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DVD Review

DVD cover

Gunparade March
Volume 1


Starring (voice): Akemi Okamura, Akira Ishida, Akio Suyama, Chiaki Maeda and Emi Shinohara
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 03 August 2009

In the last years of World War II, when the peoples of the earth were intent on exterminating each other, a greater threat arose in the shape of alien invaders, the Genjyu. Although the human race banded together to fight this new threat, their own wars had seriously weakened their abilities to defend themselves and they were quickly overrun. By 1999 only the island nation of Japan was successfully fighting a defensive war, but with resources running low children as young as sixteen are drafted in to man the monumental fighting machines, the Human Walking Tanks...

Gunparade March (2003) is an anime show based on an original Playstation game, the show was created by the J. C. Staff studio (Ikki Tousen (2003), R.O.D -THE TV- (2003), Starship Operators (2005)). Although the studio has produced some good shows, I wasn’t really expecting much from a story adapted from a game. The disc holds the first four episodes of this twelve episode show and tells the story of the 5121st Platoon, which is in reality a school class.

The main problem with the show is that it appears to be two concepts which have been uncomfortably smashed together. On the one hand you have the back-story of the war, which is neither explained very well nor particularly shown. The mobile suits have all been seen before and suffer from a uniformity of colour and design, which makes it difficult for the audience to either identify or care about the fate of the individual pilots. The opening of the show, with a separate team trying to take out an alien brain, only to be attacked by one of their own, gets the series off to a kicking start, but this hardly lasts before the focus of the show shifts. Had the show concentrated on this aspect it may have been able to produce a reasonable Starship Troopers clone.

The greater part of the show is the usual high school story about romances and the problems of puberty. Once again there is nothing here that hasn’t already been explored in an anime. One of the problems here is that you are just not given enough time to get to know the characters before the writers are asking you to care about their emotional well being. Even with four episodes to play with (Playback - The Visitor, Do Whatever You Want - Going My Way, Summertime Blues - Fireworks, Lets Have Tea Together - Duellist) very little actually happens. If you take out the banter the story, so far, reduces down to Mai Shibamura joining the 5121 after saving a couple of their pilots from a disastrous attack on one of the alien brains. At this point we are introduced to the various characters who are little more than stereotypes, so Mai is the standoffish one. There’s also a quirky one, a scared one, a sympathetic one and, for some reason I couldn’t fathom, a small child aged around five who provides much of the comedy. This lack of any tangible plot development makes the whole show seem languid.

The whole thing takes on a surreal quality. We are given the impression that the rest of the world has gone to hell and presumably Japan is drafting in kids as they are running out of adults. So how is it that Japan appears to have all the resources it could need and the cities are still pristine. If you missed the first ten minutes of the show, this lack of impact on the country’s infrastructure would lead you to believe that there was in fact no war. Nobody seems overly concerned or distracted and if it were not for the occasional radio transmission you wouldn’t even know that the war was continuing.

Whilst all of this sounds quite critical, this is the first four episodes and there are many shows which take a while to get going. The animation is above average for this type of show and there are a couple of extras in the form of textless opening and closing sequences as well as a few trailers. The disc has audio options for both an English and Japanese 2.0 track, plus optional subtitles, with the original just slightly better than the dub.

So it’s not an auspicious start to the show, but it has potential. Only time will tell if it can reconcile its disparate elements into an enjoyable whole.


Charles Packer

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