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Dai Guard Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Dai-Guard ADV FilmsThe Earth faces what may prove to be its most terrible foe: a dark power that seeks to claim our lives, our futures, and our very souls. Yes, it’s bureaucracy.

What They Say:
Contains all 6 DVDs of Dai-Guard in one complete collection!

Twelve years ago, the Earth was attacked by giant invaders. To defend our planet, the Earth’s greatest minds and corporations assembled to design a giant robot of incredible power. Unfortunately, as with most government projects, the contract went to the lowest bidder. Fortunately, by the time the robot was ready, the mysterious invaders had already disappeared without a trace.

The giant robot became first a curiosity, then a tourist attraction. But now the invaders are back and the only thing in their way is Dai-Guard and a young team of office workers who’ve been supplementing their regular incomes as part-time pilots and tour guides. Can these reluctant heroes halt their alien foes while simultaneously concealing the defects in their giant robot?

The Review:
The English language option was used for the primary viewing of this title. The mix is sharp and full and makes good use of the left and right speakers for voice placement and even better use for all those giant robot battle sounds. And when I switched my receiver to the Neo 6 setting to let the rear speakers join in the fun, there was even more width and oomph. Nicely done. I also watched the first two episodes in Japanese, since those were so much fun, and the only differences I noticed were that the English track is a couple of notches lower in volume and seems to be a bit more active in throwing voices to the sides.

There are busy areas every now and again, most notably in darker colors such as Dai Guard’s red sections, and the end credits blur a bit as they’re moving. There are also a couple of instances of stair-stepping along certain lines, but by and large, there are no major distractions from enjoying the show. For the most part, this is a sharp transfer with good bright colors and excellent clarity.

The box is a pretty typical brick set for housing the six discs in the series, and it seems a bit more durable than some of the other ADV bricks I’ve seen. It makes generous use of the yellow-and-black caution stripes on all fronts, even along the edges of the discs. The cover plays up the robot action angle, with the characters looking a little more intense than they typically are in the series. The back has a longish but pretty spot-on write-up next to some thumbnail images from the show, and all the technical stuff is laid out neatly along the bottom. The weak element in my eyes is the spine. It’s done in grey with yellow stripes and the 21st Century Security mascot bird at the top. It’s just too bland to look good on the shelf.

The main menus go the simple, functional route by having a brief clip from the intro play next to the episode selections. Something I particularly like is that in the chapter selection menus some clips from the respective chapters play in small windows. This is very useful for people like me, who tend to remember episodes by content rather than a number. Everything is laid out in an easy-to-use way and there were no lags that I could see. No muss, no fuss.

The extras here are the usuals: Clean opening and closing sequences, line art galleries, and (if you want to count these as extras) previews for other ADV shows. The odd man out, or in this case, the odd man in, is a short behind the scenes piece that shows what I take to be the design team, and their research trips where they gather reference materials. There’s no dialogue or anything, just music playing over top of it; it’s a nice little quiet piece that gives you a peek into a phase of production that you don’t often see with a TV series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Things have changed quite a bit since the first giant robots began appearing on television sets. For instance, caring about something other than yourself has gone out of fashion. So have the big, blocky, hand-to-hand fighting, team-piloted robots of yore. So what would happen if you took the old-fashioned robots and the old-fashioned robot ethos, and put them into a contemporary setting – one complete with politics, red tape, insurance companies, and pig-headed bureaucracies?

Dai-Guard is, in a way, an answer to that question. It’s a (mostly) fond throwback to the gung-ho super robot monster-bashing, with some of the real world consequences thrown in. Sure, it’s fun to see giant robots and mysterious monsters get thrown into buildings. But who’s going to pay for it all? And who’s going to clean up afterward?

The first two episodes not only get the show started at full gallop but also give you a good taste of what you’re in for. We get the big robot. We get the monster. We get the explosions and chunks of masonry. (Okay, maybe concrete isn’t technically masonry, I don’t know. I just like to say “chunks of masonry” – it has a good sound to it.) But most importantly, we get the first glimpses of the two things that make this series shine: the hero’s sense of justice, and compassion in the aftermath of the fighting.

The setup is briefly thus. The marketing department of a security corporation is showing its stuff to prospective customers when a large, unearthly monster arrives to disrupt the proceedings. The army tries to deal with it and fails, as you’d expect. Fortunately, there’s a big expensive robot named Dai-Guard on hand to set things right. And it does – completely against orders from corporate HQ. Then the hero sees a field hospital that’s been set up and starts to realize that even victory leaves consequences that have to be dealt with. The whole marketing department gets behind him and organizes a relief effort, complete with air transport for the wounded. But the monster comes back and Dai-Guard has to go into action again, completely destroying the monster this time…just moments before the board of directors finishes the pile of paperwork authorizing it to launch.

From there the show takes a predictable but enjoyable approach. More monsters show up, cause damage, have their weak points analyzed, and finally get walloped by Dai-Guard. At the same time, the Dai-Guard team has to hold down their day jobs in the PR office while trying to work around army interference and their own corporate politics, some of which are more dangerous to them than the monsters. It’s not the kind of thing that sounds particularly compelling in summary; but it really is quite good fun in the thrills and laughs kind of way.

The first two episodes are such a blast that the rest of the show tends to live in their shadow, only occasionally managing to achieve the same level of quality. The show works best when it sticks to the classic tradition; the attempts to add a more modern angle usually fail, apart from the whole corporation aspect and the emphasis on the victims of the collateral damage.

Let’s take things one by one. The robot itself: very much in the classic style. It has the big, square design; it’s operated by a team of three; it fights with its fists, not with lasers or guns. The music is the stirring, martial sort that makes you want to stand up and cheer. Even the song the corporation has is better than most of the national anthems I’ve heard. And the hero is great. He’s the kind of guy who attacks everything with the same enthusiasm, whether he’s punching a Heterodyne or just punching the clock, and it’s easy to root for him.

But talking about the hero (hereafter known as Akagi) brings me to the parts of the show that don’t work as well. Over and over again Akagi is made fun of for all the heroing he does. In itself, that’s not so bad. What’s very bad is that we’re expected to join in – and this after we’ve been cheering for him five minutes before, or watching a scene of human compassion in an evacuation camp. To make fun of a hero for being heroic is out of line, especially for the kind of story getting told here. This double-mindedness is the one annoying aspect of the show that keeps derailing it at bad moments. What makes it worse is that the show never overcomes it: it’s still there during the epilogue.

The show’s other problems are fairly minor and more issues of execution rather than bad ideas per se. The hints of backstory that we see early on turn out to have no real significance. Similarly, one of the pilots gets a little angstier than she ought to in a story that’s pure entertainment. There are some secrets revealed that don’t really come off as well as they’re trying to, mostly since they also don’t have much effect on the direction of the story. The time these parts of the show take up could have been better spent with the company president and/or his secretary, a couple of characters who seem pretty interesting but we never get the chance to know.

But how can you not like a show that starts with a fussy corporate reminder to watch it in a well-lit room from as far away as you can? Even with all its faults the show manages to stand out and provide something worthwhile. It’s the kind of show that gets you thinking without particularly trying to – in my case, about bureaucracy and its consequences. Because what stands in team Dai Guard’s way are exactly the sort of things that bureaucracy engenders: the sham equality, the false sense of security, the illusion of having everything figured out, the inhuman viciousness with which it guards its own reputation and interests. In fiction, the idea that humanity can destroy itself is usually expressed by the destructive power of technology. But Dai-Guard sets itself apart by suggesting that humanity can destroy itself with its own monstrous methodology. It’s not the monsters who are the bad guys. In fact, the monsters are not evil in any sense of the word: in effect, they’re just natural disasters that can only be dealt with by a big robot. At the end of the day, all the real problems of the world are in the hands of salarymen and office ladies. And that’s right where they should be.

In Summary:
It’s not like there’s any shortage of giant robot material out there, but Dai-Guard manages to distinguish itself enough both in setting and execution to be worth a look. It’s a show that brings both old and new elements to the table. Both make you feel like you’ve been watching things that have been done before. But the old make you remember things that have been done right, and the new make you remember things that have been done wrong. With one big exception: it gives the old-fashioned giant robot a brand new villain. Fans of the classic robot era will probably get the most out of this, but I think anybody who can watch robots at all should find something in here that he gets a kick out of. Well worth checking out.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean open and close, Production sketches, Behind the scenes

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

Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: February 1st, 2005
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony 35″ KvV-35XBR88 SDTV, Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player (via generic component), Yamaha RX-V550 DD/DTS Receiver, Infinity Primus C25 and 150 speakers.

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