In 1945, the earth was attacked by a savage race of aliens known only as Phantom Beasts. The nations of the world formed an alliance in an attempt to fend off the unknown invaders; however, even the strongest weapons had no effect. The fighting continued for many years, and the world’s cities were slowly destroyed until there were only a few human strongholds remaining. Near the turn of the century, gifted teenagers are recruited to fight the Phantom Beasts, utilizing the latest military technology. The fate of the world now rests in their hands.
summary by Gatts
Highs: Decent mecha action; opening theme performed by Ishida Yoko
Lows: Frustrating romance; underdeveloped plot
These days it’s getting hard to create a series using the old “teen mecha pilot” cliché without feeling like a rehash of countless other anime. Gunparade March doesn’t stray too far from the formula, but it attempts to add a teen romance into the mix. However, neither the action nor the romance receives enough development to make it anything truly special.
The largest problem is that the romance and the action do not meld well. In fact, the entire series could be divided into two parts. The first half emphasizes the battle between humans and the alien creatures, and the second half deals primarily with the relationship of the main protagonists. The transition between the two feels abrupt, and the fighting loses its significance towards the end. Instead of having a sense of importance, the battles serve only as a backdrop to the romance. It’s unfortunate because the Phantom Beast plot takes the backseat right as it starts getting interesting.
As soon as the romance becomes the center of attention, things go downhill. Nothing new or interesting occurs, and it ends up being like every other awkward teen relationship depicted in anime. Hayami is the typical, shy leading male who is afraid to tell the girl how he feels, and Mai fulfills the role of the angry/violent female who is too stubborn to admit her feelings. It just gets annoying after a while. To make matters worse, the focus never shifts back to the Phantom Beasts, and the conclusion is unsatisfying and provides no closure.
At its best, Gunparade March is an entertaining action series. Although none of it is groundbreaking, the mecha scenes are handled well and there are enough interesting elements to keep the viewer engrossed. At its worst, the anime is an aggravating teen drama. Those looking for innovation should steer clear, but anyone craving a little giant robot action will at least enjoy the first half of the series.
Highs: The first seven episodes
Lows: The last five episodes
Call me crazy, but when I began watching Gunparade March, I was reminded of my days playing Shogo: Mobile Armor Division; back then, just the thrill of piloting a mecha was enough to have me salivating like a Pavlovian dog. Fast forward about five years and I find myself disappointed by this game-to-anime conversion gone awry.
The first seven episodes are clear-cut and concise as they also demonstrate that Gunparade March knows exactly how it wants to tell its story. A large part is spent focusing on some great mecha combat scenes; watching HWTs face off against Phantom Beasts is a pure treat for the eyes and ears. Yet what makes this anime all the more real is that it focuses on the life of the soldier. Much like what 08th MS Team attempted to accomplish, it accurately portrays the lifestyle of the common soldier, as well as their joys and tragedies. Rarely have I found an anime that properly reveals the emotional baggage that soldiers are burdened with; grief, terror, love and longing may be abstract feelings, but they have their own tangible weight that each member of Unit 5121 is forced to carry. At this point, I was ready to declare this anime as possibly one of the best action series I had ever seen…
… and like a castle made of sand, it all blew away. The remaining five episodes forsake the action aspect and center on teenage drama and romance. That in itself is not bad at all, but after the focus suddenly shifts, the anime begins to stagnate as it attempts to throw together a romantic relationship between Hayami and Mai that just could not stick together. The resulting episodes are a mix of filler and unproductive substance, and I had a deep yearning for Gunparade March to quickly wrap up the shallow, forced romance and go back to what made it so engaging. However, it is not until the final minutes of the last episode that their relationship actually germinates… and then the anime ends.
I felt cheated by the horribly contrived ending. What started as an outstanding action series mutated into a teenage romance that was out of place, yet neither parts of the plot are given a chance to come full circle. If you have a burning desire to watch this, stick to the first half; in the meantime, I will be playing some Shogo: Mobile Armor Division. Besides, Akumas would always beat HWTs.
Gunparade March can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.