Gravion - Volume 1: Divine Steel Review
The year is 2041. For ten years Earth has been enjoying peace under a united government. Earth’s peace is about to be disturbed when several of the EFA’s (Earth Federated Alliance) planetary stations come under attack from an invading alien race known as Zeravire. As the Zeravire make their way toward Earth, one man steps up to offer his services. Billionaire recluse, Klein Sandman has been all too aware of this opposing threat and as defensive measure he has formed the Earthgertz - a team led by the Gran Knights. When the Gran Kaiser and the four Gran Diva’s unite they become the great Gravion, God of the Modern Age. Only those with the “G-Factor” enzyme can pilot and withstand these vehicles, and that’s where the final key comes into play.
Looking for his sister Ayaka, Eiji Shigure is tricked into attending a banquet held by Sandman. He believes that Ayaka is trapped somewhere in Sandman’s castle and it doesn’t take much for him to decide to stay and help defend the world. Of course he’s a hot headed fellow and must prove to his fellow team mates that he’s no coward. At the castle he meets a group of fellow orphans: Toga, Luna, Ena and Mizuki. Together they must train and learn to get along if they are to be Earth’s saviours.
Sometimes GONZO keep themselves a little too busy. Gravion isn’t exactly one of their best looking shows and neither is it one of their most engaging, story wise. Going by their output over the years it’s not entirely surprising to see them tackle the giant robot/transformer show, which anime seems to have turned into its own little sub genre. Firstly it’s a mech show, which ordinarily can be great. For those who grew up with Voltron, Starfleet or even in later years Power Rangers you might find plenty to like. This delivers the exact same premise. It’s an awfully overused concept, which isn’t to say the idea is dead but we could certainly see something new being injected into the mould. The ideas are there but sadly they’ve been poorly implemented; there’s an almost desperate air that surrounds Gravion, as if it’s really trying to give the fans what they want, while losing sight of the more important things.
When I say it isn’t their best looking, it doesn’t mean that it’s entirely bad; rather it is all so stiff and has an overall cheaper feel. When we’re talking about GONZO you expect high production values. On occasion they fail miserably, but when they get it right, they get it right! If you were to look at Hellsing, Full Metal Panic and Last Exile and then compare any one of them to this then you’ll see quite a difference in quality. Gravion not only borrows ideas from several influential series that were carried out twenty years ago or more, it also borrows similar techniques. The series is victim to some awful use of repetitive animation and corner cutting. If we see background figures they’re merely black dots; when we see Gravion come together it’s the same strung out sequence over and over again, complete with silly poses. It’s a colourful show for sure but it’s not likely to wow the viewer. It also doesn’t help when our central characters are very clichéd affairs, with bland designs. There’s nothing original in the main cast of 5-7. There’s the ridiculous torpedo busted (actually they seem to change a bit), Mizuki who is there to offer some kind of fan service in her super tight outfit, and yes the jiggles get tired fast; she‘s also very flirtatious. We have Ena the maid girl, with bright white specs; we never get to see her face properly, but obviously she‘s a bit geeky. Luna is the typical cute girl is some red fetishist attire, while Toga seems normal enough, in a school kid kind of way. Our main hero Eiji is a typical spiky-haired kid with an attitude. So there you have all the ingredients to ensure a diverse cast of bickering kids and obvious male rivalry, along with some tiny maids and rubbish fan service. And when they do bicker it’s all so jilted. It’s unfortunate that Gravion lacks the same kind of fluidity that has graced some of GONZO’s greater outings.
Still, the most attractive design does come in the form of Gravion itself. Kunio Ohkawara of Gundam fame has done a good job in putting together the mechanics for this blue, red and yellow beast. It’s no surprise then that Gravion gets some of the better moments in terms of animation, but as mentioned previously it’s one big recycle job after another. The battles themselves are fairly standard, everything simply builds up to one big finish move, where the animators can either pull out a sword or classically launch a fist.
It is these fight sequences which brings me to two other classic rules that have been adopted in anime for years. Any transforming robot show must have a rock based anthem and characters screaming special moves at the top of their lungs. Check on both. When the Earthgertz come together to form Gravion we’re treated to its grand song. If I were to think of any recent show then New Getter Robo would also fall into this category. With this it’s more like an advert for a single - it goes on and on, if only there was a chapter stop at the start and end. But it’s the next point that makes Gravion unintentionally funny. Unlike other shows where characters can shout out things like “MIGHTY WIND THUNDER PUNCH”! without any care, this one gives out excuses to do so. When Eiji sits in his plane not knowing what to do, Mizuki tells him to use his special attack. He must press the button next to him, but it won’t work unless he shouts out the attack command at the same time. It’s just so absurd and by that point you can kiss any hopes for originality goodbye.
If we look at the story then, it’s as standard as you could possibly get. There’s an overall sense of mystery that is played upon during the course of these five episodes. The most important thing about mystery is that it’s supposed to be mysterious. So then why are we seeing several predictable plot elements being so desperately shrouded by a thin veil? From the first episode (which by the way was so dull I’d almost lost hope for the entire series) we see the G-Shadow - a stealth fighter that aids the Gran Knights should Gravion fall over or something. Everyone wonders who this mysterious pilot could be. Is it Ayaka? No of course it isn’t. Soon we meet a young quiet girl named Leele. That’s right it’s her, yet we’re only allowed to see fleeting shots of her until around episode 3 or 4. So for three episodes we get a bunch of questions raised by several characters with no answers, yet we already know the answers and the series is just dragging everything out for us, so that by the time we are finally introduced to Leele we feel a little cheated. As for Raven, the character who wears a mask over his eyes all the time - who cares?
Other unexplainable moments present themselves throughout. I can only presume that these will be answered in later volumes. We need to know just exactly who Sandman is, after the amount of times that Eiji keeps badgering him about it and even more importantly the Zeravire. Not once does this alien race get explained; it just pops up out of nowhere, bad to the bone, lickity split. Gravion has a very long way to come if it’s to win over any affection.
#01 - The Fortress of the Deity
As lots of people attend Klein Sandman’s party they receive word of an alien invasion. The Zeravire have taken out stations on Mars and other planets and now Earth is in their sights. Sandman announces himself and reveals his plan to keep the alien invaders at bay, by using his creation, Gravion. Meanwhile Eiji Shigure is making his way through Sandman’s castle, looking for his big sis, Ayaka. He soon runs into a mysterious craft and is drawn into the world of the Earthgertz.
#02 - Mission of Gravity
Gravion goes into battle against a Zeravire ship on Earth, while evacuations take place. Eiji is finding it difficult to understand his purpose, while the girls are nervous during the fight. When everything is over Eiji learns a little about Sandman’s operation but more importantly he wants to find out where his sister is. Will he stay and help to fight alongside the appointed ones?
#03 - Labyrinth
Comedy ensues when Eiji is interrupted in his room by some very small maids. Meanwhile Raven explains to the EFA that they’re not needed to fight against the Zeravire while Gravion is at hand. As Eiji sets out to find his sister, Toga assists him but they soon find themselves in a forbidden part of the castle - convenient when the Zeravire have just launched another attack.
#04 - The Princess in the Tower
All the girls seem to be interested in Eiji and talk about him while they shower. Afterwards they all head off to their rooms but spy a ghostly like figure across the hallway. The next day Eiji undergoes some training in a giant pinball machine before heading off to the south tower with Toga, where he learns a little about Toga’s past. They end up coming to a room where a girl named Leele stays, but when Sandman visits Eiji and Toga must hide. Who is Leele? And does Sandman fancy her or something? She seems a bit too young for him, but of course I’m speculating and going a little off topic.
#05 - The Girl Who Won’t Laugh
Now that Leele has been introduced to everyone, an obligatory picnic takes place. While everyone is out enjoying themselves at a quaint little spot, Leele has visions of a flamey robot. Soon the guys and gals are called into action when another Zeravire lands. Will they be able to defeat it and go on another picnic? Yea ‘course they will, you didn’t they’d all die did you? Haha good lord no.
ADV presents Gravion in a standard amaray case with a cover depicting Luna and Gravion. Included is a booklet with illustrations and explanations behind the Gran Kaiser and Gran Diva machines. On the reverse of this fold-out booklet is a “Super Heavyweight God Gravion Side Story - G’s Tragedy”.
The menu presentation is a little weak this time around from ADV - can’t win ‘em all.
Gravion is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and it’s very nice indeed, there’s not even loads of banding for me to harp on about. There’s a spot of aliasing which isn’t much to worry about and Edge Enhancement doesn’t appear to crop up in abundance. The image is vibrant, with good colour reproduction; one thing that folks will notice is a tendency the image has to go from being slightly soft to sharp. This is likely down to the animation techniques, between using traditional and computer painting and not the authoring itself. It’s something that crops on several series so not much to worry over. This is another solid effort from ADV.
For sound we have Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1. The Japanese track is lively, with good separation. Dialogue and action heavy scenes are forward nicely, with the music taking precedence as it covers the surrounds. I won’t bore the reader over which is the better dub of choice, you can figure that out yourselves. The English track is a bit more lively but far from perfect. It keeps things well separated and has a heightened sound but it doesn’t utilise the surrounds to greater effect. Still it’s a good enough track to please those who hate subtitles.
Speaking of which these are very good. They come in the standard sized and coloured font, posing no difficulties.
This actually features two opening sequences. The first is the animated piece that opens episode 1, which isn’t very exciting. The second is the standard opening that takes us into each episode from 2 onward. This is another thing that disappointed me - it’s not even an original opening sequence; it’s made up of various clips from the episodes on this disc, edited together. When you don’t see a unique opening for an anime series you just know there’s no money in it. That or the animators were just being lazy sods.
This is probably one of the most boring end sequences ever! We see a shot of Earth shrivelling up as the background changes colour.
Design Sketches (3:02)
As some slow music plays out, before the Gravion main theme we see various colour sketches of the series’ characters. This then moves on to the vehicles and Gravion itself.
Japanese Trailer (1:38)
The Japanese entice us with this exciting trailer, consisting of the Gran Divas forming Gravion. We see a bunch of high profile names that tells us how much this series is going to rock - oh well.
Here you’ll witness promos for Mezzo DSA, Last Exile, Neon Genesis Evangelion - Platinum, Puni Puni Poemy and Chrono Crusade.
Well it started out badly, not a good sign at all. Gravion looked very promising but the reality is that it’s a used up concept in need of new life. Sadly GONZO fail to elevate the series to a higher ground, though perhaps I’m being unfair with two volumes left to go. Still, for an introductory piece this is very disappointing.