Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jul 7th 2003
DVD 1: Invader Hunters
Kaiser Kikai has been resurrected, and the AEGIS network springs into action! Ayane, an invader hunter, tries to recruit her classmate Miu; Miu has serious problems with the fact that the invaders are human, and tries to leave AEGIS. To make matters worse, Ayane is reluctant to use her Gate powers, because they're a legacy left behind by her father Shin. Can AEGIS survive the onslaught of invaders AND the pathos of their own agents?
|Fans of the original Gatekeepers might be seriously disappointed by Gatekeepers 21, the sequel OVA series. The original production staff is intact; why did they go down such a different path? Where the original Gatekeepers TV series was fun, bright, and bouncy, Gatekeepers 21 is a decidedly darker and more somber tale. It lacks the energy that the TV show had. It's highly reminiscent of the disparate qualities of the Nadeisco TV series and the film; the TV show was a comedy, and the film was a drama. Right away, the differences will either thrill or upset you.
Gatekeepers 21 is, at its core, a gray version of the original TV series. There's no humor anywhere to be found; the series is deadly serious, and there's no romance. It seems to be mostly angst, and while that isn't a big problem, the fact that this used to be a comedy franchise hangs over the relatively dry proceedings. There's very little color; the show is portrayed in hues of red, gray and black, and that's about it. Most of the show seems to take place at twilight or in the evening, and if it's daytime, it's overcast. That's not to say Gatekeepers 21 is a bad show. It just isn't anywhere near as entertaining as its predecessor.
From a screenwriting standpoint, Gatekeepers 21 is competent though not exactly groundbreaking. There really isn't anything special here. Ayane, the "nerdy" girl who works for AEGIS, is a little too monotone to be sympathetic. She has two emotions: angst-ridden and consumed in work. She doesn't really smile--ever. Basically, she's Rei Ayanami with a bigger vocabulary and a less fashionable wardrobe. She recruits Miu, another blank slate sort of character who doesn't know what her powers are. Miu is more interesting to watch than Ayane, but that isn't saying a whole lot, especially if you've seen the "girl who isn't sure about her mysterious powers" shtick a hundred times before. Obviously we see them grow and mature throughout the series, but there's really not a whole lot in either of these characters to drive the show forward. They're both cloaked in mystery and whatnot, and they all have secrets hiding right below the surface, but their personalities are fairly vacant, which kills any curiosity you may have had about their pasts.
The production values are, of course, second to none. This is a Gonzo OVA series, so we know no expense was spared. The animation is lush and fluid, and no corners seem to have been cut. The CG is blended nicely, and the backgrounds (even though they're mostly gray and black), are beautifully painted. Character design was done by Keiji Gotoh, and unfortunately, these have to be his most generic designs yet. There is absolutely nothing unique about Miu's character design; she looks like she belongs in the background somewhere. Ayane looks like she's twelve, as do most of the other female cast members. Gotoh's designs for Hyper Police and Martian Successor Nadesico were cool enough, but here he seems like he's just going through the motions.
The action is fast and furious when they do finally get around to the action. The whole cell phone attack thing is a bit hard to swallow, but it's not like we were expecting realism from this series. The animation of the old car from the original Gatekeepers is especially impressive. In fact, the one thing this series does retain from the original is a series of particularly well-planned and well-executed fight scenes, the various machines in each battle rendered with obvious attention to detail. You won't be disappointed by the action.
The dub is, like most dubs, a mixed bag. What's annoying is how the characters all seem to space their words out. The immediate effect is that everyone sounds like they're being instructed to act as though they were in an episode of The Flintstones or perhaps took acting lessons by watching Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut again and again. “I… don't… think… we should… do that.” Spit it out, already. The Japanese aren't cramming words in but they're speaking at a normal clip. In English, the characters don't sound natural at all. The voices are decent matches for the characters but are far from spectacular. Ayane is probably the best of them, with Miu being almost intolerably obnoxious and high-pitched. Granted, she sounds less fake than most of the other high-pitched generic anime girl voices you'll hear in dubs, but that doesn't mean a whole lot when you consider the quality of your average English-voiced generic anime girl. The music is sparse, with a haunting and original opening theme that's worth hearing a few times.
For the animation quality alone, Gatekeepers 21 might be worth a look. There are a lot of high-quality Gonzo productions out there, though, and some of them are certainly more interesting than this. Had they retained the humor and the flavor of the original series, this might have been more of a success, but as it stands, it's a fairly drab sequel that isn't really worthy of its name. Gatekeepers was fun and light-hearted; Gatekeepers 21 is weighed down by a lofty ambition to be dark and serious. The result is that is just isn't very entertaining.
Overall : B-
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : A+
Art : A
Music : B+
+ Amazing animation, decent if not incredible storytelling
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