Reviewby Theron Martin, May 31st 2005
New Getter Robo
DVD 1: Rude Awakenings
Oni are threatening the world, and the only force capable of successfully confronting the giant-sized versions of the oni is the combining, transforming mecha Getter Robo, which exploits the mysterious Getter Rays. Piloting Getter Robo is such a physical and mental strain that it takes a certain breed of warrior to operate its three parts, however. Dr. Saotome, the creator of Getter Robo, finds such persons in the form of the martial artist Ryoma, the crazed criminal leader Hayato Jin, and the sinful monk Bonze. Each, for his own reasons, ultimately agrees to undertake this dangerous task.
New Getter Robo is an OVA revamp of the original Getter Robo series from the mid-70s, which was popular enough to spawn several movies, sequels, spin-offs, and OVAs from 1974 through 2000 (of which, to my knowledge, only 1998's Getter Robo: Armageddon has ever gotten released in the States). It is “old school” mecha action all the way; take a pre-Gundam era mecha series, spruce it up with modern technical merits, and add in a lot of gore and a brief scene of nudity and you basically have the first volume of New Getter Robo. Like most mecha series from the 70s, New Getter Robo is light on characterizations and the mechanical operations of the mecha don't make any kind of technical sense. So much action is packed into each episode that the viewer can never dwell on that thought for too long, however. It isn't just mecha action, either; the heroes find themselves in just as many unarmored fights, where they get to display their impressive martial prowess.
The premise is as generic as you can get for mecha: a select team of individuals must be assembled to pilot a special mecha which is the only defense against some kind of otherworldly threat. In this case the pilots are all adults instead of teenagers, but it's the only significant variation from the norm. The first three episodes involve the introduction and assemblage of the core team, with one episode focusing on each key pilot, while the fourth episode is about the pilots learning to work together and deal with each other. These four episodes also show off two of the three possible configurations for Getter Robo (the ones with Ryoma and Hayato at the head), while the third configuration is due to appear in the next volume. There's very little plot beyond this, as most of each episode is composed of action sequences. Oh, there's some mystery about how Getter Robo can do what it can, what the origin of the Getter Rays is, and why the oni are plaguing mankind (and have giant-sized mecha of their own!), but these are only minor secondary considerations to the action. This is “old school” action, too, where Real Men do the fighting and the women, well, the series is so overloaded with testosterone that there's only room for one significant female character—Michiru, Dr. Saotome's scientist daughter—although she can stick up for herself. You won't see any “girls with guns” here!
A distinct effort has been made with the artistry to capture the style and feel of the original series. The result is simple, comic-bookish character designs and bright, gaudy color patterns on both uniforms and mecha, which stick out even more thanks to the enhancements of modern digital coloring techniques. The action scenes are high-octane and surprisingly well-articulated, with few traditional shortcuts used. Shortcuts are more widely-used in non-action scenes, however, and Getter Robo spends entirely too much time posing. CGI enhancements are used sparingly and aren't terribly obvious when they do appear. Background art is actually pretty good, but the division between character animation and background art is too obvious in some scenes.
Both the opener and closer are forgettable numbers reminiscent of 70s mecha series. The soundtrack used in between isn't much better. The combat theme song (complete with vocals), which plays each time Getter Robo is fighting, isn't memorable and becomes dully repetitive by the second viewing. Better are the sound effects, which are great on a surround sound system.
The merits of the dub track compared to the original Japanese vocals are entirely a matter of personal preference. Like in many older mecha series, the seiyuu use a certain style of bombastic speech which doesn't translate well into English, so those who prefer that style should stick with the subtitles. The English dub does endeavor to create a style which is as close to the original Japanese performances as is feasible for characters speaking in English, and thanks to several good individual performances it succeeds. The Bang Zoom! production also does an excellent job of matching up Geneon regulars with the roles; Abe Lasser, who is perhaps best-known as the voice of the Puppet Master in the original Ghost in the Shell movie, is an especially good fit as the Professor, but none of the casting decisions in the key roles are weak.
Extras on the standard version of the DVD include standard fare like company previews and a textless opener, but also present are two professionally-produced AMVs featuring clips from this volume set to J-rock tunes. Present in the packaging is a reversible cover and some additional artwork. Language and subtitle options are separate in the Setup menu, which is always a plus.
New Getter Robo is a creation of Go Nagai, so one expects tons of action and a high level of graphic/explicit content. The series doesn't disappoint on either front; in fact, this is one of the goriest mecha series you're likely to see, although the cartoonish quality to the gore dampens its intensity. Fans of other works by Go Nagai might notice a tribute to one of his most famous works in one scene in episode two—an amusing touch. Overall, the series works for those who are fans of classic mecha and those who are all-out action junkies. Those expecting any depth, meaty plotting, or substantial characterizations should look elsewhere.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : C
+ Packed with action, good animation in action scenes.
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