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Gilgamesh - Orphans of the Apocalypse

ADV Films // Unrated // June 21, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted July 25, 2005 | E-mail the Author
Movie: Those who know me, also know that I find most modern horror movies to be pretty lame and made for the lowest common denominator (LCD) audience. Sure, there are exceptions but let's be honest about this, and recognize that the hack them up, slasher flick is pretty lame unless it gets you in the sack with your date. Anime horror is not much different with most of it falling prey to the stereotypical clichés driving the genre. One recent release that seemed a cut above the pack though, was Gilgamesh: Tablet 01: Orphans of the Apocalypse, a show about a futuristic Earth where the cycle of ancient myth is revived to mixed results.

The series is about the results of a terrorist attack on October 10 (a thinly veiled reference to our own 9/11), called Twin X, Double X or simply X,X. Society falls into a state of disarray, and mankind is thrust back about 150 years, with war, famine and pestilence finishing off much of the human race. Small pockets of people survive, preying on one another as greed and the lesser instincts take over. The story focuses on a pair of young twins, fleeing from mobsters over a debt their deceased mother got into, run smack dab into a situation they know little about that involves two warring factions. One faction seeks a return to the civilization of old and the other seeks to finish the terrorist attack started years prior, led by the madman that brought about X,X in the first place.

Thus begins the adventure where the twins must decide which side to join, with the fate of the world held in the balance. Each side has supernatural powers of one sort or another and the initial five episodes led me to believe that the twins were somehow connected to the struggle between them, although it wasn't unveiled at the time. If I say much more, I'll ruin the show for you but suffice it to say, fans of macabre horror will likely find this a must have and those of you who hate slowly paced horror shows will want to run away from it screaming into the night. Here's the synopsis from ADV's website:

"After the terrorist incident of October 10, the sky has been turned into a psychedelic mirror, sadly reflecting a civilization that's only a shadow of its former glory. As the world struggles to rebuild itself, two powerful forces wage a secret and terrifying war. Trying to restore the world to its former state is Orga, a tiny group of mutants with amazing psychic powers. Controlled by a wealthy and powerful widow known only as The Countess, they wait within her secret lair in the posh Hotel Providence for their enemy to stir—a dark cadre who've taken the name Gilgamesh. A black leather-clad army of beautiful and mysterious beings, Gilgamesh bow only to their "master", the brilliantly dangerous scientist who seeks to finish the terrorist attack he started years before. And caught between these warring factions? Two runaways. A brother and sister who hold the key to destroying the world—or saving it."

I'll be open in telling you that I prefer more traditional looking anime and I thought the very limited movement of the characters and their backgrounds to be somewhat off-putting given recent advances in computer assisted anime production but as an interesting anime series centering on horror, I admit that I couldn't look away. I wanted to know more about Kiyoko Madoka and Tatsuya Madoka, the world they lived in, and the nature of the fight between the forces of Orga and the forces led by Enkidu after watching this one. I was also pleased that ADV put a full five episodes on the DVD here given their propensity to short change their DVDs of late, so if you're a fan of horror anime, you can consider this one Highly Recommended even if it won't appeal to many of you not so inclined to forgive the stylish differences or appreciate the complete package.

Picture: Gilgamesh: Tablet 01: Orphans of the Apocalypse: was presented in a very appealing 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen color. The use of lighting and shadows, along with some non-standard angles and composition, were very different from almost all anime I've watched in the last twenty years. Purists may find the Westernized characters (similar to the series Reign) a bit less appealing than some of the higher quality releases in recent years but it fit the subject matter so I can't be too harsh on it for that aspect alone. There were no compression artifacts and few other problems to speak of, allowing the gothic look of the show to take over in a manner befitting the storyline.

Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choices of a 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track (the original track) or a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English language dub. Unlike some of ADV Film's recent dubs where the special effects and score were better on the dub, they appeared almost identical this time, even with the 5.1 nature of the beast. The vocals of the original audio track seemed to fit slightly better but both vocal tracks were well done here, mixing very nicely with the moody music and varied special effects. Overall, a lot of attention was paid to the audio aspects of the DVD, perhaps more so than the limited movement style of the anime itself.

Extras: The extras were pretty standard for a DVD with five episodes on it. Starting off with the clean opening and closing credits, moving through two short sessions of sketches from the series (set to an appropriately eerie score), and some trailers round out the extras included on the DVD itself. Inside the DVD case though was a couple of decent extras usually not included. The first extra was a detailed glossary of the terms and concepts of the series, including a discussion of the myths behind the premise of the show. The second was a cute tribal art tattoo for those so inclined to try out the body art craze for a few days.

Final Thoughts: Gilgamesh: Tablet 01: Orphans of the Apocalypse was a solid combination of sight, sound, and creative writing that should appeal to those of you into gothic tales of supernatural beings fighting for dominance in a world gone wild. If later volumes are as well made, I suspect ADV will reap a lot of accolades for the title although I'm sure at least a few of you will disagree given the pacing and limitations of the production style. There were a great many questions asked in the first set of episodes and I don't think they'll be resolved any time soon but this looked to be an anime series where getting to the conclusion will prove to be a roller coaster ride of thrills and spills set quite a bit apart from traditional anime horror.

If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk

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