Superior Defender Gundam Force Vol. #04 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Superior Defender Gundam Force

Superior Defender Gundam Force Vol. #04

By Chris Beveridge     May 31, 2004
Release Date: April 27, 2004

Superior Defender Gundam Force Vol. #04
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
Shute is having trouble with his homework on friendship. While Shute writes his essay, he comes to the realization that the Gundam Force embodies the true meaning of friendship. Rudely interrupted by the trio of Zapper Zaku, Grappler Gouf, and Destroyer Dom, the evil Dark Axis will also learn the benefits of working together in order to develop... a new super attack?!

As the Dimensional Transporter undergoes repairs, a strange accident occurs transporting Shute and the Gundam Force to a barren and petrified world. Zero realizes that it is his homeland, Lacroa!

The Review!
Things really heat up in this volume as the gang is off to Lacroa to see what evil has been caused there by the newest big villain of the Dark Axis!

With this being an English designed production, the only language here is English in a solid sounding stereo mix. There isn?t a ton of directionality across the forward soundstage, but there are a number of notable areas throughout the show. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2003, SD Gundam comes across rather well on our setup. The transfer here is a very good looking one with a very smooth feel with the vibrant cel shaded animation. The colors throughout here are vibrant and fully saturated without much in the way of noticeable cross coloration. There's some aliasing visible during various panning sequences, but it isn't too distracting in general. Regular anime shows would probably not work well in this format, but a show like this really takes advantage of the tools provided to it and churns out a great looking piece of work.

Taking center stage on this cover is Shute once more but with Gunbike right besides him. The duo is set against a backdrop of a countryside setting in Neotopia, so there's plenty of greens and blues filling it up here. The back cover is much lighter with a look at Neotopia in the background with a number of shots from the show scattered about. The shows premise and episode summaries are listed here alongside the episode numbers and titles. The usual array of production and technical information is easy to read and laid out as expected. The insert is basically another shot of the front cover and it opens up to a two page spread of Gunbike as well as a smaller picture of Tallgeese.

The main menu is a simple static piece with the image of Shute and Gunbike from the cover set against a cityscape backdrop alongside the episode selections. With nothing here beyond the show, this is one of those very simple menus that works effectively but has no bells or whistles attached to it. Access times are nice and fast and the layout quick to use.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After having a few episodes that highlighted the individual members of the team and their stories, the show shifts to a good team episode and then heads into a multi-episode story arc that doesn't complete with this volume. SD Gundam gets surprisingly dark at times and moves into some interesting territory here.

The standalone episode is a good spot of fun that has the members of the Dark Axis all trying to figure out why they're constantly being beaten by those no good goodie goodies. Of course, every Zako on hand has plenty of footage of the various defeats so we get a very small recap of a few battles, or more specifically, the end humiliation scenes for the Dark Axis members as various members of the SD Gundam Force clean the floor with them. Their dark overlord doesn't take kindly to their continual losses so a reexamination of things puts the situation in perspective. It's the fact that they've attacked individually that's caused all the problems! All the Dark Axis members need to do is to start working like a team and they can win too! So after a few minutes of playing around at teamwork, they load up their cruiser with a ton of weapons and set off to attack Neotopia and win!

The entire attack sequence is just hilarious. The number of Neotopia robots running around in panic while the Dark Axis members and the Zako's are chasing after them, guns a blazing and screaming all around, it's just priceless. Of course, the SD Force does arrive to do battle and save the day, but the Dark Axis plans go awry since they didn't count on fighting all three members at once, but rather individually like they were attacked. Hilarity ensues as the battles start going all over the place and the little guys just run rampant.

The real fun begins in the next episode though, the first of at least three parts, where the dimensional transport platform is finally fixed and it goes through a variety of functionality tests before being readied for full use. Wing and Bakunetsumaru have been waiting for several episodes for this to be fixed so that they can go back to their homelands so they're rather excited and rambunctious over its being completed. A pleasant exchange of ideas is done over where to go first, but in the end it's Wing that wins the discussion and they set course for the land of Lacroa.

Much like Wing had talked about before, the land is simply in ruin. The sky is filled with dark foreboding colors while the land itself is in disrepair and without life of any kind. What few buildings remain in the main city are falling apart and none of the humans who lived here can be seen. In fact, it feels much like a dead city, if not for that feeling they all have of being watched. A new version of the Zako is using stealth technology to hide themselves around the group, but the Captain has the technology to see them, which leads into an interesting fight sequence and an amusing "death" mode for the Zako's here.

As things progress, it turns out that the Dark Axis has maintained an iron grip on this land through the efforts of the leader here, Tallgeese. He's crushed just about everything that stands in his way, though it appears that a set of human triplets have managed to survive and outwit him by wearing fake Zako outfits. They're about the same age as Shute and have lived in the dark vortex area below the kingdom to hide from Tallgeese and his goons. They're in waiting for the Savior to return to Lacroa so they can bestow upon him a special egg that will help revitalize the land with the princess' crown and a bit of luck. Wing believes himself to be that savior based on his last conversation with the princess, but the boys don't think he's it, especially since he gets his butt handed to him in his first encounter with Tallgeese.

The first two episodes set the stage well here by showcasing the land of Lacroa and how it's fallen as well as bringing in a new step in Zako evolution. Tallgeese isn't in the same level of goofiness as the other Dark Axis members and seems to be pretty well powered here. He's also got some ego to him, which is probably deserved since he has held onto a captured dimension for quite some time now. This arc also brings the Force into a situation where they're not winning within minutes of the first fight, plus they're separated in an unknown land, so they're getting some growth in character. Wing in particular makes out well here since his belief of being the Savior and able to fix everything easily is called into question.

In Summary:
With the Lacroa arc, SD Gundam starts to move into the more engaging territory, though still feeling its roots of the early episodes. I don't think it can ever shed its early image of Shute meeting the SD Force base commander for the first time, but these episodes are giving it a bit of a darker edge and giving it a chance to really try and tell a story rather than a setup for a bunch of action scenes, which is what it's really been until now. Much like just about every other Gundam series out there, SD Force reminds you that you can't judge a series entirely by its first few episodes.

I still hope Shute dies though.

English Language

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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