Get Backers (Volume 3: Into the Limitless Fortress) Review
Another DVD volume of Get Backers, another 5 episodes of story to digest… but this time it's all one story, as the entire disc forms one monolithic multi-part arc (and one whose conclusion clearly won't be presented until volume 4, if even that soon). After quite a few veiled references to the place over the previous 10 episodes, it looks as if the lads are finally going to venture into the Limitless Fortress.
'So,' I hear you ask, 'what is this Limitless Fortress of which you speak?' Well, apparently it's a massive (skyscraper-sized) complex of partially-finished buildings left to rot in the midst of downtown Tokyo after the economic bubble burst a few decades back in Japan. The conceit here is that the money behind the project dried up (but only, mind you, after they had built 90% of the structure) and before anyone knew it the place was occupied… and not by the usual, run-of-the-mill, poverty-mired itinerant population, but instead by a well-organised and incredibly dangerous community who have since withstood any efforts on the part of the police or army to oust them. If you're willing to buy into this idea, then the rest of the plot is clear sailing.
Anyway, when Hevn lands her next 'big client', it turns out the job is too much for our usual pair of layabouts to complete on their own: retrieve a mysterious and vital object code-named 'IL' from the Limitless Fortress. Considering that Ginji, Shido, and Kazuki all spent many years living inside, this assignment holds for them both special interest and added peril. Nor are Ban and Ginji entirely pleased to discover that they'll be teaming up with Himiko and – particularly – Akabane, the infamous 'Doctor Jackal' who tried to kill them last time they met.
Naturally little things like this don't get in the way of an important mission, so off the seven (counting Hevn) go to see what trouble they can get into in this seediest part of Shinjuku. On the way to finding IL, they are set upon by various minions and lieutenants of the legendary 'unknown boy' Makubex. Merely an orphaned child genius back when Ginji was in control the Limitless Fortress, the slightly-older Makubex now rules the place through a potent combination of technology and fear. And it looks as if he, too, hasn't forgiven Ginji for abandoning them all…
11: 'Breach the Limitless Fortress – Operation: Recover IL'
For the latest assignment, it looks as if Hevn's pulling out all the stops: her client has a job so big that she's convinced Ban and Ginji alone can't handle it… so she's invited pretty much the entire cast to the party this time around (including Shido, Kazuki, Himiko, and Akabane).
12: 'The Unknown Boy, Makubex'
Upon entering the Limitless Fortress, a chance encounter splits the party into unlikely pairs: Ginji and Akabane, Ban and Shido, and Kazuki and Himiko. This episode deals with the initial experiences of the first two pairs as they make their way deeper into the Fortress' depths.
13: 'Fuchouin-School Thread Technique'
The title might make you think this episode will be all about Kazuki, but in fact there's more background development lavished on Makubex and his associates. Don't get me wrong; there's quite a bit of action available for our resident masters of poison and threads… and plenty of time to settle a question of who of the six might be a traitor!
14: 'The New Four Kings'
After the somewhat disastrous encounter with Makubex's minions at the end of the previous episode, Kazuki receives help from an unexpected quarter and Himiko gets to demonstrate that, even captured by the enemy, she's still not to be taken lightly. And whilst Ginji and Doctor Jackal battle false images, Ban and Shido encounter one of the 'new' four kings of the Limitless Fortress: Fuduo Takama, a man whose power of Enlightenment lets him see up to three seconds into the future to know just what his opponent is about to do.
15: 'The Loulan Dance Whip That Whirls in the Night'
Even the formidable Fuduo has to back down when one of Shido's old associates, whip-master Emishi, joins the fray on Ban and Shido's behalf. More importantly, however, our heroes independently come to the conclusion that the mysterious 'IL' object they've been sent to retrieve is actually a key component for the production of an atomic bomb.
Again, a beautiful 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is complemented by a solid Dolby 2.0/5.1 soundtrack (in Japanese and English, respectively). The disc menus remain the weakest part of this particular presentation, but only because they are fairly utilitarian… not for any actual design flaws.
This third volume offers a slightly more limited selection of special features than what preceded it: the clean opening animation and clean closing animation, a behind-the-scenes, and only one commentary this time (for episode 12). As on previous volumes of Get Backers, the BTS segment includes interviews with the VAs of some of the new characters which feature in the on-disc episodes – here Judson Jones (Emishi), Joey Hood (Kagami), Christa Kimlicko Jones (Sakura), Brent Werzner (Juubei), and Cassie Fitzgerald (Ren).
For me, this third volume doesn't quite live up to the promise of its immediate predecessor. Although naturally I'm interested to learn more about the personal backstories of all of the key players in Get Backers and a long story arc set in the Limitless Fortress seems a natural way to achieve this for several of the principals, the writers haven't actually used these 5 episodes to good effect in that regard. On balance, I'd guess that 75% of the running time of this DVD is spent on stereotypical shounen-animé conflicts, 20% on exposition and 'setting mood', and a paltry 5% on actual character development. Whilst it's nice to have an infusion of new antagonists, they all seem so lifeless (Makubex included) compared to the 'good guys' that it's hard to drum up any enthusiasm for them. Anyway, here's fingers crossed that – now that they've introduced the 'big bad' of this arc – the next volume can start getting down to business, story-wise.