Mecha fans are some of the most diehard among the anime crowd. If it doesn't have gears, lasers, and a three story sword then it's just not worth a damn. Well, ok, so maybe that's a little extreme but with so many shows out there the genre is oversaturated with one run of the mill entry after another. New shows are fine and dandy but every once in a while it's nice to travel back in time and check out a show from Japan's past.
GaoGaiGar is one of those series that came out roughly ten years ago in the glory days of anime. 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 GaoGaiGar 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.
I suppose you don't need me to spell it out for you but Mamoru isn't exactly a red-blooded human. His connection to the giant lion pretty much makes certain of that fact. Add to that his abilities to fly and eradicate elements of the Zonder (alien parasite type thing) with a wave of his hand and you have rock solid proof. With these abilities he teems up with GGG which is kind of a super-technological team that protects Earth and battles the Zonder at every turn. GaoGaiGar is a show filled with tons of robot on robot (or big alien) action, fan service, and an eclectic style. In other words it's more fun than a mecha fan should be allowed to have.
In the last volume we discovered early on that the Zonder technology and that which operates GGG is remarkably similar. The super ninja robot Volfogg was introduced as well and had many appearances throughout the volume. He really became a protector for Mamoru when Gai wasn't around, especially when Mamoru's school fieldtrip is interrupted by a Zonder attack. The fourth volume essentially picks up right where the last one left off and you can rest assured that the Zonder are up to their old tricks again.
The first episode here features the Zonder coming to town (again) and transforming an unsuspecting human into a mechanized monstrosity. This time around the victim in question becomes a mobile cannon capable of destroying huge areas with a powerful 80m warhead. In a close call the robotic Ryu brothers negate a second attack but it's up to Gai to pick up where they left off and finish the job.
After the cannon incident the Zonder find a really fat guy who wants nothing more than to be thin. When they feed him some Zonder metal he doesn't quite turn into Jared from Subway, instead he becomes a towering rubber beast that lures Gai into a trap. Our hero gets stuck in a cyclone in an distorted area created by the Dividing Driver and requires a last second hoorah to save his butt.
While GaoGaiGar is a very formulaic show the next two episodes on the fourth volume are actually part of the same story. A magician heads over to the SDC that resides above the GGG headquarters and unleashes a strand of Zonder parasites. This turns everyone that comes into contact with the parasite into a mindless zombie of sorts. One of the officers in GGG puts Gai's life at risk while Mamoru is attacked by his father. It's an interesting adventure to be sure but it gets better when things heat up (literally to 6,000 degrees) and Volfogg unleashes a secret weapon known as the Golden Hammer.
GaoGaiGar continues to be a fun show with an eclectic sense of style. In the big robot genre it stands as one of my favorite series though the formulaic nature of it all is kind of getting stale. Still, if you enjoy watching big robots fight bigger monsters then you'll have a ball with the show.
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 and a design gallery included on the DVD. Prior volumes at least offered textless animation. I wasn't expecting more content for a ten year old show but it's hard to deny that I'm not disappointed with what we have received.
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. The two-part adventure in this volume definitely expands the concept beyond the episodic pattern we have seen to date. Hopefully future installments will include similar storylines.