Gasaraki had a big dream. Coming out three years after Neon Genesis Evangelion, it wanted to ape (or in some cases, blatantly rip off) that show by combining international politics, characters with issues, giant robots and religious symbolism (albeit Shinto symbolism instead of Judeo-Christian) and combine them with deep, multi-level story telling. What you actually get is a big complicated mess of boring, mixed with some vague, mildly xenophobic philosophy.
The series starts off not telling us what’s going on. This isn’t, on its own a bad thing. Many series have done it before, then slowly revealed details, creating a sense of intrigue and suspense. But for that to work you need, at some point, to give sensible, satisfying answers to the questions you’ve raised. This series doesn’t do that.
Gasaraki gives you nothing to hang onto. The action takes a backseat to the drama, but the drama isn’t very dramatic. There are countless attempts to build it up through dialogue but this tends to be awkwardly worded or too heavy-handed to draw one in. Uninteresting speeches by characters I couldn’t care less about, do no one any favors.
One thing the show has going for it is its use of realism. But even that can be applied badly. For example: The show brings up why mecha haven’t been used before now in war. But it never tries to offer an explanation for what’s changed to make them viable now; instead, it simply says that they are capable of fighting. This creates an incongruity. Either don’t bring up the issue, or resolve it, but don’t drop it once it’s been raised. I will give the series points for forward thinking, given that some of its less fantastic plot points have come true (such as the U.S. invading a Middle Eastern dictatorship looking for weapons of mass destruction that never actually existed).
The English subtitles on the Japanese version are a tad large and can be obtrusive. The dub has no serious problems, save for the fact that the two main characters tend to go over the top, making supposedly serious moments faintly hilarious.
The animation is solid, but not exceptional. There aren’t any moments that will have you gasping at their beauty or quality of the art. But on the other hand, there are no real errors in it either and it’s easy to tell what’s happening on screen.
This isn’t a kid-friendly series. Aside from the overbearing, boring politics (seriously, when the most satisfying moment of the series is the lifting of a trade embargo on grain, you have some problems) there’s also some brief nudity and usage of profanity as well as disturbing imagery. Nothing too bad, but keep it away from preteens.
Ultimately, both the earlier Neon Genesis Evangelion and the later Code Geass used many of the concepts here — such as the nature of war, giant robots and the children who pilot them, the politics that surround them, massive opposing conspiracies and philosophical musings on the nature of humanity — to greater effect. So I’d chalk the weakness of this series up to a failure in execution as opposed to a failure of premise. That said, if you’re looking for a complex mecha series go pick up one of those other two and leave this one on the shelf.
Gasaraki Complete Series Collection
Right Stuf, 2012
directed by Ryousuke Takahashi
625 minutes, Number of Discs: 5, Season set
Company Age Rating: 13