Shaenon takes a magical journey with Tezuka's famously adorable little unicorn, Unico.
Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Jun 14th 2003
DVD 2: To Serve & Defend, But Not to Spend
Baa ba ba baa ba ba baa baa ba ba baa ba ba ba barara ra ra barara ra ra ra!!! Anyone who has seen an entire Dai-Guard episode before will automatically recognize the infamous first lines of the opening theme. Unfortunately, that may be the only thing they'll remember from the series, as well. Despite the manic proclamation on the back of the box that the second disc “includes 4 Earth-shattering episodes!” the series can easily be described as forgettable and vastly undistinguished. It can't be said that the series is bad, however, as that would also be false. In reality, Dai-Guard is a fun show, filled alternately with humor, action, and personal reflection—just don't expect to remember any details when you're done. Licensed and distributed by ADV Films, the disc also contains the clean version of the opening and ending, both of which are happy motivational numbers that can be unintentionally quite funny, especially if used to sing along to (need we go back to the first sentence?). What makes the extras section especially cool, though, is the thirty sheets of production sketches that are scanned in. Ranging from character designs to background designs to mecha shots, the sketches are impressive and very nice to look at. The clarity is great and the designs provide a great extra for all those who want to see the artwork in its original penciled elegance. Of course, extras such as these are a good incentive for buying DVDs, but the main selling point is, without a doubt, the actual show. With a series like Dai-Guard, though, the content of the episodes marks it down as a better rental than something anyone would purchase and watch over and over again. Then again, with the unmemorableness of the series, this might be necessary.
The series kicks off rather nicely with an emotionally wound episode, delving deep into one of the character's pasts. (Even the characters are so forgettable that their names slowly dissipate, leaving only a blurred mass of faces that eventually trickle into a flesh-colored bubble of paint.) Exploring her childhood and the impact her father had on her life, the episode helped flesh out her actions and emotions. What made this bit of character exposition even more impressive was the way that the writers then used this event to further influence the following episodes. Just through that one scene, the writers were able to flawlessly explain her current family situation and why it affected her emotions the way it did. It also provided a major foreshadowing device, using her father's book as an integral part of the story's developing plot time and time again. With the symbolism of snow and certain buildings laced into the first episode, yet more fluid plot development was able to take place—a commendable task accomplished by the writers. In fact, if there's one thing extremely noteworthy about Dai-Guard, it's the pacing and the character development, both of which are merged together and done in a method so natural that it doesn't even seem like the writers are trying. The one exception to this is an episode starring the forgettable chief and the equally forgettable pilot. Somehow, the bickering pair are forced to go out for lunch, and within the matter of mere minutes, are advertisements for the idea of camaraderie for the rest of the episodes. Through the dialogue afterwards, what the writers were trying to accomplish earlier are revealed, but their goals were left unaccomplished. Instead, viewers are left with a hole in the characters' relationship growth, making the episode feel more like an episode of an MTV teen reality show than anything Dai-Guard.
Flashes of certain scenes can be gathered from Dai-Guard and admired, but as stated previously, the whole viewing experience leaves viewers just as fast as it reaches them. The vague outlines of a monster-of-the-month pattern can be detected, but there is enough variety that this never takes a full-blown effect. What happens in lieu of that is more of a mystery. Miscellaneous scenes are thrown in at odd intervals, indulging sometimes in romantic gossip, whiny bickering, quite angsting, classic mecha fighting, or babblings by the series' token eccentric character. Each of these are dwelled on long enough to be more than filler, hitting instead something that feels more like a series of variety show sketches thrown together and made to conform to a general plot. In fact, Dai-Guard's lack of memorability more or less rests on this singularity. The episodes are made up of so many prolonged, insignificant scenes that in the end, viewers may be confused at what it was they just watched. The actual journey through the episodes is entertaining enough, but the aftertaste is what turns the whole production off.
Another thing that contributes to the haphazardness of the series is the unwholesome art. While the backgrounds are well-crafted (as can be seen from the production sketches) and the foreground art is clean and smooth, the character designs are rather awkward. The facial proportions are off when the camera switches angles, making the emphasis on the hair rather than on the face itself. This hair issue also arises in the animation process, but rather than paying too much attention to the hair, no care is given to it. No matter how much the characters move or shake their heads side to side, the hair remains still—in a position of frozen dynamic movement. In fact, most of the characters have “wind-swept” hair, but even indoors, their hair remains frigidly gelled in place. This contrast is worse when the pilots are inside of the Dai-Guard. Because of the fighting outside, the Getter Robo-esque designed mecha will be chaotically pitching back and forth, but inside the cockpit, everything is calm and frozen. It is indeed possible that the Dai-Guard possesses the world's most technologically advanced shocks, but even with the most idealistic of machine parts, the people inside will at least move a few inches when their vehicle is thrown over backwards.
Luckily, in order to match the painfully static animation, oxymoron as that is, other “moving” parts of the series have no trouble keeping the trend consistent. The voice acting for both languages does a great job of matching the unfaltering flatline of the animation by having characters that possess no emotion outside of a certain episode quota. At rare times, when extreme anger is needed, voices will be raised and audiences will be compelled to think, “My, isn't she flustered!” Other than those times (and periods of extreme melancholy), the voices will remain at an even 37 degree Celsius bubble. The dub has two notable blips in the flatline, however. One is the token eccentric girl, whose voice was cast as a semi-neurotic, semi-mad scientist, semi-Valley girl, possessing a high-pitched voice that was hard to hear at times, especially since the character also spoke very slowly. The other noticeable thing about the dub was that at times, it just had nothing to do with the original Japanese script. ADV has a track record for doing things like this, with Those Who Hunt Elves being an infamous one, but luckily, this wasn't as bad. For the majority of the script, the translations were kept strict, but during casual conversations, they would shoot off onto a different tangent, sometimes nudging a more perverted plane.
For the most part, Dai-Guard is just one of those series that would be fun to grab from a rental store if nothing else looks good. It's a fun watch, but the series is so indulgent on the scenes that would normally be classified as filler that it seems like the episodes are no longer operating within the given plot. From a broad standpoint it's rather mediocre, but as a way to kill time, Dai-Guard is a fun choice.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Baa ba ba baa ba ba ba ba baa ba ba barara ra ra ra ra!!!!!!!!
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