Tag Archives: adventure

Giant Gorg

Type: Series
Number of Episodes: 26
Genre: Adventure / Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 1984
Date of Review: November 23, 2016

After Yuu Tagami’s father unexpectedly dies, he has left his son with a cryptic message: meet Dr. Wave in New York City, and go with him to investigate the mysterious New Austral Island. Yuu soon joins forces with the scientist and others, and together, the team will attempt to uncover the island’s secrets before the forces of the sinister corporation GAIL. Meanwhile, who — or what — is Gorg?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I purchased the Giant Gorg DVD set on a whim, based on a few reviews in Otaku USA magazine and the like. It was inexpensive, it’s got a giant robot (right there in the title!), and it was animated by Sunrise, famed purveyors of my beloved Mobile Suit Gundam series. So going into this practically blind…was it worth it to take the plunge?

Holy shit, yes. Giant Gorg is a fantastic show from start to finish, and let me tell you all about it. First off, the eponymous robot doesn’t even show up until a few episodes in, and his existence isn’t even hinted at until then; all we know up to that point is that there’s a weird island, and some bad guys are after Yuu and company. The mysteries are slowly revealed over the course of the series, all mixed in with tense action, memorable characters, and more. The action and adventure are even lightened up with doses of comedy, usually at the expense of the clumsy Dr. Wave, the reigning champion of the Anime Woody Allen Lookalike Contest.

Yuu is a great protagonist, and his cohorts are diverse and interesting, from Dr. Wave’s plucky sister Doris to the action hero Skipper to the native siblings Alois and Sara. Of course, a series can be made or broken by its villains, and Giant Gorg‘s got some good ones. Rod Balboa is our GAIL overseer on the island, cleverly given many shades of gray. Lady Lynx is femme fatale straight out of a film noir, complete with a Veronica Lake peekaboo hairstyle. And then there’s the various GAIL underlings and others to help flesh out the antagonists.

Let’s get back to the main draw of the series, that big blue robot. Gorg’s design evokes both classical statuary and medieval armor, and his “voice” is incredibly unique. He appears to be slow and plodding, which is technically more realistic than the usual massive mecha that zip around at high speed. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that’s a weakness, as any action scene with Gorg is memorable. How can you not cheer when Gorg saves Yuu’s life from a robot squid by cracking its shell apart? Or shooting tanks with a custom rifle, then bludgeoning the rest to scrap once the gun ran out of ammo? Or when he’s tearing off the wing of a plane in midair, then whipping it boomerang-style to take out another plane? Need I go on?

However, Giant Gorg is not your typical mecha action show where there’s fast and furious fights at all times. Plenty of episodes go by without a single major battle, and sometimes Gorg is just walking around or doing nothing at all. (In fact, the reason why the massive robot is lumbering towards an unknown destination is a huge part of the overall plot.) Also surprising is that Gorg rarely uses weapons; on the few occasions that he does, they’re never his own.

The art style in Giant Gorg is very much in the mold of classic early- to mid-1980s anime, but the design is nice and clean, with exaggerated expressions only used for comedic effect. The whole thing is wrapped in a suitably moody score, with appropriate highs and lows as the action dictates. Finally, the series’ creators absolutely mastered the art of the cliffhanger, with the end of each episode imploring viewers to “Tune in to the next: the same Gorg time, the same Gorg channel.”

If Giant Gorg had aired in the US when I was a kid, I would’ve been absolutely glued to the set. (Of course, it didn’t air here, due to characters getting shot and a very brief bit of nudity. Nothing extreme, but parental units would’ve still lost their shit. I guess Japanese kids were trusted to handle a lot more than we could.) At any rate, the series is the most solidly entertaining adventure anime I have ever seen. It’s a fun and engaging story from start to finish, perfectly paced, and rounded out with awesome action and great characters. Giant Gorg is the very definition of a hidden gem, and you need to add it to your library immediately!

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Chrono Crusade

Chrono CrusadeType: TV Series
Episode Count: 24
Genre: Supernatural / Adventure / Comedy
Vintage: 2003

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 19 Oct 2012

Grade: B-

The original Japanese title for this series is Chrno Crusade.

“Like a nun with a gun, [she’s] wonderful fun.”
adapted lyric from the song “Happy the Man” by Genesis, recorded in 1972

Plot Summary
In 1920s America, there’s a bit of a problem with demons and other unsavory types causing havoc and mayhem. That’s when the Magdalene Order is consulted, and Rosette Christopher with her partner Chrono are called upon to exorcise these demons. It is a bit of an unusual working relationship though; Rosette is a nun and Chrono is a devil.

The Review
Chrono Crusade tries hard, it really does. It goes for an unconventional setting as far as anime is concerned, but rather than feeling like the United States in the early twentieth century, it feels more like western Europe. The historical aspect never really plays into the story at all; it’s just when things happen to take place. Setting aside the fantasy or sci-fi elements, manners of speech and wardrobe simply don’t seem to fit in a 1920s America setting. A piece of the puzzle which could have contributed a historical slant to the story ended up a missed opportunity, which is a little bit of a disappointment. If you can overlook this flaw, there is still an interesting series to be found here.

Chrono Crusade starts out as an adventure comedy. Rosette and Chrono are an unlikely duo, fighting off demons and other vile creatures which rear their heads in New York City. Spiritual guns are the weapon of the day, and the Magdalene Order has an entire arsenal of holy weapons at their disposal, with more being devised by their inventor, a lecherous old man who looks like one of Dr. J‘s relatives. When he’s not inventing new weapons, he’s busy trying to get a peek at the nuns’ bloomers. Rosette is prone to crashing the Order’s cars, but she’s one of their best exorcists. Chrono has his hands full trying to keep Rosette in line, and that’s a challenging job. Since he is a devil, Chrono does offer a bit of an advantage in that he knows the enemy’s background well. When things get in a pinch, Rosette and Chrono do have a secret weapon: Chrono’s full power. There is a price to this option, however…

As often happens over the course of a series, the later parts show a shift in style; the lighthearted adventure turns into a somewhat darker and more serious story. This is in sharp contrast to the first part of the series where things are highly comedic. There is also a surprising amount of fanservice for a series which often takes place in a convent. Chrono Crusade is a bit bipolar in its approach between these two tones, but it doesn’t necessarily take anything away from the story.

Chrono Crusade is both a decent series and a missed opportunity. The historical aspects aren’t nearly integrated enough and serve mainly as window dressing. The story itself is interesting and kept my attention all the way through. For those who follow seiyuu, the late Tomoko Kawakami (perhaps best known as the title character from Revolutionary Girl Utena) does a fine job as Rosette. In all, I enjoyed Chrono Crusade, but I couldn’t help feeling just a little bit disappointed by some of the choices made in telling its story.

El Cazador de la Bruja

El Cazador de la BrujaType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Adventure / Supernatural / Sci-Fi
Vintage:
2007

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 24 Oct 2011

Grade: B

Translating the title from Spanish is almost a spoiler. If, like me, you don’t know Spanish, don’t look up what the title means until after you watch the series. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Bee Train studio (Noir) gets a second chance with me, and surpasses my reserved expectations.

Plot Summary
Bounty hunter Nadie has been given a job: find a girl named Ellis and protect her. Not the usual kind of task expected of a bounty hunter, but as it turns out, Ellis is not the usual kind of girl. Ellis has a clouded past, and together with Nadie, she sets out to solve the mysteries of both her past and herself.

The Review
“If you have any last words, say them now.” That’s Nadie’s catchphrase. Only minutes into the first episode of El Cazador, and I knew that taking a chance on Bee Train again might actually pay off. The studio has earned itself another chance in my book with this series, and got itself off my black list, which it found itself on after Noir. Don’t misunderstand; I enjoyed Noir, but soon after having watched that series, I learned of Bee Train’s reputation for nearly all of their work following a similar format: meandering plots which tend to be variations on a theme. If I wanted to watch a cut and pasted version of Noir, I’d just watch Noir again. That sounds reasonable, right? I expected El Cazador to be not much more than a copy of Noir, but in a western setting. As it turns out, it was much more than Noir with the places and names swapped out. This was a good thing.

First off, El Cazador is funny. Humor was all but absent in Noir, but it’s all over the place here. Ellis is one of my favorite character types – the space cadet – and has her own catchphrase (the cutest “Yessir!” you’ve ever heard), and there is a running joke throughout the series with a taco restaurant jingle. These things alone made watching El Cazador very entertaining for me.

The series doesn’t completely break my impressions of Bee Train, however. The story does still wander aimlessly for most of the show’s duration. In fact, El Cazador is primarily a “road trip” series. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that. The central narrative involves Nadie and Ellis on their journey to find Ellis’s past. And follow their journey the series does. There is very little plot advancement in the middle twenty or so episodes of the series, and were the story streamlined, it could have been told completely in perhaps as few as six episodes. But that is not how the story is told. We are instead tagging along on Nadie and Ellis’s journey, and fortunately it is a good one to watch unfold.

Characters are engaging and varied. The main duo of Nadie and Ellis is a good example of opposites attracting. Other characters include another bounty hunter: a man named Ricardo that one might expect in a western, and his travelling companion – a cute little girl named Lirio, who almost serves as the show’s mascot. Also worth noting is one of the most effectively portrayed antagonists that I’ve seen in a while: L.A., an unhinged obsessive mental case. Rarely is it that an antagonist on screen makes me wish for physical harm to come to them and want to hurl heavy objects at my television, but L.A. easily accomplishes this. Fortunately, he wasn’t enough to make me dislike El Cazador. The wonderment that is Ellis kept me drawn in for all twenty-six episodes.

El Cazador de la Bruja is the third installment of a thematic “trilogy” of girls-with-guns series by Bee Train and director Koichi Mashimo, the first two being Noir and Madlax. With El Cazador proving to me that Bee Train is capable of mixing up its formula just enough to not completely be a one-trick pony, I may now look into Madlax at some point in the future. Though the shows share similar elements, they aren’t connected in any other way, so they need not be seen in any particular order, nor does one necessarily need to watch all three.

El Cazador de la Bruja is a fun ride with some good characters, though the story is rather simplistic and not particularly strong. This is a series where the journey is more important than the destination, so as long as you don’t go into it expecting something groundbreaking, it should not be a disappointment. I went into El Cazador not expecting much, but I came away from it pleasantly surprised.