Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gasaraki Anime Review

ADV Films
Perfect Collection - 8 discs
650 mins. - 25 episodes
$169.98 (2002) w/Artbox
$49.99 (2012) Nozomi/Right Stuf
ISBN 702727029127
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Ryousuke Takahashi (main)/Goro Taniguchi (asst)
Studio - Sunrise

Synopsis: The Japanese Self Defense Force (JSSDF) in conjunction with the Gowa Corporation develop bipedal weapons systems called Tactical Armors (TAs).  These weapons systems will change the face of modern ground warfare and the Gowa are an old, powerful family with an ulterior motive.  Centuries ago they were empowered by a seemingly metaphysical entity called Gasaraki to pilot demonic armors and functioned as the shadow enforcers of the Japanese emperor.
The TA squad prepares for an aerial drop
Basing their TA technology on the ancient secrets of Gasaraki the first son of the Gowa family plots a new rise to power through another communion with their god.  The ancient armors were called Kugai and piloted by individuals called Kai.  Yushiro Gowa is the modern day Kai and primary test pilot for the TA program.  He possesses enhanced mental and physical abilities allowing him to eventually enter a trance state and call forth the extra-dimensional Gasaraki entity.
One of Japan's TAs gets some minor repairs in the field
The Gowa's attempt the ritual of Gasaraki with Yushiro, but his trance state is interrupted by the psychic interference of a girl named Miharu.  She is the 'Emulator' for the shadow organization Symbol and implores Yushiro to turn back from summoning 'the terror'.  Subsequently a war breaks out between the United States and Belgistan in the Middle East.  Conventional US ground forces are unexpectedly defeated by an unknown weapons system which can only be another version of the TAs.  The JSSDF's TA squad is called in by the United Nations to investigate and a confrontation between the two TA forces leads to face-to-face meeting of Yushiro with Miharu.
The enemy TAs are spotted in Belgistan
The two appear to have a special bond, but are merely tools of two powerful opposing groups - Gowa and Symbol.  Can they possibly break their psychic chains and regain some individual freedom?  A massive political drama unfolds with Japan on one side and the US on the other.  The fate of world politics hangs in the balance as all signs point to war!  Will Yushiro and Miharu be the catalyst for bringing back the destructive force of Gasaraki?  What is the secret of Gasaraki - will it change humanity forever or merely burn us all to ashes?
Yushiro and Miharu on the run from their organizations
Pros: Impressive depiction of how real-world mecha would probably operate, intense political drama, really great opening and ending theme songs (among the best I've heard), lots of dvd extras, the Kugai were cool/creepy demonic armors which seemed almost alive
In the past the Gowas ride into battle with their Kugai
Cons: Yushiro and Miharu are somewhat bland characters (particularly Miharu) and it was tough trying to identify with or like them, ending is a bit metaphysical which may throw some viewers (especially after all the realistic portrayal of mecha and political intrigue), the US is the political bad guy in this story which may turn off highly patriotic Americans
Yushiro awakens the Kugai in the present time
Mike Tells It Straight: Gasaraki was a mecha show released after the genre-redefining Neon Genesis Evangelion in the late 1990s - a tough act to follow, but I found this show to be pretty interesting.  The TAs are some of the most realistically depicted mecha I've seen in an anime thus far.  The plot is both firmly rooted in reality (politics, military, mecha depiction) and completely on another dimensional plane (literally, the Gasaraki entity lives in extra-dimensional space).  These two vastly different themes can easily cause the viewer to step back, scratch their head, and decide to walk away.
Political intrigue abounds as the upstart eldest son of the Gowas
meets with a powerful dissident to discuss a major coupe d'etat
The major theme of political intrigue and economic disparity between natives/foreigners created a complex storyline as Japanese and US forces squared off.  How far one will go to support one's political ideals was a powerful image.  At this point I've seen enough media painting America as the international, _____ bad guy to accept their portrayal here without a second thought.  The political maneuverings made several episodes drag on as characters spouted idealistic speeches.
The TA support team feeds the pilots information during live combat
Action came second in Gasaraki, but was well-portrayed and exciting when it happened.  Sunrise is a quality studio known for solid technical depictions, but the character designs were a little angular/simple for my taste.  The metaphysical aspect of the show was adequately creepy and weird.  I loved the Kugai episodes and wished there were more.  The ending with the big Gasaraki reveal is pretty weird.  It kinda made sense, but was the complete opposite of the realistic, political plot to that point.  A lot of people will not like the ending and just start shouting "WTF! WTF!" at the screen repeatedly.
The US 'Fake' squadron unleashes a powerful weapon in the
final battle - a rail gun
Definitely a mixed bag of themes and genres, Gasaraki would have been more successful if it stuck to the realistic/political theme with the TAs and international economic crisis, or the metaphysical/supernatural angle with the Kugai and Gasaraki entity itself.  I loved the opening/ending theme songs and could dig the different parts of the show.  I give it an overall recommendation, but with pretty significant disclaimers based on the opposing plot themes.  

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Right Stuf/Nozomi official publisher link (preferred): Gasaraki Complete Collection