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"Gilgamesh" Vol. 1: Anime or Insomnia Cure?

You know, post-Eva and post-Lain, it seems like everyone and their grandma in the anime industry has this idea that dramatic anime needs to move at a snail’s pace. Now, in the hands of the right directors, storyboarders and writers, that ambient, pastoral pacing can make some really classic series. However, in all too many hands, it results in total story inertia. ADV’s new title, Giglamesh, is one such series.

Those looking for an adaptation of the Mesopotamian myth will be pretty disappointed, because Gilgamesh uses its ancient source material, like Evangelion, more for window dressing than for content. Those looking for something that really hits the ground running will be disappointed as well. (And you’d think a show about teenagers with superpowers vaguely based on a Mesopotamian legend would be action-packed and compelling.) Gilgamesh is slow for the sake of being slow, and it’s kind of boring because of it.

The show opens in a secret lab tasked with unraveling the mystery of Gilgamesh’s Tomb. Who is Giglamesh, you ask? He’s a tragic hero from Mesopotamian mythology, and for the purposes of this anime, his tomb has some kind of power. As the research continues, terrible dangers start to manifest themselves. But before it can be shut down, the head scientist on the project, Dr. Madoka, sets everything into motion and kaboom, the earth’s sky has been turned into a giant mirror, “The Sheltering Sky,” and the resulting electromagnetic effects toast the world’s computer systems, throwing the planet into chaos and so on. The day goes down in history as “Twin X,” standing for October 10th.

Flash forward 14 years where a teenaged sister and brother, Kiyoko and Tatsuya, are on the run from the mob. Turns out their mom borrowed some money and used her kids as collateral. If they don’t escape, Kiyoko’s going to end up as a prostitute and Tatsuya’s going to be an unwilling organ donor. Not a happy situation. They take refuge in a mansion that happens to house three very odd teenagers who make short work of the mobsters in some supernatural fashion. In return they ask the brother and sister to help them fight off the “devil children.” However, nothing is quite what it seems and eventually the head of the “devil children,” the Countess of Werdenberg, ends up buying the kids’ contracts from the badly injured mobsters.

The two siblings end up trapped in a world where they don’t know which side is right. The Countess keeps them clothed, fed and housed in a fancy hotel, but the three kids they first met know the siblings’ father (who happens to be Dr. Madoka). And Tatsuya begins to display similar powers to those of the “devil children,” but he lacks control over them. Plenty of potential in that plot. It’s just delivered in the driest fashion imaginable.

Lots of establishing shots, lots of quiet interludes, lots of dialogue and very little action or movement. I get that it’s supposed to be avant-garde, noir direction, but it seems unnecessary when so many of the basic plot points end up spoken out loud anyway.

The visuals are not only useless to the story, but to the design as well. The darkness and eerie post-apocalyptic vibe already comes across fine in the music and design, so why tack on a bunch of establishing shots and holds and pans on top of it? Given that Giglamesh might have shared more with S-cry-ed and X-Men (angsty teens with super powers being persecuted), real movement would have been a better idea. Let’s not even get into plot holes like having running cars in an area under a constant electromagnetic pulse, unless they took a newer car design and put a very old combustion engine in it, in which case it should definitely sound different. At least the monitoring equipment in the Countess’ lab was analog and probably shielded.

Visually, I’ll give Gilgamesh some respect for having some very unique character design and pretty good use of color. The backgrounds are fairly nice, capturing the decay one would expect fairly well. The compositing is pretty good except for some of the rain shots, but generally, it’s very watchable. The digital effects are mediocre, but again, it’s watchable. It’s not “pretty” or “beautiful,” but the visual boldness and innovation of the series deserves consideration.

Audio wise, it’s nicely produced. Good voice acting out of both casts with, if anything, unusually listenable and likable work out of ADV. The music, outside of the completely unbefitting opening theme, works quite well for the series.

DVD-wise, ADV performs decently with creditless opening and ending sequences, character art and production art slide shows and even a temporary tattoo. The video and audio encoding are both nicely done too.

Basically, Gilgamesh is a nice looking, nice sounding show. It’s got a great concept, even if it provokes a bit of deja vu. But the execution is anything but compelling. If you’re big into the original mythology, maybe check it out, but even then, I’d rent first.

See Toon Zone’s preview of the series: “Gilgamesh”: Goth That’s Awesome, Only It’s Not

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