An anime DVD boxed set.
There's legitimate complaint from anime lovers that mecha (meaning shows based on robots) is guilty of being too formulaic. The formula, in case you're wondering, typically goes something like this: Young kid with a heart of gold happens upon a giant robot that even the engineers who created it cannot master. Said youth possesses the skills required to tame this complex piece of machinery and thus uses it to save the world. Okay so maybe that's a bit broad and generalized but I'll be honest: Mecha is my own personal passion and the stuff that got me into anime in the first place (anyone else remember Voltron and Robotech?)
These days' mecha shows have become a bit more complex than what we enjoyed in the early 1980s and while there is some legitimacy to the complaints that the genre is formulaic, studios like Gonzo countered by adding unique art elements to their robot shows. Enter Gad Guard; a 26-episode mecha television series directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori that hit airwaves back in 2005.
I've been eagerly awaiting Funimation's release of this property since word of their acquisition of the show reached my monitor. Released across 4 discs, the Complete Series contains all 26 episodes and comes in at a total runtime of 600 minutes.
The set comes packaged in a pair of think packs (each housing two discs) within a beautifully artistic cardboard slipcase.
The show wears a fairly conservative PG 13 rating due, presumably, to themes of voilence over foul language or nudity.
Language options are thorough with both an English dub and Japanese original dialog option (each in stereo) with English subtitles if so desired.
As is so often the case in modern anime, Gad Guard warns of the cautions of humanity's continual use (abuse) of natural resources. Set several hundred years in the future, the resources of the Earth have all but run dry. Populations are now divided into crowded slums called Units.
The story follows a street-smart delivery boy by the name of Hajiki Sanada who is struggling to provide for his mom and little sister in Unit 74, specifically in a ghetto known as Night Town (because in effort to converse what little natural resources remain, the electricity is shut off each day at midnight). When this knit-hat donning errand boy happens to botch a delivery involving a mysterious black cube, Hajiki finds himself mixed up in a massive struggle for the forbidden technology contained within. Suddenly the show's title makes a lot more sense, as in attempt to retrieve the black cube (called a powerful stone); Hajiki accidentally releases a 20-foot-tall robot (called a Gad) that answers only to his beckoning call.
What we have, in simple terms, is the robotic equivalent to the old classic genie in the lamp mythos. Only rather than grant wishes, the Gad ends up disposing of the cast of goons who were seeking the black box (and with it Hajiki) in the first place. Nearly a happily ended fairy tale in and of itself, the real action begins when a second Gad ends up in the control of one Katana (the main bad guy).
Robotic clashing ensues and the simple life of running deliveries for chump change is forever relegated to Hajiki's young memory.
What the story lacks in originality or risk-taking is more than made up for by its abundance of charm. Gad Guard is rife with stunning visuals that make use of an intentional washed-out appearance sprinkled with small flashes of color. The Gads themselves are nearly colorless save for their bird-like eyeballs and our hero comes decked out in earth tones except for his bright pink vest. Many of the robotic combat sequences take place after dark (unfortunately) which only further adds to the overall dimness.
The look isn't only for uniqueness sake however as, don't forget, this is a tale told in the slums of the city about a poor family struggling to make ends meet. As such the shades of gray and grit go a long way in depicting this motif. Additionally the small details (such as the dogs) actually look as if they could have been penned up by contemporary artist, Gary Baseman (kids, google this guy if you don't know who he is). Now that I think on it, it almost appears as though the whole show was infused with his influence.
The soundtrack matches the art with smooth jazz numbers filling in between soaring orchestration at the show's key moments. The English dub is surprisingly solid as well and can honestly be considered one of few dubs that's nearly as emotionally-powerful as the original Japanese source material.
The show's pacing is consistent with tech-heavy action sequences taking the spotlight away from supporting cast character development. However, there is enough personality among the main characters to compensate.
In all this is a charming mecha entry that proves without a doubt that the genre still has a lot of life left in it. The artwork and music are stunning enough to carry the show if necessary but the story comes on strong and remains so solid that the odds and ends are never asked to overextend themselves. Funimation deserves total praise for ensuring that titles like Gad Guard will not fall away into obscurity as a result of Geneon's untimely demise.
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An anime DVD boxed set.