What They Say:
Using amazing weapons powered by super-science, the international terrorist organization known as GALACTOR is out to steal all of Earth’s resources for itself and its inhuman masters. Mankind’s only hope? The International Science Organization and their elite strike force, the Science Ninja Team! But these five young heroes will have their work cut out for them as they take on the seemingly impossible task of defeating GALACTOR’s horrific arsenal of mechanized weapons of mass destruction and endless armies of henchmen.
Can costumed commandos Ken the Eagle, Joe the Condor, Jun the Swallow, Jinpei the Sparrow and Ryu the Owl really overcome such overwhelming odds? Utilizing the incredible technology and fighting techniques created by Dr. Nambu, and with the mighty ship the God Phoenix at their command, they just might! It’s time for the bad guys to get old-schooled science-ninja style as Japan’s original super team defeat evil, one flying kick at a time!
Contains episodes 1-105 plus OVA episodes 1-3 (previously unreleased).
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the previously created uncut English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is most certainly a product of its time as it uses the forward soundstage in a pretty basic and full way that gets everything across but doesn’t exactly stand out. The English track is one that actually goes a bit better since it was more recently created and we get a bit more in terms of directionality and placement with the dialogue. The sound effects aren’t all that different between versions but there’s just a bit more impact and loudness to the English mix. Getting it all in lossless form definitely adds a bit more to it as there’s more warmth and overall quality to it and it’s certainly an improvement over the DVD versions that we’ve seen before.
Originally beginning its broadcast run back in 1972, the transfer for this 105 episode and 3 episode OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series is spread across fourteen Blu-ray discs with an average of nine episodes per disc for it and it really has a great bit of life to it. There are the obvious things in that this is an older show, detail really only goes so far, and there’s that light and natural grain to it from its film origins. But the result is a show that definitely looks great and is pretty much the best it’s ever looked in a North American release. The series has a good look about it and the colors have a solid feel to them throughout, but there’s also the visible elements that put together the show since you can see some of the cel pieces and the mild bits of dust and dirt associated with it. But just in watching the show unfold, having seen it during its American adaptation in the late 70’s and the DVD releases from about ten years ago, what you get here is definitely what the show deserves.
The packaging for this release is a bit of a mixed bag in that it comes so close but falls short in one of the areas I had the most hope for. The set comes in a thin paper box instead of a heavy chipboard box and that just feels like a skimp that didn’t need to be done. The weight of the set comes from the number of discs and the three cases, which definitely work out nicely. The box itself has some of the more iconic Alex Ross images that we’ve seen before that wraps around and shows us the main cast in their costumes and their regular clothes, something that I’ve always found to be a great piece of art. Inside the box we get the three cases where one has the team in their numbered clothes standing together, another with them in action poses whilecredits the third and smaller case that has just the OVAs and extras has them with their ship doing a strong saluting kind of pose. all of them are just fantastic looking with the Alex Ross artwork because of the line work and the colors that gives it some fantastic pop. THe back covers are given over to a whole lot of text as it breaks down each of the discs by number and episode so you can figure out what you want on each set to check out. The third case has just the OVAs and the extras, but it lists everything out in a clean way. The bottoms break down the technical grid and basic production credits with everything as clear as can be considering the overall amount of material. Sadly, there’s no artwork on the reverse side here nor any included inserts.
The menu designs for this release are largely the same kind of idea across each volume but with some nice artwork pieces changing across them. The left side gives us the bright and colorful breakdown where we get the episodes by number and title and the submenus for the languages and extras selections. With the color combinations it plays to the shows strength and especially when put to the animation artwork to the right that takes up most of the screen. These are just very bright and vibrant and plays up the simplicity of the time in a wonderful way. Everything is very quick and easy to navigate and with the way the episode selection strip doubles as the pop-up navigation strip, it works well to see where things are during playback.
The extras for this release are generally spread across the whole thing in that there are multiple English language audio commentaries associated with a number of episodes. The bulk of the extras beyond this are on a separate volume where it’s just chock full of everything we saw before on the DVD releases. Interviews, pieces about the shows place in history, sketches, commercials and more fill it with a ton of great things that are great to just sink your teeth into. Having all of it here in one place after seeing the way it was before, spread across multiple volumes, definitely helps to make this a really great way to do it. I’m particularly fond of the Alex Ross interview.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When ADV Films released Gatchaman back in 2005 across a number of DVD box sets and singles, it introduced the show to a whole range of people that never saw it before, and especially never saw a clean and properly uncut translated version. Because of the scale of the show, the number of episodes and what was involved, I never thought that I’d get to see it hit the high definition format since it is an undertaking. So when Sentai FIlmworks annoucned their acquisition, it was a surprise and impressive moment. Now, with the set in my hands, I’m beyond glad that they’re taking the chance with it and doing it up as they have here. In a way, it’s not quite as much work since the hard heavy lifting has been done with the ADV Films dub and translations here, so it was more about encoding, authoring and what was likely endless days upon days of quality checks. For the buyer though, it’s all about a long series that’s continually inventive and simply a hell of a lot of fun that does take some surprising chances along the way.
Even if Gatchaman is big in the nostalgia area for a lot of people, it’s a series that deserves the stature it’s been given over the years. It’s so early in the history of anime that many of the things that are now accepted staples and practices of various genres were all decided long ago. Much of what was done in Gatchaman over the course of its hundred plus episodes has evolved into how many team series have been created, the archetypes, the villains and how things need to be played out in such a series. In a sense, some of this will seem very by the book since we’ve seen it many times since this first came out, but seeing where it all began is really instrumental in understanding it – and seeing where the changes are for better or worse.
Gatchaman spends no time playing around in getting the story underway. The world is much like it is now except that science plays a much stronger role. A foundation of sorts called the International Science Organization is involved in a multitude of things over the world and assists many governments with various issues. Their role becomes increased with the arrival of Galactor, an underground society that uses its level of science combined with evil intent to try and take over the world. Working with the fears of that decade about uranium and atomic weapons, Galactor is intent on scouring the Earth for sources of uranium that they can put together to build their ultimate weapons and conquer by strength and fear.
To combat this, one of the leaders in the ISO, Dr. Nambu, has created a group called the Science Ninja Team. With Galactor creating massive robots and beasts to travel around the world and cause trouble and fear, the Science Ninja Team, under the leadership of Ken the Eagle, aka Gatchaman, attempt much the same as each of them has their own vehicle that can combine with the large aircraft that they use together for their missions. The theme for the Science Ninja Team focuses around birds, from the eagle motif that Ken has to owl form of Ryu and the duck form of Jinpei. Each of them has their own standard vehicle of some sort with some that transform into other things. Ken’s propeller plane turns into a sleek white aircraft that’s much faster and combines with the larger ship itself for example.
For the most part, the first batch of episodes essentially stands alone but it works in a progression to introducing the characters and their situations as well as seeing how the Galactor side works. Galactor is lead by one leader who’s visible only through a communication monitor and lets most operations be run by Berg Katse who sends out various minions in the oversized robots, such as turtles and the like. Those commanders tend to be more incompetent and all wear amusing costumes and all the soldiers on board do as well, but there’s a neat uniformity about all of it that works well. While these villains aren’t exactly menacing with their outfits, they do have a certain something that places them within the realm of being that. Their plans are fairly simple in that they find areas of possible uranium deposits or other needed materials and go after it with reckless abandon. After the Gatchaman team shows up though, they start to change their tactics and realize that they do have a viable enemy to deal with now.
The Science Ninja Team themselves fall under the very cool category, though some may disagree and find them to be fairly dorky because of the dated aspect of it in some ways. In watching these episodes, I can’t help but to find the costumes they wear to be cool, a certain style to them that just appeals strongly. The fun with the cast is that they are diverse and there are issues between them. Ken’s the good guy and tries to do right but he finds himself at odds with Dr. Nambu’s orders and does things he shouldn’t. Even with this, Joe finds that Ken’s still too much of a goody-goody and the two have words quite often as Joe is rather insubordinate. There’s some fun in that Jun, who’s quite attractive in her design both in and out of her swan costume, has feelings for Ken and it’s something that Jinpei, her younger brother, torments her about. The weakest link so far is Ryu who is often left to just being the pilot or napping in times of danger. He gets the least screen time overall in this batch of episodes.
Once these opening episodes are out of the way, it’s essentially more of the same but without the introductions. We get a host of differently ranked villains along the way that operate in Galactor under Berg Katse and more often than not, they don’t last long because the team takes down their operations. The show is one that fully plays to its strengths as an episodic work of its time because there are so many things it can do and have fun with. It may not play realistic in some aspects because of how little was known about some stuff back then in terms of technology and future-science, but it hits a lot of good notes in how it approaches it. You can overlook it because it was forward looking in a lot of other areas, especially in regards to environmental concerns. But realistically, in the end, it was all about exciting action sequences and difficult circumstances that the team finds themselves in.
Because of the length of the show, it’s not one that really lends itself well to a breakdown of what goes on and what the important things are. The vast majority of it is just one-off adventures with an air of danger and a seemingly overpowering enemy that just can’t close the deal. It does go a bit bigger towards the end, and there are some decent changes and deaths along the way that make an impact, and we do see an expansion of the cast on both sides, though it really is just kept to the core characters. We even get some time on the dance floor with all the groovy clothes and music along with the optical effects that will make you laugh and grin with it. But at its heart, it’s the journey that counts here and with this set, you can spend weeks upon weeks – or an episode a week for two years – and savor the show and its adventures. That journey was worth it years ago when I saw the DVDs and what we get here, which also includes the OVAs that were once released by long defunct Urban Vision, makes for one of the best complete sets of the works out there.
Gatchaman is one of those series that has earned itself quite a place in how anime has been brought over and received in North America and definitely has a larger impact around the world that has never quite died or been forgotten. With this new edition of the series, we get the complete TV run and OVA in one tight little package that packs a ton of content and extras for fans to delve into. It’s a show that’s very much worth exploring to see how it laid the foundations and groundwork for so much else out there that followed. The main draw here is the improved audio and video quality to be sure and it definitely makes an impression with what it does, with both language tracks and the look of the show. The release may fall a bit short on packaging – especially since the DVD releases had so much artwork to them across the collectors sets – but with those becoming more scarce as time goes on, there’s something to be said for having so much in such a small amount of space. The series is one that is an important piece of anime history that’s also very, very enjoyable. Though I can’t recommend marathoning all of it in a short period of time. It’s a set meant to be savored for time to come. Very, very recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interviews, Commentaries, Profiles, Sketches, Audition Footage, Music, Galleries
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 10th, 2013
Running Time: 2770 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.