The mecha is fanservice, but the characters drive this show into something which could be quite a bit special.
What They Say
At the end of the Pacific War, a new enemy surfaces in the skies over Earth. The new war continues for over five decades, and now a new generation must step forward for the fight. Young Atsushi Hayami is among them - will he help to revitalize the Japanese military and win the war?
For this review, I chose to watch it in Japanese. –MVM seem to have a habit of managing to transform good 2.0 audio but a lot of their shows don’t divulge into the 5.1 format – a shame as the audio conversation is quite excellent you have to wonder why they don’t try it more often than not. The atmosphere of the show considering the war nature (especially in the first episode) combined with the interesting video and to need to hear the screams, the shots and the explosions. The combination of video and audio is in a near flawless conversion, dampened slightly by the lack of 5.1 (which would really have helped during some of those tense moments in the first ep)
There is some great attention to detail as the dark atmosphere background flows into an unusual take on high school life. The detail in showcasing some of the visuals such as the mechas is quite remarkable, even if some of the effects from the transition seem to give off a slightly blurry effect. The panning/wide screen effect seemed to enhance the video quality on my screen, which again, didn’t show any lack of effort from the animators and the transaction to DVD. No problems with subtitles and timing in the slightest, which is showcased fully with the sequence in episode 3 during Setogochi’s attempted text mecha flirting with Mai, and unlike some other releases recently I’ve reviewed, they are timed to perfection.
No packaging was supplied with this test disc.
The menu is standard but has some nice touches and is very accessible. The opening menu has some eerie background music with a television on the top right showing scenes from the disc, alongside a picture of the lovely Mai in her HWT uniform. Easy selection for play, selection and trailers. Easily accessible from the show as well switching subtitles to full or just signs. Nothing fancy but does the job in a pretty package.
The extras are very basic as we just have the trailers to Disgaea and Samurai Deeper Kyo.
Another show at the deep end, Gunparade March was recommended for me despite knowing that I’m not the best person when it comes to mecha based shows. However, it soon comes about that the mecha is just the icing on the cake, and the true grit of the show is what appears to be the start of a complicated and fascinated relationship between the two leads.
The first two episodes are as different as night and day. We get a brief introduction to the plot, a retelling of the finale of World War II where some alien forces known as the Genjyu began to methodically slaughter the human race and have abruptly taken possession of half the world. Now, 50+ years later, the battle to dispose of the Genjyu continues with the formation of the HWTs (Humanoid Walking Tanks) where through a student draft, the Japanese government trains high schoolers to become HWT pilots. The platoon in question is the 5121st, as we rush into battle without little explanation for who the characters are, how they are fighting and the introduction of a mysterious saviour. The first episode is basically for fans of mecha style battles as the platoon in question without barely room to breathe, are into battle and the only bits of characterisation is of the main male, Hayami, who seems ready to sacrifice himself to save one of his own…but at the same time is called a goof because of his nature. The action was graphic and very well animated, but it left me confused that they would rush into a scene like this with barely an introduction for the cast.
Fortunately, that is soon removed at the end of the first ep and the next few eps. A mysterious beautiful transfer student (who turns out to be the teams saviour in episode 1), tall, stoic and seemingly unfeeling, Mai Shibamara immediately catches the eye of everyone for her air of dignity, her beauty and her mystery. The name seems to suggest she might be part of a rich family according to some of her classmates, however Hayami is intrigued with her as he met her on the way after losing yet another rock-scissors-paper battle against his roommates. One of said roommates, Setogochi, is definitely more than interested in Mai, but his nature of a playboy leads to several of the other female members having a little trick played on him…not that it matters to Mai, who both deliberately ignores his advances, and during a simulation battles, his flirtatious texting on the HWTs causes her to smack him around a little. Concerns about Mai’s nature from the rest of the cast are there, from cheerful redhead Mahari Koto, motherly figure Motoko Hara (who in episode 4 provides both the human fanservice and the sneaky nature of the group) and in particular Mio Mibuya, the former on point guard whose skills are nothing compared to Mai’s, not to mention that Hayami’s caring nature around everyone seems to arouse some jealousy…much to Hara’s enjoyment.
The first real Hayami/Mai meeting showcases Mai’s strict nature, but seems to get flustered over Hayami’s over-apologising. There are definitely hints of Mai’s true nature in this episode alone with a photograph and a stray cat which Hayami feeds being obvious hints. The third episode doesn’t elaborate on this as they do a flashback episode showcasing Mibuya’s role, as she was the replacement for a friend of theirs named Akane, who died in a previous mission. Whether’s Mai’s role is supposed to be someone to frighten this tightly knit group is unsure, but you can tell there is potential of a rivalry between Mai/Mibuya, especially when Hayami seems to get a bit interested in Mai and why she wanted to request leave – her subsequent grave visit whilst the class honour Akane at a lantern festival is a stark contrast but yet similar in nature to each other, in a rather poetic way.
The final episode however finally begins what seems to be an interesting journey between Mai and Hayami – when a new model mecha requiring tandem people to use is implemented into the platoon, the class begin to bet who will be the duo chosen. The teachers however surprisingly pick Mai and Hayami – surprising because Hayami is decidedly average all round whilst Mai is the best soldier but has poor social skills. Mai’s nature doesn’t help but she begins to realise her own problems and tries to rectify it, even going to the library to get books and tapes to try and make friends easier. It works for a time, as she doesn’t berate Hayami for his mistakes, but it gets to a point where she gets too frustrated, which leads to the nice guy Hayami beginning to point out her own problems – and suddenly the two are arguing like husband and wife. In some ways it’s quite comical, but in others, it’s simply the start of an interesting relationship.
The cast is the real strength of the show so far. The mecha action has been taken a backfoot to the introduction of Mai, and showcasing that Mai and Hayami are set to be the main characters. The side cast has a lot of charms as well, particularly Kana who is quite the part-mother, part seductress for both the boys and girls, and Miss Badluck Maki you have to smile at as despite her hardships, she always smiles. On the boys end, Hayami’s roommates Setogochi and Takikana are both lovable idiots, and little girl Nonomi with her intriguing abilities and the way that she even gets Mai to be a bit more social is so sweet. However, the show belongs to Hayami and Mai, but specifically Mai, who there is a lot of background stuff that needs to be fleshed out, as it’s shaping up to be focused on that, and I hope we enjoy the ride, as the thinning out so far has been good, let’s hope the main course continues to be as tasty.
Gunparade March is shaping up to be a good show – a combination of action, animation and characterisation gives it a good advantage over a lot of shows, and in Mai we have an intriguing and fascinated lead. Hayami seems like the typical whipping boy, but in the last episode we have hints that may not be the case, and the amusing supporting cast gives it a nice touch. If a lot of the hints they display about Mai here really give the plot a boost, then the future is looking good. Recommended so far.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.