Gasaraki: Perfect Collection (1998)
Review by Dindrane
Film:
DVD:

Written by Toru Nozaki
Directed by Ryusuke Takahashi
Character Design by Shuko Murase

Features:

Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Rating: 12+

Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format

My Advice: Buy it--it's worth every penny

From the quality of the animation to the character depth and the complexity yet logic of the plot, Gasaraki is an all-around wonderful show, with quality in every detail.

Gasaraki begins in medias res with similar explosive tests being run in two locations simultaneously-óone in Japan, and another in the fictional Middle Eastern nation of Belgistan. We zero in on the Japanese experiment and meet a mysterious figure dressed in ritualistic Shinto robes performing a kind of dance accompanied by blindfolded drummers. Shadowy, rather menacing individuals oversee this dancerís progress as the experiment is interrupted by the psychic form of a young girl, imprisoned off-scene, who warns the dancer to halt. Heeding her, our hero, the dancer named Yushiro Gowa, plunges into a situation more dangerous than he understands which lands him at war with his own family.

It seems that Yushiro has certain special abilities that allow his mecha to respond creatively. Other nations get in on the action, and soon this series becomes much more than just another mecha tale. We have political intrigue, spiritual levels, and real character development as Yushiro and those on his side are forced to learn quickly and find answers to seemingly impossible questions. This is a series where everything is much more complex than it seems, and the mystery is just how everyone winds up connected in this web of deceit and ambition.

The audio and video quality are both solid. The animation is lovely and haunting, with light and shadow manipulated masterfully for affect and emotional impact--just be aware that like Armitage III and similar shows, there are a lot of dark scenes and shadowed faces. The Shinto ritual scenes are just mesmerizing, especially given that this animation was done for a TV show, not a theatrical release. Both the Japanese and the English casts are top notch, so it doesnít matter which language you hear.

The extras are also wonderful. I like the innovation of the production memos; these are interesting and insightful, as well as novel and fun. Given that the openings change every couple of episodes, the huge collection of textless openings and endings on the last disc is particularly impressive. The glossary is helpful, given the complexity of this show, and the production sketches are just plain cool, especially as you can select some associated text and link to more information about that image/scene. Even the text interviews are interesting, easy to read (a miracle!), and useful. In short, these extras should quite seriously be the benchmark for every other box set; they are not only interesting and cool, but they actually enhance the viewing experience.

Fans of mecha anime will love this one, but so will people who love a good political tale to sink their teeth into. The characters are fascinating for fans who like anime with a human touch and interest in something other than war, yet the action canít be beat. The show is just a pleasure to look at, too, so basically, thereís something here for everyone. Gasaraki is one of the few shows that can deal with adult themes and terrible situations without resorting to cheap shots or unnecessarily disturbing sequences to make sure you know who the bad guys are. Solid sci-fi, with a twist of action, mysticism, and mystery--this one is a must-see title for any anime fan.

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