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Gatchaman Fighter Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

7 min read

One of the best written animation series of its time

What They Say:
The fight against Leader X was finally over, but a small portion of his evil remained and regenerated into Leader Z! Now, with the aid of the monstrous Count Egobossler, the Gatchaman team’s arch-foe is out to destroy the world again, and even though their ranks have been decimated, the Gatchman force has no choice but to keep fighting. To combat their new foes, they’ll need new weapons and new allies, but their mission remains the same: protect the Earth and Mankind, no matter the cost. And that cost may prove to be the ultimate one when the new Gatchafencer blade wielded by Ken turns out to be a double-edged sword. Find out who will live, who will die, and who will triumph as Japan’s most famous sci-fi fighter team takes on their greatest challenge in GATCHAMAN FIGHTER!

The Review:
This series uses several audio techniques and special effects that need clarity and appropriate balance to work with the video as intended. Sentai retains the appropriate levels while reducing background hiss and distortion that sometimes occurs when sound is mastered in digital formats. With that said, users with good home theater systems may want to bypass the audio to good TV speakers to avoid accentuating the defects that occurred during the initial production of the series.

Viewers should be aware that this is a nearly 40-year-old series that was created in cel animation and converted to videotape. Some episodes have an abundance of film grain, scratches, and even what appears to be lint on one short sequence. Add this to the transition flashes that occur where sequences are joined, and the quality will seem extremely low to viewers who are unfamiliar with older TV animation. It should be noted that the series still looks good if stretched to 16:9, but the digital and analog noise becomes more noticeable at a standard viewing distance.

Encoded as originally aired in 4:3, 480i, Gatchaman F looks reasonably good for an interlaced DVD. Colors are vibrant in most episodes, and compression artifacts don’t dominate the series at a normal viewing distance. I was forced to watch the series on an old player with composite outputs because the interlaced video playback made the viewing experience difficult on PS3 and a Sony Blu-ray player that doesn’t have deinterlacing in their HDMI connections.

For those of us who grew up with cel animation, the video looks better than what we were used to seeing during the late 1970s and early 1980s when this series aired in Japan.

The 9 DVDS are in a standard case with the first 8 disks on the front and back of 4 hinged leaves, and the final disk fits on a back cover hub. The cover has an image of the Egobossler and Ken in a sword fight along with the red, blue, and white color scheme of the series. On the spine, the top third is an image of Ken baring his sword, and the bottom third has the title logo. The back top half includes a collage of the characters in battle and four scenes from the series. The color of the summary header mirrors the blue and red on a white field with the summary written in clear black font. 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. on a white field.

Menus are simple with links for episodes stacked in a vertical column surrounded by colors and art from the series. The sparse extras link from the bottom. While a minimal implementation, they work as cleanly and as simply.

Clean opening and closing animation are the only extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gatchaman F was the third series of the franchise that ran for 48 episodes between 1979 and 1980. While some have called the franchise a Japanese attempt at a superhero show, it is much more a science fiction series that has equal parts drama and action to tell the story. The series has an episodic format that usually includes a giant mecha of the week for the heroes to fight as they try to save a city or the world. While this seems to fit the format of shows like Beast King GoLion (Voltron) or the later U.S. series G.I. Joe, this series offers much more character drama and detailed world building that makes the show stand above similar episodic series.

Gatchaman F does not require viewers to know anything about the first two series in the franchise because it has become a straightforward with fewer story arcs and better developed episodic writing. Unlike the earlier series, the threat begins when the human villain Egobossler uses his family army to begin a world invasion in the wake of the fallen Galactor organization. He is joined by Leader Z, a space brain that appears to come from the remains of leader X who provides Iron Beasts, giant animal shaped attack mecha piloted by Galactor. Unlike the original series, Egobossler is a villain of his own creation who never acts as a loyal servant to X. This continual scheming makes the relationships between the villains more interesting than the boss/lackey relationships of the first series.

Viewers will see influences from Star Wars and other late 1970s sci-fi to create the vehicles and the fighting style. Characters use swords and flails in addition to guns, missiles, and high energy attacks. The characters’ mecha now look more like the vehicles from space anime series. The mecha offer boxy shells that don’t appear at all aerodynamic, and they transform and merge to create a more powerful vehicle that is shaped like an arrowhead with a cockpit that opens for Ken to jump out and ride it like a sled so he can slash at the enemy with his sword. While it appears less practical than the earlier flaming phoenix attack, it does become part of the drama in the later episodes of the series.

Some fans of the original Gatchaman or Gatchaman II may find Gatchaman Fighter a step away from the original seasons. A focus on character development made the first two series stand out from most action-oriented animation series. The first series spends time developing both the concept of the Science Ninja Team and building the world where it exists. Gatchaman II has several loose story arcs that develop the characters of the team. Even though action and violence remain the hallmark of Fighter, most of the stories have a stronger drama component in addition to characters that makes the action meaningful.

Gatchaman Fighter’s main point of departure removes much of the character personas developed in the original series and replaces them with the standard team stereotypes. Most disappointing is the devolved maturity of Jinpei. Gatchaman II spent a great deal of the series demonstrating Jinpei growing from an emotional and needy child to being a fully adult member of the team. Gatchaman F throws that away for the sake of having a weak member who creates external problems to complicate the stories. Having Jinpei return to a bratty kid just undermines the supposed continued world building through the three series.

One surprise in Gatchaman F is the lack of graphic violence. Characters in vehicles and cities die in explosions, characters are kicked in the face, viewers even see them engrossed in flames, but we do not see the actual effect of the violence on the characters’ bodies. Outside of one quick scene of a character with a hole in his shirt resulting from the shot, the extremely graphic scenes of a bullet penetrating the body is absent. Even when a character stands in front of a firing squad taking many shots, we do not see the level of body destruction common in the first two series. In addition to the lessened violence, we see fewer characters smoking, demonstrating a transition in acceptable content in Japanese animation made for young viewers.

In Summary:
Gatchaman Fighter may be the best of the original series to introduce to new viewers of the franchise. The writing remains strong across the 48 episodes and viewers are not required to know or understand the earlier seasons to enjoy every episode. While the characters are reduced to stereotypes, this does not undermine the dramatic stories or take away the ability for fans of the original to appreciate the new take on the characters and world.

More than the original series, this series seems set in the science fiction universes of the late 1970s. While the monster of the week format continues, that becomes secondary to the drama of the episode, making the format less intrusive, allowing the viewer to enjoy more than the short and predetermined battles. Fans of the original seasons may be disappointed by some creative decisions that change elements of the characters, but the improved writing should make this a consistently enjoyable series.

Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, clean opening and closing.

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 4th, 2017
MSRP: $79.98
Running Time: 1200 minutes
Video Encoding: MPEG-2 480i
Aspect Ratio: 4:3

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

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