What do you get when you borrow different features from several popular anime shows? You could get an interesting and entertaining show that combines elements in a new and exciting way creating something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Or you could get Gravion, a tired show that relies on clichés and fan service to move a plot along and seems used up from the start.
Klein Sandman is a very rich and very mysterious industrialist. He lives the life of a recluse in an old castle, surrounded by his maids and house servants. But when the Earth Federated Alliance's (EFA) outer most colonies are attacked and destroyed by an alien force, the Zeravire, Sandman offers his services to the Alliance. He has created a giant robot, the Gran Kaiser, and four other high tech vehicles to fight the invaders. When these five units merge in the heat of battle, they turn into God Gravion, "a deity for the modern age." Only a young person who has a special gene that allows them to withstand the forces generated while the machine is in action can pilot these special weapons. But Sandman is missing a pilot for one section, so he lures Eiji to his castle under false pretenses and tricks him into agreeing to be a pilot.
Sandman's offer to take over the entire defense of Earth on the condition that he is given complete control of the EFA army is, not too surprisingly, rejected. The EFA tries to fight the aliens itself and is thoroughly routed. In steps the Gravion team to save the day. But these aliens are machines that have the ability to evolve. So once they are defeated with one tactic, the adapt so that the same attack won't work a second time. How long can God Gravion hold out against such a menace?
This series takes the old 1970's 'combining several parts to make a giant robot' device, adds a mysterious leader, a group of young pilots that all have one personality trait (including a robot-like girl with no emotions,) and a missing sibling. Sprinkle with a lot of fan service and you have Gravion. Some of the elements may have worked well in other series, but when you put them all together you get a horrible mishmash that doesn't have any internal consistency. The women in the control room for example are all maids in Sandman's castle, so they wear their cute little maid outfits while directing the battles. One of the Gravion team, Mizuki has enormous breasts. We aren't talking regular curvy anime-chick breasts, but glandular disorder sized knockers. These are stuffed into a low cut outfit that someone half the size would never consider wearing, and they, amazingly, never fall out no matter how much bouncing is going on.
Then there are the mysteries. Eiji is looking for his sister who used to work for Sandman as a maid, but she has been missing for a number of months. But that's not the only unknown. There are a large number of unanswered questions in this first set of five shows, and those that do get answered don't make a lot of sense. It's mystery for mystery's sake; there is no reason for it. In the first few episodes the five members of the Gravion team know that there are really six members, but they can't communicate with the last person, even in battle. They haven't seen this person, or know why their identity is secret. They just know that this pilot fights with them. In the fourth episode the identity of this mystery pilot is revealed, but there was never an explanation of why her identity was kept from the other members. There was no reason! It was a dumb thing to do, but no one ever questioned Sandman about why he created this big mystery.
All in all, this show doesn't have any original ideas. Everything
in it has been done, and done better, in many other series.
Like most anime that is put out nowadays, this disc offers the choice of a stereo Japanese track with optional English subtitles or an English dub in 5.1. I alternated between tracks as I watched the show, and I had a slight preference for the original language track, but thought the English dub was fine. The English track was a little more full, but it wasn't as powerful as I was hoping. They didn't make full use of the subwoofer channel during the fight scenes. The English track did have more punch than the Japanese track did, just not as much as I was expecting. Both tracks sounded fine, with no distortion or other defects.
The video was presented with a 1.33:1 aspect ration, and looked pretty good. The image was soft, but the colors were bright. There were only a few instances of aliasing, a digital artifact that usually plagues animation, but no other major defects. An average looking DVD.
This disc includes a clean opening and closing, a series of design sketches and trailers for Robotech Remastered, Megazone 23, Aura Battler Dunbine, Bast of Syndrome, Steam Detectives, and Kino's Journey.
In addition to these disc based extras there are some cool items packaged in with the disc itself. ADV includes a pair of window stickers with a character on each (Kuna and Toga) and a nice foldout insert with illustrations of the various craft on one side, and a prose Gravion story on the other. I like these little collectables that some companies throw in with their DVDs. It takes some of the sting out of the high prices.
Gravion sounds good on paper, but it just doesn't come off well in execution. The show is filled with clichés, and all of the characters seem to be recycled from other shows. The show is predictable and quickly falls into a pattern. Die-hard mecha fans are the only ones who would want to check this out, and even they should Rent It.