Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky wonders if the next poor sucker who joins the Science Ninja Team will have to wear a penguin costume.
Our reviews of Gatchaman: Volumes 1-4 (published November 17th, 2005), Gatchaman, Collection 4 (Volumes 7 And 8) (published January 19th, 2006), Gatchaman, Collection 5 (Volumes 9 And 10) (published March 2nd, 2006), Gatchaman, Collection 7 (Volumes 13 And 14) (published June 29th, 2006), and Gatchaman, Collection 9 (Volumes 17 And 18) (published November 21st, 2006) are also available.
"Sir, we believe the mecha animal plot may be our best bet."—A woefully deluded Berg Katse to Leader X
When we last left our heroes, the Science Ninja Team, they were battling Galactor for the fate of the Earth. Of course, those bell-bottomed teens are always fighting Galactor. They never seem to go to school, and apparently they have some flunky to do their laundry and pick up groceries (could it be 7-Zark-7?), so they can devote all their energies to fending off giant cockroach-shaped mecha or some other ridiculous scheme of Berg Katse. I mean, can't this guy come up with something new? Does it always have to be "Oh, I need some shiny jewels to match my lip gloss, so I'll tunnel under the city with a giant robot shaped like a koala bear. That'll defeat Gatchaman for sure—especially if I hire that crazy guy in the pointy rooster outfit to pilot it. I'll trust anybody who dresses like poultry. What could go wrong?" And then, of course, those Science Ninjas find the secret base and beat down the faceless goons. Except for the Ryu; he always stays in the ship. Does he get paid the same as the rest? And who taught those faceless goons to fight? Never should have hired them from that Emperor Palpatine guy from the galaxy next door. You just can't work with clones.
Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman rolls on with 12 more episodes in this third boxed set. (You can also purchase Volumes 5 and 6 individually.) Volume 5, sporting an elegant Alex Ross painting of Swan Jun on the package, covers episodes 25-30. Things start off weird. In a national park in the nation of "Ameris," a female sculptor is adding the face of Jesus to Mount Rushmore. Meanwhile, the International Science Organization, which employs Dr. Nambu and Gatchaman to fend off Galactor, continues with the Mantle Project, a global effort at stopping pollution and producing limitless clean energy. So—you guessed it—Galactor turns Jesus into a magma monster that goes on a rampage to destroy the Mantle Project base.
Ok, just shake it off. I'm fine now. Anyway, Ryu quits the team in the next episode, only to rejoin when the other Science Ninjas discover how important it is to have an ineffectual fat guy sit in the plane while they go out and beat up Galactor goons. The rest of the disc continues apace: Joe enters a car race (shades of Speed Racer) in order to hook up with a potential Galactor defector; Berg Katse builds a monster powered by children's brains; the Science Ninjas try to save an orphanage from an exploding volcano and an evil Mexican wrestler; the God Phoenix tangles with a giant praying mantis mecha. I don't really need to add any jokes here, do I?
Volume 6 varies the Gatchaman formula a little bit as the series enters the middle third of its run. Galactor takes aim at Dr. Nambu in episode 30, which also develops a bit of Joe's backstory. In a two-parter, Jun and Jinpei get captured, while the rest of the team (including Ryu, who actually gets to fight!) battles a giant mecha squid. I am waiting for Galactor to run out of animal species and start modeling mecha after bread mold. You know it's coming.
Just as Ryu was becoming useful, he gets zapped by a Galactor device that makes him think he is a cat in "The Evil Aurora Operation." Then, the Science Ninjas get involved in a civil war in a vaguely Middle Eastern country. Finally, the team saves some little kids who like to dress up like Gatchaman from mecha crawfish, mecha seaweed, and robot squids. It is so absurd that you will probably want to heckle with your friends.
The appeal of this boxed set for fans is the third disc, a collection of supplements mostly focused on the yo-yo slinging Jun. A text profile begins our tour of the mini-skirted swan of the team, taking note of the rarely seen coffee shop disco (!) that Jun owns. Another text-based section profiles the Japanese voice actors. Hey, the guy who played Condor Joe also Superman in the Japanese dubs of the Christopher Reeve movies! A short gallery of sketches shows off Jun's sense of fashion; another sketch gallery includes production art for villains, secret lairs, and gadgets galore. American voice actor Kim Prause answers the standard questions (repeating some points from her commentary track on Volume 2) in a video interview. A collection of audition performances allows us to compare Prause to a number of other voice actresses.
The manga is well represented as well, with a gallery (with helpful voice-over narration by Luci Christian) of Gatchaman books and a complete comic story. Oddly, the issue reprinted here, with translated dialogue and sound effects to the left of the comic panels, corresponds to episode 16 of the series (which appears on Volume 3). As a graphic story, it seems concerned with cramming as much plot and wording into its tiny panels as humanly possible, which makes it seem too derivative of the television version to stand on its own. Nonetheless, I am impressed with ADV for including it here as a historical artifact.
The English vocal performances have not really improved. For instance, the kids in "Little Gatchamans" (Episode 36) are given hick accents like a community theater production of Huckleberry Finn (the father sounds, um, something like Cajun, but not really). At this point, you will probably want to stick to the Japanese tracks. Nonetheless, the American voice actor commentaries are amusing. Volume 5 features Andy McAvin (Dr. Nambu) on the importance of plot exposition, the wonders of hokey animation, and "playing doctor." Narrator George Manley relaxes for a commentary track on Volume 6 that outlines the show's historic relevance. When asked why fans should flock to Gatchaman, Manley calls this the "prototype of the team show."
Being first does not always mean being best though. There are moments when Gatchaman is just silly, especially for today's anime fans. But there is something naively enthusiastic about gung-ho Silver Age superheroics filtered through a 70s visual aesthetic. Science Ninja Team Gatchaman is dorky fun. You'll never admit to collecting these volumes if you ever want to get a date, but you'll probably keep buying them anyway.
Just don't let anybody see that homemade Eagle Ken costume you've got stashed away.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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