Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Sep 23rd 2008
GaoGaiGar: King of Braves
DVD - Box Set 2
Tiring of watching the robot heroes of the GGG running in weekly circles chasing Zonders, the narrative gods of Gaogaigar decide to let loose. And so it is that Gai, Mamoru and the loveable kooks of the Gutsy Geoid Guard find themselves with a plateful of Zonder Kings and a Zonder Metal plant eating up Tokyo. And that's just the beginning. The masters behind the Zonders, the 31 Primevals, make themselves known, and GGG is forced to go galactic (unable to part with their acronym, they name themselves the Gutsy Galaxy Guard). With an uneasy alliance with Pizza and Mamoru's classmate Kaidou—both of whom turn out to be from a distant red planet destroyed by Zonders—to fall back upon, and a handful of new robot friends to lend helping hands, Gai and the GGG set out on a universe-saving mission that will carry them to the ends of the solar system, strip away the veils obscuring Mamoru's past, and push the mighty King of Braves past its limits. Not everyone will survive, but with guts (and really huge robots) they may—no, must—win.
After a year-long absence, Gaogaigar is back, aflame with the love of outrageous super-robot tropes and none the worse for its sojourn in financial limbo. That is, if you don't count the fact that it's been stripped of its dub and crammed into a box set that's priced at the value of a single DVD. Bad news for dub fans, good news for skinflints.
And good news for fans of the Brave Robots. The passage of a year and the advent of a far superior super-robot homage has done nothing to dull Gaogaigar's infectious love of giant, transforming mechanized things. To be sure it can't compete with Gurren Lagann for energy, ambition or sheer unpredictability, but in terms of affection for its genre-mates, Gaogaigar is unbeatable. The escalating mechanized mayhem, the unending transformation sequences, the constant introduction of new robots and powers; the whip-lash insertion of plot revelations, the unabashed—and questionably effective—appeals to emotion, the inexplicable scenes of characters bonding by laughing heartily together—no trope is left unturned. Gaogaigar is the ultimate valentine to the shows of its creators' collective youths, and for those with a love akin to theirs, these twenty-four episodes represent a blissful ten-hour return to youth—no Fruit Loops required.
As for the non-fans... Well, there's always the gently parodic humor of the series' ever-escalating outrageousness, and flashes of a more conventionally “good” series can (very occasionally) be glimpsed under the omnipresent super-robot bombast. As with his later Brigadoon, director Yoshitomo Yonetani uses the series' halfway point to up the tempo, shifting from strictly episodic monster-of-the-week silliness to multi-episode chains of escalating conflict as one enemy gives way to the next. He is adept at driving the plot into impossible corners, only to have it escape at the last possible moment, and he has a streak of sweet sentimentality that he looses in short, prudent bursts.
However, Gaogaigar is fan-boy love-letter first and involving action-drama second. Rather than stark tragedy, Yonetani milks the death of major characters for super-robot clichés (timely help from friendly ghosts anyone?), and his attempt to horn the obligatory wedding into his finale necessitates probably the series' most hilarious (unintentional?) joke. The series has no compunction about throwing over emotional depth, narrative drive, and even logic in favor of a smidge more little-boy wonder. Want dinosaurs? Don't worry about how totally insensible it is; send ChoRyuJin hurtling into the geologic past to be fossilized, and hey presto! you have dinosaurs. Dinosaurs and transforming fire-trucks don't do it for you? Then maybe this isn't your cup of Tang.
The prioritization of juvenile fun over story and character holds even for the series' purely technical aspects. Kouhei Tanaka's score is a blast when ripping its orchestral way through an interstellar robo-rumble, but it bludgeons finer emotions to death (the incongruously appropriate piano version of the opening giant-robot shoutfest notwithstanding). The robot transformations (still repeated with magical-girl frequency) are lovingly rendered, while Takahiro Kimura's characters are caricatures so far removed from reality that empathy is difficult. The insanely massive destruction (one expects Tokyo to get trashed, but the moons of Jupiter?) is fluid and expertly edited, while the animation of everyday life is laughably cheap
And no one who cares would have it any other way. Even the budgetary gulf between its mecha and...well, everything else, will be nostalgic nectar on certain lips. Gaogaigar isn't looking to reinvent or reinvigorate its chosen genre, it merely wants to revisit it, to pack everything giant and robotic into a single, slyly ironic package. Sure, even at its best Gaogaigar is no match for Brigadoon's weirdly compelling mixture of bizarre humor, brutality and shameless emotion, or for Gurren Lagann's bull-in-the-china-shop energy, but its fans aren't looking to be traumatized or surprised, they just want to feed the eight-year-old boy in their soul for a spell. Without the fattening side-effects of all those Froot Loops.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Twenty-four episodes of loud, affectionately stupid fun with a newly galloping pace that offsets the “stupid,” and all for a killer price.
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