A charming title that does not seem to take itself too seriously at times but nevertheless offers some solid action and story telling.
What They Say
In the distant future, mankind is forced to live in domed cities called Domepolis after an environmental cataclysm. These cities are maintained and supplied by private corporations, but at what cost to the inhabitants living within them? In a Siberian Domepolis, virtual game champion Gainer Sanga is arrested on suspicion of Exodus, an unauthorized venture beyond the dome walls and strictly prohibited by the government. In prison, he meets Gain Bijou, a mercenary bent on escaping and together the two will steal a mysterious Overman out of Duke Medaiyu's mansion. Fighting back the Siberian Railway Patrol forces, they bothlead a massive Exodus out of the city to the east land Yapan, where their ancestors are originally from.
Witness this bold new challenge from Mobile Suit Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino as he defies genre classifications and creates a new style, blending intense mecha action and light-hearted comedy.
For this viewing, I took in the English dub. Both the English and Japanese tracks are offered in 2.0 stereo. The mix is good, with some nice directionality, and no distortion or dropout on any of the tracks. That said, with the action on display here, this title really needed a 5.1 mix to really bring things out. So while the sound is well done, it is also slightly disappointing. That said, the opening theme is cheesily great, so it is a bit of a wash.
A top notch job has been done with the visuals for this title. Offered in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, it is plenty colorful, and there are some wonderful character designs. On top of that, the mecha all have unique looks, and the special effects during their battles are excellent. All of this transferred nicely to DVD, as there are no technical problems or glitches. It is a really well done title all around.
As somebody who is rapidly approaching the “I have too many DVDs” stage of my life, I appreciate Bandai’s current direction with the Anime Legends line. All six discs of Overman King Gainer come in a standard size amaray case. Each side of the case has spots for two DVDs and there is a plastic, hinged insert for two more discs. The front cover has a pencil drawing of King Gainer with Gainer and Princess Ana in the cockpit, while Gain runs with his sniper rifle underneath. In the background are various images of the various silhouette engines used by both the Yapan Exodus and the Siberian Railway. The blending of colors and different elements make this a really nice cover. The back has screenshots and technical details, along with an episode list. Oddly, though it lists extras, it does not list all of them.
I like the menus on this release too. The main menus have an animatic of King Gainer that ultimately zooms in on the front of the Overman’s helmet. That provides the backdrop to the menu, as selections are listed in a box underneath. Making a selection starts another animatic that zooms out and has King Gainer do an action that creates a new menu, or starts the feature. Selections are easy to see and follow, and the animatics are really well done. Overall, the menus are great.
As listed on the packaging, each disc in this set has a lineart gallery along with a few promo clips from the original Japanese release. The clips are fairly fun to watch as it is interesting to see how the Japanese do things differently. Not listed on the packaging is a set of clean openings and closings, including a clean version of the special ending. Also on disc 3 is a two minute “clip show” recapping the first half of the series. This is a neat addition that is preferable to using an entire episode to recap. Finally, the second disc has a behind the scenes look at series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino and his methods, along with the different ways he tends to work with others on his staff. I like these sorts of things, and Tomino makes for an interesting subject, so this one is worth checking out.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Overman King Gainer is a light-hearted, mecha title that both follows and plays with the main tenets of the genre. While not the most solid of stories at times, it shines in enough areas which makes for an enjoyable romp. A strong cast of characters and quite a bit of great action make this a fun title that even non-mecha fans could find enjoyable.
Set in a somewhat post-apocalyptic distant future, Overman King Gainer takes place after mankind’s wasteful ways have destroyed the Earth. In an effort to restore the planet, humanity has retreated into isolated, enclosed cities, known as Domepoli. While travel between them is allowed, expansion is not. This is to enable nature to reclaim the planet and heal the wounds mankind has caused. However, for some people, London IMA—the company that runs the cities—is too restrictive and corrupt, and those people seek ways out.
For that, they have Exodus: a journey out of their dome to a far off land to build a new society. These journeys, though much grander in scale, are similar to past human expansion efforts, such as the Western Expansion in the US during the 1800s, and the people involved in Exodus face the same difficulties: hunger, disease, death; yet they are willing to risk that in order to find a new life. In theory, an Exodus has to be approved by London IMA to take place; however that approval rarely comes as London IMA hates to give up control. Therefore, most Exoduses are illegal in nature and are forced to fend off forces determined to stop them.
Gainer Sanga lives in the Siberian Domepolis and has forged a reputation for himself around the world as the King of Games. The most popular video game simulates battles of the various mecha the armies use, and Gainer has proven unbeatable in it. However, because of his prowess, he is brought under suspicion for being involved in Exodus, when he is in reality very against it. Much of the local policy of the Siberian Domepolis is dictated by the Siberian Railway Company, who runs the train system throughout Siberia. With their public and political clout, they are able to overstep their bounds at will, and their private army illegally arrests Gainer for that suspicion.
Despite his protests, Gainer is thrown in the Siberian Railway Patrol’s jail with a number of other prisoners, with no real hope of getting out. But soon after his arrival, another captive is tossed in with them: Gain Bijou. Gain has little use for staying in jail and quickly sets a plan to escape. In the short time he was in jail, he struck up a fast friendship with Gainer, and he takes Gainer along on the escape. As part of the escape plan, Gain attempts to steal an Overman, a top-of-the-line battle robot, which he figures will help in the escape. However, pursuit by the Patrol forces Gainer into the pilot’s seat. While a little unsteady at first, Gainer’s game instincts set in, and he quickly gains a mastery of the robot, which he dubs King Gainer in homage to his title in the game.
As soon as they secure their escape, though, Gainer finds himself in over his head, as it quickly becomes obvious that Gain is involved with a planned Exodus away from the Siberian Domepolis to an ancient land known as Yapan. Gain is an Exodus Specialist, a man who is an expert at planning and executing an exodus. He is known as the Black Southern Cross, a notorious sniper who never misses his target. Along the way, Gain very politely kidnaps the Duke’s young daughter, Princess Ana, whose sense of adventure makes her a more than willing hostage.
Gainer’s anti-exodus stance is tested farther when he learns that his teacher and many of his classmates, including his crush Sara, are involved too. The Exodus begins as soon as Gain and Gainer get away from the prison, and it eventually becomes apparent to Gainer that Gain intentionally got himself arrested in order to steal the Overman as well as the Game King. This does not sit well at all with Gainer.
At first Gainer tries to leave the exodus, but he quickly gets attached to the Overman, and along with his sense of justice, he reluctantly joins in as he opposes the method the Railway Patrol employ to keep exodus from succeeding. As a result, Gainer and his Overman become the central point of the defense force for the Yapan Exodus, and his skills are tested time and again by both the Railway Patrol and by the forces of Saint Regan, the military arm of London IMA.
Overman King Gainer has a really intriguing premise that in many ways follows some of the, but then at the same time challenges, the standards of the mecha genre. The mecha in this series are split into two groups. The basic unit is the Silhouette Engine: a multi purpose robot that forms the majority of the military force. The Overman units are much more versatile in their movements and abilities, and therefore require specially trained pilots in order to use them. The Overmans act almost like a second skin to the pilots in that they mimic whatever movements the pilot does. Each Overman also has a specific Overskill, an ability that makes each Overman unique in its ability to fight.
What I liked about a lot about this title, though, was how the characters treated the Overmans. Like any good mecha story, the Overmans are ancient technology, and their abilities are somewhat of a mystery, at least in terms of how they work. However, there is really never any time spent wondering exactly how and where the Overman units came from, at least in terms of figuring it all out. The characters instead just accept the Overmans and leave it to history to worry about the details. This provided a nice change of pace as it meant more time for story.
I also liked the dichotomy between the high technology and the age of exploration attitude of the show. The people have all this high technology: fighting robots, massive movable housing units, global networking and transportation, etc. However, in the spirit of making unknown journeys to new lands, they also have problems with hunger and disease, and a considerable lack of resources to help. Hunting is even a problem since they are trying to escape from Siberia. It adds an interesting dynamic to a genre that does not usually have it.
And then there are the Overskills themselves. Some are standard type attacks: King Gainer has super speed and an overfreeze ability, while others have the ability to turn invisible, transmorph, or fire high powered weaponry. However, when the Siberian Railway Patrol comes under the command of Kashmir Valle and his seemingly endless line of Overman units, the Overskills take on some new, silly forms.
With his units, Kashmir has the ability to do things such as make people’s thoughts audible or to increase their negative emotions. These powers are relatively silly, but at the same time, I found them to make the series a bit more enjoyable because they showed a willingness to play with the conventions. It is things like this that make me feel that despite the serious overtones of the story, Overman King Gainer does not take itself too seriously. One only has to see the Exodus “hostage” Princess Ana dancing around and singing the goofy opening theme to get this.
But unfortunately, it is this odd silliness, along with some clunky writing, that keeps Overman King Gainer from being better than it is. With such an interesting premise, I would have liked to have seen this anime keep it a little closer to the vest. I loved the interplay between the characters, and the typical comedy that comes from it is more than fine as well, but in an effort to break all genre molds, it loses some other ideas that should have been easy to maintain. For example, at the beginning the Yapan Exodus seemed like a once in a lifetime event. While this might be true for the particular people involved, it was not until long into the series that it is discovered that exoduses have been going on for years all around the world, and when that is discovered, it ruined some of the feel that something legendary was happening.
Gainer’s willingness to continue on the Exodus was never fully explored either, especially as he continues to fight the ideology behind exodus right up to the end. I can accept that he wants to follow along so that he can be with Sara, but he can never even accept her reasonings to join in with the Yapan Exodus. It is also suggested that he feels a connection to the Overman, but that is also left forgotten. When you add to it his constant infighting with Gain, his motives seem a bit vague. In some ways, I appreciated this series desire to not look to the past in favor of the present and future, but in doing so, it left a number of things unexplained.
Overman King Gainer suffers from some vague storytelling, but even still, I found it to be quite enjoyable. Character interactions were terrific, the action scenes were great, and the premise was really interesting. I would not call this a game changer in the mecha genre, but I did enjoy some of the ways they took the genre in new directions. And though it is a mecha title, I think there is a little bit of everything here, so even non-fans of the genre might find some to enjoy with this. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Line Art Gallery, Promo Clips
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System