ADV Films // 2003 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 15th, 2005
Whose side are you on?
Gilgamesh: Cage Without a Key (Volume 2) soldiers on with the story of a brother and sister caught between two warring factions in a post-apocalyptic world where the sky is a mirror. It starts off with sister Kiyoko in the hands of the shape-shifting clan called Gilgamesh. The Countess sends her tribe of psychic warrior teens, called Orga, to rescue her. Tatsuya and Kiyoko are reunited, but Kiyoko is not quite enamored with living at a grand hotel with Orga. She worries about what the Countess ultimately wants with her brother, and begins to see a strange relationship cropping up between her and Tatsuya. Her brother is rapidly developing psychic powers of his own, and he begins to bond with the Orga team. Will his new-found acceptance and strange skills divide the two siblings after a lifetime? What does each side want?
Gilgamesh: Cage Without a Key (Volume 2) is not as action-packed as the first installment of the series. It plays out more soap-operaish, and pares down action sequences in favor of long stretches of character development. Yep kids, we're in a second volume of anime. Action be damned, it's time to get introspective and examine who the characters really are before they enter the final epic battles. The problem is Gilgamesh likes to stay as vague as possible about the motives and true identities of its characters, so this offering of the series is a little frustrating at times. I still have no idea who the Gilgamesh clan are, and the Countess seems to be all whispered threat and little else. Despite its vague nature, I was glued to the screen for a hundred minutes. The show drives you nuts in all the right ways.
Gilgamesh remains a visually interesting series. The style is simple and straightforward, and owes a lot to American graphic novel artists such as Frank Miller. The characters look Western, with big eyes and full lips. Gilgamesh: Cage Without a Key (Volume 2) keeps up the limited color palette started in Gilgamesh Volume 1. It's dark, sexy, and minimalist. The series is a far cry from the colorful robot battles typical to anime, and it has a unique Gothic flavor that recalls Sci Fi noir classics like Blade Runner or The Matrix. Gilgamesh has a unique look because it seems to move like a comic. Characters will often be still in the frame as the camera pans around them. There is a spooky stillness that results from this technique, even though to some it will look like a cost-cutting measure. The animation has been debated hotly on the Internet -- is it a step forward or back? No matter, because it tells the story in a unique visual style that fits.
ADV Films is the perfect ADR studio for this material. They provide a strong transfer, which showcases deep black levels and clear color control with material that easily could become murky. ADV does wonders with the visuals. The sound mix is a hard-hitting 5.1 surround on the English dub, with a young American cast who are having a ball playing intense, mysterious characters. The Japanese track is simple stereo, which seems lackluster in comparison to the English dub. Extras include a clean opening and closing, and a pair of art galleries which show the character and production sketches. There is a featurette which lets us see the voice actors who bring life to the members of Orga. It's a fun look at a process where the cast was required to wear all black, and found themselves recording lines in a creepy candlelit studio. It's a shock to see the actress playing the larger-than-life, threatening Countess is actually diminutive Alice Fulks, a blonde literature student with a smoky voice. The voice talent is full of artists who are new to anime voices, and it's nice to hear how they approached the project.
Gilgamesh: Cage Without a Key (Volume 2) is a nice four episode package which serves to deepen the mystery around the series. It is a little slower than the previous chapters, but the Gothic mood and enigmatic quality remain intact. Fans of arch spooky stories will be lapping this one up; I found it to be a satisfying exercise in profound minimalism. The art is simple, and the plot is serpentine and never reveals much. If you like things dark and mysterious then Gilgamesh is a series worth investing your time in. Nice to see Gilgamesh: Cage Without a Key (Volume 2) has more extras and the same technical merits. This is the kind of project that showcases the strengths of ADV, and it is a defining series for the studio.
Review content copyright © 2005 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening and Closing
* Character Art Gallery
* Production Art Gallery
* Behind the Scenes Featurette
* DVD Verdict Review: Volume One