New Gall Force: New Era

Official Blurb:

"By the year 2085 mankind's battle against the robotic MME's was almost over. With most of Earth's surviving population evacuated to Mars, only the toughest and most resourceful freedom fighters remain to fight a futile guerrilla war."

"Two hundred years have passed since the defeat of the MME, and humankind has returned from the outer planets to settle once more on the shattered Earth. They have built vast new cities, set about repairing the planet's damaged ecology, and reconstructed the computer networks vital to their technological society. But an ancient evil has been watching this new civilisation. Watching and waiting for the moment to strike...."

"In the wake of a bloody revolution by the genetically-modified Yumans, computerised law-enforcement keeps order amongst the peoples of Earth. Now that order is under attack. Nova Universe, last of the Yumans, is planning a terrible revenge on his creators: with the help of a mysterious ally he has been infiltrating the pianetary computer network, readying the system to turn against every human being on the planet! As a desperate attempt to halt the destruction begins, a select group of women is gathered together for an unknown purpose. And Earth faces a disaster that even Nova cannot comprehend...."

"New Gall Force - New Era One is the beginning of a stunning new chapter in the Gall Force story."

Language Format: English Language
Running time:    45/44 mins
Certificate:     12/12
Catalogue no:    MANV 1178/MANV 1183
Label:           Manga Video
Price:           £9.99 each
Release Date:    10th Feb/10th Mar 1997


First a little background (I'm sorry if other reviewers have already covered this, but bear with me). In the beginning was Gall Force: Eternal Story. Released in Japan in 1986, it was originally planned as a 3-part half hour OAV series, but eventually issued as a theatrical feature. It told the story of a war between the all-female Solnoid race, and the amorphous Paranoids. As a science fiction story, it had just about everything going for it; interesting characters, good action sequences, an intelligent plot with a couple of neat twists and an eloquent anti-war subtext, a stirring orchestral score, and character designs by Kenichi Sonoda, who went on to create designs for Bubblegum Crisis, Riding Bean, and Gunsmith Cats. It was not surprising that Gall Force: Eternal Story became a firm fan favourite in Japan, and later in America, where it was released by USMC in 1992. Naturally sequels followed, OAVs Gall Force: Destruction in 1987 and Gall Force: Stardust War in 1988. Unusually for sequels, these were very nearly up to the quality level of the original, opting for the approach of expanding on the background rather than just a rehash of the Eternal Story plot. If Destruction erred a little too much on the side of action, Stardust War redressed the balance. The original trilogy is still popular amongst fandom, and certainly ranks amongst my own personal favourites.

Although the Solnoid and Paranoid segment was now concluded, the sequels kept coming. In 1989 and 1990, a one off bridging piece Rhea Gall Force, and the three part Gall Force: Earth Chapter were released. In Rhea Gall Force, humans in the 21st century discovering an artifact from the Solnoid war on the Moon, and used it to create a new generation of computer. In Earth Chapter, set in 2085, that computer system is now engaged in war against humanity, the majority of which have evacuated to Mars. And this is where things started to come unstuck. Although taken on its own as an action piece it was fair, Earth Chapter suffered badly in comparison with what had gone before, and seemed barely worthy of the Gall Force mantle. Firstly the plot was heavily influenced by the background story to Terminator (which in its turn owed more than a little to the Philip K Dick short story Second Variety), and lacked originality or depth. The strongly anti-war theme was now little more than an afterthought. Secondly the characters were far less engaging, and so their fate less engrossing. And thirdly the animation quality was less good (a fact for which the studio apologised and, to be fair, corrected in parts 2 and 3). The quality took a further slide with the next sequel segment in 1992, New Century (or Era) Gall Force, which was largely a rehash of the already weak Earth Chapter story (nasty computer vs. nice humans), with a conflict set in 2291 between genetically engineered Humans, allied with the original computer program from Earth Chapter, and humanity. I've seen very little of New Century, although a friend whose judgment is usually sound on such matters described it to me a "for completists only". The saga continues still, for Gall Force: The Revolution is currently in production in Japan, although I've yet to hear any reports as to the quality.

So... basically what Manga Entertainment have done in "New Gall Force" is to bundle Earth Chapter and New Century into a 5 part series, which this tape concludes. Some purists may balk at this, but of course they are not the market for which Manga Entertainment are aiming. And to be fair there is more continuity between Earth Chapter and New Century, than between either and Eternal Story, although of course the characters in each sequel segment are supposed to be successive reincarnations of the originals. Naturally the "New Gall Force" logo on the screen and the "episode 5" stuff has been added, and again that'll upset the purists. Either way, it's a shame that they didn't stick with the original font, as they did on the box art.

The dub I found frankly very disappointing. The female cast, supposedly in peril of their lives, whinge and whine like a group of mall girls discovering they've exceeded their credit card limit. The bad guy chortles maniacally like a pantomime villain through a ring modulator. Perhaps wisely, Manga Entertainment don't list who was responsible for which voice, but I did spot a couple of regulars in the list who I know can turn in better performances than this.

The story is pedestrian and largely predictable, with two plot elements cheekily lifted from the middle segment of Eternal Story. This may have been intended as homage, or even an in-joke, but it comes over as merely a lack of original ideas. And now the anti-war theme is so heavily submerged as to surface only in the final voice-over by Catty, which seems totally out of keeping with the rest of the story.

Another gripe is the video quality. Now say what you will about the content, in my experience Manga Entertainment's tapes have always been well presented, with good quality video and sound. However, this example looked very blurred. I hope that's confined to the review tape, and that anyone who buys this ends up with a better quality copy. And talking of packaging, my nomination in the "did the copy writer actually watch the tape?" stakes goes to whoever came up with the slogan "never mess with an all-girl death squad" on the inner sleeve. Huh???

It would be too easy to blame the dubbing for the shortcomings, but I don't think this was ever much cop. Frankly I can't see anyone who watches just this segment being inspired to seek out the rest, which is a shame. If you already have the earlier parts, you'll probably want this one to see the conclusion. So, as with the last part in any series, the main market for this will be those who have already bought the earlier parts. Or in other words "for completists only". [Neil Morris]