Gokudo (Volume 6: Finale Extraordinaire) Review
Can this really be... the end of Gokudo? I'm afraid so, and it's with a slightly-heavy heart that I write this review. The series has been magnificent fun and - with the possible exception of disc 5, which was merely OK - far better than I had ever expected it to be. 'Finale Extraordinaire' features instalments 23-26 of the series, including the conclusion of the fifth story arc (the Monk Sanzo plot) and a brief but pleasant trio of episodes which permit the show to bow out while still on high form.
As mentioned in the previous write-up, I've decided to dig up some rough-and-ready info about the VAs who worked on Gokudo. Last time I tried to flag up some of the prominent Japanese cast members; this time around it's the North American voice actors' turn. If you're not fussed who did what, then I won't be offended if you jump down to the 'Episode Guide' section.
First off, the ADR director for the English version of Gokudo is none other than the famous Bill Timoney, voice of Parn in Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. (If the name doesn't ring a bell, it may be because he uses a lot of aliases... for instance, he went by 'Billy Regan' when he did Parn in the original Record of Lodoss War, and the more tongue-in-cheek creds of 'Danny Bush' and 'Randy Woodcock' when starring as Tatsuo and Niki in the notorious hentai [porn animé] quintet, Urotsukidoji.) Similarly well-endowed with professional aliases is Debora Rabbai, voice of Rubette. She's had many prominent dub roles, including Ayane in Ayane's High Kick, Boogiepop in Boogiepop Phantom, both Maki and Yuka in Geobreeders, and Leaf and Marfa in Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. As 'Debbie Rabbai' she played Aika in Agent Aika, Leaf and Marfa again in the original Record of Lodoss War and as 'Angora Deb' she's been Sena in His and Her Circumstances, Shino in Legend of Himiko, Kanuka in Patlabor, Alcyone in Rayearth, and Mirei in Virus. The last of the veteran VAs in Gokudo would probably be Rachael Lillis, voice of Mora... she's been Ami in DNA^2, Takami in Geobreeders, Fricka in Harlock Saga, Aya in His and Her Circumstances, Yuriko in Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Sis and Boo in Now and Then, Here and There, both Jessie and Misty in Pokémon, and Utena in Revolutionary Girl Utena. Whew!
The remainder of the English dub cast is less prominent, but have generally worked on some of the same animé series as the ones listed above, especially Boogiepop Phantom, His and Her Circumstances, Record of Lodoss War and Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, and Pokémon.
Episode Guide (and Possible Spoilers)
23: 'Sanzo Counterattacks! Please Give Me Back My Body!!'
Nanya is still jealous of Gokudo, thinking Djinn ('Jade') is in love with him ('her'). Since mer-tigers such as herself must eventually return to their animal forms, Queen West has informed her that the only way for her to remain with Jade is if she kills a human female and takes her body as her own. However, when she tries to knife Gokudo (still in Rubette's body, you'll recall), this snaps Djinn out of the Teralarian curse and he intervenes.
In other news, the evil monk Sanzo (apparently still not dead!) resurfaces to fight our 'heroes' once more, but is eventually banished for good by a tag-team effort by Miroku and Jyoka. And, as will come as absolutely no surprise to fans of Gokudo, once everything is sorted out Queen West reveals herself to be none other than 'Granny' (that is, the Queen of the Magic World)... and she returns the gang back to their correct bodies. (Too bad, then, that Gokudo's is still infant-sized.)
24: 'Get Back the Spring of Life! I Shall Return'
Which brings us handily to the sixth and final plot arc of the series. Team Gokudo make a beeline for the country of Yanu to find the Spring the Life, which allegedly should be able to age Gokudo back to his previous self. Of course, by the time they get there, they discover that thanks to an religious putsch by the followers of the Fire God (Ryu Gee), the Moon Goddess (Negana Luna) has been disembodied and her Spring of Life has been converted into the Spring of Fire.
Luckily for Gokudo, all that's needed is for someone to host the avatar of Negana Luna so she can reclaim the Spring, so naturally Gokudo volunteers Rubette! After some interesting comedic shenanigans, our 'hero' prevails and does get his normal body back at last... by way of a very amusing scene involving (the now-naked) Gokudo and his Magic Sword. All is not happiness and light, though; the local gods haven't settled their ongoing feud and Ryu Gee comes to vanquish Negana Luna, gobbling up Gokudo in the process.
25: 'Am I Dreaming? Surprise at Sunrise!'
Ah, the inevitable 'dreamscape battle' episode. The premise here is that both Rubette and Gokudo are fighting for their own souls and control of their own bodies. Attempting to possess them are Negana Luna and Ryu Gee, respectively. In an amusing show of 'turnabout is fair play', Rubette and Gokudo instead possess the gods within them and can now tap into their magical powers. Just when all seems OK in the world, the gang are transported back to Eschallatto by Granny... or is it?
26: 'See Ya, Everybody! Nobody Can Stop Me Now!'
And to tie things up well and good, in this final episode we engage in a bit of full-circle-ism with our heroes getting to revisit early 'throwaway' characters Seigi and Asuga, not to mention Indra (you remember, the guardian god of the Buddha people from episode 11) coming back to take his revenge upon the gang for their destruction of Inaho a few discs back. Despite Granny's intervention (taking on yet another of her 'I feel pretty' forms), Gokudo, Rubette, and Niari (who finally regains his full repertoire of magical tricks) manage to make short work of their adversary, and look set to embark upon new adventures of their own.
Picture, Sound, Menus & Extras
Again, not much to report on the picture and sound fronts; the video and audio quality of the episodes on this disc are perfectly OK, though as before not precisely cutting edge material. (While some may feel that a show produced this recently - 1999 - should exhibit a superb DVD transfer, the harsh reality is that oft-times the original production budget limits the quality of the source material. Gokudo is a case in point.) The video on this DVD does seem to lack the deep saturation levels seen in the colours of the earlier episodes, but this isn't a big thing and may in fact make the animation look slightly sharper, depending upon your personal preferences. Like the previous volume, this one has its main menu mislabelled 'Goddess Extraordinaire'.
In the special features department, we see a departure from the (now-standard) pair of credit-less OP/ED and production sketches gallery... and certainly something that fans of the English dub will find very desirable indeed. Namely, Media Blasters has been good enough to provide brief interviews with the North American voice actors who played Gokudo (Daniel Kevin Harrison) and Rubette (Debora Rabbai), with the occasional background quip from ADR director Bill Timoney and ADR engineer, mixer, and production supervisor Joe Digiorgi. It's always fun to hear from the VAs' own lips just how they got cast in a particular role, how they found the right voice for it, and what the actual job of producing the English dub version was like... and these segments are no exception. It's clear that both of them have a great deal of genuine enthusiasm for Gokudo, even though their speaking times are fairly short (about five minutes for Daniel and seven-and-a-half for Debora). Despite being audio-only interviews, the segments are presented with some animated clips of their characters in action to keep your eyes busy while they're talking.
Gokudo truly is an unexpected gem of an animé series, and one that I'm certain most people (including myself) might never even discover save for a lucky chance. In my opinion it's a lot funnier - and certainly more clever - than its better-known counterpart Slayers. While it's true that the first four DVDs comprise the strongest part of the series - the fifth being relatively weak and the sixth merely a fitting coda - I would strongly advise anyone interested in Gokudo to play the role of completist and grab the lot. Fortunately, this is made a lot easier by the fact that Media Blasters is set to release the boxset version of Gokudo later this month... which will bring the price point down tremendously and make it a very hard collection to pass up. (Honestly, don't miss this show.)