The classic OVA series from the 90s is updated for TV, going much further in the story, but does the latest creation recapture the original's magic?
What They Say
Sho Fukamachi, a normal teenager accidentally found an alien object called Unit and thus, changed his life forever. The Unit bonded with Sho, resulting a powerful fighting lifeform called Guyver. With this great power, Sho battled the mysterious Chronos and it's Zoanoids, in order to protect his friends and his world. Unknown to Sho, the battle against Chronos will lead to the discovery of the origins of human, their destiny, and the Creators...
Guyver has a solid 5.1 mix for the English track, with the action providing the most directionality. It has a nice “oomph” about it at just the right times, and for the most part does a good job of immersing you in the on-screen action. The Japanese track doesn’t have quite the same impact, but still gives you a good experience. The English dub is a bit overly camp for my taste in parts. Although the show does hark back to some old superhero type cartoons in its style, at times the dialogue feels as though it should be delivered with a bit more seriousness than it is. As such I'd probably recommend the Japanese track unless you can't stand watching with subtitles - it just feels more authentic and real.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, for the most part the transfer for Guyver looks very good. Upscaled on my setup, there was very little to complain about, with only a few instances of dot crawl popping up and a little bit of blocking during some of the busiest scenes. Colours come out very nice, with only occasional dark blacks causing the odd problem during night scenes. You’d be hard-pressed to find many transfers that are better than this for a show of its time, it's one of the best anime TV transfers I've seen in recent years. I didn’t notice any problems with spelling or grammar in the subtitles.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are all static, with the selections presented within the shape of the Guyver’s control metal. Episode selections are clearly at the top, while sub-menu links are towards the bottom. The opening theme plays over the main menu, while the sub-menus are all static and silent. They look nicely in theme for the series and are quick to navigate.
The main extra throughout the series is an ongoing manga-to-anime comparison, putting frames from the books alongside clips of the same scenes from the TV show. It’s always interesting to see how close the adaptations are to the original material, so this is a good one to check out. There are also a couple of commentaries with fans of the show and a few of the English adaptation’s producers, which never reveal a great insight into the show but always have a few interesting tidbits, and are fun to listen to. Things are closed out with several production sketch galleries, and the textless opening and closing making an appearance on each volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original Guyver OVA series was my first taste of anime on television, and as such it’s always held a special place in my heart. When I first heard there was going to be an update for late-night television, I was really unsure whether it could recapture the magic. After watching the series all the way through, I could only conclude that it did, and went beyond it.
If you’re familiar with the original, watching the first portion of this new series will feel very familiar. As it follows the original manga’s story more closely, it doesn’t differ a great deal other than adding a few scenes here and there to improve characterisation, and reducing the length of some of the fights. As it moves into the teens though, the story goes far beyond what you would have seen before.
The plot, for the unaware, follows a young boy called Sho, who becomes attached to an alien suit of armour called a Guyver. When he calls its name, the Guyver unit literally engulfs Sho, empowering him with super strength and an arsenal of weapons. Finding it comes at a price though, as the company that lost the Guyver unit wants it back, and Sho’s friends Tetsuro and Mizuki are soon dragged into his fight against Chronos Japan. As the struggle continues, Sho is forced to fight several of the company’s biological weapons – modified humans called Zoanoids – to try and keep himself and his family safe.
The first arc of the series focuses on how finding the Guyver unit affects Sho, his friends and his family’s lives from an emotional standpoint. His father, Tetsuro and Mizuki all end up in grave danger at several points, as he battles wave after wave of Zoanoids. There are several internal happenings at Chronos that provide quite a lot of entertainment, but it’s the arrival of a man called Richard Guyot that brings a whole new ball to the park. The Zoanoids become bigger and badder, giving Sho a much harder challenge, and he provides much more of a fight than the man he overthrows. The other Guyver units also appear, one of whom is Makishima, the son of the original President of Chronos who is ousted by Guyot. Initially you can’t tell whose side he is on, but eventually he becomes a strong ally for Sho in his fight.
With all the action and fighting, you’d be forgiven for thinking the characterisation is lacking, as it was at times in the original series. Fortunately, this new series has several beats that can be quite emotional, forcing Sho into different situations that really push his emotions to the limit. At different times, Tetsuro, Mizuki and his father are all captured, and there are tragic consequences when Sho is forced to face off against his father, when he is transformed into a Zoanoid.
As the story progresses and the fight against Chronos gets bigger, several more characters are introduced. Agito becomes another ally, being an important part of the mythos of the series, and several more Chronos leaders including Dr Barcus, who has a psychological link with the Zoanoids and Archanfel, one of the so-called Zoalords all play a pivotal role in the proceedings. During the second arc midway through the series, the story does get a tad convoluted in some of the explanations of the origin of the Guyver units, their creators and Chronos’ role in everything, but although it sometimes descends into camp it is always enthralling. At least, it allows us to see these crazy monsters running around and fighting each other.
Sho does get a fairly tough time, losing his powers, losing family members and friends, but he always manages to pull himself back with a push of confidence from one of his friends. He's an easy lead character to like because there's a constant vulnerability about him, and even when he wavers and becomes a bit annoying, you can understand his reaction in that situation. Tetsuro initially finds the whole thing quite cool, but soon realises that his newfound life is not as exciting as it first seems, but instead is far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Although he doesn’t always say the right things, he always keeps the faith in Sho and is a good friend to have by his side. His sister Mizuki is Sho’s emotional centre, but she soon struggles to understand the changes in her life and being on the run all the time. Guyot on the other hand is the perfect enemy, keeping with the bad guys’ tradition of always coming back even when you think he’s defeated, and each time he gets stronger and stronger. His transformation is quite incredible (and hard to believe even with this show’s confines), but he is a lot of fun to watch just for how ridiculous he can be.
Guyver is always enjoyable to watch, even when some of the quieter parts of the series start to drag. In general they do a great job of keeping things moving and throwing more and more at Sho and friends. It does get very strange as it enters the final arc, with the whole mystery of Relic point kind of falling apart in places, and even characters like Archanfel's roles not really receiving the pay-off you might expect, but the core characters manage to hold the thing together. They're a good group with a good dynamic that is always interesting to watch, as relationships break down and have to be rebuilt.
The animation is fairly stiff and stilted throughout the show, not seeming to benefit from a particularly high budget. It does improve when some of the fights begin, but it is never particularly amazing. For an update of an older series, as a whole it does a good job of taking what was in the original and expanding it, as well as going far further in the mythology providing a much more natural stopping point than its predecessor. It won’t win awards for the greatest writing, indeed some of the dialogue is totally ridiculous, or even the most amazing story, but it knows what it is and does what it should do extremely well.
Guyver is pure, camp unadulterated fun. It goes beyond being just the monster of the week series that it initially appears to be, building up an interesting story and group of characters. Although it gets a tad ridiculous toward the end, you’re guaranteed a fun ride if you stick with it for the duration. Even given it’s been out there for a long time, it’s better than the OVA just because it expands on the story far more than the original, and it’s available for a pretty good price. Definitely worth a look.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Manga to anime comparisons, Commentary on episode 1 with Guyver fans Rod Peters and Jack Glauser, Commentary for episode 13 with Lowell Bartholomee (Tetsuro) and Charles Campbell (ADR Director), Production Sketches, Clean opening and closing
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player (upscaling DVDs to 1080p via HDMI), Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.