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Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online Collection 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read
A deeper look at this world.

A deeper look at this world.

What They Say:
In the world of guns and steel that is Gun Gale Online, LLENN has been a devoted, female solo player. She is obsessed with two things: donning herself entirely in pink and honing her skills with consistent gameplay. She soon discovers her love for hunting other players (a.k.a. PK or Player Killing), and quickly becomes known as the “Pink Devil.”

Meanwhile, LLENN meets a beautiful yet mysterious player, Pitohui, and the two click right away. Doing as she is told by Pitohui, she enters the Squad Jam group battle.

The Review:
The audio presentation here is one that has both language tracks and it’s definitely a big step up over how the first season was presented. The original Japanese language track is done in the uncompressed PCM format so we get the stereo mix in a very strong and clear manner here that sounds great and definitely conveys some solid warmth and overall forward soundstage directionality and depth. The English mix is now thankfully done in the same way rather than using the lossy DVD level Dolby Digital codec. Getting the English mix uncompressed helps to bring that out in a better way with more clarity and overall warmth to it. The mix does the same work as the Japanese mix and the dub is solid itself and both tracks come across clean and clear and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The six episodes for this set are spread evenly across two discs. Animated by 3Hz, the show has a really great look about it that feels very much in line with what the other series have produced. Colors are rich throughout with a solid and deep palette that’s used whether it’s the dark night scenes or interiors as well as the brighter exteriors of the battle zone. The detail is well handled with crisp lines where appropriate and no problems such as line noise or breakup along it. The transfer here captures the source material in a way where there’s nothing to really find fault with during regular playback and it just allowed me to be sucked into this fully realized world in an engaging way.

The packaging for this release is done up the same as the previous sets with the limited edition form that really hits well as it has a certain simple sleek classiness about it. The thin slipcase is done up in a flat white look that has on the back panel has the GGO logo design in silver that looks good. The front panel goes for a look at the two main characters here with LLENN and Pito that’s dynamic and fun, especially with the mix of pink and black against the white. The case artwork goes and changes it up a bit with the GGO logo element spread across front and back but done with a black/grey background and some light pink to mix it up some. This is also done up for the reverse side of the case which is a nice bit of continuity. The set also comes with a couple of high-quality postcards and a great full-color booklet that breaks down characters and weapons with a lot of detail and appreciation that looks great and makes for a good reference.

The extras for this release are pretty straightforward as we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as an audio commentary track. The big inclusion is the 5.5 bonus episode as it provides a recap of the first five that gave the animation team a bit of time to catch up and handle the workload. It’s admittedly not what you want to see with a twelve-episode series but I’m definitely glad of its inclusion as I can see rewatching it when the second half comes out to recap everything.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the success of the main Sword Art Online series, with its sequels, specials, and theatrical film, it’s no surprise that the spinoff material from the light novel side was going to get an adaptation. Gun Gale Online tackles the world we saw within the main series but comes from the novels written by someone else, namely Keiichi Sigsawa. Those were done with illustrations by Kouhaku Kuroboshi and began in late 2014 where there are as of this writing about eight volumes out – plus a few manga adapted volumes. They’ve done well in sales for the light novels and bolstering them with a one-cour anime adaptation is an easy thing to do because people liked seeing the Gun Gale Online world within the Sword Art Online series and how Kirito had to challenge himself in order to really handle it.

This series revolves around the in-game character of LLENN, who is Karen Kohiruimaki. I like her from the start since she’s a college student and not younger and she has a bit of a complex about her height as she’s pretty tall in a place where most women are much shorter. That seems to be compensated for in the game where as LLENN she’s a tiny spitfire dressed in all pink, down to the hat, and takes out a lot of her frustrations with her gun. LLENN is paired up with M, a brick type of character that’s definitely pretty skilled and experienced as we see from the introduction. The series works a backwards approach with the opening episode showing us a Squad Jam event underway with teams going up against each other and the two of them working their strategy pretty well. But the show backs up in the second episode to show her getting into this world, how she ended up with M, and some of those first games together as they got a handle on how they operate together.

The first five episodes cover the main match that we get in the first and while it may be a touch drawn out it does fill it in with a lot of background and aspects along the way. We see how Karen ends up seeking refuge in the VR game because of the anxieties she has and then delights when her character comes up short and cute. Seeing her early attempts at mastering the game are fun, especially since she gets quite the reputation as the Pink Devil, especially because it’s kind of surreal that she can hide so well in something so bright and colorful. You can see the joy she gets in the game and just how comfortable she feels in this virtual skin and the mix of character exploration and showing off the world through her eyes makes for an enjoyable time.

What also helps is that her first real friend that she makes there is another woman named Pitohui. The two pair up for a while as she basically takes LLENN under her wing but it’s more so that they can fight against each other someday as there’s some real admiration of skill between the two. The dynamic between the two women is great since there’s no competing male attentions or anything relating to that either so it’s just about the game and their focus. What we do get is Pito working to pair LLENN up with someone that will be ideal for training and growth, which leads her to M. He’s an interesting character because he’s not the silent but deadly brick type but one that converses fairly well and has an engaging personality even if he is a bit on the more introverted side. They’re not the usual conventional pairing that you get with these things, both outgoing or at least one of them overly so, and it makes them fun to watch since they have to employ strategy in taking down other teams.

In Summary:
The first half of this season is fun. It’s not angst-filled or working some sort of overly large problem that will end the world. It’s people playing a game where most of it is in-game material but with a healthy dose outside of the game so that we understand who they are as actual people. There doesn’t feel like there are any significant stakes and the slow unfolding of the main fight that we kick off with plays well as we get a good feel for everyone involved. It’s just a pleasant experience where you like the characters and their interactions and want to see more and you can enjoy it without forced drama or character friction. Aniplex’s set is solidly produced with a great looking and sounding disc in a decent package that will please fans who like the shiny aspects of it all. While the main series is where my love is, Gun Gale Online has the potential to add a little more love to my life. I’m excited to see where the rest of this season goes.

Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Bonus Episode #5.5 Refrain and Audio Commentary by Japanese creators & cast with English Subtitles plus Textless Opening and Ending

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: March 26th, 2019
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 164 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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