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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Elemental Gelade: Box Set
Elemental Gelade: Box Set
FUNimation // Unrated // October 7, 2008
List Price: $69.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted October 23, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:

As an anime fan I can't tell you how much I appreciate FUNimation reviving some of the series that went out of print as a result of Geneon biting the dust. So many great shows either stopped being produced or simply vanished, and as a result otaku thought them to be lost forever. Due to the semi-recent announcement that FUNimation would distribute Geneon titles, shows such as Hellsing Ultimate, Fate/Stay Night, Ergo Proxy, and Karin have been resurrected and given new life. With so many great titles to pick from out of Geneon's catalogue, I must admit that I'm kind of surprised they went with Elemental Gelade as well.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to watch the first volume of Elemental Gelade. I had high hopes for the series at the beginning, but after just a handful of episodes I found myself completely under-whelmed by the generic nature of it all. Now, I like to give all anime a fair shot. I don't write shows off after a first volume and since the opportunity never presented itself to watch the rest of the series, I decided to bite when the complete collection became available through FUNimation's distribution.

In case you simply don't know what Elemental Gelade is, it's a series that got its start as a manga by Mayumi Azuma prior to being made into an anime in 2005. When the show begins we are introduced to a young spiky-haired sky pirate named Cou, who is best described as brash, pigheaded, naive, and painfully one-dimensional. He's a member of the Red Lynx pirates, and though he's probably the youngest and most immature pirate on the crew, there's plenty going for the kid. Ironically, the pirates refused to give him a weapon, so he's forced to improvise with a rope that has a hook at the end. Now that's better than a sword, right?

While flying to their destination, Cou gets the idea in his head to poke around their latest bounty. There's a large crate with a complex locking mechanism on it, but being the brash protagonist that he is, no mere lock is going to get in his way. What he finds is something unexpected, a young girl with blue hair has been entombed inside the box. This mysterious girl identifies herself as Ren and moans and groans about hating humans. Ren also has virtually no personality whatsoever, which I suppose adds to her mystery, but from a viewer's standpoint she's about as entertaining as a pet rock. At any rate, just before Cou can get to the bottom of it all the Red Lynx are attacked by some folks from Arc Aile. During the battle Cou finds himself on the losing side, but just before all hope seems lost he interacts with Ren and her true nature is revealed.

In Elemental Gelade there are many terms you're not going to know until they're explained to you. Ren is one of the first as she is what's known as an Edel Raid. Basically that means she's not a human, but rather something that was created to be a living weapon of sorts. It's a relatively rare thing to have an Edel Raid join you, and through Cou's actions, he and Ren become partners. Naturally this is something that the Arc Aile isn't too keen on considering they are charged with protecting Ren on her journey to Edel Garden.

During the first few episodes the show does a decent job of giving us a rundown as far as who's who and what's going on. Basically Cou and Ren join up with Cisqua, Rowen, and Kuea from the Arc Aile to go on a trip to bring Ren to her ultimate destination of the Garden. Sadly, that's really it. The main plot of this show is all about bringing one character to a destination, and along the way there are about 20 episodes worth of distractions to stretch it out. There are tons of filler episodes here and the whole show could have easily been wrapped up in 13 episodes instead of 26.

The group goes through a few different legs in their journey and there are some interesting points. Cou doesn't want to use Ren as a weapon, so he tries to train with Cisqua to become more self-sufficient. Once he realizes that he basically doesn't have a choice but to react with Ren on occasion, he starts training with Rowen to improve his abilities in that department. In between all of that and their trip, there are several episodes (like every one of them) where the group is attacked by one group of bad guys or another. The protagonists also take lots of time to rest, goof off, and look for ways to make money while going to the Garden and protecting Ren. Towards the end there is even a darker plot that arises involving Ren's ascension to the Garden, but that's ridiculously weak and poorly developed.

I guess the thing I would say about Elemental Gelade is that it's a painstakingly drawn out show, with stereotypical characters and predictable plotlines leading the way. Each of these characters fits into some generic anime mold and I dare say that none of them stand out in any fashion. There are moments during the 26 episode run where Elemental Gelade has promise with regards to the plot and character development. Unfortunately these highlights are so few and far between the show feels like it drags on for stretches at a time.

Out of all the Geneon titles that FUNimation could have carried on distributing, I have a feeling that this one was tossed in as a bargaining chip. Elemental Gelade is tragically formulaic and cookie cutter from start to finish. The sad part is that many of these elements work well, but the painfully generic characters, lack of real development, and predictable plot outweigh any of the positive notes. This is a show that's better off being skipped by seasoned anime veterans, but if you're relatively new you may not find it as bland as I did. Even then, don't consider anything more than a rental.

The DVD:

Video:

Elemental Gelade is presented with its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. Even though the character design leaves a lot to be desired, I do have to say that the transfer for this show is fantastic. Despite the bland artistic design, the presentation of the series is very nice and there's nary a flaw in the transfer. I didn't encounter grain, aliasing, or compression artifacts during any of the 26 episodes. The things that drag the look of this show down aren't in the transfer, but rather the production. Reused and sometimes choppy animation gives off the feeling that the budget was rather low. Overall the show is presented well, but it's not as nicely designed as other programs.

Audio:

Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo is the only way you'll be listening to Elemental Gelade whether your preference is the English or Japanese language track. The voice acting for both selections is good enough, but due to the limitations of the audio you do have to take it with a grain of salt. There's little directionality and no channel separation as you'd expect, but at least the quality of what's here is good enough to get a passing grade.

Extras:

Spread out across the six discs here there is a myriad of bonus content, but it's not quite as robust as you might hope. Textless animation, line art galleries, a music video, and promotional trailers take up most of the space on the bonus menus. Even so, you can expect to see an English commentary available on the fourth volume and an original Japanese voice actor interview. Both are interesting, though the commentary is much more robust in terms of length and content. Even so there's not a lot in terms of revelations about the series there, but rather a look at the show from the English team's perspectives.

Final Thoughts:

Elemental Gelade simply isn't a show that leaves a strong impression. It's easily forgettable across the board and there are only a few rare instances in its 26 episode run where it actually stands out. The straightforward story is drawn out well beyond its life expectancy and because of that it feels sloppy and droll. If you're looking for a solid adventure series you'll most likely want to keep searching. With that being said, this isn't the worst "starter" anime out there, but there are far better ones. At the most I would say this is a light rental for curious parties who have nothing else to watch.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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