Gunparade March Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • 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: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.95/39.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gunparade March

Gunparade March Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     January 28, 2004
Release Date: January 27, 2004


Gunparade March Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Media Blasters


What They Say
Contains Gunparade March DVD Operation One along with a high-quality Collector's Tin to hold the remaining DVDs!

It began in 1945, at the end of the Pacific War. Alien invaders filled the Earth skies, and mankind was forced to confront an unprecedented threat. For the first time in human history, people of all cultures came together under one banner.

This war has now been raging for over fifty years. Countless lives have been lost, and the Japanese military is now forced to rely on young people such as Atsushi Hayami and his high school class, also known as Unit 5121. This new generation fearlessly struggles on with the aid of the HWT humanoid combat machines and the devastating PBE bomb.

The Review!
Humanity bands together to defeat a common enemy of an alien invasion back in 1945. Now more than fifty years later, the enemy has taken over nearly the entire world and is settling in to conquer Japan…

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a good stereo mix with some solid moments of directionality across the forward soundstage during the combat sequences. There are a number of moments where you can feel some of the oomph coming from this track. Dialogue came across clean and clear as well with no noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the series has a very fresh looking transfer that takes the drab and dreary world that these characters inhabit and lets a lot of great details shine through. The bulk of the show feels somewhat dark and oppressive with lots of gray skies and burnt out ruins, so there are a lot of dull colors mixed throughout. These scenes look fantastic, which only makes the more normal world scenes stick out even more. When shifting between a battle scene and then one of a bright day of an ordinary Japan, the colors are strikingly vivid and strong. Cross coloration looks to be just about non-existent and aliasing was very minimal as well.

Packaging:
Continuing with their solidly designed covers, Gunparade March is no exception. Using the clean shots of Atsushi and Mai in their combat gear while the backdrop has one of the HWT units moving through the town, it’s all mixed with technical readouts and other stylistic pieces that tie it all together beautifully. The back cover has a number of small shots from the show lined all over as well as a brief summary of the world premise and the cast we’re going to follow. The discs features and extras are all clearly listed and the layout makes it all easy to fid. The insert continues the style of the front cover with the green layered material from the show as well as some screenshots that flesh out the episode listings. The reverse side is boxart advertisements for other shows.

Menu:
The menu layout is very nicely done in-theme with some of the more rock-oriented music to go with it. Showing a large-scale map from a command center, the selections move across the area as targets with the cursor being the final aiming target. There are some brief transitional animations at the start-up but it wasn’t too long or annoying. Access times are nice and fast and the menu looks great with it being as in-theme as it is.

Extras:
There don’t look to be too many extras for this series in going over the Japanese releases, but the first volume here has a few. The production sketches section has a number of black and white pieces showing the mechanical side of the show, such as the HWT’s, the helicopters and the interesting launch system for the HWT’s from the planes. The opening sequence gets a textless version here and there’s also a curious piece called the GPM Theme. This is basically just a four minute song about the show, so there’s just a static image of the series logo on the screen while it plays. The song is in English and, while I will presume that it’s something that the Japanese came up with, it so gives the same impression that the English opening to the Initial D series that TOKYOPOP made does. You listen, you understand, and you just want to laugh.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Right from the opening, Gunparade March captured my attention. Starting with the premise of the world banding together to fight an alien invasion in 1945, we’re shown via a map how the aliens started in Europe and began their conquest there. The battle rages back and forth, but as time goes on the aliens continue to win and the slowly spread their grasp over the world. Called the Genjyu, they poison the area around them and things fall into ruin. Over the course of the next fifty years, we see through the map how they’ve spread all across the globe and moved in every direction. And now, in 1999, they’re set to make their move on one small island nation in the Pacific known as Japan.

It’s essentially Harry Turtledove anime up to this point, and that’s fun. Alternate histories that start back some period in time are almost always engaging to watch if they mess with enough things to twist them to suit their purpose. Gunparade March doesn’t seem to be an exception in this case. Though Japan has apparently been untouched throughout these years, the Genjyu are now making their way from the south up through the country. The Japanese seem rather prepared for this though and have an array of weapons to deal with it. The main weapon is the HWT unit, tall humanoid shaped mecha with human pilots that deal with the Genjyu head on. To defeat the Genjyu that attack, you have to eliminate the Brain creature that directs all the warrior drones.

The best way to destroy one of them is to plug a PBE missile right into its body and let it blow it straight up, an explosion that covers quite some distance and tends to turn towns into ruins. The military that’s dealing with these creatures isn’t typical though. Back in 1978, an order was signed that changed the draft age to 16 and ignores gender. During high school, prominent candidates are brought into special classes where they learn various aspects of defending their nation via the HWT missions; from pilots to technicians to strategists, the team lives together in its dorms and take on this dangerous career. If you don’t sign up, you end up having to take some vague twenty-year career that gets mentioned once or twice.

So once again, we have a show where a number of teenagers are trying to save the world. You get all the angst expected, the awkward potential romance, the male buddy camaraderie and a number of other stereotypical elements. The show feels a bit like part Blue Gender part high school drama. The group we get introduced to is the 5121 Force, which has its fun little cast of characters. From the klutzy girl who is a mechanic to the shy nervous girl who wants to take point in the missions but doesn’t have the skill for it. Add in the handsome playboy and the quiet male lead and you’ve got most of your basic crew. The reckless male character is interesting; it’s almost like they took Goku from Saiyuki and made him a pilot, complete with band-aid on the nose and requisite scars. Another interesting element is that there are some very young children involved as well, as they’re the catalysts for activating the PBE weapon and are required to be on the front lines as well.

5121 Force is set for some shake-ups though as they’re being moved forward in the game after the “accidental” destruction of a previous group. A survivor from that group is being transferred over with all her own mental baggage that will cause issues. Mai Shibamura fits the bill as the cold and calculating above average pilot who will eventually warm up once she gets to know everyone and will fall in love with the average pilot Atsushi. They have to both overcome certain obstacles themselves first, and then they can focus on that as the battles rage on. Mai also has the extra baggage in being the daughter of a billionaire and apparently a favored person in the country, as her father is the one who has worked on the many generations of designs for the HWT units that are helping to defend the country.

Gunparade March is a very competently done show with a lot of fun elements to it, but with its game based origins there is a lot of it that feels borrowed. Well, more heavily and obviously borrowed than a lot of other series. There are some interesting elements to it that slowly come out, such as learning about the draft age change later in the volume and seeing how it’s been affecting the youth. Another part that I liked is that while almost all of the scenes with the kids in combat take place under dark and gloomy conditions, whenever we see the rest of Japan during pans and the like, it’s almost always portrayed as a bright and cheerful place with lots of happy families. It serves to show who they’re protecting, but it’s such a contrast to the reality that these characters live in that it almost seems surreal.

In Summary:
There is a lot to like about Gunparade March. It plays out similar to a number of other recent high school kids piloting giant mecha series but is different enough to stand out. Playing with an altered timeline due to the alien invasion, there’s a bit more of a sense of history to this that I’m hoping is explored as well as getting to see more about these seemingly mindless puppet aliens that continue to attack and serve the Brains. While there are a lot of borrowed ideas here from other series, it’s pulled off very well and was quite a bit of fun to watch.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches,Textless Opening,GPM Theme

Review Equipment
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.


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