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ADV Films presents

Gasaraki #2: The Circle Opens (1998)

"I just want to know who I am."- Yushiro Gowa (Nobuyuki Hiyama)

Stars: Nobuyuki Hiyama, Mami Kingetsu, Seiko Fujiki/Chris Palton, Monica Rial, Laura Chapman
Other Stars: Yugi Takada, Sho Hayami, Isshin Chiba/Andy McAvin, Jason Douglas, Brett Weaver
Director: Ryosuke Takahashi

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (12+ for violence)
Run Time: 01h:14m:34s
Release Date: 2000-11-28
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

ADV brings disc two in the eight disc Gasaraki television series. Conceived, produced and directed by Ryosuke Takahashi (Votoms, producer on Gaogaiger), with mechanical designs by Izubuchi Yutaka (Patlabor 2, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing) and character design by Shukou Murase (Mobile Suit Gundam Wing), Gasaraki goes well beyond the typical giant robot genre, and is infused with mystery, intrigue and political subterfuge. The series was produced in 1998 by Bandai and Sunrise, and runs 26 episodes, with numbers 5-7, The Touching, The Puppet and Return, included on this DVD. If you haven't had a chance to see the first disc yet, you may want to skip the following paragraph.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Japan has been, in conjunction with the Gowa Corporation, secretly developing a new breed of war machine, Tactical Armor (TA): giant, bipedal robots fitted with various weaponry, and piloted by members of the Japan Special Self Defence Force. The only member of the SSDF team that is a civilian is Yushhiro (Nobuyuki Hiyama), youngest son of the Gowa family co-developing the TAs. Yushiro also holds a special position in the Gowa family, as he is a kai, capable of summoning the Gasaraki while doing the dance of the Noh in a state of deep trance, which is performed at the Stage of Stone. It was during one of these summonings that he first encountered Miharu (Mami Kingetsu), a young girl who is also a kai for Symbol, a rival organisation developing their own version of bipedal robots, dubbed Fakes. As this disc opens the military action taken by the UN against the Middle Eastern country of Belgistan has the TAs in position, investigating the site of an unexplained, and supposedly nuclear explosion, which Gowa recognizes as a site similar to their Stage of Stone. Here, the TAs have their first encounter in combat with the Fakes, and Yushiro comes armor to armor with Miharu. Across these three episodes we learn a bit more about thier relationship, and delve deeper into Yushiro's character, while the dynamics of world events unfolds in the background.

Gasaraki works on many levels. The battle sequences are intense, the political subplots are intriguing, and the underlying mystery behind the kai leaves you wanting more. The sound design is stunning, with one of my favorite opening themes, great incidental music and spatial cues in the effects. The visual styling is in many cases modelled after real-life coverage of the Gulf War, with the perspective changing from the locations to camera or broadcast style feeds, including the distortions these introduce, on a regular basis. The storyline in this series gets deeper with each episode, and I'd recommend keeping as many of these discs as may be available handy, as if you're like me, you'll be reaching for the next one as soon as you can.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Gasaraki uses a barrage of image effects in its presentation, and the quality of the image is extremely good across the board. There is some shimmer due to image instability, and the usual interlacing artifacts, but overall very nice looking, with vibrant color and deep blacks.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Japaneseyes

Audio Transfer Review: Both the Japanese and English tracks are presented in stereo, and I must say that the sound design used in this series is presented very well. There is good spatialization, and the frequency spectrum is well covered. My preference is the Japanese track, which was the basis for the review, though spot checks of the English track have it faring on an equal basis sonically.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Generator Gawl, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Sin: the Movie, Lost Universe, ADV mix trailer
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with Assistant Director, Goro Taniguchi
  2. Production sheets and memos
  3. Glossary
Extras Review: Gasaraki 2 offers a feature set similar to the first disc. First up is a collection of front end trailers for Generator Gawl, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Sin: the Movie, Lost Universe and the ADV mix trailer. Again, I wish these were in the menus.

Next up is the somewhat misleading interview with assistant director Goro Taniguchi, which is actually only two menu screens from the interview, the rest of which is only available through ADV's website, just as the first disc's interview with director Ryosuke Takahashi was.

The production sheets section features three screens with a number of elements from the show, such as the characters, different armor and so forth, described via pop-up text boxes. Like the first disc, the descriptions are complete enough to get the point across without containing a bunch of spoilers.

Production memos are similar to the production sheets, though they focus more on details of the TA program, with five subjects covered. This is a nice addition for detail fans.

A short glossary of some of the abbreviations and terms used in the series is also included.

The menus feature tasteful animated backgrounds and screen transitions, which are based conceptually on the show, and also feature background music from the series.

The inset booklet again features an overview of some elements from the show, this time a look at design and various weaponry used on the Type 17 Tactical Armor.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

ADV has served up another must-see series for anime fans. The striking visuals and great action sequences alone would make this a winner. This series goes over the top with a fantastic background story, political intrigue, and the mystery of Yushiro's character keeping you wanting more, and the extras included add even more value to the presentation. Even though this will require a reasonable investment for the entire series, from what I've seen so far it is money well spent. Highly recommended.

Jeff Ulmer 2000-12-01