So I sat down to start watching Gonzo’s “Gad Guard”, not knowing much about the series, except that it was a mecha anime. Now I know what you’re thinking (I thought it too); if you’ve seen one mecha anime, you’ve seen ‘em all. But don’t count out “Gad Guard”; it may surprise you, a little.
I actually watched the show subtitled on FUNimation’s website via their free internet stream. So for obvious reason I won’t get too technical about the video or audio quality, but stick more to the story and animation elements. Also, this review pertains only to the original subbed version of the show and not the dub. However, from watching the dubbed series trailer, it doesn’t sound half bad. In fact, it sounds damn good, but I’m only saying that based off a trailer, so I wouldn’t take that statement to heart.
The 26 episode series directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori takes place several hundreds of years in the future after the Earth’s resources have been exhausted, halting humanity’s progression. The world is no longer divided up by separate nations, but by areas known as “Units”. The story follows Hajiki Sanada, a street smart delivery boy who is struggling to provide for his mother and younger sister. The three live humbly in Night Town, a ghetto within Unit 74. One day Hajiki, who works for Hachisuka Express (delivery company), is assigned to make a special delivery to a mysterious client. However, he accidentally discovers the item being delivered is a GAD, a black stone that can reconstruct ordinary materials into a giant mecha (referred to as “Techodes” or “Heavy Metals”).
While trying to retrieve the GAD from the wrong recipient, Hajiki accidentally activates it, creating a Techode that will obey only him which he names Lightning. Though he quickly realizes (by episode 3) he’s not the only one with a Techode. From here on out the life he knew is over and is replaced with ongoing battles against those that are after him and his GAD. Things really heat up when a second GAD ends up in the hands of Katana, the main antagonist of the series. Katana vows to defeat Hajiki, who is the only person to have defeated him, and not because he was a more skilled opponent, but simply because he controlled a Techode. Thus, a true rivalry is born, and the series title makes a lot more sense.
Right away I got sucked in by the opening theme “Boomerang Boogie” by PE’Z and I hadn’t even actually watched any of the episodes yet. It had that futuristic jazzy sound which reminded me a lot of Toshiyuki Honda’s score for the movie “Metropolis”. In fact, the score for the whole series seemed to suit it pretty well, following the same futuristic jazzy sound. However, we do hear some nice orchestral pieces during most of the series highpoints.
The story itself isn’t the most original and seems somewhat typical of many mecha anime. Lost boy finds robot; boy becomes emotionally attached to robot; boy and robot must save the world from evil people with robots. However, the biggest difference between this series and most mecha anime is that there are actually two types of mechas, “Heavy Metals” and “Techodes”. “Heavy Metals” are mechas that require an operator, while “Techodes” are mechas created from GADs that do not require an operator. They can operate on their own, but are powered by the emotional bond between the Techode and the owner. It really adds a different element to the story, as some owners have evil intentions and only seek them for their power, while others like Hajiki use them to protect what decency humanity has left. As the series progresses, the role of “Heavy Metals” dissipates, and almost becomes nonexistent as they can’t compete with the power of the Techodes.
Throughout the story, we do get some nice character development, but it seems too often be overshadowed by action scenes. While the main characters do see quite a bit of development, the supporting characters aren’t quite so lucky. As you progress through the series, you soon discover that the main character’s are fighting for their own personal reasons, but usually stick together to accomplish something greater. Each character has a unique background, ranging from living in the ghetto, to being from a rich family, to simply wanting to be the best.
Whatever the story itself may be lacking in originality, they made up for it with some great animation. The background art alone is really good, but never takes the spotlight away from the animation itself. The fight scenes are well animated and choreographed. For anyone that’s a fan of action, this series really pays out well. The colors themselves, which are very subdued and drab, add a big impact to the animation. They really help portray the sense of despair that has overtaken the world in these rugged times and more specifically, the ghetto’s where Hajiki lives.
That’s not to say we don’t see any color at all, because there are some brilliantly colored scenes. The bright colors are well placed to help contrast the drab look of the world. Even the characters provide a good contrast from one another. For instance, Hajiki wears a bright pink jacket with green fish on the back while Katana dresses entirely in black. Overall, they took full advantage of contrasting color schemes that made the characters stand out from their drab surroundings.
The human character designs are fairly typical and are really nothing to write home about, but the Techodes designs are a nice change of pace compared to typical mecha anime. The Techodes are sleek and more rounded, almost humanoid in form, than their boxier “Heavy Metal” counterparts. However, some of the best characters designs are the animals, such as Carlos the dog. You may think I’m joking, but the animal designs seem so out of place, they actually work to the shows advantage.
Overall, if you’re a fan of mecha anime, I’d definitely give this series a chance. It really adds a nice twist to the popular notion of what a typical mecha anime is. If you’re not a fan of mecha anime, then this probably isn’t the best series for you, but I’d still give it a chance. Although the series is based around mechas and action, the character development and storyline really become the major driving forces behind the series. And although the story isn’t all that original, it’s still enjoyable to watch. Of course, the spectacular animation doesn’t hurt it either.
Story: C+ (Non-original plot, with a Techode twist. Though even with the twist, it lacks some originality.)
Character Development: B (You get to know the main characters pretty well, but the supporting characters never really get their moment.)
Animation: A- (The backgrounds and fight scenes are fantastic. More importantly, there quality is consistent and the color schemes really add to the overall series motif.)
Character Design: B- (While the Techodes are a nice change of page from traditional mechas, the human character designs leave more to be desired.)
Music: A (The music fits the entire series very well and doesn’t get too repetitive. All I have to say is where can I buy the soundtrack?)
Subtitles: A (As with most modern anime series, the subtitles are pretty accurate and consistent. Not much else to say.)
Overall: B+ (It’s a must watch for mecha anime fans and probably something most shonen anime fans in general would enjoy.)
All of Gad Guard is available for free viewing, with Japanese audio and English subtitles at Funimations Video’s Gad Guard page.
The entire series is also available with both Japanese audio and English subtitles and an English dub in a seven disk DVD boxset.
All caps are lossy JPEGs taken via printscreen from the stream of the episode. The screencaps should be relatively accurate to the streamed episodes, but don’t represent how the show may appear on DVD.