Review of Gasaraki (1998)
Takahashi Ryōsuke (director).
In 2014, a plot to raise Japan to economic domination over the USA is intertwined with an old clan’s efforts to build mecha using medieval secrets.
Complex cyberpunk wherein Takahashi marries his perennial realist mecha efforts with the psychological and occult flavours of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995). Dramatically, the show is slow at times, with a lot of oblique, impersonal dialogue. All the garish costumes, flash and pathos Takahashi used to decorate Fang of the Sun Dougram (1981) are gone here. Good riddance. Some of the weirder Evangelion influences are glaring, however: in one long scene, there is a total of six lines of translated dialogue from three different simultaneous conversations in the DVD subtitles. Above the dramatic level, the learning curve is steep.
The realist ambitions are impressive throughout, especially in mechanical/creature design and the devotion to economic and political factors. In retrospect the fight scenes look like predictions of the 2003–2011 Iraq War with primitive Starship Trooper armour instead of Predator drones.
The supernatural aspects are elegant and muted, though their value is dubious. In my first viewing, I thought the traditional Nō-style dancing, accompanied by stylized shouts and drums, was boring, but I have since grown to appreciate Nō more. The music is otherwise good and I like the gradually varied opening sequence. The character designs are very good, except for some odd chins.