A high school boy finds a mecha suit and saves the world. I feel like I’ve seen this story before.
What They Say:
A world controlled by the Chronos Corporation, a sinister brotherhood who hide their fangs behind masks of humanity. While investigating a mysterious explosion near his school, Sho Fukamachi happens upon the Chronos Corporation's greatest weapon: a techno organic suit of bio armor known as "the Guyver." But Chronos is determined to conceal their secrets at any cost. Sho soon finds himself relentlessly pursued by its army of horrific bio-monsters. With nowhere to run, he is forced to call upon the fearsome power of the Guyver and rip his opponents limb from limb in a desperate struggle for survival.
Contains episodes 1-26.
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 5.1 The Japanese track is available in 2.0. The mix for this release is really well done, with some nice directionality in the sound effects, especially during the action scenes. Dialogue stays centered, but there is no dropout with the music or effects.
This release has a really nice transfer. Shown in its original 16:9 aspect ratio, the colors and lining come through bright and bold, and there are some especially terrific effects in some of the battle sequences. I also did not see some of the technical problems that sometimes plague Funimation’s thinpak boxsets as this was clean throughout.
Standard stuff here for Funimation, and by that I mean the dreaded double thinpaks. Mine came through without a problem, but they are the same cases that are always used in Funimation’s thinpak releases, so no guarantees there. Otherwise, the design is decent, with a cool action pose of Guyver I on the front of the cover set against a shot of Sho in the suit and a powered up Richard Guyot. The back has some screen shots and technical details, while the thinpaks themselves have more Guyver images and episode listings. It is a really well designed package, but I still cannot get past the cases.
The menus for this release are fairly basic. The background has a sort of mecha look to it in design while the episode selections are overlaid in an easy to read format. The opening theme plays in the background on a 30 second loop, meaning do not leave it up for too long or else it will start getting repetitive, even though the song is pretty good. There is nothing special here, but it is functional, and that is what is important.
There are some decent extras on this release, though I am surprised that they had to use an extra disc for most of them rather than squeezing them on the other discs. For starters, there are some staff commentaries for episodes one, thirteen, twenty-three, and twenty-six. On the extra disc, there are clean versions of the opening and closing, production sketches, and manga/anime comparisons. This last one is just a reel of various scenes from the anime shown in a split screen with the corresponding scenes in the manga. It is neat to see, but I was hoping for some actual analysis about how they made their decisions to render the scenes in certain ways.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Guyver is a long running manga series (been going since 1985) that has been adapted into two animated TV series, an animated movie, and two live action movies. This box set compiles the most recent TV series from 2005 which adapts the first 59 chapters of the manga. The end result is an anime that starts out a bit slow and then picks up the pace; but because the manga is still ongoing, the anime does not really have a definitive conclusion and instead acts as a prelude to things to come.
Sho Fukamachi is a regular high-school guy: goes to school, is a member of the student council, and has no real desires in life. One day, he is hanging out at a nearby lake with his best friend (and brother to his longtime crush, Mizuki) Tetsuro Segawa, who is a bit of a tech head. While discussing a school project of Tetsuro’s, they discover a circular metal object, and though Sho thinks that they should leave it alone, Tetsuro’s curiosity gets the better of him. But as he is checking it out, the object activates opening up and absorbing Sho into a powerful mecha suit. Though they are attacked moments later by some monsters, Sho’s new suit takes over and easily defeats them. When it then disappears, Sho and Tetsuro decide the thing to do is to try to go forward with life as if nothing has happened.
If only it were that easy. The monsters that attacked them came from Chronos Corporation, a bio-weapons research company who until recently had possession of the suit Sho and Tetsuro found, and they want it back. It does not take them long to track down the two boys, who claim to have left the suit at the lake. However, when the Chronos investigators begin to threaten the boys, Sho discovers the means for calling forth the suit, and he once again kills their would be captors.
In the confusion, the boys learn that Sho’s new suit is called a Guyver Unit, and it is the first of three units in existence. Sho and Tetsuro decide that it is important they keep the suit away from Chronos at all costs, especially since the company’s initial impulse in retrieving their property was one of violence. But as Chronos becomes more desperate in their attempts to subdue Sho, they begin to involve Sho’s friends and family, and that draws Sho deeper into a conflict that spans eons and threatens all human existence.
As the first few episodes of The Guyver played out, I could not stop myself from sighing a few times. Sho is a run-of-the-mill boy with nothing particularly going for him. Sigh. The girl of his dreams only looks at him as a friend and has eyes for the sexy, uber-popular class president. Sigh. Sho then finds a super suit that makes him the savior of humanity. Sigh. Even the basis for the work being done by Chronos is sigh-inducing. It may have been new and interesting in 1985 when the manga first started out, but in 2010, the tropes feel played out. Even Mizuki as the wet-blanket, hopeful romantic interest just comes off as whiny and annoying as she initially gets dragged into the conflicts.
But once we get past the initial setup, The Guyver starts to pick up steam and the tropes do not matter as much; the story takes over. The characters for all their typecasting have some meat to them, and there is real depth to the overall plot as we uncover everything that Chronos is getting themselves into, and I loved every twist that comes along as everybody learns more about the abilities of the Guyver Units. I knew that there was no way that Sho could be dead just six episodes into a 26 episode series (and never-ending manga series), but how it went about solving it was fun to watch.
It also helps that there is some great action weaved into it all that helps keep things moving. Not an episode goes by where Sho is not forced to don the Guyver suit and kick some ass. I especially liked it when he finds a new ability that is necessary to beat a certain monster. It keeps the action on its toes. And though the action is shonen fighting at its finest, it does not fall into the trap of 30 minute soliloquies about an enemy’s past or anything like that, so it all works well.
But frankly, the real problem with the series lies in the fact that the manga is never-ending. There is a lot of complexity with the storyline, particularly when it comes to sorting out who is really an enemy and who is really a villain, and the anime does not have enough time to sort all of that out. For example, Agito Makishima who is also the user of Guyver Unit III is at first portrayed as one of Sho’s ultimate enemies, but he is forced to side with Sho when circumstances demand it, and by the end of the series, he is acting like a hero. But his goals have not changed as far as we know as viewers, so there is still a suggestion that he might turn again down the road.
It also does not help that a major story arc ends an episode before the TV series does, with the last episode used to tie up a loose end of that arc. But in tying up that loose end, the next major story arc is set up, leaving viewers with a sense of unfinished business. So, while the story definitely picks up from the lackluster beginning, the ending left me wanting more. If I were following the manga at all, maybe I would not care as much; but as a stand-alone anime series, there is a bit of a let down here.
The Guyver is a series that starts out a bit slow, and frustratingly leaves us hanging at the end, but what is in the middle is pure gold. The story is good, the characters are certainly likeable, and the action is fantastic. My only wish is that there was something more of a definitive conclusion at the end. Considering I want more, that tells me what came before must have been pretty good. I guess I’ll need to go track down the manga. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary with Guyver Fans, Manga-to-Anime Comparison, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Commentary with Lowell Bartholomee (Tetsuro) & Charles Campbell (ADR Director), Commentary with Chris Patton (Sho) & Charles Campbell (ADR Director), Commentary with Chris Patton (Sho), Lowell Bartholomee (Tetsuro) & Charles Campbell (ADR Director).
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System
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