lacking compared to other Gonzo shows. So far the show seems to be rehashing elements from other similar series, while not adding anything new to distinguish it from it’s predecessors. Its by-the-numbers approach is almost stupefying and after the first two episodes you can more or less predict how the next episodes are going to be played.

While the first five episodes have introduced the characters, we’ve not really been given any real background or motivation. I’m hoping that the second volume can give us this as currently Gravion is lacking in substance and appears as if it’s going to be very predictable.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Japanese Trailer,Clean opening and closing,Production Sketches,Insert with Extra Gravion Story

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42” Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.

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