After watching all seven volumes of ADV's robot and fan service laden series Godannar I had that sweet metallic taste in my mouth. I needed more mecha in my life and in my collection. Luckily there's plenty out there and quite the backlog of series that have come out over the years. GaoGaiGar for instance is an anime that came out nearly ten years ago and after seeing a decent chunk of the show I think it's safe to say that this show embraces the genre much like Godannar did.
Big bad monsters, dashing heroes, huge suits of armor, and lots of explosions and yelling cover this show like green on grass. The story behind this show begins eight years ago on a cold winter night. The Amami's are visited by a giant robotic lion (Galeorea) during a snowstorm commute and have a baby dropped at their feet. They named the child Mamoru and raised him as their own. Sure this origin is nearly a parallel to Superman's but that's really where the comparisons stop.
As you probably already suspected Mamoru isn't human. He's connected to the giant lion in a way and now that he's eight years old he finds himself in an interesting predicament. On a school trip to a garbage scow his class is attacked by a giant monster. Luckily they are saved by a cyborg named Gai who flies onto the scene and even connects with the lion from Mamoru's past. All kinds of hell breaks loose and once the dust settles all that is left of the monster is a big rock; which Gai wants to break. In a completely random instant Mamoru's hair turns a shade of green and he sprouts wings. He flies up to Gai and changes the rock back into a human then flies off leaving everyone bewildered.
From there the first volume weaved a complex science fiction mystery that continued to get more involved as it went along. Mamoru transformed a few more times, Gai's origin as a former astronaut-turned cyborg by the lion, and the GGG were introduced. The second volume picks up basically right where the first one left off.
While Mamoru takes in as much as he can of the GGG's underwater facility another Zonder (see: big bad monster) is about to be born. As we learned in the first volume whenever the heart of man grows dark the evil ones prey on their weakness and transform them into large beasts. This time around it's the captain of an oil tanker who becomes the unwitting victim. Gai and Mamoru get ready for action along with a new hero who is introduced in this episode. Comprised of twin fire trucks, the artificially intelligent transforming robot is kind of like Optimus Prime's twin (twins?). With their combined forces the good guys win as usual.
The second episode is really a character development one for Mamoru as he tries to balance his home life and the one with GGG. As you'd imagine that's a tough thing for a nine year old to do and there are more than few moments when his parents might just discover his greenly identity. Mamoru's character has become pretty endearing but this episode made him even more so. Oh towards the end of the episode there is another Zonder attack that involves a train. Guess who wins.
Three episodes remain on the disc and each offers an episodic adventure that doesn't have much to do with the one that came before it. This usually bugs me with anime but in the case of GaoGaiGar it actually works. The atmosphere is fun and the characters are very likeable. It's amazing to me that this show wasn't released on DVD sooner In many ways this was exactly what I was looking for to fit my over-the-top robot on monster craving. It has so many things that made the genre a mainstay in the world of anime and even though many of these have become cliché it's still very enjoyable. The characters are interesting and the plot has a good amount of intrigue as well so this is a show to keep an eye on.
With a production date from ten years ago GaoGaiGar is definitely aged compared to anime that was produced recently. The picture contains a lot of grain, speckle, softness and faded colors so it's safe to say that not much was done to clean the show up. Even so, the wild animation and design makes up for some of the technical inadequacies of the transfer. This turns out to be a decent looking, yet matured, show that still works in today's market.
The audio for GaoGaiGar is presented with English and Japanese 2.0 stereo tracks. Filled with screams and explosions this is a loud show despite the limited soundstage. Things have a decent balance even though the volume can pitch a little bit at times and there isn't much diversity. The dubbing quality for both language tracks is decent as well but after watching all five episodes with both tracks I'd have to say that the Japanese selection was the best. English subtitles are included of course.
There are some trailers, textless animations, and a design/sketch gallery included on the DVD. It's not much to get excited about but for a ten year old show I wasn't expecting there to be a lot of content anyway.
GaoGaiGar has been turning into the show that I wanted in my collection. It has just enough action and character development to mark itself as an entertaining giant robot anime. If you enjoyed Godannar this is a series that you'll definitely want to put on your shelf. The adventures of Gai and Mamoru are iconic and inspired. If robots aren't your thing then you probably won't really get into what's going on here but if you consider yourself a gearhead you can't go wrong.