Anime Blu-ray Review: Gatchaman Complete Collection

The Gatchaman Complete Collection was released as a 22-disc DVD box set and as a 14-disc Blu-ray box set. This review focuses on the Blu-ray box set, since that’s the version I watched.

Gatchaman Complete Collection
English Publisher: Section23
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: December 10, 2013

The release includes all 105 episodes of the first Gatchaman anime series from 1972, the three-episode OVA series from the mid-1990’s, and bonus features. The first 11 discs in the set each contain nine episodes of the series, Disc 12 includes six episodes of the series, Disc 13 has the three episodes of the OVA series and previews for other properties released by Sentai Filmworks, and Disc 14 has all of the set’s extras.

Gatchaman is a series that features a young five-member superhero team known as Ninja Science Team Gatchaman. Most of the members are around 16-18 years of age, but the youngest member is around 10 years old. Ken the Eagle leads the team; Joe the Condor is the rash and trigger-happy member; Jun the Swan is the token female who is also an electronics and demolition expert; Jinpei the Swallow is the kid of the group and is a reconnaissance expert; and Ryu the Owl is the heavy-set member who sees the least action and tends to sleep in their ship, the GodPhoenix. They are employed by Dr. Nambu of the International Science Organization. In their civilian lives, Ken is a test pilot, Joe is a racecar driver, Jun runs a club, Jinpei helps out at Jun’s club, and Ryu manages a yacht harbor. They also have allies that are part of a mysterious squadron of pilots led by a man named Red Impulse, who ends up having a connection with one of the members of Gatchaman.

Gatchaman’s nemesis is an organization known as Galactor, which is bent on controlling Earth’s natural resources and world domination. The organization dispatches giant animal-based monster mecha in their attempts to achieve world domination. It’s these mecha that the Gatchaman team battle with in most of the episodes. The operational leader of the organization is the masked and androgynous Berg Katse. Katse turns out to be a coward who has no qualms of abandoning the Galactor minions to their certain death in order to escape. The actual head of Galactor is the mysterious Leader X.

In the later 1970’s, Gatchaman was brought to the West in a re-worked version known as Battle of the Planets. This set only includes the episodes from the original Gatchaman television anime series, and it includes both the original Japanese audio with English subtitles and an English dub.

At the beginning of the series, there’s a strong emphasis on Ken, especially on his desire to find his long-lost father. Also in the earlier episodes, Ken is more likely to defer to Dr. Nambu on decisions when it’s time to attack Galactor. In these early episodes, whenever Joe wants to fire a Bird Missile, Ken tells him that they can’t fire it until Dr. Nambu gives his approval. As the series progresses, though, Ken starts deferring to Dr. Nambu less and less and starts becoming a leader in his own right.

After Ken’s search for his father ends, the series starts shifting directions. At one point, there’s a set of episodes that places more of an emphasis on Jinpei. After this, though, it becomes more of an ensemble piece and more episodes are included that have a focus on the other members of the team. Unfortunately, the later episodes see the Gatchaman team doing things and acting in ways that contradict things that had been established earlier in the series. The later episodes also see the team doing things that don’t make sense without any real explanation. To me, it felt as if the writing was getting a little sloppy near the end of the series.

When it comes to the animation, there’s no denying the fact that it looks dated. It has a very obviously 1970’s aesthetic and looks nothing like the anime that’s being released today. The clothing choices and character designs also evoke the early 1970’s. For the most part, the animation was decent for 1970’s anime, although there was one episode where the characters were looking off-model and the action sequences looked rushed, as if too much time was spent earlier in the episode to establish the story, so Gatchaman’s fight with Galactor had to be rushed in order to fit it into the ending of the episode.

I have to admit that after watching all 105 episodes of the series, I wasn’t as impressed with Gatchaman as I hoped I’d be. However, I have to say that I’m glad to have seen it for the historical aspect of the series, especially since it allowed me to see another anime that originated in the 1970’s. I’d seen the five-member team setup in anime series I watched while I was growing up, and Gatchaman is where this five-member team idea for sentai shows came from. For fans of the more recent Gatchaman Crowds television anime series, I would recommend that they watch the first few episodes of this Gatchaman series in order to see what made Gatchaman Crowds possible.

When it comes to the three-episode OVA, major redesigns were done on the characters. In my opinion, the only character whose redesign actually improved the character was Jun. I didn’t like Ryu’s purple and yellow hairdo, Jinpei looks like he’s trying too hard to look like a cool hacker and ends up looking like a dork instead, Ken’s redesign just didn’t seem to fit his character, and Joe still looked a little too close to his 1970’s counterpart.

When it comes to the story of the OVA, it’s set in 2066 instead of what was obviously supposed to be the modern time in the 1970’s series. The storytelling ended up feeling rather choppy throughout the three OVAs. While I understand they couldn’t include everything from the original 105 episode series for the OVA retelling, you basically needed to have knowledge of the original series in order to have some kind of understanding of what was going on with the OVA. I also have to add that I was a bit disappointed with how vague the ending of the OVA was. It was almost as vague as the ending of the Akira anime film. After watching the OVA, I decided it was something I wouldn’t be in a hurry to watch again.

The final disc is chock-full of bonus features. From what I can tell, it includes all of the bonus features that would have been included on the original DVD releases for Gatchaman. The first feature is “What Is Gatchaman,” and it’s a 36-minute piece with images for the original storyboard for Episode 20, which wasn’t part of the Battle of the Planets continuity. Luci Christian narrates over this, but what she provides is more of a history of Tatsunoko Production, the company that produced Gatchaman, than an explanation of what Gatchaman was.

“What We Were Watching” is a single page of text that talks about other shows that were on in 1972, which is the year that the Gatchaman television anime series debuted on Japanese television.

“Character Profiles” has entries for Ken, Joe, Jun, Jinpei, Ryu, Berg, Dr. Nambu, the narrator, and Leader X. Each profile has information about each character, as well as listing the English and Japanese voice actors for each character. Unfortunately, the write-ups weren’t very well written, and came across more like a script for a bad narration than a serious piece to provide information.

“Character Sketches” are slideshows of model sheets for the following characters: Ken, Joe, Jun, Jinpei, Ryu, Dr. Nambu, Berg, and Additional. “Episode Sketches” is 12 minutes of model sheets that focus primarily on mecha as well as some characters. They are presented in episode order.

“Science Ninja Technique!” runs for almost eight minutes, and has the English dub footage showing various techniques used by the team. There are a total of two techniques featured. Personally, I thought this particular bonus feature was a waste.

“Art Gallery” runs for 18 minutes, and it’s a slideshow with narration. It includes covers for Japanese 8mm films, Japanese VHS covers, Japanese laser discs, Japanese DVD releases, and a Japanese VHD release for the original Gatchaman anime series. There are also DVD and laser disc covers for Japanese releases of Gatchaman II and Gatchaman Fighter.

“Gatchaman Music” is another slideshow with narration. It includes the Italian Battle of the Planets theme, as well as its single’s B-side; the Dutch Battle of the Planets theme and the Dutch Battle of the Planets closing credits; the French version of the Battle of the Planets theme, the Spanish theme for Battle of the Planets and its single’s B-side; and the second Spanish Battle of the Planets theme.

“Publishing Gallery” runs for about 10-and-a-half minutes, and it focuses on various books, comics and magazines published in regards to Gatchaman. “Publishing Gallery II” includes more books and comics, as well as the program for the Gatchaman feature film. “Gatchaman in English” is a publishing gallery slideshow for books, comics, and magazines that were published for Battle of the Planets.

“Gatchaman in Europe” is a five-minute slideshow that features publications from Spain and Italy, while “Gatchaman in France” is a slideshow that features books, comics, magazines, and merchandise ads.

“Gatchaman at Play” is a roughly 10-minute slideshow that features games, puzzles, CD-ROMs, computer games, video games, a pachinko game machine, puzzle cubes, movie viewer, rubber stamps, View Master reels, cards, rub-down transfers, intercom set, and toys for Gatchaman and Battle of the Planets.

“The Origins of Tatsunoko Production” runs for about 11 minutes, and it’s a mini-documentary. It may be labeled as providing a history of the company, but it focuses more on Gatchaman. For the part that does include the history of the company, there’s a lot of repetition of information from the “What Is Gatchaman” bonus feature.

“Interview with Alex Ross” runs for 11 minutes, and it focuses on the artist who drew the images that appear as the box art in the set. This is followed by interviews with the English dub director Charles Campbell and several of the voice actors. They’re all done in a format where the question appears as text on the screen, and the subject answers the question. The voice actors included in these interviews are: Leraldo Anzuldua, Brian Jepson, Kim Prause, Luci Christian, Victor Carsrud, Edwin Neal, Andy McAvin, and George Manley. These interviews run anywhere from seven to 18 minutes in length. Some of the later interviews are the most amusing, because the voice actors are such characters.

“Audition Footage” includes footage of a variety of people who auditioned for the various roles: Ken, Joe, Jun, Jinpei, Ryu, Berg, Dr. Nambu, Narrator, and Leader X. These pieces run anywhere from five to 14 minutes in length.

“English VA Roundtable” lasts for 40 minutes, and includes a number of the voice actors, including some voice actors with more minimal roles. They answer questions sent in by fans. Unfortunately, this feature was done in a way that includes rather annoying transitions which ultimately lengthened this feature out to longer than it needed to be. I also noticed that a couple of the voice actors with minor roles seemed to be getting focused on more than the main cast.

“Gatchaman at the Alamo Drafthouse” is a seven-minute long feature that has footage from the screening event and quick Q&As with the cast members who were present. “The Demon 5 in Concert” is a minute-and-a-half, and is a projection piece that was shown during the event at the Alamo Drafthouse.

There’s a clean opening and clean closing included as bonus features. The “Unused Ending Sequences” feature lasts for three minutes. The first is a version of the ending that has a longer instrumental intro, and the second version includes information for a contest at the end of it. “Gatchaman ModelLock Commercial” is an ad for Gatchaman toys.

On the one hand, I have to give a lot of credit to Sentai Filmworks for all of the bonus material that was included in the set. However, I do wish the bonus features had been arranged a little differently, especially with how many slideshows were put back-to-back on the disc. I had to try to make myself focus on the slideshows and not fall asleep during them.

Overall, I can only truly recommend Gatchaman Complete Collection for die-hard Gatchaman fans who want to own the series in their home video collection and to die-hard Battle of the Planets fans that want to see the series in its original Japanese version. If you don’t fall into one of those two categories but have some curiosity about the set, I would recommend finding a way to borrow it from a friend or from the library if your library system has it.

Additional post about Gatchaman:

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