Reviewby Theron Martin,
DVD 1: Engage & Destroy
Five years ago young Anna Aoi met Dannar (mecha) pilot Goh when he saved her life during a climatic battle against the alien menace of Mimetic Beasts. Now 17, she is secretly marrying the man who captured her heart even though she is still in high school. Spunky Anna is not content merely to be the wife of a robot pilot, however; she seeks to become his partner in battle as well! While piloting her Neo-Okusaer, she can combine with Goh's Dannar to make the ultimate fusion of man, woman and machine, a combination made necessary by the renewed threat of the Mimetic Beasts. Can they combine their skills sufficiently to triumph in battle? Can they find any privacy outside of their mecha? Will this ultimately prove to be a union made in Heaven or Hell?
Marriage meets old-school mecha in this action-heavy retro-styled mecha series from 2003. Though its production values and some aspects of its character designs clearly mark it as a more recent production, its storytelling, mecha designs, and stock launch sequences and combination scenes are throwbacks to the kind of mecha tales routinely spun 30 years go. It is, in essence, an original modern revival of classic mecha style, down even to the classic theme songs. Unlike some other recent titles of this type, Godannar is more than just a nostalgia trip for hard-core mecha fans; it stands quite well on its own as a fast-paced, exciting action mecha series liberally laced with fan service. Even those who don't normally care much for this kind of series might want to at least give this one a try, as you may be surprised by how infectious its energy and enthusiasm can be.
And that's really the key to making a series like this work in a time of more sophisticated mecha storytelling: get the viewer so wrapped up in the action and humor that concerns about lack of depth or simple, straightforward storytelling fall by the wayside. Godannar does this exceptionally well. It plops viewers down in the middle of a battle right from the very first moment and keeps them on a roller-coaster thrill ride throughout the five episodes present in this volume. Whether it's battle scenes for Goh or training scenes for Anna, weddings scenes or flashback scenes, or even some mechanics trying to engage in hanky-panky on the side, the story is constantly moving and never dull. Just enough serious content is included to establish the motivations of some of the key characters and provide for some heavy drama in parts of episode 5, but the series never dwells too long on these elements. It is primarily a light-hearted, high-spirited, and grossly (often to the point of comically) melodramatic series by nature, and rarely loses sight of that.
While Godannar may be old-school in its style, the way it handles its heavy doses of fan service reflect more recent sensibilities. Though there is little actual nudity, so much emphasis is placed on the inevitably ample busts of female characters that the series deserves its own “jiggle counter.” Between that and writing loaded with innuendo and suggestive humor, the title's Mature Audiences rating is deserved. Some use of this content is fun, but it starts to get annoyingly excessive by the end of the volume. One almost gets the impression that the creators didn't trust the story and action to carry the title on its own so they felt the need juice it up a bit.
Though it retains the old-school flavor, mecha designs, and primary-heavy color schemes of classic mecha, all of Godannar is rendered with sharp and sleek modern digital painting. Male characters designs fare quite well, but the quality of the female character designs varies widely. Facial designs aren't the prettiest on Anna and some supporting characters, and figures often feature massive torpedo-shaped breasts. The most appealing female character designs are actually the ones which don't have the mammoth mammaries. All the characters are well-drawn, though, and contribute to an excellent overall artistic package. Combine that with good animation, a few CG enhancements, and lots of flashy effects and you have one of the better-looking recent mecha series, old-school or not.
The opening and closing themes are rousing numbers typical of classic mecha series, while the stirring, trumpet-heavy musical score does everything in its power to enhance and highlight the dramatic action and comedy sequences. Couple that with appropriate vocal performances in both English and Japanese and you have a volume that's as appealing to the ears as it is to the eyes. Brett Weaver, who also did Gai Daigoji in Martian Successor Nadesico, was born to give the kind of blowhard, over-the-top performance required for Goh, and actually does better than the original seiyuu in that role – something I wouldn't have thought possible for a role like this. Hilary Haag is a goodt as Anna, though her excitability gets a little too shrill at a couple of points. Other roles are cast and performed well enough that complaints would require serious nit-picking, and the dub does make much more of an effort to use appropriately foreign accents for foreign characters than the original Japanese does. Concerns about overacting are hard to justify here since that's both a requirement for a series like this and one of its central jokes. The English script never strays far from the original Japanese, either.
In addition to five full episodes, ADV offers up a broad array of extras in this volume. Standards like clean opener and closer and company previews are accompanied by Character and Mechanical Profiles, Top Secret Case Files, and Godannar Key Words, which collectively just looks like a series encyclopedia. None of these offer any information which can't be gleaned from the regular episodes, though. The liner notes also include an interview with the music director and brief commentary by several seiyuu.
Like your mecha action old-school, flashy, and loaded with fan service, yet done with modern production values? Favor fun, high-spirited action series in general? Then Godannar is a must-see title for you. It may not be deep or complex, but it does what it's designed to do very well.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Great old-school mecha action, good artistry and supporting music
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