Gunparade March Vol. #2 - 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: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gunparade March

Gunparade March Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     May 26, 2004
Release Date: March 30, 2004


Gunparade March Vol. #2
© Media Blasters


What They Say
The war has claimed the lives of far too many, and each death leaves a vicious unseen wound upon the surviving. Unit 5121 discover that nobody is immune to the syndrome. Their next mission leaves them outgunned, outnumbered and one member short. Can this team stand fast or will combat fatigue wear them down?

The Review!
Things turn decidedly dark and morbid as the team faces some serious challenges while the Genjyu continue their incursions.

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:
While the leads got the first cover, this one gives it up for a cast shot with a good chunk of the team together in their uniforms while Nonomi hands out drinks to everyone. She really stands out on this cover since she's the only one with any real color to her. 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 (though they omit the theme song) 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 box art 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:
The only extras included are pretty minimal with a frame by frame gallery of production sketches and the textless ending sequence. The theme song makes another appearance though with the static logo staying on screen for the duration of it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a fairly solid opening set of episodes that gave us plenty to chew on and try to digest without giving away everything, the show settles into some character material and then takes a real dive into the darker territory that the series really does seem to be attracted to.

The character material is done in a way we see in a lot of shows and that's through putting on a cultural festival. The group is set to put together a puppet play for Hansel and Gretel but with a bit of a twist. To try and get Mai and Atsushi to synch together better in their HWT training, the two of them are put to working together on the witch character for the performance. Mai operates the puppet from the strings at the top while Atsushi works her from the bottom and provides the voice. Surprisingly, this actually gets some results and the two aren't quite as standoffish as before. There's a lot of fun in general with the performance prior to the start of it as everyone gets their roles and deals with the problems behind it. But as seemingly only happens in TV shows and movies, as soon as the performance is about to start, the 5121 gets called up to duty and everyone heads off to battle.

While the episode opens in a light and almost airy way, once things settle into the battle and things go horrendously wrong, the shows dark and oppressive feeling, especially when combined with the instrumental score tied to these scenes, just feel heavy. Watching as Atsushi helps deal with a wounded comrade and tries to save her from the poisons in the air that are infecting her system isn't easy to watch. Trying to get her rescued and evacuated becomes complicated as there are Genjyu all over the place and flying around up in the air over the zone as well making it hard to get a helicopter right into the scene. In the end, these scenes show off beautifully what a soldier, regardless of age, will do when one of their own is injured in battle and needs help.

The fallout from that battle has everyone dealing with it in different ways, some throwing themselves into work and others just going on as if nothing had happened. Before things can get better though, it gets far worse as during one battle things went so badly once again that Mia and Atsushi are sitting in a knocked down HWT while the rest of the team was withdrawn due to a strange situation. The PBE had killed the brain but apparently there's either another one there or it isn't quite as dead as they had hoped. The team is forced to abandon their teammates as the instructions from on high come down to their level as the situation is so new and unsettling that it needs to be investigated.

While that does play out, the really engaging scenes are the ones where we follow what Mia and Atsushi have to deal with. Since the two of them are downed in an area close to where the Brain was, the air is so completely poisonous that their gear will only allow them to survive for a few hours. Mia's assessment of the situation puts her right in the end-game mentality and she almost gives up right from the start, even as Atsushi is treating her mild wounds and giving her some medication. But he's a tricky guy and ends up giving her something that knocks her out completely, which allows him to put her on his back so he can travel across the terrain to somewhere that's hopefully safer.

Their trip is very revealing of what's gone on in the world since the Genjyu came about. Watching Atsushi carry her through the rotting trees and the falling snow with its eerie quietness outside of the crunching of his boots is just chilling. And when the Genjyu do arrive and his internal chanting seems to stop them cold in their path, there starts to be more to what's going on than was given earlier. A lot more is revealed later when the two make it inside a portion of the dam control buildings and they talk about some of the tall tales of the past, such as a group of monks who escaped out of a Genjyu filled valley because they were able to remove all fear from their hearts, something that Atsushi seemingly did. The panic and fear in Mia's mind and heart continues to attract the Genjyu to where they are though, so things aren't looking good.

All of this is tied into the Christmas holiday so there's plenty of things going on with the rest of the cast as they can only think of their comrades being dead, going by the numbers at least. The show also takes a sizeable leap forward to the springtime season and tries to alleviate all the heavy material that we just went through for three episodes by doing something of a romantic comedy episode as a new freshman in the school has set her sites on one of the pilots, much to his chagrin. It's a cute and amusing little filler episode, but the thing that kept bothering me was just how often and how easily this freshman was able to get into what you would expect to be highly sensitive or restricted areas. Hooray for plot holes!

In Summary:
Gunparade March is seemingly at its best for both the action and character development when it's at its darkest. The light and fluffy stuff is fun but it feels really forced when it's set against such tragedy that you know this team and other teams are continually facing. The downtime does let us get to know the characters better though as their motivations continue to be explored, but when compared against episodes such as the two-part story in the middle of this volume, I'd gladly excise it for more of that. Gunparade March is still a lot of fun but there feels like there's a bit more unevenness in these episodes since it shifts between such stories so easily.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches,Textless Ending,Theme Song

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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