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Gatchaman II Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Gatchaman II DVD Front CoverThis second season doesn’t disappoint

What They Say:
It’s been two years since the International Science Organization and their elite Science Ninja Team strike force defeated the threat of GALACTOR at the cost of Joe the Condor’s life. However, there’s no time limit on evil, and when Leader X stages a horrific attack on a cruise ship, there’s only one force in the universe with a chance of stopping them! Can the Gatchaman team adapt to working with Joe’s replacement in time to stop Leader X from mutating one of the victims into GALACTOR’s new leader? Or does the ISO have a secret weapon lurking in the wings, ready to help save the day? For the first time, the uncut, uncensored second season of the series that set the standard for Japanese science fiction storms American shores in GATCHAMAN II!

The Review:
The Japanese language soundtrack is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 48 kHz. While the series offers scenes with action, it also offers moments of silence and character dialog. The original audio had a limited dynamic range, and this presentation doesn’t try to tamper with the nostalgic quality.

Originally created in 4:3, the video offers the hallmarks of a television animation from 1979.

Pros: The colors are rich and vibrant. This matters as this series frequently shifts color pallets in ways that create a tone for each scene. Pallets range from primarily primary colors, to earth tones, pastels, and a few use saturated colors like vibrant dark jades. Other scenes, especially those featuring Leader X, have a psychedelic electric pallet. These all look correct, and the reproduction is better on the DVDs than any TV, at least those I remember, from the time could reproduce.

Cons: The video is interlaced, and this becomes a distraction for a cell animation that utilized panning over the background as a major part of the production. Some users may not have a playback problem if their player or system deinterlaces the output, but on PS3 via HDMI and on a Sony Blu-ray player via HDMI, the interlaced image was unwatchable on both a 1080 TV and on a 4K TV. I ended up viewing the series on a cheap DVD player connected through component cables, and it looked surprisingly good.

The original source flaws also show through, but in most cases, they are issues one might expect from a 1979 TV animation. There are white flashes that occur at scene changes. Most of the time, this doesn’t occur frequently enough that it interrupts the flow of the show, but a few episodes have so many streaks, even casual viewers will notice them.

The nine disc set comes in a package with four hinged leaves and a hub on the inside back cover. The front cover has an interesting image of the group in their street clothes running away from an explosion in the background. In the background is a blueprint drawing of the UN styled room where government officials gather. The spine has an image of Ken in his Gatchaman costume over a bold logo of the show. The back cover offers a representative of the group in costume standing against a colorful sky. Four smaller images show vehicles and characters that, while not representative of the series as a whole, offer types of scenes viewers can expect. The text is written in high contrast blue and red font on a white field. The credits and copyright information appear in the bottom quarter in small white font on a black field. The technical grid is easy to read in black font on a white field.

Menus are simplified with artwork from the disc replicated beside a vertical listing of the episodes. The logo appears in the bottom right corner. Disc 1 also has a selection for the extras in the bottom left.

Clean Opening Animations, Clean Closing Animations

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gatchaman survived the child-friendly localizations shown on American televisions and remains one of the most epic action-adventure anime to get a wide U.S. distribution in the years before home video. Gatchaman had a heart that other American cartoons lacked because the characters had problems ranging from missing parents to mourning deaths in episodes that catered to the overwrought emotion of melodramatic narratives. Above all, each episode seems to have at least one action sequence where the heroes would go all out to defeat an enemy that outnumbered and overpowered them. It was a series that offered kids and animation fans an experience that triggers emotions from sadness to love and loneliness to the strong feeling of being cared for by a group. While the plots and characters were often absurd, the strong narrative consistency of emotional interactions crafted an experience that lifted the show to a level higher than any one series.

gatchaman2The original series was straightforward, and there are no major changes in tone or character for the second series. A group of five teenage heroes battle Galactor and the alien being known as Leader X. The group have finely honed martial arts skills that have been enhanced through their high-tech costumes. As is the norm in Japanese society, the cohesiveness and desire to support the group functions as the primary catalyst for interactions that spur both the heroism of the story and frame the threats they face as they battle their enemy. Most stories include a secret plot by Galactor, a base that needs to be infiltrated and destroyed, and often a giant mecha monster. In some ways, Gatchaman fits the monster of the week mold, but it also developed strong and complex story arcs. Gatchaman II continues this trend, and even more than the first series offers a narrative that grows richer as small details build into story arcs and episodes with emotional resonance.

Unlike most contemporary anime, Gatchaman develops its characters and universe like a literary novel. Viewers who watch closely will be rewarded by noticing a character reacting to something outside of the main story of the episode. Over the course of the series, individual characters have their development defined by emotional growth that deepens our understanding that the person in the costume has human thoughts and needs. For example, Jinpei, the youngest of the group, makes offhand comments about family and demonstrates an emotional longing. These foreshadowed moments build over the course of the series, but they never become a focus until the character has his own climatic episode where his personal problems get played out as a plot point in a battle with Galactor. Every character has these moments peppered through the series, and it is these moments of foreshadowing that pay off in making Gatchaman II an enjoyable whole.

Worldbuilding of the second series creates a more complex infrastructure. We often see political leaders in a United Nations-style auditorium griping about everything while never positively addressing the problem head-on. It is clear that the Science Ninja Team and their leader Dr. Nambu hold the world together despite the lack of any formal governmental leadership. With plots that include everything from environmental sabotage, straightforward terrorism, and even creating nuclear meltdowns, Galactor’s strategies often mirror worldwide concerns that have been part of viewers’ shared experience since the series originally aired in 1979. Even if the animation and quality of the transfer seems dated, the stories remain relevant and feel like they could be the scripts for a series written to reflect our current political climate and our shared anxieties.

Gatchaman1While much of the series fits within children’s programming of the era, often the series grows to show concerns only an adult might understand. For example, one episode focuses on Ken having a reunion with his old academy friends. The dynamics of the episode orbit Ken coming to terms with the reality his old friends have made choices in their lives that have changed them from the people he knew. It is the “you can’t go home again” plot, but the melodrama and the emotional resonance requires that the viewer has experienced this type of self-awareness, something that takes many lived years and a social maturity that a child does not possess.

One of Gatchaman‘s main tropes is using the parent-child relationship to create drama. Gatchaman II also focuses on this in a way that is both tragic and resilient. It would be hard to imagine this series being made today because the message is one where young children are told to stop crying and fight back in the face of parental death or the destruction of a community. Sometimes, a hero lashes out at a child in a way, that 40 years later, appears abusive. That is only one of the reasons that this isn’t really a children’s cartoon. It has all the violence you remember from the original, and many of the stories are dark and don’t have happy endings. This makes this a great series for older viewers, but it isn’t the kind of content a person might expect in a children’s show today.

gatchaman3Gatchaman II also offers us new characters and perspectives. Berg Katze was destroyed at the end of the first series, so Leader X creates a replacement from a child who is artificially aged. This new leader, Gel Sadre, never seems emotionally developed, and like the heroes, his character is slowly developed over the series, creating a rich climatic moment for the storyline. We also have a mysterious doctor whose history and objectives are slowly disclosed as the series progresses, and Dr. Nambu gets a new assistant whose own origins figure prominently in several episodes. Even though the cast grows, the series stays focused on the main characters, using the original series story elements as the foundation for the new series. In fact, scenes from the original series get reused in flashback episodes, so viewers who have never seen the original series will be able to fully enjoy Gatchaman II.

In Summary:
Gatchaman II offers an engaging superhero anime whose quality rises above similar shows of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The series works through character development over the course of many episodes, making the show more character driven than the original series. Episodes still have the expected action sequences, and even though the elements are fantastic, the plots showcase many of the concerns we have in our contemporary world. In some ways the series works better for an American audience today than it would have in 1979. Even though the episode structure was copied for shows like Go-Lion (Voltron), Gatchaman II does it better because even the recycled shows have purpose and help develop both the characters and primary story arc. The only complaint is the interlaced video makes the series hard to watch unless your system can deinterlace, but the colors and visual effects are rich and add greatly to this show.

Gatchaman II is a must-have for fans of the franchise. These 52 episodes further the story and develop the characters in ways that enrich the Gatchaman universe.

Japanese 2.0 language with English subtitles, clean opening and closing, and Sentai trailers for other shows.

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
MSRP: $79.98
Running Time: 1300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 4:3

Review Equipment:
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, iView DVD player via component cables

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