When it comes to anime boobs and robots go together like Lindsay Lohan and booze. The two invariable meet each other and the result is often disastrous though sometimes it becomes a spectacle. Take Godannar for example. The campy plot, naughty fan service atmosphere, and over the top action helped separate it amidst the sea of "me too" want to be's. ADV's other booblicious robotic series, Gravion, just never hits the same notes as the aforementioned title.
On paper Gravion has a lot going for it to be quite honest. First of all it was produced by GONZO who is renowned for making quality programs. Ok, so not everything they touch is gold but you get the point. It was also created and directed by Masami Obari who has worked on Ranma 1/2 and some of the original Bubblegum Crisis. Masami may be better known for his works on hentai series though and that may be part of the problem. You wouldn't exactly ask a porn director to take the reigns of a Hollywood production but I'm sure it has all happened before and that's not exactly a fair comparison. Whatever the case Gravion just fails to impress from the moment it begins.
Previously ADV had released Gravion and its sequel series Zwei separately. The two soon become complete thinpack collections and now ADV has packaged them together presumably in an effort to move overstock. It's just hard not to think that considering the two shows were only released last year. At any rate with Gravion and Gravion: Zwei together the show is complete with a total of 25 episodes.
To be brutally honest the plot backing the Gravion series feels very tired. It's cliché to a fault and in many ways it feels like a parody of better giant robot shows with bits of fan service tossed in for good measure. This is a series where you have one big robot that connects to smaller pieces so it can become a greater behemoth. Once the final phase is complete it wins the battle and fights off alien hordes that threaten Earth and humanity. I'd like to say that there's more to it than that but frankly, there's not.
The show starts out mysteriously and leaves a lot of questions rolling around your head as the episodes progress. In the beginning there is a bizarre alien fleet known as the Zeravire who has broken through Earth Federated Alliance's (EFA) outer defenses. With impending doom looming above the third planet from the sun an enigmatic rich guy steps forward with the promise of salvation. Where Earth's military failed at every turn, Klein Sandman's Earth Force Squad steps in to save humanity's hide.
Eiji has broken through Sandman's castle defenses and is searching for something. While he states that it was a busty woman named Mizuki he was looking for we soon find out it was something out. He takes a wrong turn and has a chance encounter with a strange young boy known as Toga.
Toga emerges from a mechanized monster and possesses strange abilities. Everything quickly goes to hell in a hand basket and the world is turned upside down. Eiji finds himself piloting a funny looking ship and watches as Toga controls the giant robot known as Gravion. All of this happens in the first episode so as you'd imagine the sense of discovery afterwards is practically nil. Gravion shows its hand within the first fifteen minutes and goes on to churn out the same mediocrity in subsequent episodes.
While the mystery behind Sandman and the Zeravire continues to expand through these episodes it's the characters and sense of humor that make Gravion as watch able as it is. Now, don't misunderstand me. There are no great revelations as far as character development is concerned and for the most part personalities are very one-dimensional. Eiji's character stands above the rest with the quest for his sister and inner turmoil regarding working for the Gravion team. Toga's mysterious nature also adds some nice elements early on. Unfortunately throughout it all you can easily identify stereotypes across the board and that doesn't help when it comes to giving Gravion a voice of its own.
Things don't get much better when the second season, Zwei, rolls around either. The same cliché plotlines, a lack of decent character development, and the substitution of fan service where story exposition should be feels very similar. I suppose if you appreciated the first Gravion then the second's premise would appeal to you as well. Unfortunately I found neither to be very endearing or long lasting. Sure I had a few laughs and some of the action sequences were great but do those few instances constitute the cost of admission? Not really.
In the end I suppose whether or not you'll appreciate Gravion is entirely up to what you enjoy in anime. If you like originality, smart writing, good character development, and a satisfying payoff then you'll want to steer clear of this. On the other hand if you appreciate parodies, copycats, animated boobs, and rehashed gags then you might find Gravion amusing enough for a rental.
The original Gravion was released in 2002 while Zwei came out two years later. Both shows are presented with 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratios and if you have ever seen a GONZO program you know that you can't really ding it for a lack of quality. Character designs and animation throughout this series is top notch and though they aren't very creative they certainly are pretty.
The technical quality of this collection is very good as well but not outstanding. There is some grain in spots as well as compression artifacts that crept in from time to time. Neither was particularly overbearing but they were present enough to identify. I didn't spot any aliasing though which helps things quite a bit.
Gravion and Zwei are presented in this collection with Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 audio selections. The quality of both is good depending what you're expecting. I found the Japanese dubbing to be better all around but the 2.0 stereo presentation just didn't cut the mustard when the action intensified. On the other hand the 5.1 English dubbing didn't do it for me but the better sense of immersion was appreciated. Even so the 5.1 selection felt underwhelming at times and the action just didn't sound as prominent as it should have.
Ah, the ADV thinpack. Yes you get the whole collection but you also receive none of the bonus material you could have seen if you bought into the original releases. I suppose that's the trade-off for a complete series versus extra features.
Gravion just doesn't receive a passing grade when it comes time to pass out scores. The lack of innovation, the "me too" atmosphere, static characters, and unnecessarily gratuitous fan service do nothing but alienate the viewer. Well, it alienated me at least. I tend to look for more in my anime but I have been known to shut my brain off at the door and appreciate a show for what it is. Unfortunately there just wasn't much to love about this series. In my opinion it's an example of what anime shouldn't be but there are many out there who may enjoy it. The best I can muster up for Gravion is a rent it; and that's a low rental suggestion.
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