"Gad Guard" Vol. 2: More Gad, Less Gab, Please
Last time on Gad Guard: Hajiki Sanada and his techode Lightening were caught in the middle as tensions between the techode owners began to grow. Aiko wants everyone to just get along, Takumi wants to “do the things that must be done,” Katana wants revenge, and Hajiki just wants to keep surviving. Now, in volume two, we see fighting, monsters, coffins, and another techode. But the biggest mystery on this disc is why the plot grinds to a halt just as things start getting good.
The first two episodes of this volume are great. Katana steals another gad, arranges to get revenge on Hajiki, but of course, there’s a plot twist. Wanda, the voluptuous “business associate” of Katana, for whom he stole it, swallows the gad! This interesting plot twist gets even more interesting when she turns into an atechode. What is an atechode, you ask? According to Catherine, an atechode is, “a demon synthesized from characteristics of greed.” Wanda isn’t an atechode for long though, and once she changes back, it’s revenge time for Katana. This is by far the coolest part of the series thus far. Hajiki tries unsuccessfully to talk his way out of a fight, but Katana isn’t listening. The animation is awesome in this scene, the best I’ve seen in this series so far: smooth, fluid, effortless. And in the end, we see Katana break. Just as he’s about to get his sweet revenge, he falters. Part of him is beginning to realize that he and Hajiki aren’t so different.
And that’s all just in the first episode. The next features teamwork. In another roundabout way another atechode is created. This time it’s not in the form of voluptuous woman monster, but a train. The atechode threatens to wreck havoc in the city, forcing the techodes to work together to stop it. Katana even delivers the last blow. For a moment there’s a common thread of camaraderie, just before they go their respective ways. The future of the series lies in that moment, one might think: a crime-fighting team of techode operators. Hard to say though, especially since there is so much separating the prospective team members. As Takumi explains to Aiko in this episode, they can’t work together, because they all think and act differently and have different needs.
The next two episodes aren’t as good as the first two on the DVD. My main beef with episode seven is with Ritchie, a classmate of Hajiki and Arashi, who is an aspiring musician. The dub gives this character—who dresses in a basketball jersey and oversized headphones, looking as country as Jay-Z—a thick country twang. When he’s chatting with Arashi he says something to her (“Man, that’s the bomb!”) that I just can’t imagine coming from someone with a Texas accent. He even lets Arashi listen to his demo tape, a hopping, jazzy tune not unlike the rest of the music in the series. The original voice, fortunately, seems to fit the character perfectly, so maybe we should just put this down to a bad dub job.
Episode eight introduces two new characters: vigilantes operating heavy metals, whose goal is to destroy all the “gadrians,” those things born from a gad, be it an atechode or a techode. Their motive lies in their grief over losing their town to such a creature. The introduction of two new characters is surprising, as it seems that there are so many characters already but not enough focus on those that already exist. (And, mostly, it seems like the characters always end up talking about the dilemma of their techodes, what to do with them, whether they should work together, etc. Movement cannot occur without the characters having more substantial interactions.) Episode six really gave me hope, but it seemed that after that episode they all forgot about what happened, their one fleeting moment of teamwork. And the last thing the show needs is to throw a wrench into the plot by introducing two new characters. Hopefully, though, I’ll be eating my words when I see the next few volumes. This all could be an artful ploy by the writers to weave such an insubstantial story that we’ll all be shocked and dismayed when the plot grows into a living, breathing, anime masterpiece. We can all hope.
But for now, at least, Gad Guard is a beautiful anime. The music and animation are its strongest points. I can hope that the plot will get better, but even if it does not, at least it doesn’t make my eyes hurt.