The series turns around a little and things begin to look positive as we near the end. Kev takes a look at Geneon Entertainment’s fifth volume in studio GONZO’s adventure series
Life is tough in Unit Blue. It doesn’t seem that anything Hajiki does is ever right these days, even some of his friends are becoming ever so distant but with his good pal Lightning he can be sure to have someone by his side at all times. Takumi has become distraught, Jack’s back and Arashi has family trouble herself. What does this mean for everyone as lives become separated?
Gad Guard recovers from its lapse, restoring faith as volume five sees our heroes making some important decisions. The series takes us away from much of the dominating action from past and presents us with one of the best episodes in terms of excellent characterisation and drama. It’s here that Hajiki and Arashi get a little alone time but before that Hajiki must contend with having witnessed the strange behavioural patterns of Lightning and Thunderbolt. When we last left Takumi and his Techode it was kicking seven shades out of Aiko’s Messer but no one really knew why. As we finally learn, praise be after two uneventful volumes, the Techodes’ are a lot more complicated than we thought. It turns out they have the ability to turn bad and cause havoc if the heart of their master becomes tainted by anger or uncertainty. From the beginning we saw Katana take his Techode and use it for bad, whereas the young heroes used theirs for good but in the end even this isn’t enough as Takumi’s suddenly goes mental and packs in, reverting back to its Gad state. Takumi has so far been one of the more troubled youngsters in the series and in hindsight it was inevitable that something had to happen to him but who knew that his most beloved possession would leave him? Likewise, Hajiki’s Techode also starts to act up when it lashes out, before devouring Hajiki’s home in order to repair itself.
Hajiki’s done well enough at keeping his secret at bay from his mother and sister but due to the epic showdown that takes place outside of their home all of that is about to change as his family life is turned upside down. This brings about the start of a series of events that will force Hajiki into hiding. Though his mother and sister begin to understand why he’s been acting so quiet recently it doesn’t mean that things will soon settle. When leader of the special ops unit, Bart contacts Hajiki for help in providing information on Katana with the assistance of Lightning, Hajiki becomes quickly aware that those around him are all too eager to use him because of his Techode. When the final straw is broken as a result of Hajiki’s mother visiting the office of Hachisuka and saying a few choice words in addition to reflecting upon how she‘s raised her son, Hajiki decides to leave the city to save any further trouble.
Hajiki thus sets off on a road trip with Lightning, but not alone. Disappointed in seeing him go, Arashi decides to tag along with Hayate but in actuality she too faces similar troubles. Her family life is far from happy and it’s during this volume that we get a far better insight into her character than previous ones would allow. Her relationship with her father is looked upon more deeply and her feelings for Hajiki are further explored. As the friends find themselves with only each other to rely on in their strange new world it becomes apparent that any hint of a romantic pairing could quite easily become realised. Without discussing their feelings too deeply we begin to see that they depend on each other greatly and as they become entangled in ongoing disputes so do they come together as mutual admirers. The series still keeps at bay slightly however, and much of what we’re beginning to see should take further shape along future volumes.
Not only do we see Hajiki, his family and Arashi take on new responsibilities but we’re also starting to witness a kind of change in Katana, who is now facing up to his past. With very little divulged there’s something about Sayuri and an old photograph that he owns, leading us to understand that he perhaps thinks of Sayuri as a younger sister, possibly a reminder of one that he used to have? The focus on Katana is relatively shifted though for this volume and what we do learn about his character is far too few in between what is happening outside of his predicament. This is Hajiki’s first real alone time, a piece that reflects upon his feelings where other volumes had to deal with several other faces, causing a bit of confliction between ideas. Although the series is showing repetitive signs, for example the showdowns between Katana and Hajiki, with Hajiki constantly reminding us that he’ll never turn as bad as his nemesis and the fact that there’s still not much of a clue as to how it’s going to wrap up, this volume finishes on a surprising note as Hajiki makes a startling discovery which is bound to force his hand and in the end makes this a compelling entry into the series so far.
Episode 17: Gun-Sword-Beast
Takumi is horrified when he sees Thunderbolt attacking its fellow Techodes. Despite his cries to make it stop Thunderbolt ignores his orders and when Katana arrives on the scene he informs Takumi that it’s a result of his own doing. When Jack returns to town, Katana attacks him and Hajiki outside of Hajiki’s home, taking his sister hostage and making Hajiki’s purpose known to all. Hajiki is soon forced into a battle in order to save his sister.
Episode 18: The Logic of Those who Leave
When Hajiki’s home is levelled he begins to feel deep remorse and distances himself from his mother and sister. Katana has caused much destruction in Night Town but Hajiki cannot bring himself to defend it anymore and he decides that it might be best if he packed up and left with his Techode.
Episode 19: A Road Companion
With Hajiki now gone, Arashi and company worry as to his whereabouts but nobody can seem to trace him. Arashi is having family difficulties and after a troubled meeting with her father she decides to leave town and search for Hajiki with her Techode, Hayate. Soon she finds him alone on a countryside road, where she decides to join him as they head out toward unknown pastures.
Episode 20: The End of This World
During their trip Arashi comes down with a fever and Hajiki takes it upon himself to nurse her back to health. They are staying in a small community where several locals are growing suspicious toward the youngsters. When they learn that Hajiki and Arashi are harbouring two Techodes they set out to cause trouble.
Volume 5 comes in a standard amaray case, once again with a reversible sleeve. This time Sayuri and Zero grace the front, while on the reverse we have Katana and Zero. A mini poster accompanies the packaging which has episode titles on the back and the main cover reprint on the front.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio the series looks very pleasing. Digital banding is quite noticeable, particularly when GONZO use their by now trademarked hazy look. Aside from this the series holds up very well once more, showcasing fine detail and superb colours throughout.
For sound we have an option of Japanese 2.0 and English 2.0. Both tracks do the job nicely and pretty much sound the same, bar the dub that appears on the English track. Dialogue is always clear and sound effects are suitably handled, though these episodes are very much character driven so don’t expect too much of a work out this time around, though one or two scenes offer up some neat surprises on the action front.
Optional English subtitles are available which are of excellent quality.
The box states a full colour art gallery but once again this is a fairly measly collection, comprised of 13 pieces which are design work for this particular package, along with some episode screen shots. To add insult to injury the photos take up very little space and really aren’t worthwhile additions.
Trailers for some of Geneon’s newest releases: Tokyo Underground, Star Ocean EX and Samurai Champloo.
I’m only highlighting this to show how stupid it is to place this in the extras section; it’s a bit cheeky really. This is one page of credits showing the names of the DVD authors and producers. This is the last time I highlight these, they could surely be moved to the main disk menu in future.
I wasn’t quite sure if Gad Guard was going to able to recover from its disappointing stint of late but thankfully it has improved somewhat. While the series only has two volumes left, with still a fair amount of explanation to go, this volume at least provides us with some brilliant character drama and a cliff-hanger that should see events turn around considerably.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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