The co-founder of last year's rocky Japan Expo 1st Impact talks about all the dramatic changes to this year's event, what went wrong last time and what to expect from this year's show at the San Mateo Event Center.
Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Nov 11th 2002
DVD 5: To The Rescue!
As the Gatekeepers continue on their quest to quash alien invaders and protect Japan, they meet a team of AEGIS agents from Western countries. As it turns out, the new agents are there to take over the duties of the Gatekeepers, whom they feel are inadequate for the job. Throughout this, the AEGIS crew has to deal with the issue of being replaced as they try their hardest to redeem the honor of their positions.
Since the release of Gatekeepers in North America by Pioneer Animation, the series has garnered a somewhat large fan gathering for its light-hearted action and comedy. With only three episodes on the fifth DVD, though, it's rather discouraging on new viewers to get into the series for financial reasons. Along with the episodes are a few extras. One of them is a “special ending,” which is nothing other than the ending theme played with series footage in the background. There is also a collection of pencil sketches for some of the characters in the episodes, as well as the backgrounds and artillery. While this feature is interesting for those who are curious about the production sketches, they are somewhat hard to see, as the resolution of the sketches overlaid on the background is rather blurred. Perhaps the most interesting feature about the DVD is the packing itself. Although it is nothing spectacular, it is fun for viewers who enjoy packaging surprises. The DVD cover is reversible, with the backside showing one of the characters, as well as what appears to be a few frames from a film book. The DVD insert also folds out to present a mini-poster of the same character shown on the reversible cover. Viewers also get a copy of one of the Gatekeeper's defense licenses, which is cute enough to be enjoyable, even for a few brief minutes.
The story itself can be split into classifications of strengths and weaknesses. On the strong side, the story takes a somewhat more serious turn in this volume, adding depth and elements of interest. Some of the scenes discuss the destruction of the world by mankind, and other topics that give the series more insight and drive. Another perk is the added characterization thrown in toward the end of the volume. Rather than just a collection of static characters, they are given deeper backgrounds and emotions, which makes them seem more life-like and relatable. Unfortunately, the storyline also carries a few weaknesses. One of the main ones is the overall air of childishness that prevails in the series. On one level, the characters go about their activities in a very childishly giddy manner that exudes fakeness. Their overenthusiastic and cheesy reactions to events make them appear like characters from a children's book, which gives the series a feeling of overdone happiness. On another level of childishness, the characters themselves range from the early teens, and possess faces and mannerisms that make them seem like elementary school children. It makes it harder for viewers to swallow the concept of mere children uttering profound words and saving the world. So while the story arc improves with the addition of depth, the story itself stays rather mediocre, overdosing the viewer with exaggerated happiness and cheese.
The art and animation are mediocre as well, swaying between good and bad all throughout the episodes. The art, for the most part, is average, with undetailed objects and backgrounds. A good aspect of the art is the mecha, however, as the series does sport some pretty robots. Although the actual function of the machines are neither dwelled upon nor explained to any extent, they are at least nice to look at standalone from the series. The animation also falls under the category of mediocre. While it ranges from fluid CG scenes, to somewhat jerky cel movement, the overall quality of it is merely decent. There are sometimes when the CG scenes are suddenly merged with the cel scenes with no transition, making the two mediums briefly clash. When cels are being used, the movements of the characters sometimes seem awkward or jerky.
On the positive side, the voice acting was done well on both the Japanese and English dialogue tracks. The Japanese cast performed their roles well, although their voice mannerisms seemed at times to only contribute to the atmosphere of fakely layered on cheese and pseudo-happiness. From a technical perspective, however, their lines were delivered well, portraying the emotions of the characters well. The English dub was also preformed well, in a technical sense. The voices, however, seem out of place in the series. The voices sound either too old or too young for the parts they are trying to portray, which is not entirely a fault of the actors, but also the casting directors. Somewhat amusingly, there is a timing error within the first few moments of the first episode, so that the character's lip movements are horribly out of synch with the words uttered. Other than that, the voices are well done overall.
Although the instrumental music is only decent, the vocal tracks for the series are very fun and engaging. Even though the opening and ending themes are sugary and almost cheesy in the way that the lyrics synchronize with the series, they are cute and wildly addictive. Even if a viewer is the most hardened, crusted codger in all of anime fandom, they will find themselves having a hard time not bobbing their heads along with the music. If anything, it just exudes a spirit of cheer and optimism, which the actual story tries to accomplish, but fails in doing, because of the childish way it is carried out.
Even though the series is only an average one, it still possesses an air of lightness and happiness that is good for cheering up anyone's mood. However, at only three episodes a disc, the price is a tad expensive for those who are not already committed fans of the series. The series is fun for those who are willing to accept the childish nature of the characters, but for others, it may be worth at least a rent. After all, the robots are pretty shiny.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : C
+ Energetic, upbeat opening theme!
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