Background: One of the coolest things about reviewing anime is obviously the free stuff we get in but also the kind of people you meet in the process. While Anime Talk, our bi-weekly anime newsletter, provides a look at what has been going on here at DVD Talk with regard to anime, it helps fans find exactly what they're looking for as well as a resource for questions you might have. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of such helpful people tends to give each of us a better perspective (even when one of us jumps the shark over a particular title; either in a good or bad way). Well, it wasn't long ago that I was looking at older reviews and I saw how much John Sinnott liked a show called Get Backers so when the inevitable happened, the release of Get Backers: Complete Season One (Gettobakkazu Dakkanya), I jumped at the chance to see if it was all that he said it would be, especially since we had some disagreements about the Captain Herlock series I just wrote up. Well, we were in synch this time as I also found it to be a fun little title, even the bare bones, value priced set that ADV Films was offering up. Here's a quick look at the set though for more detail about the show, John is the man to see:
Movie: Get Backers: Complete Season One is a story about two gifted young men in a near future universe that are self employed in the acquisitions business. Technically, they are in the RE-acquisition business as they advertise that they will literally "get back" items someone took from you. The pair is made up of Ginji Amano and Ban Midou, a couple of guys that happen to think doing good and profiting by it is a sweet mix. Ginji is a former gang leader with spiky yellow hair that has the super ability of controlling lighting bolts and other electrical properties by sheer thought. Described by his teammate as a human form of the electric eel, he can discharge bolts of lightning in a directed manner but generally has a happy go lucky attitude towards life. His partner is Ban, a darker individual that also has a past on the wrong side of the law. Ban has two abilities; one is a super strong grip (which comes in handier than you might think at first) and a power called the Jagen, which allows him to strike fear in the heart of anyone he encounters for a limited time as log as he initially makes eye contact with them. Both of the fellows have seen too much in their youth so their service seems almost a way for them to pay back their karmic debt and pay the bills. Sadly though, for all their skills (they advertise that they are "almost 100% successful"), their financial acumen is sorely lacking, resulting in them sleeping in their car most nights, eating whatever handouts they can mooch off a friend of theirs at the small café known as The Honky Tonk, and as payment for their assistance.
The initial episodes started off slowly as the team was introduced in yet another of their hard times, resorting to taking on cases like a schoolgirl's lost charm at the hands of a corrupt cop. Their next caper is for a man who helped them eat and really gets down to the meat of the show with the boys taking on the Yakuza (the Japanese mob); proving more than a match for a group of gun slinging thugs with their powers. The third assignment was the turning point of the show where the team was hired to get back a metal box being delivered by a transport service. While that seemed easy enough, the initial offer was for two million yen, a tidy sum for a small metal box. Upon further investigation, the transport service is discovered to be a ruthless group of super powered thugs with abilities of their own; one of them intimately familiar with Ban and another in the job to find someone worthy of fighting him (Dr. Jackal; a speedy version of the X-Men's Wolverine but with a bloodlust far more refined).
The three episode arc of the two teams fighting back and forth had some hilarious moments but also character defining moments as well since Ban is known as caring only for himself according to his former friend but proves to have evolved past that stage in his life. With personal animosities and all the usual bravado of a fighting series, the teams continually go at one another while one group tries to deliver the precious cargo to one place and the other tries to get it back to go elsewhere. When all is said and done, they are set up for rematches later in the season too; something you don't always see in the weaker series of this type.
Ultimately though, the biggest arc concerns a large building in the middle of the roughest section of town called the Limitless Fortress. Both Ban and Ginji are familiar with the area it is located since each had dealings there (Ginji's gang, The Volts, were even centered there years ago) and the horror stories that come from the place are only scratches on the surface of what truly takes place in the monolithic structure. All the usual clichés are brought forth but done so in such a way as to keep a guy watching (I watched the entire season in a little over a half day; not bad considering I had to bath and eat, however sparingly). The men face their own worst fears and sorted pasts with Ginji pushed to the breaking point (causing him to revert to his killer self; the Lightning Emperor) as they battle the ultimate in mind control; a boy by the name of Makubex. His other abilities aside, he also controls a nuclear bomb, showing the intent to starting over this life by destroying the entire city with the push of a button. Considering it's his lair, his rules, and his ability to control everything around the combined forces of good and evil trying to stop him, can even the Get Backer's survive?
Well, I tried not to fill the description with too many spoilers but still give you a sense of what was going on, here's another look at the show from the back covers of the five individual volumes: "Everyone knows the feeling of coming home and finding their home broken into. Your possessions thrown around, dresser drawers are ransacked and everything you own has the unmistakable feel of a stranger's fingers on them. Then you realize some of your belongings are missing. Don't despair, call Ban and Ginji, the Get Backers. They'll dodge bullets, go up against evil foes and risk their lives to get back your stuff. They're one phone call away, and they're ready to take your case!
It's nice to know people take the arts seriously, but what do you do when people just TAKE them?! In the second installment of this exciting series, the Get Backers are risking their very lives for the sake of art. Now that takes the meaning of art connoisseur to whole new level.
Ban and Ginji teamed up with Shido when the going got tough. They got help from Himiko when she was in a good mood. But what on earth could possibly force them to make nice with…Doctor Jackal?! Only the most dangerous mission the Get Backers have faced to date. And it's gonna take them straight into the heart of the most dangerous location in town: the Limitless Fortress. A mysterious client wants them to recover an object so classified, it can only be called by its initials: IL. Can the Get Backers survive this strange alliance to get back the IL?
The minute they entered the Limitless Fortress, the Get Backers were separated from each other. After roaming endless hallways and fighting thug after thug, they're finally back together again... only to find themselves stuck in a room with six exits. Which door should they choose, and what will be waiting for them on the other side? It's a one-on-one fight to the death as Ginji and Ban face off against both friends and foes from their past. And when the dust finally settles, who will be left standing?
They've fought their way through the maze of the Limitless Fortress. They've done battle with old friends and new foes. They've crept closer to the mastermind at the center of all the insanity: Makubex. But can the Get Backers possibly survive the final trials he's got in store for them? Watch as the Get Backers make their final push into Makubex's lair! Ban and Fudou face off for a deathmatch in a Roman coliseum. And assuming that the Lightning Emperor Ginji manages to survive his bout with Dr. Jackal, there's a final enemy waiting for him…a boy who can send them all to oblivion with the press of a button."
The episodes for the first season are listed below as they aired on Japanese television from the Fall of 2002 to the Spring of 2003; noting that while the series could have ended gracefully, it carried on for another season (maybe we'll see that season in a similar boxed set in coming months too):
1) The Initials Are G and B
2) Get Back the Rusted Bonds
3) Operation: recover the Platinum
4) Recovery Service Vs. Transport Service
5) Deathmatch At Sunrise: The Lightning Emperor vs. Dr. J
6) Get Back the Divine Melody
7) The Animal Transformation of the Beastmaster
8) Timbre of Life, Resound!
9) Get Back the Phantom Sunflowers Pt 1
10) Get Back the Phantom Sunflowers Pt 2
11) Breach the Limitless Fortress: Operation Recover IL
12) The Unknown Boy, Makubex
13) Explosion! Fuchouin: School Thread Technique
14) The New Four Kings
15) The Loulan Dance Whip That Whirls in the Night
16) Explosion! The Lightning Emperor Angry
17) Recovery Team, Rendezvous
18) Crash! Shido Vs. Emishi
19) Oh My Friend…Kazuki Vs. Juubei
20) The Man From Babylon City
21) Blade of Revenge: Ban Vs. Fudou
22) Awakening! The Advent of the Lightning Emperor
23) Attack! Virtual Corps
24) The Final Fight! Ginji Vs. Makubex
25) Get Back the Limitless Future
I typically don't get into this type of buddy show where fighting hand to hand is so prevalent but John's description was filled with the kind of wonder and awe that made it sound like a show worth kicking back to and simply having fun with so how could I resist? As a result, I rated this one as Recommended though you could easily find enough merit to elevate the score a bit if you like the fighting genre. The boxed set lost all the extras but lowered the price greatly so it really provided fans the chance to get in on a solid show for a far more affordable rate then ever before. Give it a look and let me know what you think of the show.
Picture: Get Backers: Complete Season One was presented in the same 1.77:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color presentation it was shot in by directors Kazuhiro Furuhashi and Keitarou Motonaga for airing on Japanese television back in 2002 and 2003. The colors were bright, the characters were well designed, with the humorous bits relying on the limited form of animation that broadcasts silliness (limiting the facial features for example). Still, the lines were clean and the minor defects noticed were such that you'd really have to ignore the action in order to focus on the issues; something I have yet to notice most fans caring about.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choice of a 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track (the original) or a newly remixed 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English language dub handled by the folks at ADV Films. As is almost always the case, the 5.1 version showed superior sound effects and music with better separation and dynamic range while the voices on the original track felt more accurate for some reason. To be fair, the leads were very capably handled in both languages though I wish the 5.1 set up was incorporated from the beginning rather than a tack on version as is almost always the case (ie: if the show is made with 5.1 in mind, a lot better sound comes from it thanks to superior planning and pre-production). There were optional English subtitles for those who care.
Extras: The original releases had some nice extras, far more than average in the form of commentaries, featurettes, and related material but as one of the newly established value packed series; this version had none of that, saving you a lot of money but costing you in this manner. At least the five thinpaks all came in a pleasing cardboard case.
Final Thoughts: Get Backers: Complete Season One might have had less bonus material than the original release of the Get Backers series but it didn't make a big difference to me given the fun the team had trying to accomplish the kinds of jobs they did and how they approached their work. There was a lot of animated violence and the fighting was kept interesting by the use of some old hand tricks from anime but Get Backers: Complete Season One was technically good, lots of fun, and never seemed to rely on some of the baser elements to sell the series. The series as a whole was better than the individual parts, something that can't always be said these days, and I hope volume two comes out soon so I can get more of the Ban and Ginji fix I've started to crave.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.