As far as classic anime shows go, it doesn't get much more old school than Gatchaman. Having originally aired in 1972 over in Japan, the show saw some scattered releases here in America but was severely edited content and length wise. Up until now the original Japanese track for the show hadn't been heard here and thanks to A.D.V. we get that, the uncut show and all 105 episodes.
The whole premise behind Gatchaman is that in the future the sinister group Galactor rises up to try and take over the world. It's up to Dr. Nambu and his team of five Science Ninjas to stop their diabolical scheme by whatever means necessary. The team consists of Ken the Eagle, Joe the Condor, Jun the Swan, Ryu the Owl and Jinpei the Swallow. While there is some continuity between episodes, you don't have to catch all 105 to know what's going on in the show.
The second wave of Gatchaman has come along and the fourth volume of the series features another great collection of episodes. Galactor is still trying to take over the world and they unleash all sorts of monstrosities on the people of Earth. The ninja science team has to take on a giant mole machine, an army of cyborg horses, a fire breathing dragon, an oversized bowling ball and a neon giant. This is yet another collection of classic shows, but this wave features a couple of silly bits.
In one episode Joe risks his life to save a puppy and gets a shard of metal lodged in his brain. The sap is poured on extremely thick in this episode and some parts of it are laughably cheesy. In another Jinpei and Ryu attend a horse race in another episode which is kind of funny because during the horse race the horses are put through a few different trials. One of which being having a 1 ton robot dropped on their back to see which one can keep from collapsing.
The science ninja team comes face to face with Leader X but they don't discover who he is quite yet. We also learn that Ken has some relationship to Red Impulse but that was sort of hinted upon in their earlier encounters. The God Phoenix also receives some modification so that it can turn into an icebird instead of a firebird. The trend of the individual story continues here and there really is no continuity aside from the fact that the characters know each other.
Unlike other anime that feature three or four episodes per disc, Gatchaman packs in a whopping six 25 minute episodes. Volume three houses numbers 19-24 which are: Speed Race from Hell, A Critical Moment for the Science Ninja Team, Who is Leader X?, The Firebird Versus The Fire-Breathing Dragon, The Mecha-Ball Runs Wild and The Neon Giant that Smiles in the Dark.
Gatchaman may not be for anyone, but if you have an open mind and are curious where many shows got their inspiration from this one will entertain you. It's a classic right up there with Ultraman and Star Blazers so that alone should tell you what kind of quality you can look for. If you're like me then this show came out before you were born and maybe you recall snippets of it from your childhood in the form of Battle of the Planets or G-Force. Reminiscing aside, this show is truly timeless and something you should definitely check out if you are open to history. I can't express enough how nice it is to have a classic of this type coming out on DVD.
Quite honestly, this is about as good as Gatchaman has ever looked considering the age of the show and quality of animations for the time period. It is presented with its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and any faults in image quality are attributed to the source material. Seeing as the show was produced in the early 70s you can expect to see a lot of grain, choppy animations, disproportionate images, lighting issues and occasional shaky image. But I suppose one could argue that just adds to the classic air around the show. Many of the colors are solid throughout, though there are a few moments where the quality drops off significantly.
Gatchaman Volume 4 includes a new English dubbing and the original Japanese audio tracks. These are presented with a 2.0 mix and depending what you are looking for they each provide different quality. The English features louder and cleaner sound but also some extremely horrible voice acting at times. A lot of the dialogue from the 70s is included here so expect to hear stuff like "groovy" and "can you dig it?".
The original Japanese features a softer sound transfer but is the most faithful to the material. I found myself enjoying the Japanese mix more mostly because the dialogue in English gets too silly at times. Again, the overall quality for the original is decent considering the fact that it's over thirty years old.
Aside from some A.D.V. previews, the fourth volume of Gatchaman also features some extras worth mentioning. A creative addition that I haven't seen before is called Gatchaman Karaoke which plays The Mecha-Ball Runs Wild episode with music and sound effects, but no voiceovers. Instead subtitles appear on the bottom so you and a group of friends can be the voice actors..
The industry standard clean close animation is included as well as a solo commentary for Who is Leader X?. The commentary has director Charles Campbell and voice actor for Ryu, Victor Carsrud. It's pretty funny stuff as they make fun of Ryu and how big and dumb he is. They chat about the show and there differences between the full DVD version and what aired in America.
By today's anime standards, Gatchaman is a dinosaur but for it's time it was very advanced. Much of what you see in shows today found their inspiration in series like this and despite the fact that it seems cheesy when you go back to watch it, the nostalgic value is extremely high. If you enjoyed Battle of the Planets or G-Force when they came out in the States, you owe it to yourself to see the uncut version of the show.
The fourth volume packs in a lot of great action, but there are a few tacky bits that are overplayed (like the puppy bit). I wish there was more continuity with the show, but as it is there are a few subplots that turn up here and there like Red Impulse's relationship with Ken. Fans of classic anime should definitely check out Gatchaman. Recommended
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