Anime DVD Collection
On paper, Overman King Gainer looks a lot like a legitimate alternative to the massive Gundam franchise. Beginning with the fact that it's a Sunrise/ Bandai collaboration then followed by the fact that the show was directed by longtime animator Yoshiyuki Tomino, who just so happens to be the creator of the Gundam series. Looking beyond the technicalities, the mecha based series takes place in a future setting where humanity, due to earth being uninhabitable, live in domed cities called Domepolises (not to be confused with colonies of course).
Like Gundam, the show is rife with political struggles, slight economic reference, kids able to manage the audacious task of piloting a complicated robot, and some pretty slick action sequences. That said, my own interest was planted instantly as true alternatives to the rich Gundam universe are few and far between. Unfortunately, this title may have been a bit too ambitious for its own good.
This fact is revealed right in the first episode of the first disc. Our main character is arrested, broken out of jail, discovers a giant robot, learns to pilot it all the while political struggles, royalty kidnappings, environmental cataclysms, and the lines of good versus evil are all being drawn. The fact that all of this is condensed into twenty-four minutes really speaks volumes about the strange pacing that the series is known for. Some episodes contain more information than entire fifty-episode series do while others drag on with virtually no plot advancements whatsoever. The viewer occasionally gets the feeling that the story was all there when the production crew began the project but individual episodes were made up as they went along.
The plot itself has some interesting ideas, however. It turns out that while much of the population believes the earth is a polluted wasteland, there are actually areas of the world that have been cleaned and as such are deemed safe to inhabit. So why bother living in the restrictive (and fairly depressing) Domes at all you ask? The answer is political pressure applied by royalty and massive trade empires. Since these groups would be powerless without people to control, the act of deflecting from one's Dome (called Exodus here) is quite illegal.
Enforcing these laws is the organization called the Siberian Railroad company, which is separate from the official police (the Saint Reagan division of the) London International Management Authority. Confused yet? Don't be. The bottom line is that if you're suspected of being a part of the Exodus movement, the Siberian Railroad company (in the form of a spandex-clad hottie) will come into your classroom at school and toss you in the slammer quicker than you can say "all I am is an innocent video-game-loving geek".
Fortunately there is an eqaulizer to the corrupt powers that be in the form of perhaps the oddest mecha-design the world has ever known, an Overman. Taking a page from shows like Rahxephon, the Overman design is perhaps more biological than it is mechanical (making the term mecha quite innapropriate). However, if the winged Xephon pushed your definition of strange, prepare to scratch your forhead raw staring at the Overman.
With a color pallet straight out of a box of Crayola crayons, a video-screen face and dreadlock tube-clad head, prepare to wonder if the design was artistically brilliant or certifiably bizarre. Factor in that entering the cockpit is eerily reminiscent of watching a birth in reverse and even the most anime-savvy will begin to wonder what inspired Tomino when he was penning up the designs.
Animation is solid here throughout but especially so during the battle scenes. Fans of classic anime will delight in the fact that not a move is performed without first announcing it. The battles, thanks in no small part to that color pallet mentioned above, look sharp and quite unique. Unfortunately with the introduction of superpowers called Overskills, many of the potentially amazing fights end up looking more like cliché super hero comic-book scenes.
Character development certainly takes the backseat to the action throughout the show though and while this is a common tradeoff in anime, it is sad considering the potential here. With a gritty feel reminisent of some of the earlier Gundam series (such as Zeta), the ability to create some real personality and depth in the cast existed. Perhaps because this is a 26-epsiode series (rather than 50), time restraints were a factor.
Extras included in the six-disc box set (Anime Legends Collection) include an extensive collection of concept art and promo spots, as well as a half-hour behind the scenes documentary that includes interviews with the legendary Tomino and other staff members involved in the production.
Sadly Overman King Gainer will likely be remembered for its opening sequence that depicts a bunch of Overman doing the monkey-dance to a Yoshiki Fukuyama theme song with lyrics delivered by Tomino himself. Yes its funny and yes its memorable but unfortunately the rest of the show itself isn't quite as special.
What did you think of this review?
Anime DVD Collection
Funimation DVD Release
An anime DVD boxed set.
An anime DVD boxed set.