Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Feb 26th 2003
DVD 1: Hostile Takeover
From the creators of Martian Successor Nadesico comes Dai-Guard, an unconventional giant robot series that follows the exploits of a cash-strapped pilot crew and their desperate attempts to fight back terrifying invaders. About twelve years ago, aliens attacked earth; the government contract to build a superweapon went to the lowest bidder, and by the time the robot was complete, the invaders had left. All that remains is Dai-Guard, a relic from the war and a tourist curiosity. Of course, the aliens eventually return, and it's up to the crew to see if they can get a cheaply-made, outdated giant robot to fight them off!
It's a shame ADV hasn't promoted this title more. Dai-Guard is an unexpected gem, the type of series nobody talks about but everyone really should. Reasonably, this series should have created as much excitement as Martian Successor Nadesico, but unfortunately, that isn't the case. If you've been ignoring Dai-Guard, now's your chance to give it a try.
The storyline is simple but unique. The gimmick behind this show is that the robot, Dai-Guard, is incredibly cheap. It breaks apart, malfunctions, and barely manages to survive each episode. Generally, series like this that rely on gimmicky jokes wind up overdoing it or stretching the joke out for far too long. Dai-Guard, at least in these first five episodes, manages to avoid that pitfall by focusing on the characters. There's a surprising amount of character development in this series. Much like Nadesico, several episodes are spent developing inter-character relationships and fleshing out each character's history. True, nearly every episode features a fight scene between Dai-Guard and some gigantic alien where Dai-Guard breaks down, but the first half of the episode invariably focused on the larger storyline and the trials these characters have to suffer through.
The attention to detail in Dai-Guard is above average. The series answers many of the questions that skeptical anime viewers have been asking for ages; how can a city afford to maintain a military program that includes giant robots? What about the victims of the battle, people displaced from destroyed homes? How much does the property damage cost, how does it effect public transportation, and how do they handle the expense after so many damaging battles? Dai-Guard tackles all of these questions and more in a very entertaining fashion. While not quite the level of comedy that Nadesico featured, Dai-Guard balances humor with drama a little more evenly and winds up taking a serious situation and turning it in to something lighthearted. The characters are written against stereotype for the most part: here, we see human characters reacting as any human would in the given situation. It prevents Dai-Guard from being simply a lame comedy or a half-hearted attempt at making a “realistic” mecha action show. The series exists inside a perfect balance, one that could tip either way depending on the quality of the rest of the series.
The endearing thing about Dai-Guard is that it avoids so many of the things that make most giant robot shows terrible. Even Nadesico had Ruri Hoshino, who existed mostly to appease the lolita-obsessed Japanese anime fan. Her presence, while it added some humor (and a well-executed attempt at mocking the Ayanami Rei character from Nadesico's parent series, Neon Genesis Evangelion), wound up being creepy, considering that the fans had the same reaction to Ruri as they did to Rei, which was to fetishize the character. Dai-Guard has nothing like this. The female characters are simply part of the team and are given the same respect--both by the screenwriting and the other characters in the series--as the male characters. You won't find excessive panty shots here; Dai-Guard has a healthy level of respect for its audience and attempts to create quality in a genre in which that particular attribute typically falls very short.
The animation is, for the most part, excellent. Xebec has always done a fantastic job, and the digital work they've done here is no exception. The color palette is sharp and bright, and the character designs, while not very unique, are perfectly serviceable. The look of the series is very clean and maintains consistency throughout. The video presentation on the DVD is flawless, and although there aren't many extras, five episodes are included on this disc, so you'll be getting your money's worth. The dub is serviceable, and it's probably as good as anyone can expect. Overall, Dai-Guard is, hands down, the most interesting and unique giant robot show to have come out in recent years.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Great animation, likable characters, fun storyline
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