Ok, I have to confess. I am an absolutely sucker for the Japanese animation studio Gonzo (as are many of you it seems). Hellsing, Samurai 7, and Chrono Crusade are among some of the best looking on the market and 2002's Kiddy Grade is no exception. I don't know how they do it but despite churning out several products in a year their stuff remains consistently gorgeous.
Chances are very good that at some point in the past four years you have seen or heard about Kiddy Grade. The DVDs have been released singly, then in two disc packages, and now in a complete collection. The show has either proven to be successful enough that it warrants so many releases or FUNimation is just trying to move their product. Either way, this is a show that if you haven't checked out, you just may want to sneak a peak.
Science fiction anime is nothing new for sure and the basic concept at play in this series may give many of you déjà vu. Far into the future humanity has spread itself among the stars and in order to keep the warring nations in check the GOTT was formed. The Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs is essentially the galaxy's police department. Whenever something comes up that requires their attention they send out two of their officers to investigate and arrest any guilty parties. These agents are feared and revered among civilians, and in the case of Kiddy Grade they come in the form of a sixteen and a ten year old girl.
Éclair and Lumiere are C Class ranked ES members who are receptionists by day and crime fighters by night. Granted they aren't exactly Batman and Robin since they aren't alone. The GOTT employs several other agents just like them and each are teamed similarly into pairs. The Class system is a way to grade their powers and skill, though in all honesty the difference in classes is never satisfactorily explained. We do, however, get to see a wide range of abilities in the series and it's easy to see why Éclair and Lumiere are as respected as they are.
Typically in a show like Kiddy Grade where you have two main characters that are partners there is one that stands out the most. These two in particular run neck and neck for screen time and development but Éclair edges ahead thanks to some plot developments towards the end of the show. Despite the fact that she's the older of the two, she's the most immature, unrefined (as Lumiere would say), and apt to pick a fight. Her tools of the trade include a nifty handgun, cybernetic implants, and a tube of lipstick that doubles as a whip and explosives.
Lumiere is ironically the lady of the duo, even though she's only ten years old. She walks around preaching to Éclair about proper etiquette and being lady-like while sipping on grape juice. She carries a gun but she's nowhere near as brazen as her partner. Lumiere's powers come in the form of controlling computers and electronics without being in contact with them. She's so powerful that if she concentrates hard enough she can take command of an entire fleet's worth of vessels. Because of this power she also has a deep personal relationship with the AI aspect of their spaceship, Wirbelwind.
Together the two take several cases through the GOTT and in the beginning things are relatively episodic. Each episode brings about a new plot with only subtle hints and references about things to come. Along the way there are a lot of interesting stories and one-shot characters introduced but things get interesting once more of the other GOTT teams are introduced.
Just like Éclair and Lumiere, several other partners get their share of the spotlight and receive a decent amount of development. The funny part is that just about everybody else involved with the GOTT that we get introduced to is in a higher class than our stars. Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Viola and Cesario, and Un-ou and A-ou are some of the different teams that pop up from time to time, though Alv and Dvergr probably play the biggest role in overall plot development later in the series.
Despite the fact that Kiddy Grade is a very episodic anime it shifts gears at a point in its run. As the show progresses Éclair begins to have violent flashbacks about things that seem to be related to a previous life. The series changes completely and randomly from that point. Things get turned upside down in a heartbeat and what you thought you knew about many of the characters here is really a lie. The roles of Éclair and Lumiere change and so do those of Alv and Dvergr. Other mysteries and revelations also come into play for better or worse.
In the end Kiddy Grade was a highly entertaining series with a lot of things going for it. The characters were very likeable and the story throughout the show was pretty solid. There was a little lull towards the middle of the show and some bits towards the end were more confusing than they needed, but overall this was a great series. Éclair and her outfit have become something of an icon among some otaku crowds and for good reason. The only downfall is that somewhere along the line many of you may have already checked out one of the two previous releases. Then again if you've been holding out for a complete collection in one package, this is the one to get.
Originally produced in 2002 Kiddy Grade is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and is one sharp looking show. The visuals absolutely pop from the TV despite the fact that there is no anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are vibrant, the image is impeccably clean, and aliasing is kept to a minimum. This is the beautiful presentation by Gonzo that I was talking about at the start of this review. It usually just doesn't get any better than this on today's anime market.
English and Japanese 2.0 stereo tracks are included on this release though there is 5.1 English available as well. The dubbing here is handled well with only subtle differences in terms of names and such. The voices are generally fine and the material was comparable to the Japanese track. The difference was all about the surround though with explosions and gunfire coming from the rear channels to accompany the great soundtrack.
Unlike the ADV thinpak releases, FUNimation's collection here seems to be comprised of the discs from their individual releases. Sadly there's nothing really groundbreaking in terms of supplemental material here. Each volume provides something to take a gander at but aside from trailers, song videos, image galleries, and character profiles there's nothing to get excited about. A feature about the series and how it came to be could have been interesting and a voice actor commentary could have gone a long way to making revisiting these discs something to look forward to.
I had a blast with Kiddy Grade. The world of the GOTT is a lot of fun, the characters are loveable, the action is intense, and the overall story is very memorable. Things do get a little mucked up towards the end thanks to some random plot twists, but as a whole it's not such a bad thing. The series does start out stronger than it finishes though it stays fairly consistent the entire way through. If you missed any of the other releases for the show there's no reason not to check this one out, especially since it's the entire collection. Since these discs are apparently just a re-release of the ones that came out two years ago the asking price is a little steep. Kiddy Grade is a good show, but for $90 this collection gets knocked down a peg.
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