"Zoids" 7 & 8: United, We Awaken
Well, the Chaotic Century is over with, though Viz would like you to believe otherwise. No, now we get to go inside the inner workings of the Guardian Force, which is kind of like Team America, except competent and not made up of puppets.
We got a peek into the Guardian Force on the last disc, but this time we get all the GF we could want. Van continues working on various missions for the Guardian Force with Fiona and Zeke, all the while investigating the red-haired Hiltz and his mysterious red Organoid, Ambient. However, he’s not the only one Van has to worry about, as a freaky blue-haired lady named Rhys (pronounced “Reesce”) also has an Organoid of her own. Luckily, Van gets some help in the form of a fellow Guardian Force member, as well as an upgrade to a Zoid of one of his close friends. But Hiltz and Rhys aren’t on their own, as Raven has returned. The Guardian Force is going to have to pool their forces and combine all their strength if they’re even going to have a chance this time.
With most of the character introductions out of the way, Guardian Force gets to concentrate solely on the plot this time around, and it hits the ground running. Whereas the main Chaotic Century plot didn’t start until about half-way, the underlying plot for Guardian Force has already started, with Hiltz carefully orchestrating his every move to confuse our heroes and leave them blind. This allows for more development along the general storyline instead of rushing everything in the second half. You really feel that something evil is brewing and worry whether all the heroes will make it out in the end, something that the first half of Chaotic Century failed to do, mostly because Van was still a pilot-in-training. As usual, we get our fair share of new Zoids, including the stealthy Hel Cat, the weapons-heavy D-Bison, the uber-powerful Geno Breaker, and the speedy Lightning Saix. The latter two are really cool Zoids that are fun to watch (though we don’t see them until the end of Volume 8), but the former two just don’t cool look enough to me. We don’t get many new characters this time around (a whopping two), but pretty much everyone from the previous series returns in one way or another.
In United, Van and Fiona make a new enemy in Rhys while gaining a new friend in Thomas Schubaltz. Not much information is given about Rhys other than she’s insane, though she doesn’t appear all that often anyway. However, she does take in interest in Fiona for reasons unknown. Thomas, on the other hand, has no mystery around him; nor does he need it. Instantly falling in love with Fiona, Thomas does anything for the girl while giving Van as little respect as possible. Thomas’s personal A.I., Beek, is a very interesting concept, but after the first few episodes it’s featured in, it just becomes a background character. I would have liked to see Beek used more in the plot, maybe as a man-made Organoid or something or used to hack other Zoids. Oh well, the story gets along fine without that plot point, but it would have been nice. The final episode on this disc sets up the next volume with an explanation as to what happened to Raven during the break between the series. He’s been wandering aimlessly for a while now, destroying any and all military bases he comes across, but seeing Van again has made him much more dangerous. Considering Raven has only one actual line (said line is only one word too), his creepiness still comes through, as you have no idea what to expect from the guy.
In Awakening everything hits the fan. Van and company relax for a little bit, but that comes to an end when Raven shows up in a brand new Genosaurer. Thanks to its increased strength, Raven is easily able to defeat the D-Bison, the Command Wolf, and the Blade Liger. To make things worse, Shadow decides it’s time for the Genosaurer to evolve, much as when Van’s Shield Liger became a Blade Liger. Fans of the original series will relish this disc, as Irvine comes back permanently (as opposed to making a one-time appearance, as he did on the last disc), Moonbay is back in the fold, and pretty much all the background characters (Rudolph, the President of the Republic, Herman, O’Connell, Karl Schubaltz, Rosso, and Viola) return to combat the new threat. This disc is the strongest yet, with great comedy in the beginning and heartfelt drama at the end. Irvine’s attention to his Command Wolf is extremely emotional, as was the subsequent first appearance of the full power of the Lightning Saix. After all the ground Hiltz and company have gained over the past two volumes, it’s good to see the good guys gain an advantage for once, even though it’ll likely be short-lived.
The animation hasn’t really changed much since previous discs, but some of the animation threw me off. In one scene, when the Command Wolf and Blade Liger are dragging the Gustav along, the Blade Liger’s neck seems ill-proportioned, so that the head is positioned about 20 feet below where it should be. In addition, there are a lot of scenes where the 2D characters have extra-thick lines bordering them, making them stand out more than usual and not allowing the drawings to blend into the backgrounds. I will say that Guardian Force has improved a lot in the way it conducts battles, with the Zoids moving and weaving around each other and with the camera panning each and every way. Transfer is good for the most part, but there’s some slight pixelization in some scenes.
Dubbing is pretty much the same as usual, as well. The VAs for Thomas and Rhys are pretty good choices, and Thomas is one of the strongest members of the entire cast. However, Rudolph’s VA continues to severely underact in all dramatic situations, making me wish they’d recast his voice or something. For some reason, Fiona seems to underact at times as well, especially during Episode 46. The music hasn’t changed much, so it’s still good, but I still wish there was a Japanese version on here. At least it would beef up the disc a little bit.
Volume 7 includes bios on Karl Schubaltz and his Iron Kong, while Volume 8 includes bios on Dr. D and the Blade Liger. At least the bios are now ending on their own instead of constantly looping as on previous volumes. Still, Viz could at least afford to put some minor extras on here. Text interviews, trailers, promos, TV spots, whatever! Come on, Viz!
If you’ve enjoyed Zoids up ’till now, these discs won’t leave you disappointed. If you’re new to the series, this is a decent starting point, even if some of the plots won’t seem fully fleshed out unless you’ve seen previous disks.
Episodes on Vol. 7 (United)
#37: The Blue Devil
#38: The Steel Bison
#39: The Invisible Enemy
#40: The Zoid Hunters
#41: The Devil’s Maze
Episodes on Vol. 8 (Awakening)
#43: The Emperor’s Holiday
#44: Assault of the Mega-Monster
#45: The Wings of Darkness
#46: The Devil of the Sea
#47: A Monster Awakens
#48: The Black Lightning