Gundress -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: D

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 82
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gundress


By Chris Beveridge     July 04, 2002
Release Date: June 25, 2002

© Media Blasters

What They Say
In 2100, the newly built Bayside City serves as Japan's premier international port. The Angel Arms Company is established by a former policewoman named Takako, to help wage war on terrorism with armed security suits. When the mayor is assassinated, the women of Angel Arms end up protecting the evil crime-lord Hassan, in hopes that his information will help bring down a global terror ring. Takako's back is to the wall as a band of criminals plot to kill Hassan, and the organization's leader is revealed to be the former lover of Angel Arms' own Alisa.

Gundress marks Anime Works' second release of a theatrical film on DVD, a classic cyberpunk story with character designs by the legendary Masamune Shirow, known as the creator of Ghost in the Shell and Dominion Tank Police.

The Review!
Probably one of the splashier major flops of recent years, Gundress was actually released to theaters incomplete in attempts to generate more cash to actually finish it. Where the original budget went, who knows, because it certainly isn’t on the screen.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The audio for both tracks is a pretty simple stereo mix with little in the way of directionality throughout. The track is pretty decent, but it’s no different than a lot of TV series out there. Dialogue was clear and we noted no distortions or dropouts.

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the region 1 version of this movie is presented in letterbox non-anamorphic format as opposed to the anamorphic Japanese release. The transfer appears to be a decent one, with little in the way of visible cross coloration or color banding. There’s the occasional bit of aliasing in some scenes, particularly during camera pans.

The highlight of this release is the packaging, with a good looking Shirow styled image of one of the characters on the cover all in her gear and wielding a gun. The background has images of the other women and one of their landmates in a red hue, with an overall very nicely styled look that’s eye-catching and attractive. The back cover provides a couple of black and white character shots and a brief summary of the shows premise. The discs features and production information is clearly listed, but there’s no mention of the videos presentation being letterbox unfortunately.

The main menu uses the image from the front cover along with the design style to present the main selections, while music from the movie plays along. With it being a simple static image, moving between selection is nice and fast and the layout is quick to access.

The only extra included is a 30 minute making of Gundress feature, which has some interesting pieces to how the whole thing came about. Whether you’ll want to watch it after the movie is a whole other matter.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having spent almost an hour and a half on this movie, I have to admit I want to spend precious little more time discussing it. On so many levels, it’s just so amazingly mediocre and that’s at its best. For the most part, it just feels like a bad movie. When you have one of the writing team claim in the making of video that they wanted to make a live action movie, just in anime form, I knew we were in trouble.

Even more so, when the opening of the show takes place on a boat, and it’s got the same name as the ship from one of the Lethal Weapon movies.

Things take place close to the year 2100 in Bayside City, formerly Yokohama. The look and feel of the city is completely confused, with some very futuristic looking areas and some post-destruction areas. Within the city, things are a hotbed for terrorism. Things are so bad that the mayor has created an armed group of women called Angel Arms, outside of the law, to use any means necessary to take down these terrorists. The movie goes forward with the capture of one potential terrorist and then leads into the group dealing with finding another one that’s going to cause big big trouble.

Of course, along the way we deal with various character issues, such as one of them being a cybernetic rebuild, and with the fact that they’re all such blank slate stereotypes. On the plus side, some of them sometimes look good. This is because they got Masamune Shirow to help out in a few ways. His work is mostly with some of the primary characters, primarily the women. On the downside, since he didn’t do the rest, there’s a huge disparity between designs. In another way, they co-opted his landmates for this movie, since Shirow hadn’t done much for awhile at that point, and it was likely easy money.

With the movies final release being in 2000, you just have to look at it and wonder what went wrong. It looks much more like a late 80’s OVA at times than a recent movie. The animation is just so bad at times, and inconsistent, that it almost feels like a gag. If you’re expecting something like Ghost in the Shell, you’re going to be disappointed. There are a few rips of that though, with the cyber enhanced character, where you get a few things reminiscent of that movie.

What really let me know that I wasn’t going to enjoy this, before I had even started the feature, was that the writing team behind it is ORCA. These are the folks behind another recent sucky viewing experience of mine, Landlock. The similarities between the two are eerie at times in how they just can’t seem to write something interesting. Gundress had been lambasted from the moment the first bits of animation were show in Japan, and there was plenty of surprise that the final product was even licensed for US release. Unless you’re the ultra obsessive Shirow fan who must have everything he’s involved with down to his litter, I’d definitely have to give this one a pass.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Making of Gundress Feature

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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