Reviewby Allen Divers, Jan 15th 2002
DVD 1 - Open the Gate
It is 1969 and Japan is experiencing a boom as it continues to recover from World War II. Unknown to the average citizen, a group of Invaders are moving to take over the world. Luckily a new type of hero has been found to combat these Invaders, the Gatekeepers!
Shun Ukiya is in a hurry to grow up and he's not going to make the same mistakes his father made. On his way home, he finds himself trapped between the invaders and protecting his mother and sister. He soon discovers that he is a gatekeeper, and the Aegis, a group of special agents, wants him to join them. His old friend Ruriko, already a gatekeeper, isn't too thrilled about him joining the team and she hopes its all a bad dream!
Gatekeepers: Open the Gate is the first volume of this series being released by Pioneer. With animation done by Gonzo and character designs by Keiji Goto, Gatekeepers combines James Bond flair with super-powered high school students. Volume 1 contains episodes 1 – 3 giving a good introduction to the world of the Gatekeepers and the main heroes, Shun and Ruriko.
Animation for Gatekeepers is highly detailed and consistent. Character designs were done by Keiji Goto, so each of the characters have the big round eyes his style is known for. Focusing around super powered high school kids, the costumes consist of the familiar school uniforms (aka sailor uniforms). Character interaction and development centers around the school, so that environment is pretty standard and familiar. The secret government organization plot brings in a lot of mecha and gadgets familiar to the spy game genre. Creating a show in the 90s could lead the designers to fit in more futuristic mecha, but they do a good job of sticking with the high tech creations of the late 60s. Buses that transform into armored carriers and sports cars with an unlimited amount of gadgetry fit in well in 1969. Being animated by Gonzo, there is a smattering of CGI affects, but they don't distract from the appeal of the cel animation.
Being a Pioneer release, the standard, stable voice actors are present. All the voices seem well matched to the characters, with no awkwardness. The English dub stays pretty close the Japanese without adding or taking away any dialogue. Most changes made to the script seem strictly for timing purposes. Both the Japanese and English casts do a good job of bringing life to the characters they voice.
The extras for the DVD version are the standard fare: Non-credit opening and closing, scene access, special prologue and ending as well as a collection of TV spots. Early editions of the release also contain a set of Aegis ID cards, one for Ruriko and the other a blank that viewers could use to become an agent of Aegis. (A bit cheesy, but it is nice to see something other than the standard insert with chapter listings.)
Gatekeepers follows the standard plot of: invaders try to conquer the Earth and teenage super heroes are the world's only hope. What makes Gatekeepers fresh is the setting. 1969 marks a time of rapid recovery for Japan. A new generation, born after World War II is coming of age and are about to set their mark on the world. It's not surprising then that the protagonist of this series are all teenagers. Its theme is very light, with no overly dark tones weighing down the plot. It's very simple: Good is good and bad is bad. There are really no questions weighing down the characters as they move through the story.
Open the Gate spends its time establishing the world of Gatekeepers and the history of the main antagonists. It establishes the relationship between Ruriko and Shun and why each of them wants to be Gatekeepers. The only questions not answered deal with the Invaders. Open the Gate establishes the Invaders as one-dimensional thugs. They have limited ability to react to what is happening and seem easy to dispatch like any other group of faceless thugs. There is some foreshadowing of bigger things to come, but as it stands now this is a simple, monster of the week show.
The series Gatekeepers, establishes itself quickly as an action show in this first volume. Starting with a familiar plotline and working with a unique setting makes it feel familiar, but not a been-there-done-that type of show. Open the Gate gives viewers all the information they need to feel comfortable with the setting and its characters and provides those moments to keep them coming back for more.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Animation : A
Art : B
Music : A
+ Cool action adventure with intriguing characters
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