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Advance Review: "Gravion Zwei" Forces Way Too Much Down Our Throats

This is a review of an advance screener of Gravion Zwei that contained the first two episodes. The full Vol. 1 release will contain four episodes and extras.

I’ve always been interested in Gravion, though never enough to actually pick it up. It’s got stuff that I like: giant robots, smooth animation, and fanservice. Lots and lots of fanservice (I apologize in advance for moving in on your territory, Knux Five). So when a screener came along for Gravion Zwei, the sequel series to the original Gravion, the question on my lips was, “Is this going to be my newest giant robot obsession?”

ImageShort answer: On the basis of what I’ve seen here, I don’t think I’ll be picking up the rest of the series anytime soon.

In the world of Gravion, giant monsters known as Zeravires are attacking the Earth. Mankind’s last hope is a rich gentleman named Sandman, who owns a mansion where almost all the women are both maids and government officials. Using a special crystal, Sandman can activate the Gran Kaiser, a giant robot that combines with four other support vehicles to become Gravion, an ultimate fighting machine that lays the smack down on the monster du jour with flashy special moves and performing complicated poses that would make a Gundam proud. Gravion has six pilots: Toga, the resident pretty boy, at the control of the Gran Kaiser; Eiji, the main hero, piloting one of the arms; and four fanservice maids, Luna, Ena, Leele, and Mizuki, piloting the rest of the support craft.

The screener only included two episodes, “The Super Heavyweight God Descends Again” and “The Beautiful Reunion,” which is half of what the final Volume 1 will include when it hits store shelves. The first episode deals with what happens when a Zeravire, who were thought to be wiped out, shows up while Sandman is out of town. We see some story development with the President, who wants to mass-produce Gravion units to protect other areas of the world, and with Lieutenant Alex Smith, who seems disturbingly fascinated with the President. There’s also a subplot in which Eiji, Toga, and the other Gravion pilots are forced to be maids for a whole day after Eiji loses in a game of mahjong. Strangely enough, I thought Toga was female until he started talking. For some reason, both Eiji and Toga are dressed up in maid outfits and ponytails (with Eiji wearing a blonde wig to cover his short, brown hair) while performing the cleaning duties. The episode also reveals some history between Luna and Eiji and an interesting bit about her and Toga. Then the giant monster attacks and Sandman does his usual cheesy poses to summon Gravion. Oh come on, you knew this would happen in the end.

Episode 2 is more lighthearted. Eiji’s hometown friends sneak onto the mansion premises in order to visit our hero; when Sandman discovers the intruders, he decides that everyone should go on a picnic. In his dashing “I rock and I know it” way, he rides out on his decorated black stallion while everyone else goes out in the Gravion support vehicles. Hilarity ensues as Eiji’s friends become obsessed with the Gravion itself and the maids who pilot it. There’s a flashback to a moment when Eiji peeked in on the girls getting dressed or naked, and then a drunken Mizuki makes life hard on everybody by getting the other girls drunk and flirting with the guys. This leads to two of the girls accidentally starting up one of the support vehicles, which proceeds to go wildly out of control. And Sandman proves just how cool he can be and saves the day. Yay. We get some more plot hints as Yumi (the most sensible of Eiji’s friends and a potential love interest) talks with Eiji about his sister, Ayaka, who’s gone missing.

Gravion doesn’t even try to hide its references, especially when it comes to Gundam. You’ve got the “half-face-hidden-in-shadow-with-eyes-glowing” shot; the standard giant-robot-pose shot; and even the smooth, all-business guy with a mask (though in this case he’s got this really annoying three-foot-strand of hair that hangs in front of his face). The fanservice goes into overload almost immediately (something tacitly promised by the cover art [Tacitly?! -Ed]). All the maids wear really detailed and frilly outfits, except when they pilot Gravion. The series tries to use this for comedic effect, but it ends up too forced and fails miserably. The series doesn’t flow smoothly into the comedy, instead injecting a random event as an opportunity for innuendo. Basically, it’s fanservice for the sake of fanservice.

This would be forgivable if the plot were better, but the plot most definitely isn’t. There are several hints at deeper storylines, including a history between Toga and Luna and a connection between Eiji, Ayaka, and Yumi. But there’s not much backstory—something that will be sorely missed by those who, like me, are new to the series. Instead, we’re tossed into the middle of things without even a narration to set things up. The characters themselves are about as flat as can be, and the only characters I truly enjoyed were Yumi (I like her down-to-earth personality) and Sandman (he’s so cool).

At least the animation is good. While the character designs aren’t quite up my alley, the actual animation is very fluid and colorful. The stock footage of Gravion coming together and performing its final attack is almost movie-quality and features crisp details and wonderful effects. All the colors are bright and cheerful when they need to be, but that’s a given in this digital age. The transfer is very well done, which is pretty standard for ADV, especially since this is digital animation.

Music is a different story. It’s not bad, but it didn’t really grab me the way other mecha series like The Big O or Gundam SEED have. It serves its purpose and nothing more. The screener didn’t include an English dub, so I can’t judge that. The Japanese dub, however, is pretty decent, and most of the voices fit their characters. The audio is crystal clear in Dolby 2.0.

My screener only included a set of decals, but according to the back cover, the DVD will include character profiles, an art gallery, Japanese commercials, trailers, and clean opening/closing. In other words, the standard anime DVD extras.

It’s really hard for me to recommend this show. If you liked the original Gravion, you might want to give this a rental, but newcomers beware. My roommate, who watched this with me, was ultimately more fascinated by the cover art than the show itself.

Gravion Zwei Vol. 1 will be available March 8, 2005.

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