Hunter Warriors in a cybernetic world.
A much awaited release on DVD for anime fans, Gunnm, or Battle Angel for its American release title, is a sci-fi movie combining elements of Battletech and Blade Runner. An interesting, dark world, characters that manage to show they aren't two dimensional, and gore, action, and suspense make for a pleasing hour of viewing. Based on a popular manga (Japanese comics), the only two OVA (straight to video) episodes are offered in a quality DVD from ADV.
I suppose I should start at the beginning. A cybernetics expert goes through junk parts in a heap that has been dumped from Zalem, a city in the sky that hovers over the decrepit Scrap Iron City below. Named Ido, the cyber-doctor finds the remains of a functional cyborg and takes it home. With the only part of her that is human being her brain, Ido puts her back together in the form of a cute teenage girl, and gives her the name of Gally. He has to give her a name because she remembers none of her past. With a new, powerful cybernetic body Gally is soon up and around, and is a happy girl, despite her loss of memory. She meets a young jack-of-all-trades named Yugo and obviously has a crush. Yugo dreams of going to Zalem, partly as a pilgrimage, and the spirit of seeing just what is up there. It is an obsession for the young lad, and he believes if he can earn enough money he can buy passage there. But travel seems to be one-way where Zalem is concerned; people are exiled below but none go up once down. To keep this stricture in place, the building of any flying device is forbidden. Only a tube that sends products fashioned in Scrap Iron City Factory up to the city connects the two.
Scrap Iron City is a very dark place. In a world where any body part except a spine can be replaced (and the brain which is what makes someone human instead of a robot) thieves will literally attack humans to take their spines. The word "police" is a now archaic term that has to be explained to Gally. Instead of a police force, hunter warriors are hired and given bounties on the heads of known criminals and brain eating mutants (no I'm not making this up). When such a mutant and criminal are in the act of killing a lone woman, Gally realizes her true calling and kicks some serious butt. She doesn't remember how but this type of instant action and fighting comes naturally to her.
There are two episodes on this disc, called "Rusty Angel" and "Tears Sign." The first is where Ido finds and rebuilds Gally, leading up to a final confrontation with a gladiatorial cybernetic fighter of mammoth proportions. The second takes up where the first left off and explores Yugo's desire to see Zalem and Gally's love for Yugo, amidst an insidious plot to force Gally to the will of an evil gangster.
This was actually an early disc released by ADV, and was near the top of the list on petitions of what anime the fans wanted to see on DVD. The source materials come from 1993, and there was some worry about the age of them, but there are no worries here. Picture quality is terrific, with rich, vivid colors and sharp detail, though a few spots are a bit soft. Animation is fairly typical anime, but the action scenes do have a nice fluidity. The stereo soundtrack is surprisingly dynamic, with great directionality across the front soundstage, though too little use of rear surrounds. Dialogue is clearly intelligible and there is a very low noise floor.
As usual with these ADV discs, extras are a bit sparse except in the trailer department. There are again 12 trailers, along with a slide show of stills and some production drawings. The trailers include Tekken Sensation Mix, Slayers, Legend of Crystania, Sonic the Hedgehog, Queen Emeraldas, Sakura Wars, Battle Angel, Bubblegum Crisis, Burn Up W, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ninja Resurrection, and Ruin Explorers.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While this worked for an intriguing world and was an interesting backdrop for these characters, I wouldn't call the interaction and character development deep. I would assume that such development happened later in the manga series, of which these two episodes only represent the first few chapters. It is a shame that no more episodes were made for anime, as I'm probably not going to hunt down the manga but would have liked to see how things progressed for the main characters. An hour of running time is unfortunately short and I'd have definitely liked to have seen more on this DVD.
I should mention, as I have in my other anime reviews, that this type of animation is often made for adults in Japan rather than children, and that is definitely the case here. There is token nudity, graphic violence and gore in this series, and I'm actually glad of that. I would rather watch animated features made for adults than cartoons.
Anime fans either already own this or should buy it. I'd call it a pretty good example of the genre for those interested in seeing it for the first time. I don't know if you can find it as a rental but that might be a good idea if you can, rather than pay full price for a disc with only two half hour episodes of a continuing series. Personally I'll be glad to add it to my small but growing anime on DVD collection.
ADV and the producers of Battle Angel face no liability with this court, except for not having made more of them. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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