One of the growing trends in the anime industry today is the interest companies and fans have in classic material. One such show is the very old school Gatchaman series. The show originally aired in Japan back in 1972 but it saw limited release here in America thanks to censorship and lack of interest. Back in the 80s it could be found in a drastically cut back form known as Battle of the Planets. It wasn't until ADV decided to pick up the license and give the original Gatchaman a proper treatment that the series was brought to light.
ADV started releasing these discs last year and fans of classic anime started gobbling them up. The beautiful thing about this series of discs is that the show remains uncut with all 105 episodes intact. If you do your math right you'll realize that's leading to 18 discs or so and a massive chunk of space on your DVD shelf. It's well worth the lack of room for other series and something that should be applauded because support for a show like Gatchaman could lead into releases for other classics (please someone release Mysterious Cities of Gold!).
The whole concept behind Gatchaman is that in the future a sinister group known as 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 plot 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.
Ten volumes of Gatchaman have been released so far with volumes 13 and 14 right around the corner. So far in the series the Science Ninja Team has tackled numerous foes and wrestled with Galactor at just about every turn. The sheer amount of monsters that Galactor has created up to this point is bordering absurd, but given the production date for this show there is a certain element of cheesiness to consider. The biggest thing to happen recently was the discovery that Red Impulse was in fact Ken's long lost father. Unfortunately before they could have their manly father and son chat about the birds and the bees Red Impulse has to go and get blown up by Galactor. This single event changes Ken's character in a way that makes him more determined to kill Berg Katse and bring Galactor's reign of terror to an end by any means necessary.
In volumes 11 and 12 the show picks up pretty much right where it left off. Ken is still dealing with his feelings of loss and Galactor is still a big group of dicks. The first episode in particular is tough for Ken to get through mainly because Katse impersonates his deceased father and tries to destroy Gatchaman's secret base. Ken snaps out of it long enough to turn the tides against Galactor and exact some form of revenge. From this point the volumes here slip into the same "monster of the week" syndrome with some pretty cracked-out ideas from Galactor.
In one episode they build a secret base beneath a baseball field and kidnap a bunch of players, turning them into evil baseball players. That's right, evil baseball players who try to kill Gatchaman with baseballs and bats. The next episode was decent but I admit that I loved it mostly because of its name, "A Christmas Present of Death". Following that nonsense Gatchaman took on a brain stealing octopus-like monster and a bizarre episode revolving around fashion.
Up next on the roster is an episode where Berg Katse destroys the God Phoenix in hopes of attaining a new rank in Galactor. After that the evil empire sets off a nuke and destroys a city on an island. It then creates a bunch of mechanical bugs that form together to make a bigger bug. From there we see an interesting story about a woman that claims to be Jinpei's mother then things get silly again. We see a gang of deadly mannequins and there's even a story involving the abominable snowman. The cool thing is that towards the end of the twelfth volume Gatchaman gets up close and personal with Katse and his boss. Fans will definitely be excited when they see what happens.
Gatchaman may not be for everyone, 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 Speed Racer so that alone should tell you what kind of quality you can look forward to. 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 an anime history lesson. I can't express enough how nice it is to have a classic of this caliber coming out on DVD and I applaud ADV for taking the care to put this all together for us.
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, speckle, disproportionate images, lighting issues and occasional shaky image. But I suppose one could argue that just adds to the classic air around the show.
Gatchaman 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. There is a certain cheese factor to the way that it was handled though I guess you could say that adds some charm and humor.
The original Japanese features a softer sound transfer but is the most faithful to the material. I found myself enjoying the Japanese mix more, though sometimes I bounced back and forth to see what some of the differences were. Again, the overall quality for the original is decent considering the fact that it's over thirty years old.
Discs loaded with extra features await Gatchaman fans once again with the sixth collection. Volumes eleven and twelve offer opening and closing animations as well as some commentaries. This time around we get commentaries for "A Christmas Present of Death" and "Death Girls Unite". The commentators for the tracks include Kim Prause (Jun) and Luci Christian (Jinpei) for the Christmas one and Brian Jepson (Joe) and Winston Parish (Leader X) for the Death Girls one. Both are more entertaining than informative and they really keep up with the spirit of the ADV presentation for this show. There is also some more Gatchaman Karaoke this time around too.
The included bonus disc (in the collector's box edition) focuses on Berg Katse'd character. Per usual there is a profile for the character, some character sketches, and an interview with his voice actor Edwin Neal. Some audition footage is included as well as sketches for stuff found in some of these episodes. I still say the most interesting material included here is the vintage publications and information regarding different parts of the Gatchaman franchise when it was first released. There's also another installment of digital manga to take a gander at.
By today's anime standards, Gatchaman is a dinosaur but for it's time it was very advanced in many ways. 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.
For fans that have been following the series to date you'll be happy to know that there are a few great episodes here. Some things get a little silly (well, sillier) in a few episodes, but I suppose that's all part of the Gatchaman experience.
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