Bandai // 2003 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // March 13th, 2004
New friends, new enemies!
In my review of Volume One, I remarked that there were no morality plots or product placement in Superior Defender Gundam Force. I had missed what was right in front of me. The back of the DVD insert has an ad for Superior Defender Gundam toys. This observation, though only moderately annoying, is part of a slew of annoyances that have given me a less rosy outlook on Superior Defender Gundam Force.
Before I begin my "cynical reviewer" routine, let the record show that my 15-month-old is captivated by Superior Defender Gundam Force. When the theme comes on, he runs to the couch and climbs up next to me. He sits, riveted, for at least 15 minutes. This constitutes a nearly Herculean effort of concentration for a little tot. I am forced to conclude that children's shows are sometimes meant for children, no matter how inane they seem to adults.
And believe me, this adult finds Superior Defender Gundam Force inane. There were three issues I had with this second volume: plot, acting, and animation. Everything else was fine.
Plots don't necessarily have to be intricate to work, but it is nice if some element of mystery exists. The plots here are single-threaded, linear, and repetitive. Shute shows Captain Gundam his new inventions. The bad guys get chastised by their leader. The evil bots attack and Captain Gundam flies off to defend Neotopia. Shute follows behind and catches up just in time to save Captain Gundam with whatever invention he showed off at the beginning. The portal opens and the bad guys go home. The bad guys get in trouble while the good guys hang around Headquarters.
The voice acting is all done in English, so we don't have the sub/dub debate to contend with here. However, it is a bit distracting when the ominous evil leader sounds about 20 and talks like a surfer dude. In fact, all of the voices are young. I have nothing against youth, but these voices don't fit. It doesn't help that the dialogue is so poor: "Darn these forces of good!" makes me cringe.
The biggest issue is the animation. I noticed moirè effects from abundant thin lines in Volume One. Volume Two has much more of the same. No scene is free of distracting strobe effects. The animation seems sparse, resembling 10-year-old video games such as Betrayal at Krondor. Shute always seems to be moving in slow motion. For some reason, I think of the Dire Straits video for "Money for Nothing" when I watch Shute bob around listlessly.
Speaking of Shute, how many seven-year-olds have the capacity to create military-grade magnetic rollerblades and voice pattern recognizers? To say that Shute is an unrealistic character taxes understatement. I'm moving from patient toleration of Shute to active dislike. He is personality-challenged.
The music is effective, with brassy themes of shining goodness and bass-heavy themes of scowling evil. The catchy main theme reminds me of the opening fanfare from Star Trek: Voyager.
Most adults who tell me they like this series get a kick out of the pint-sized Gundams. I can see how they would be amusing. I have no basis for comparison because I didn't appreciate the mecha genre growing up. To me, the Gundams seem like politically correct imitations of Transformers.
If you enjoyed the first volume of Superior Defender Gundam Force, Volume Two is more of the same. I had trouble recommending the first DVD, and I'm less enthusiastic about this one. However, it is evident that I am the wrong target audience for this show. Caveat emptor!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated