Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Feb 26th 2002
DVD 6 - Fires of War
In volume six of the Gasaraki series, Yushiro and Miharu are on the hideout from Symbol and Gowa. They are helped by the Kyouwakai, a neighborhood mafia of the Asian Ghetto. Meanwhile, riots are erupting all over Japan after the United States government announces that the export of grains to foreign markets will be temporarily stopped.
The beautiful story telling of Gasaraki is now available in North America thanks to ADV Films. With three episodes gracing the sixth installment of the series, viewers will be pleased at the effort ADV put into the project. Crammed full of extras, the DVD release is a wonderful opportunity for fans to experience this sweeping series. Among the extras on the disc is an interview with the character designer, which gives the viewer insight into the personalities of the characters and their respective physiogenic traits. Also included on the disc is a section with production sketches, which shows sketches of the characters and mecha, along with biographic information on each. There is also a section entitled "behind the scenes," which shows the viewer pages of sketches for the guest characters, settings, and props in the different episodes, narrated by a sleepy-voiced guide. Especially handy is the glossary, which defines certain terms that appear in the episodes relating to economics and commerce. As if that weren't enough, the DVD insert also comes with schematic drawings of the mecha cockpits, which is a nice feature. The DVD is a great bargain just for the extras alone, and everything is just made better by the series itself.
Gasaraki is unlike the average anime series for mainly one reason; instead of focusing on the plot and the way it affects the characters, this series examines the relationship the characters have with each other. Encompassed by a serious overtone, the slow and detailed pace of the event sequences gives an introspective look into the nature of mankind, making the series a sweeping picture of the elements that make up human drama. With meticulous scenes that reduce the possibility of plot holes, the slow pace of Gasaraki is surprisingly far from dull. In fact, the slow story development makes the scenes seem more realistic as they flow along the planes of real-life time. What also makes the series more realistic is the use of economics as the cause of conflict, which is more likely to happen than a rash of alien invasions, like some other series. In short, Gasaraki defines human drama, exposing it in a dark series that will leave viewers breathless.
The episodes come in both the original Japanese dialogue, and also an English dub. The Japanese cast does an excellent job of portraying the variegated aspects of human emotion, ranging from angry rioting, to despondent resignation. The subtitles, however, were not as polished as they could have been. In some sentences, there were grammatical errors, which were probably typos rather than human misjudgment. Either way, it gets distracting at times when the viewer has to decipher the sentence while madly scanning the screen for more subtitles. Also, whenever the subtitles make reference to the US government organization in charge of the exportation of grain, they call it the Department of Commerce, instead of the Department of Agriculture-two very distinct organizations. The English dub makes the correct distinction, which is nice. In fact, the dub is done rather well and the lines are read with talent, giving the various emotions the right expression. The script doesn't quite match the Japanese script, and oftentimes the two branch in completely different directions, but in the end, they both converge in the same message. All in all, both language tracks and the subtitled track complemented the series well, which allowed the viewer to concentrate on the scenes instead of worrying about the translations.
Matching the brooding mood of the series, the music tracks go well with the scenes. The opening and ending themes are eerie and beautiful, wrapping the episodes in a haunting atmosphere that lingers after it's all over. The opening theme, in fact, can only be described by the word haunting, as the English lyrics give way to a chanting interlude in the middle, and interspersed with the thumping sounds of a human heart. There's a scene in the title sequence that's a bit puzzling though, that shows a hand rotating well beyond 360 degrees, which is slightly creepy and is guaranteed to stick in the viewers mind for a long time. Within the series, much of the background sound is complete silence with the exception of various effects like strolling mechas and gunshots. When there is music, it's ghostly like the theme songs, though beautiful even in its brief appearances.
Gasaraki is a beautiful series, filled with tense human drama and subdued action. It is a mecha series like none other; even after a series of action sequences, the viewer leaves with a feeling of calm like nothing chaotic happened. With three episodes in a volume, as well as a disc full of extras, this DVD is hard to pass up. For fans of serious dramatics, unique mecha, and series that leave one with plenty of questions, Gasaraki is something that is not to be missed. For everyone else, pick it up anyway; there's definitely something that will appeal to you, guaranteed.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A-
Music : A
+ Defines the genre of human drama
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