What They Say
Catty is an android who spent her life observing humans in the futuristic Bespio City. When a mad artificial intelligence awakens to destroy all human life, she is the only force that stands between humanity and extinction! As every computer on Earth is infected by its genocidal programming, Catty leads a force of seven women into the final battle between man and machine!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo and an English language dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The series has a fairly basic stereo mix with a few moments of noticeable directionality but most of it is pretty center channel based. We listened to the English mix once as well and notice a touch more directionality there but both are pretty comparable. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems during regular playback.
Originally released in 1992 and 1993, the two episode OVA series is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. The materials for the series as it progressed has definitely gotten better and better and New Era is probably one of the cleanest looking releases of the franchise. There’s still some grainy scenes, though some of it looks intentional, but between that and some of the usual aliasing for something of this age the transfer looks good. Colors are nice and solid though of the same flat color palette that the series has always used and cross coloration was hardly noticeable. As with past releases, we get the original endings with all the Japanese text followed-up by the full English credit translations.
Thankfully continuing with the same style as the box set re-release last year, New Era has something I don’t think any of the other covers has had and that’s a male on it. In addition to a shot of Catty, Nova takes a big position on this cover with both of them set against the purple glow of the moon. While not the most eye-catching cover it’s something of a break from the style of past shows in the franchise. The back cover provides only two shots from the show and a small collage of artwork with a very brief but very encompassing summary of the premise of the show. The discs features and basic information is quick and easy to find but I continue to wish they’d adopt the growing standard box format. With no insert, the reverse side of the cover has some really nice artwork on the left side, a shot of Catty holding a circle with the rest of the cast inside. The right side provides the chapter listings, bilingual cast lists and a mix of production credits from both sides of the release.
Using a full-color version of the artwork from the interior cover, the left half of the static menu looks great with some nicely detailed artwork. The right half is the menu selections done up in a typical science fiction format with clean lines and a smooth look. The layout is easy to navigate and quick to load. The language selection, which had to be used since the players defaults were not read, continue to annoy me as they go right into the show instead of back to a menu after being selected.
The only included extra is a brief video art gallery.
After nearly ten years of various releases and re-releases, the Gall Force franchise got closer to having all of its parts released as New Era brought us to just one more left in the franchise. Released about halfway through the franchises life cycle, New Era takes bits from the previous episodes and plays out a bit like a retread but with a few nice twists.
New Era breaks tradition somewhat with the earlier chapters in the saga. The bulk of those episodes had focused on the all-female crews and often all female races that were dominating the stars and wherever they went. New Era takes us to Earth in the future where humanity has gone and done as it usually does and wasted and obliterated much of what was good about the planet. Even worse, something of a race war occurred over time as the genetically different form of humanity grew out of peoples meddling and they became known as Yumans. Feeling themselves to be superior and the future of the race, a nasty fight ensued and brought progress to a halt for some time. Now humanity lives separated into tightly packed domed cities around the world, each keeping minimal contact with the other and dealing with internal problems like overpopulation.
Some of this is rather nicely done and almost feels like an homage to Asimov’s Caves of Steel/Elijah Baley novels. Within a tightly packed section of humanity, there’s always going to be different factions at work. A lot of the tension that’s being caused now in Bespio City is the plan to bring a zero population growth proposal to the table since they can’t afford more births while paying off the terraforming equipment they’ve bought from Mars. And that’s just within the normal citizenry. Hidden within the city is a young man named Nova who has been idolizing the revolutionary leader of the Yumans, Genova, since as long as he can remember and has his own plans to bring humanity down. Using the tools he’s acquired over the years he sets into motion a series of events that leads to a powerful computer virus infecting all the systems.
The virus, GORN, is actually a bit more than Nova predicted as it is intent on wiping out both humans and yumans from the solar system. With the entire system now connected once more after all the wars, GORN is able to bring his presence everywhere in his attempt to achieve his goals, goals he’s apparently had for quite some time and has been waiting to launch anew. GORN’s plans aren’t a surprise to one person though as Catty has foreseen what will be happening and sets her own plan into motion just before the virus strikes. She brings a group of women together to launch into space from an escape pod so that they can deal with the virus and provide a new launching pad for humanity into the future.
Of course, all the women are very familiar faces from the previous series but with completely different personalities for some of them. The repetition of the familiar faces across all of these shows is something that’s definitely appealing since it gives the feel of a group of people who are born at the right time to be the ones to deal with the biggest problems. Of course, it’s less than that in reality since it’s just cheaper to re-use the same designs over and over, but storywise it does make for a nice little thread that’s out there. With humanity at the brink of destruction yet again as GORN launches missiles all over the place and inserts his programming into every available computer, it’s definitely a time for this group of women to return to action.
With the two episodes here, the show has a similar feel to past episodes that isn’t too surprising, but even some of the same kinds of pacing and plot elements are introduced at the same time. While it doesn’t feel like a complete retread of say, Eternal Story, having them search the ship for an invading creature feels like they lifted the segment from there. Of course, there’s an obligatory shower scene included for this set of episodes as well as that is the true tie that binds the series together. Visually, the series maintains the same look and feel as previous episodes so there is a solid bit of continuity in that regard.
New Era breathes a bit of new life into the Gall Force franchise at the start with some neat ideas and some interesting homages to past science fiction writers but it then shifts into very familiar territory as they practically lift entire chunks of earlier scripts and just change the scenes around a bit. New Era is a nice change of pace just from the addition of men in general and the continued evolution of life on Earth but it’s still just pretty mediocre science fiction when you get to the end of it. The sameness of the characters is both a plus and a minus but tends to be a bit more of a minus the more distance you put between the timeline of each release. For the price and the length of the show, this is a good B science fiction movie and a franchise that I still hope gets a rescue and high definition treatment someday.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Central Park Media
Release Date: July 6th, 2004
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
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.