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AKA: ガンドレス, Gundress the Movie
Genre: Sci-fi mecha action drama
Length: Movie, 85 minutes
Distributor: R1 DVD from Media Blasters
Content Rating: 16+ (nudity, language, violence)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Akira, Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell
Notes: Based on a manga by Amasawa Akira, as well as a PlayStation game. An unfinished version of this film was released in Japan to raise money to complete it. The North American release is complete, and edited.
Rating: One Star

Gundress

Synopsis

Gather 'round, kids. Let's all sit down and enjoy the originality:

The Angel Arms, a band of mecha-piloting women, work as a counter-terrorist group in Bayside City circa 2100 AD. Their latest mission is to protect an arms dealer from corrupt government officials sent to kill him...

...What are you still staring at? That's all there is.


Review

Picture the following: Somewhere in the future, somebody (obviously an idiot) decides to make some toys based on Gundress (and after that the apocalypse starts). Little Tommy and his parents walk into the nearest toy store and five minutes later all three of them run out screaming. Now *what* horrible horrifying horrors could there be?

Let's see...

It's fine that an anime title has plenty of stereotypes in it. After all, that's how stereotypes began. The problem is when you *know* that these stereotypes exist and yet do nothing to avoid them when creating an anime - it's like falling from a high place without a parachute.

Gundress contains many elements that have made other anime famous, but fails miserably at putting them all together. The story starts out fine - the Angel Arms are getting ready to assault a ship that is believed to house a wanted arms dealer. Gosh, suspense. Unfortunately the rest of the anime leaves you waiting patiently, hoping that there would be some greatness in it all.

The mecha that the Angel Arms use bears more than a groin-kicking resemblance to bootlegged action figures from China, and just like a good bootlegged toy (if there's ever one) they can squeeze through doorways half their size. I know humans can do that, but *metal* robots? I really need to contact their personal trainer.

The main character, Alissa is something like Bubblegum Crisis' Priss. She's rather rebellious, cold and yet deadly. Of course in this case our dear Alissa is deadly, but nicely sealed with a childproof cap. As the show goes on, it is revealed that she once had a romantic relationship with the main baddie in this anime, and later has to face him in ...some kind of combat (more on that later). The other "teammates" are totally forgettable and seem like they're placed in the plot just to fill in the other parts of the "team". I can't even remember their names and see no reason to (there's just the spectacle-babe, the hacker-babe, the bad attitude babe, etc.)

Eventually, they find themselves protecting this goofy arms dealer from corrupt government agents and yadda yadda yadda. The main bad guy lacks personality, and although the flashbacks reveal some of his past, most viewers will not be able to understand his motivation for converting to the "Dark Side". Sometimes, it's the main "baddie" that makes an anime memorable - take Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam - he adds depth to the antagonistic faction and draws the line between opposing ideals clearly. But in Gundress, when you have "good guys" protecting an arms dealer and the bad guy rivaling Hello Kitty for depravity, the only way to tell who's bad is by counting who kills more civilians.

The art is old for a 1999 production and the animation is desperately clawing for an average rating - comparing it to similar titles of its time will highlight the cheapness of it all with a big yellow magic marker. Plus, the characters are designed in ways that make it look like Disney had an effort in drawing them. The Angels are your typical anime rear-kicking girls, attractive and with perfect bodies. Non-essential characters, however, are fat, ugly and look like distant relatives of Disney's Goofy yet lacking his fluid animation.

"Action" is a very, very subjective word in this case. The final battle serves only to show the super skills of the main character and it all ends with a forgettable showdown in cyberspace. I had to spoil the ending because there's something I need to touch on later, but believe me you won't miss anything by knowing that. If you want style, go for Noir. If you want solo action, go for Cowboy Bebop. Darn, just go for *anything* else.

This title contains nudity, which is totally unnecessary for this title. There's one scene where Alissa is bathing and senses an intruder in the house. She then sweeps the house while naked (with a gun, not a broom!), showing her assets proudly for the masses of appreciative male viewers gathered around the TV. Then, the final showdown in cyberspace has Alissa and the baddie floating around in a Tron-like environment while totally naked. Alissa is, of course, drawn perfectly, breasts and all. Here comes the evil part: the bad guy does *not* have genitalia in cyberspace.

Ready? One, two, three...WINCE!

If that makes any sense to you, then do enlighten me. I didn't know that cyberspace had censorship for male nudity in the future, so if you're a budding Virtual Reality programmer thinking up an idea like that, you're going along the right track.

What else? I hardly remember any music, so it's definitely nothing to shout about. Do you understand now why they had to release it prematurely to *raise funds* to complete it?

To tell you the truth, I may be a bit too hard on this title. After all, the character designs are by Masamune Shirow (Appleseed), and I'm a bit picky sometimes.

*Is hit by a large bat labeled "REALITY CHECK"*

Okay, even Miyazaki couldn't save this one.

It's Christmas morning, and Little Tommy rushes downstairs to the Christmas tree. He tears open the biggest present from Santa, hoping it's that Playstation 2 he always wanted. He looks inside and his face sinks to the floor. Inside the shiny wrapping are his presents: An action figure which is supposedly male but lacks genitalia, a robot which looks like the mutated offspring of two bootlegged toys, and a copy of the Gundress DVD. Little Tommy rushes back to his room crying, swearing to all he holds dear that *next* year he will be a good little boy.Enoch Lau

Recommended Audience: Definitely for mature audiences only. There's full frontal nudity more than once, plenty of violence, some foul language and other themes not for younger viewers. Besides, younger viewers should not be subjected to these forms of "entertainment" (unless you're the babysitter).



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Gundress © 1999 Akira Amasawa • Orca / The Gundress Production Committee
 
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