ADV Films // 1972 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // March 2nd, 2006
"The cheese factor has to remain high." -- John Tyson (voice of Red Impulse)
Oh, Red Impulse, we hardly knew ye. We were so busy watching the Science Ninja Team beating up Galactor -- I mean, this enemy is so stupid that their undercover agents drive cars emblazoned with their logo -- that we just didn't have time to notice your debonair heroics. The dramatic poses. The jaunty way the earflaps on your pilot's cap flap in the breeze. You left us too soon.
By the midpoint of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Dr. Nambu's crew have settled into a steady routine, so numbing that it is easy to miss the little variations like Red Impulse. It has become a familiar refrain. Ken bosses the team around. Joe sulks and tries to pick fights. Jun looks longingly at the utterly disinterested Ken. Jinpei sneaks into the enemy base. Ryu waits in the ship. Berg Katse carts out another mechanical monster and loses miserably, yet Leader X, whose evil company apparently has a hiring freeze on upper management (they can afford plenty of incompetent middle managers though), keeps Katse around for another cunning plan.
And every few episodes, Red Impulse helps out, then vanishes mysteriously.
So you can forgive the envious Ken for missing the obvious anime plot twist: the mysterious ally always turns out to be a lost member of your own family. The secret is revealed in a multi-episode arc in Volume 9 of ADV's Gatchaman DVD release, wherein Galactor actually almost succeeds in its latest apocalyptic plan, this time to melt the polar ice caps and create massive environmental disaster. The solution appears borrowed from Irwin Allen's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, but the adventure is easily the best thing to happen on Gatchaman in quite some time. The arc provides a burst of energy for the series. Ken gets some emotional trauma and finally has a little face time with Berg Katse -- "face time," as in "punching in the." And the threat is actually serious and hard for the Science Ninjas to beat this time. It is clear that the producers felt the need to punch up the show's drama here at the midpoint in the hopes of sustaining our interest for another 50 or so episodes.
Things return pretty much to normal in Volume 10. The Science Ninjas fight a biker gang that combines into a dragon mecha. Katse hires an elderly assassin to take out our heroes. Galactor attacks with a giant mecha-Buddha (since that Magma Jesus worked out so well, you know). The only novelty here is an episode where we finally visit the mecha factory where Berg Katse builds all those crazy monsters. This finally answers a long-standing question for viewers. In that spirit, I suggest we consider a few other as-yet unanswered questions as we move into the second half of the series.
* Why is it that, whenever the team goes "undercover," their
civilian clothes always bear the numbers 1 through 5? Aren't these guys supposed
to be ninjas and try to blend in better?
* Should underage Jinpei be allowed to tend bar at Jun's coffee-shop disco? Furthermore, why does Jun own a club? Does being a Science Ninja not pay well?
* Does Galactor have open casting calls for minions, like hiring entertainers for a theme park? Imagine: "Exciting new invader looking for dynamic minions who look good in green, follow orders well, and do not bruise easily." Do they get medical and dental?
* Is Joe's tendency to fire bird missiles prematurely something he needs to talk over with a doctor?
It may be a while before we learn the answers to these questions. In the meantime, Gatchaman fans will have to content themselves with Gatchaman: Collection 5. Volumes 9 and 10 are, as usual, available separately or in the boxed set with bonus disc. Volume 9 features a commentary track from John "Red Impulse" Tyson; Volume 10 brings back Leraldo "Eagle Ken" Anazulda and Andy "Dr. Nambu" McAvin, who pretty much hang out and have fun.
The bonus disc this time around is devoted that most sedentary of the Science Ninjas. Yes, clad in unflattering brown and affectionately nicknamed "Tubby" by his pal Joe -- it's Ryu the Owl. The segments on this disc are the shortest so far, commensurate with Ryu's second-stringer status among his teammates. We get an interview with Victor Carsrud, who defends Ryu as "the down-to-earth center of the group." This apparently involves, at least to Carsrud, giving Ryu a New Jersey accent. We also get audition footage, sketch galleries, a gallery of European Battle of the Planets merchandise, and the manga issue for the mecha factor story in Volume 10.
It struck me when watching the audition footage, dated February, 2005, how quickly ADV has been turning over volumes in this series. Most anime series trickle out of American studios, and fans must wait months between volumes. But the DVDs of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman have been hitting shelves in rapid succession. In only half a year (the first volume was released last June), we are already more than halfway through this series. (My weak math skills suggest that there are four more collections to go.) And ADV still makes time for extra material. Bravo, ADV. Bird go!
Review content copyright © 2006 Mike Pinsky; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary Tracks
* Owl Ryu Profile
* Interview with Victor Carsrud
* Audition Footage
* Manga Issue
* Publishing Gallery
* Sketch Galleries
* Clean Closing Animation
* Karaoke-Style Soundtrack
* IMDb: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
* Gatchaman Fan Site
* Gatchaman Fan Site
* DVD Verdict: Gatchaman: Volumes 1-4
* DVD Verdict: Gatchaman: Collection 3
* DVD Verdict: Gatchaman: Collection 4