27 May 2002 | vkn
It all goes to pieces in this installment, in more ways than one.
This 2-part video series is the last installment in the vast Gall Force saga, which began back in 1986 with the 'Eternal Story' theatrical movie. This told the tale of how the human race was created more or less by accident during an all-consuming space war between two alien races. While the two warring races still made some attempts to avert the certain doom that their constant conflict was leading up to, it was already too late for them. Their last move before they died out completely at each other's hands was to entrust the future to their creation, the human race, and hope that they at least would succeed in building up a peaceful future. Mankind, however, repeated a large part of the mistakes their ancestors made and drove itself to the brink of ruin in a Terminator-esque war with the advanced machines called MME, who had been created by the humans to begin with. The 'Gall Force: Earth Chapter' videos show how the human-MME conflict eventually ends in a victory for mankind, and peace is established, at least for the time being.
Fast-forward to some 200 years later, and we see mankind living in crowded dome cities, while the Earth's surface is too ravaged to allow for survival outside of the cities' confines. Life in the cities itself is only superficially pleasant, it would seem. The first episode takes enough time to show that all is not quite perfect in these apparently civilised and peaceful cities (it's stated that giving birth is about to become forbidden to combat overpopulation). The real problem, however, is a shadow that secretly looms over mankind and prepares to strike a devastating blow. The only one to know of this menace is Catty, the android left over from previous conflicts who has been with mankind all this time. Just as all hell starts to break loose for real, she gathers five select women and allows them to escape into space and away from the city as it goes up in flames. A sixth woman joins these five fugitives, who are by now the last surviving humans, as everyone else has perished in a major catastrophe. Our heroines then have to survive several more attempts from mankind's enemy until they're out of harm's reach.
This new story arc actually starts out quite promising. The character designs in the first episode look a lot more polished than in previous Gall Force efforts, and enough time is spent on setting the stage to make things look interesting. When the sudden and brutal destruction of the city is triggered off, it's a very dramatic sight to behold (the music score is quite memorable as well). Just for good measure, every single other human being is killed off in a disastrous chain reaction as well before you can say 'apocalypse yesterday'. It works, but that's partly because a detailed account of an apocalypse can hardly -not- be somewhat gripping. And unfortunately, the second episode undoes a lot of the first's merits by being completely and utterly godawful.
For starters, the second half of the series looks as if it was beaten with an ugly stick. Terribly crude character designs, choppy movement and a color palette so poor and limited you might as well be looking at a Space Invaders arcade screen all make episode 2 a real visual travesty.
The plot doesn't exactly improve matters either. It's partly a lot of very boring talk between the characters where they slowly spin out theories as to what exactly has happened in the first episode. Alas, the viewer already knows that mankind is completely wiped out, and who's responsible for it. And any viewer with half a brain will already have a good idea of the how's and why's behind these events as well, so watching the girls having a long, dull talk that contains very little relevant new information is a right bore. Alas, when it's not chewing-the-fat scenes, we're treated to very poor carbon copies of the events in the very first Gall Force movie, only greatly watered down and much more poorly done than they were there. There's that same Alien pastiche (which was above-average in 'Eternal Story' and is downright rubbish here), the same loudmouth fighter pilot that gets stranded with the others, and several other re-threads of familiar ground. It's much too predictable for it's own good. A possible excuse is the Gall Force plot element that things happen in a constant cycle of events (for example, each story arc's cast share the same physical characteristics and personality trait, so that you always have the black girl with lavender hair, the whiny green-haired kid and the brawling blonde with a Mae West hairdo - it's just a shame they're rarely developed beyond just that), but layering it on -this- thick simply reeks of poor plotting and blatant re-hashing.
It all culminates in a somewhat frustrating open ending. The one thing that does make any impact with these videos is the empty sense of waste at the end. The whole previous Gall Force series showed a struggle to preserve mankind, and with it a possible last hope of some peaceful future. All of these efforts, however, have only been rewarded by the complete annihilation of the human race, save for our six heroines, who're supposedly sent off to a better place. And that's it. Complete destruction with one last shard of remaining hope is a powerful way to end any tale (especially when you consider how desperate the struggles have been throughout all the previous Gall Force films), but it's just a little too unresolved to really work here.
It's really a shame about the very poor second episode dragging this installment down so much. For those who've seen the previous Gall Force films, this is worth watching once to catch the full story. In fact, those familiar with Gall Force can tell that a lot of the shortcomings in the plot actually make sense as typically Gall Force elements. There's aforementioned theory of a constant cycle of events that serves as some kind of 'excuse' for the near-exact similiarities with the events of 'Eternal Story'. And endings that involve complete destruction, but with the hope that the cycle will start again somewhere are also a fact of life in Gall Force. But these excuses unfortunately just aren't good enough in the end. It may be because the viewer's already grown familiar with these typically Gall Force elements over the course of the previous films that they don't work anymore here. Rubbing it in and dragging it out this blatantly one more time is just needless, especially if it's done as poorly and with as much tedium as in that abysmal second episode. It's hard to believe, but they've managed to even make the good elements of Gall Force outstay their welcome with 'New Era'.
For the affictionado only, then. And even those are advised to handle 'New Era' with care. Apart from getting to see the last chapter in the Gall Force story, there's little to enjoy here, even for the die-hard fan (you may be better off watching only the first episode and leaving the rest up to your own imagination after that). It's a shame that with such epic scope and grand, dramatic themes, the Gall Force series as a whole is always dragged down by flaws that stick out so painfully. 'New Era' takes this trend a step too far - digging through the rubbish to unearth the good elements will be beyond the efforts of most viewers this time.
One last knee-jerk nag about the English dub, which is hilariously bad. The acting's so-so, but with a dub script as poor as this ("heyyy, tell me where the databank is located, huh, will ya?" - I only wish I was exaggerating), anyone'd have a hard time. The translation hits especially choppy waters when the plot begins to involve a genetically-created sub-category of humans called the Yumans. Presumeably, there'd be no problem in Japanese, but in English, there is absolutely no way to differentiate between the words 'human' and 'Yuman' in spoken dialogue, no matter how much the actors try to over-emphasize the 'h' (which sounds bloody silly). As a result, large lumps of the dialogue make absolutely no sense whatsoever (a scene where everyone argues whether or not Yumans are evil is a real head-scratcher). Mistakes in the translation also destroy the references to Greek mythology that are scattered throughout the story by pronouncing everything wrong. Clumsy handling of katakana-transcriptions is a possible cause, which means a small, but interesting detail has been lost. Although this probably won't be amazing no matter what language you watch it in, the English dub's wretchedness stands out so obviously that it deserves a warning label of it's own.