Reviewby Sean Broestl, Jul 12th 2005
Overman King Gainer
DVD 1: Yapan's Exodus
In the distant future, in a distant corner of Siberia, people live in domed cities called Domepolises. These are the primary human living spaces on Earth, which became uninhabitable years ago from environmental destruction. Now, parts of the Earth are becoming habitable again. Large portions of the Domepolises are breaking off to escape the powers that control the domes and trade.
Gainer Sanga, video game champ on his 200th victory, becomes an unwilling helper in his hometown's Exodus when he is wrongfully arrested by the Siberian Railway. He pilots a giant mecha which he dubs 'King Gainer' after his own video game handle. He is challenged to fight other Overmen as Yapan tries to escape across Siberia.
King Gainer is a show that harkens back to anime's classic era... One where mecha designs featured seemingly bizarre details like capes and laser-shooting horns. An era where details of weapons feel like they were thought up after the design was already done (think breast missles). One where every attack name needs to be yelled at least once during battle, or else it won't work.
If only it were possible to say that King Gainer is also nostalgic. It just isn't. Like a modern Hollywood remake, King Gainer seems to be trying to capture the magic that made its predecessors great. It meets with some success, but the end product is a half-baked leftover. Gainer is about as old school as Martian Successor Nadesico - high in cliche and homage, low in the aura that made old giant robot anime seem so cool.
King Gainer's outlandish first episode is probably one of the best demonstrations of how random the show can be at times. It's a torrent of explosions, scantily-clad female henchmen, arrests, prison breaks, fights, Sharon Apple rip-offs, discoveries of hidden giant mecha, kidnappings of royalty, politics and worldwide environmental collapse. You might think the show would have a hard time fitting this all into 25 minutes, and it does. The show doesn't really slow down for another two or three episodes.
The show's pacing at the outset is an absolute mess. If anyone could watch this and not feel at least a little bit lost, it would be a real surprise. Within the first couple minutes, we are introduced to Gainer, video game champ on his 200th straight victory. He's arrested at school on suspicion of exodus. Exodus? Surely that can't be winning a lot of video games. The viewer can only be left wondering what the heck Exodus is. What follows this is a lot like a roller coaster ride that is nothing but loop after loop for 25 minutes. It can only leave the person experiencing it dazed and confused.
But what's an Exodus, you're probably asking? In Gainer's world, an Exodus means moving large portions of an existing human settlement to a free and environmentally recovered area. You see, on this version of Earth, people moved to these Domepolises after destroying most of Earth's habitable land. Years later, it's possible to move back, but now power structures are set up in the Domes, including royalty and massive trade empires. These entrenched people don't want to give up power, so an Exodus is very illegal.
Naturally, when part of Gainer's hometown escapes under the direction of Exodus Specialist Gain Bijou, the trade empire known as the Siberian Railway begins pursuing the Exodus wherever it goes. The railway crew manage to be some of the more cliche, but fun villains in recent whows. Jin Yassaba, the megalomanic and womanizing Overman pilot of the Siberian Railway makes for an entertaining villain in these episodes, though he was starting to feel overused by the end of the disc. He just wouldn't stay down.
Maybe this would all be more clear at the outset of the backstory if the show wasn't told in a Star Wars-style vertical scroll during the show's opening song. Not to mention how easy it is to miss. All the time it's scrolling by, Gainer and a company of ferrets do a dance in the screen's foreground.
Heck, the whole opening is by far one of the most entertaining anime openings in a long while. It has dancing, space ice skating and a theme with hilarious lyrics like "FULL... METAL... COAT!". It sounds dumb now, but it's kind of entrancing. You could pass it off as the stupidest thing ever, but you'd still be tempted to go back and watch it again later. It's just that memorable.
One thing that King Gainer really has going for it is the mecha and technology design. Of the two Overmen introduced so far, King Gainer is a really fresh-feeling design among a crowded genre. Outside of G-Gundam, how often do you think you would see a humanoid mecha with futuristic dreadlocks, a fishbowl for a head and a chainsaw gun? The silhouette engines used by the supporting cast are among the more interesting of the common infantry and utility mecha seen in shows like this. They mesh with the technology really well as they leap across city-sized blocks. They also have a definite clumsiness about them that the show's creators made apparent when using them in battle.
On the flipside, despite the strong plot and scenario design, King Gainer is falling absolutely flat on character relationships. Gainer's crush on Sara feels very pathetic to the viewer, if not entirely forced. Almost like it was really an afterthought, or they thought the show wouldn't sell if the main character couldn't find a love interest among the crew he works with. While this could change in later volumes, right now it's dragging the pace of the show down.
The princess that Gain and Gainer picked up in episode one exists only to add her cute ferrets to the screen so far. Sure, she's a "hostage," but her involvement in the plot so far is about as exciting as her capture was. Gain Bijou is, at this point, the only character with any interesting backstory to flesh out. Everyone else is still nearly flat. Gainer is about as interesting as a post, and to some degree suffers from Shinji syndrome with some of his "I hate fighting and Exodus" whine fests.
At least Gainer looks and sounds very pretty. The animation is definitely above average almost all of the time. There's a few scrolling images, but for the most part, few shortcuts were taken. The sound effects and music were somewhat subtle, but not completely unforgettable. If nothing else, you'll at least be humming the opening song when you're done watching.
Despite some real strengths, Gainer just keeps coming up as mediocre. Every episode has its moments that stand out, but it's quickly outweighed by another moment of confusion or cliche. Regardless, KingGainer's energetic opening is enough to get anyone to
take a closer look. If the plot can just catch up with the groundwork placed in this volume, there's a real gem here.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C-
Animation : B+
Art : C-
Music : B+
+ Great opening sequence, retro feeling wrapped in sexy modern styling
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