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Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - More Sequels: Gatekeepers 21 and Vandread Second Stage

Sequels are a true measurement of one's success: or at least, that's what a lot of people in Hollywood would have you believe. After all, if you spent money the first go round, you'll automatically fall in line to empty your pockets for a second helping. Sequels can also go a long way in showing the true veracity of a property. Far from being a one hit wonder, a well made story can be re-crafted many times and still remain fresh. This is why movies such as Star Wars and James Bond can continue to be popular despite cast changes and sometimes-weak plot points. Anime series such as Gundam, Macross and Tenchi Muyo! have spawned many sequels, often recreating the very series they follow. For example, each subsequent Tenchi Muyo! series retold the origins of the main characters and lead to a different climatic battle. Gundam, on the other hand, followed a more linear approach, with a set timeline and a set of sequel series that told a larger tale. Later, Gundam turned to alternate tales to re-think its universe.

Running along side sequels are the quirky phenomenon of spin-offs. Spin-offs are shows based in the world created by a popular franchise. It may feature some of the parent show's characters as the main characters or simply in cameo appearances. These shows are often quickies that can get right to the action since they rely on the parent show to create most of the back-story. Shows such as Angel Links and Tenchi Muyo GXP rely on the set rules of their parent series so they can concentrate on telling the adventures of a new set of heroes in a familiar world. Often times though, a spin-off gets a lot of initial buzz thanks to its origins, but falls on its own because its unable to capture the spirit of its parent. Despite Outlaw Star's success, largely in part due to its exposure on Cartoon Network, its spin-off, Angel Links, floundered due to hollow characters and weak plot. Although not available in North America yet, Tenchi Muyo GXP seems to have captured quite a bit of the original magic of Tenchi Muyo! taking familiar themes into a new direction. Its popularity will definitely rival that of its parent series.

So, on this thought, what lies out there in the future of many series that are finishing up their first run in North America? Vandread, a quiet little series about a group of women and their male prisoners trying to get home has been generating quite a buzz with a great visual look and a strong dub. It's sequel, which continues the original 13 episodes plotline, has already been licensed and will be released on DVD pretty quickly after the last DVD comes out for the first half.

Although following many of the classic Anime clichés, Vandread explores new ground thanks to a mix of witty writing and strong visual effects. The first 13 episodes do seem formulaic with each episode presenting a harder to defeat foe. Vandread, the Second Stage picks up right where the first half leaves off and really powers up to its final conclusion. The action picks up, the dialogue remains witty and becomes very profound in nature. Second Stage leaves the series on a high note, and hopefully set the groundwork for a Third Stage or even a movie. The world of Vandread leaves a lot of room for exploration. Vandread also sports a very large cast, so a sequel focusing on some of the minor characters could generate a lot of buzz.

Another sequel, taking more of the spin-off approach is Gate Keepers 21. The original series, set in 1969 featured a group of teenagers who are all part of an International organization called Aegis. Aegis's goal is to fight the invaders, who have infiltrated human society in a bid to take over the world. Part James Bond, part Superfriends and just a pinch of Tenchi Muyo!, Gatekeepers stays over the top while maintaining a down to Earth feel. One big item about Gatekeepers is how optimistic it comes across. While dark tones are explored, the kids remain upbeat and the overall mood always seems to stay light. The first episode of Gate Keepers 21 seems to be in direct contrast to this. The opening sequence alone is dark and creepy, while the main antagonist seems nothing like Shun or Ruriko. Gate Keepers 21 is set some 30 years after the original series. The invaders are still around, but it's a much different Aegis that continues to fight them. Not having seen all of the original series, there's quite a bit going on that I don't understand yet. Of course, seeing the final few episodes of Gatekeepers might not clear anything up, meaning Gate Keepers 21 has quite a bit to explain. What seems to be clear is that Isusu Ayane, the main antagonist, has ties with the characters of the original series. In the first episode and shown in the opening credits are a few of the original characters from the first series. With only one episode out, it's unclear at this time the role that the original series' characters play in the sequel.

The magicians over at Gonzo are behind both Vandread: The Second Stage and Gate Keepers 21. Gonzo has really burst onto the stage in the last year or so with some very visually appealing series. Vandread: The Second Stage follows in the footsteps of the first half, with the same art style and over all visual feel. Gate Keepers 21 does the same, with the familiar character designs of Keiji Goto. The overall tone and feel to the series does seem to have taken a darker turn from its parent series, but time will tell how this plays out.

As I said before, Vandread: The Second Stage will be coming out soon after the last DVD release of the first half. Hopefully following that will be the special compilation movie and OVA retelling of the series. Both of those contain new footage with more background info as well as cleaned up visual effects.

Gate Keepers 21 will most likely follow up the last disc in the Gatekeepers series. There could be a longer wait than compared to Vandread since the OVAs are being released 1 episode at a time in Japan. There hasn't been an official announcement yet, but Pioneer most likely has the rights or at least an option for the North American release rights.

While both these series follow the sequel route, Gate Keepers 21 is showing itself as a spin-off while Vandread: The Second Stage proved to be a strong sequel finishing up the plotlines of its first half. Gate Keepers 21 hasn't shown its true colors yet, but episode 1 proves to be quite ready to pick up where the original series is heading. How it all fits together in the end will show whether or not GK21 does justice to the series that spawned it. It's interesting to note that there are rumors of a third Gatekeepers series, Gonzo may not be finished telling that story yet.


Allen Divers

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