Gad Guard Volume 1: Lightning
Hajiki Sanada is the latest in a long line of boy mecha pilots
Cynthia Ward · May 12, 2004 | Return of the Retro Robots! I thought as I watched. That would make a fine title. Or at least a more revealing title than Gad Guard.

Yes, the raison-d'être for this new-to-America mini-series is old-fashioned giant robots. Apparently, Gad Guard is the latest arrival in a nostalgia-anime tradition begun in 1992 by Giant Robo. I've not seen previous examples of this subgenre, but Gad Guard's touchstones are 1960s mecha like Astro Boy/Tetsuwan Atomu and Gigantor/Tetsujin 28-go.

Not that Gad Guard confines its nostalgia to the Age of Astro Boy. The main character, Hajiki Sanada, costumes himself like a World War I era biplane pilot, or some pulp SF hero from the 1920s or '30s. Automobiles aren't limited to fintail models. And Night City's bright balloony graffiti is right off the subway cars and music videos of the '80s. Such a jumble of time periods could be a mess, but the Gonzo studio unifies them artistically.

So, is there a story? Yes, and a pretty good one, actually, although the quick cuts may leave some viewers slightly confused, and the cast is a bit large for introducing in half-hour chunks (though the latter problem sorts itself out by episode 4). It's also clear that virtually everyone in Gad Guard: Volume 1: Lightning is going to end up bonded to a "Techode" giant robot, the way everyone ends up a mutant in the X-Men comics or a dragonrider in the Pern novels. Still, if you want a good, fun giant-robot anime that eschews the brain-breaking stupidity of some big-'bot franchises and the adolescent angst of others, Gad Guard will delight.

Gad Guard Volume 1: Lightning
Geneon Entertainment, 2004
Originally released in 2003
Directed by Hiroshi Nishikiori
100 minutes

Shop for Gad Guard DVDs and more:
The case claims the DVD has Easter eggs, but I couldn't find them. May your egg hunt meet with greater success.

What's Good: Great art; good characterization; jazzy soundtrack; cool retro robots.

What's Bad: A little too much happening to a few too many characters at a slightly too-quick pace.

DVD Features: 2.0 Dolby Digital English and Japanese Audio; two English subtitle streams (dialogue translation and signs-only translation); non-credit opening animation; full color art gallery; Easter eggs.
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