Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
GaoGaiGar: King of Braves
DVD 4 - Hammer of Heroes
Gai's finishing move, Hell and Heaven, is taking a disastrous toll on his body. Knowing this, the four Zonder Kings keep devising ways to force its use, centering clever traps around it. Gai is content to lay his life on the line, but those around him are intensely concerned for his well-being, especially pretty command center operator Mikoto and pompadoured tyke Mamoru. So why has Mikoto turned on Gai? Perhaps it has something to do with the Zonder that Zonder King Pizza has sent to lure Gaogaigar into the ultimate trap, one that will not only destroy the Zonder's nemesis, but also yield a huge amount of Zonder Metal. The GGG's only hope may lie in an untested weapon the use of which could easily destroy its wielder. And later, Mamoru and his friends find themselves in peril (again) when a Zonder infiltrates their school.
As Gaogaigar presses onward, it becomes obvious that it is expanding into new narrative and emotional territory. Testing and expanding relationships? Plots that stretch over multiple episodes? What's next, a continuous story arc? Heaven forbid. After stretching out a bit, the series steps quickly back into stand-alone territory.
And yet, to say that Gaogaigar is improving would be an exaggeration. It's lengthening its stride and widening its focus, but not enough to make it better, only enough to keep it from getting worse. With Zonders now attacking GGG directly, there's a small increase in tension, and the reluctance to use Hell and Heaven requires Gai to come up with interesting alternatives, all of which is off-set—if not outright nullified—by the series' bad (though hilarious) habit of resolving every battlefield conundrum with a new technology that is tailor-made for exactly whatever pinch Gai finds himself in. The two-part episode allows time for the danger to Gai to really develop, while also illuminating the depth of Gai and Mikoto's relationship by applying a little stress to it, revealing a new facet of Mamoru's powers, and even giving the Chief something to do besides point and pose. And then abruptly cuts everything short with the Goldion Hammer (one of those conveniently deployed giant robot tools) and follows with a disposable one-shot about Mamoru and his school buddies.
Not to forget the steady stream of goofiness designed to delight the eight-year-old boy inside and put a knowing smile on the face of the adult outside. Each victory for GGG is punctuated by the professor jetting around on rocket-powered shoes. Robotic shinobi Volfogg changes into BIG Volfogg every episode (he has a propeller on one arm, which is just so cool). The Goldion Hammer is as big as Gaogaigar itself and looks suspiciously like one of those squeaky joke hammers that Sana from Kodocha is so fond of. And then there are the Pliers, a squad of three support robots that combine to form a big pair of... pliers. Very useful, that. Perfect for when Gaogaigar needs to jimmy with his television reception or jerry-rig a carburetor. The Chief gets to try out new, and more outrageous, poses with the release of each new technology, the Major provides muscle-flexing nonsequiturs, and Entohji still has a world-class dandruff problem. Of the preposterous Zonderian enemies, Pizza and Primarda get the most screen time; why it is that Primarda is forever spinning on her toes is never answered, and Pizza...well, his name's Pizza for God's sake.
If the series' content has to run a little just to stay in place, its technical merits don't. They effortlessly maintain exactly the same quality as before. Of course, part of that is because much of it is exactly the same. The same impressive Final Fusion, the same ChoRyuJin and Big Volfogg transformations, the same estimable Hell and Heaven animation, the same green-fairy magical chant to turn Zonders back to humans. The non-repeated bits are of a lower order of animation that often looks cheap, but is usually sufficient to its purpose. The art budget is poured into the mecha. They may be absurd, but the Brave Robots are detailed and incongruously well designed, and Gaogaigar is as old-school cool as ever. Takahiro Kimura's character designs are often caricatures, and in some cases bear little resemblance to real humans, though the greater emphasis on Mikoto offers a rare chance to display Kimura's skill with attractive female designs. Kouhei Tanaka's omnipresent giant robot score is the same—loud and intrusive, a perfect complement to the series' over-the-top nature—as are the shouted opening and quieter, sadder closing.
Gaogaigar's larger than life tone allows the English cast the opportunity to overact with impunity, which they seize with cheesy relish. Gai's battle cries are convincingly yelled, the members of GGG are all suitably cast, with Miss Swan replacing her hilariously stereotyped American Japanese with a southern drawl. At this point the cast appears to be enjoying itself despite the strictures of a supremely faithful translation, a fact which greatly increases the fun factor.
Other than company trailers, the only extra on this disc is some production art—mostly of the mecha.
This fourth volume dips its toe into the character's private lives, increases the continuity between episodes, and continues to subtly (and-not-so-subtly) warp the fight structure, while the pressure put on the GGG by the Zonders' increasingly pointed attacks adds weight to confrontations. The changes prevent staleness, but are hardly enough to make it better. To the people who liked what came before, this will be more big, stupid fun. To those that hated it...why are you still watching, anyway?
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Enough small changes to stave off the doldrums.
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