ADV Films // 2004 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // June 24th, 2004
A God for the modern age!
Great anime breaks the mold. It excites our minds, hearts, and imaginations. There is a second tier of decent anime that evokes the magic of great anime, grooving within a genre and cranking out some thrills, laughs, and maybe titillation. This middle tier is enjoyable, but it usually borrows heavily from other shows. We usually overlook this rampant "homage" as part of the genre, focusing instead on the unique aspects of each new anime series.
Then there is a tier all alone in the seventh circle of creativity hell, called Gravion: Divine Steel. I've never seen a more soulless and derivative anime. No cliché is too tired for Gravion.
Clichés are not inherently bad. They evolve. The original concept brings a flotilla of imitations that lead to cliché status. Once the cliché is firmly established, later imitators risk seeming tired or thought-deprived. Gravion has ripped off the thought-deprived imitations, leaving us with a twice-removed heap of nothing. For example, the Gravion animators understand that blondes with large breasts are cool. So they give us Mizuki, who is sadly not based on classy broads like Lupin III's Fujiko. Instead she seems to be a caricature of the overly buxom Naga from Slayers, who is herself a rather improbable example of the buxom babe cliché. Mizuki doesn't have large breasts. She has massive globes of silicone pasted onto her chest that boing and heave in meaningless rhythms. She has no personality aside from these huge breasts. Don't know about you, but I pant and drool just thinking about those splendifical, gigantituous mammaries.
The Gravion animators understand that harems of young women hanging around one guy is a naughty thrill for some otaku. In a corollary to the harem cliché, they furthermore gather that chicks in maid costumes are trendy. Sadly, they don't borrow from a classy implementation like Ai Yori Aioshi, nor do they grasp what is cool about Mahoromatic. Instead, they give us a horde of indistinguishable preteens with colored hair, all of whom wear maid costumes. I'm not kidding, there were at least twenty different maids running around, each of whom got about 15 seconds of screen time to make an impression.
Unfortunately, this abject lack of creativity extends to the core of the series. As each "new" plot twist unfolded, Gravion's credibility shriveled until it was a writhing blob of unpleasant goo. Hold on to your knickers, here is the plot:
Earth is under attack from some-alien-race-whose-name-starts-with-Z. They descend into the atmosphere in a superlarge, oddly shaped vessel that spews forth smaller craft. The Earth Federated Alliance sends their fighters to attack the invaders, but the military craft are swatted down like gnats.
Meanwhile, mysterious zillionaire Klein Sandman sits in his castle and talks with his team of crack fighters. They are orphans who each possess a special gene that allows them to pilot his über-secret fighter craft. This technology is far beyond anything known to the Earth's military, but of course it can only be piloted by unstable youths with special DNA. One of them is a cool and collected fighter who never gives in to pressure. One is the aforementioned "bazookas" Mizuki. One is a nerdy woman who is timid and wears a maid costume. One of them is a hottie preteen named Luna. One of them is missing.
Enter Eiji, a disturbed young man with the right DNA who gets manipulated by the heartless Sandman into piloting the last fighter. Eiji fights the battle even though he has no experience. He almost gets killed, then wants out, but stays on because he must save the world. Please do not confuse him with Neon Genesis Evangelion's Shinji, a disturbed young man with the right DNA who gets manipulated into piloting the EVA by his heartless father, fights the battle even though he has no experience, almost gets killed, wants out, but stays on because he must save the world.
Similarly, please do not confuse the Z-something aliens with the angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Admittedly, the Z-somethings descend to earth at random times, hover awhile, transform into new shapes, attack, adapt to our attacks, and never make any attempt to communicate. I assure you, the similarity ends there.
Anyway, our heroes fly out to intercept the aliens and engage them in glorious battle. But the aliens are simply too much for the team to handle! We're doomed! But wait...Sandman solemnly intones "Super heavy Gravion über-combination maneuver!" The vehicles all join together to form Gravion! Now we have a chance. The huge robotic droid, who looks nothing like Voltron, easily smacks down the aliens with a purple ray from his chest.
Later, the aliens attack again, and the fighters come out, and they get beaten. So they again form Voltron...I mean, Gravion...and shoot out the purple ray. But it doesn't work! Good thing they remembered the blazing laser sword conveniently hidden in Gravion's belt. With this powerful weapon in hand, Gravion easily defeats the what's-their-face aliens.
I'm neglecting entire reams of subplot, such as the mysterious dark shadow pilot who may or may not be Eiji's long-lost sister. I neglected to tell you about the secret tower that it is forbidden to enter, or the subplot of military outrage at civilians with advanced military equipment. Despite all that happens in Gravion, nothing happens in Gravion.
One of the most interesting things about Gravion is that it is developed by GONZO Digimation. This gives the series a level of technical proficiency that keeps you from discounting it outright. The show looks soft but otherwise is a good-looking show. The animation is not particularly fluid, but the colors are bright and stable. Gravion lacks a sonic kick, but both soundtracks are good in a perfunctory way. The English vocal track is a decent substitute for the Japanese track. The extras are as generic as the show itself. The real question: What was GONZO thinking by taking part in this mess?
ADV gives us five episodes on this disc, which is either a good value or an extra helping of agony depending on your point of view. If you forced me to watch more of this series I could tolerate it, just like I could tolerate those infomercials they show in the waiting room at the Wal-Mart optometrist. But I wouldn't rush to call it entertaining.
Review content copyright © 2004 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 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: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening and Closing Credits
* Design Sketches
* Window Decals
* Official Site