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Gasaraki Complete Series Anime DVD Review

9 min read

An ancient dance, high tech personal armor suits and climate change come together with a slew of politics, intrigue and action.

What They Say:
The flames of war are fanned in the Middle East as two secretive forces unleash their latest weapons of mass destruction. But in a world where giant robots take their place on the battlefield, the most dangerous weapon of all lies buried within a human mind. Yushiro, the fourth son of the mysterious and powerful Gowa family, finds himself at the center of events that may change the future of mankind forever!

Contains episodes 1-25.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is rather straightforward as we get a pair of tracks with the original Japanese and the ADV Films English language dub in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The series has a good design to it considering its age but it is mostly a center channel design that doesn’t have that much in the way of directionality. It’s a clear mix when you get down to it with the dialogue coming across well though there’s little in the way of placement or depth. The best part of the show for me continues to be the music and it has a key role in it within the show and has a great feeling with the opening and closing sequences, though it’s not as strong as it could be and makes me wish we had a lossless version. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 1998, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. It’s spread across five discs with five episodes on each of the discs since it’s a twenty-five episode series. The show hasn’t aged too well in some ways as it has a soft look to begin with because of the color design used for it where it’s very earthy and dark in nature. There are some standout moments that hit here and there where it goes big but for the most part it’s working a very dark style and it adheres well to it. There’s some noise to be had in various backgrounds and a touch in some of the cleaner and larger close-up shots of characters, but it’s generally decent. The cross coloration demon creeps in a few times, including the opening sequence, but it’s not as pronounced as some shows from this time period have been.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is definitely a space saver as it’s a litebox release inside a single sized keepcase to hold the five discs. The front cover has a good if subdued look with both Yushiro and Miharu together in their TA unit uniforms where they’re looking serious if a bit awkwardly posed. The background is a mixture of blacks and reds to give it a bit more oppressive of a feeling and it has a hint of some of the mystery to come in it by mixing creatures of the past with the high tech aspects of the present. The back cover does a good split where the left column uses this same kind of darker feeling to it with some mood setting pictures that work well from the show. The right goes for a softer white background to provide the summary and a shot of one of the TA’s from the series. It’s a good balance that works rather well. The release doesn’t have any production credits to it but it has a solid technical grid along the bottom that lists everything clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The main menu to this release keeps things simple with the artwork used from the front cover with some decent little additions to it for style to tie it together. It’s kept as a static piece of artwork with good colors that has a feeling of seriousness to it that’s definitely appropriate for the show. It also brings in a bit of vocal music, my favorite piece in fact, and that’s a definite plus in my book. The menus don’t have much to them but they’re easy to navigate, has a clean look about it and loads quickly. The discs didn’t read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras included in this release contains the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as bringing back the behind the scenes sequence from the ADV Films release that’s fun to watch.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series by Sunrise and directed by Ryosuke Takahashi, Gasaraki is a twenty-five episode series that many viewed as a potential next Evangelion by a lot of North American fans during its release. With some striking animation at the time, a real world scenario and a mixture of spirituality, politics, action and international intrigue, there was a lot of potential for it but like a lot of Sunrise series, it went in its own direction and become strangely complicated yet simple when you look at it from a big picture perspective. One of the things that well defined Gasaraki is its attention to detail with the tactical armors that it employs as it played it rather straight, even if it feels light on the details. The evolution of personal sized mecha in anime has evolved well over the years and this was one of the better interpretations for the time.

Gasaraki has a very large cast to it and in a way it really doesn’t have a lead character. The ostensible lead comes in the form of Yushiro, a young man of the Gowa family who is a captain in the SSDF in order to participate in the trial runs with the tactical armors that his family has a heavy hand in developing. While Yushiro can be viewed as the lead and one of the main catalysts, he’s part of a larger family with a couple of brothers and others that are at various key positions, whether in the government, in the family business itself or in the actual development of the tactical armors. This is a really neat little layered piece and it’s handled very well over the course of the series, especially when they deal with instances in the city that the family home is in as we see just how much power they hold. But that’s dwarfed easily by the international aspect that comes up along the way.

With Yushiro as the main thread to the show, we get to initially see some of the testing that the TA’s are going through, but it becomes complicated as the small company of them gets drawn into an action in Belgistan where it turns out there are other TA’s that someone has built involved. That takes on the strict military side, but there’s a supernatural side as well as Yushiro is involved in an ancient dance that the Gowa family performs that draws out energy from the sky that some may consider an evil power. Running the contrast over the first few episodes between the actions ongoing in Belgistan with a country going rogue and seeing Yushiro performing the dance in a trance is definitely engaging as it feels like it speaks to something bigger.

And that bigger does eventually come into play as we get a better feel for the history behind the dance and the strange thing that it seems to be able to power, but it never feels like it really connects well into the present. What it does help to symbolize though is the history of the Gowa family itself and its plans to control events. And that they’re not the only ones out there as we see that there’s a competing organization out there as well called Symbol that’s pretty mysterious throughout as it manipulates events, from Belgistan to elsewhere. Symbol also has control of a TA pilot themselves that’s quite unlike the rest, similar to Yushiro, in that Miharu is quite aware of what Yushiro is like and the whole trance dance itself. The two of them become more involved later in the series as they end up on the run together when events spiral out of control, but it’s a very limited relationship to say the least.

What Gasaraki does that works is that through the large cast that it has, from the fellow TA company members to the family and more, it deals with a lot of stories and takes some strange turns but still manages to maintain a compelling nature about it. Working through the Belgistan arc, you get some the basics of the TA’s and the first blush introduction of Symbol, leaving you thinking you know where it’s going to go. But then it focuses for awhile on Yushiro and the surprising past that he has, exploring the Gowa family a good bit and the internal politics of the family. But even then it delves even deeper into the past to deal with the things that they summon through the trance dances which goes back a thousand years. But even as intriguing as that is, it then shifts to a global storyline involving the grain markets, world chaos from how that can shake down and how there’s an attempt to impoverish the world and change the course of civilization for the better because of it. That they’re able to tie all of this together in a cohesive way is surprising, but it’s one that you have to work at a bit and it’s difficult to talk without talking in a lot of depth and detail about things.

In Summary:
Gasaraki is a series that I enjoyed a lot when I watched it across multiple single volume releases but definitely appreciated it more in this marathon session form of a complete set. It’s not a series that I think can reach a wide audience since it wants to play in such strict and serious areas and because it doesn’t really draw you into the characters that well since it focuses so much on event and story. That’s not a real criticism for me though because it’s working an expansive work and it kept me thoroughly engaged throughout to see how it was all going to come together. That it starts from such a small event and deals with a lot of family history before it goes to a piece that deals with climate change, heavy politics and international markets at the same point where a coup is about to happen is endlessly fascinating to me. It has a good sense of real world style and good mechanics that provides for solid action and fills the show with interesting characters that are doing their jobs rather than innocents caught up in something that takes them out of their ordinary life. You may not feel connected to the cast, but you get a story that deals with a lot of things and doesn’t just make it all obvious and spoon fed. This is definitely a series I’m glad has gotten a new lease on life. Just re-experiencing the opening and closing songs again made me smile in a way few releases do.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings, Behind the Scenes

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade:

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: February 7th, 2012
MSRP: $49.99
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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