Cute and perky just doesn't cut it for me in anime any more. I must admit that I've had a pretty good run as of late in terms of programming. What with recent shows like Area 88 TV and movies such as The Place Promised In Our Early Days, I've seen a lot of excellent anime recently. Even the worst stuff has been fairing pretty well. So it's with sadness that I have to report on this title, which might just have gotten a better review if it weren't surrounded by excellence. But Gestalt is a wimpy wisp of a show that, while not terrible, is stunningly mediocre. Although it does have a few good laughs, by the time the second episode had started, I'd had enough.
Gestalt is a god we never see. In the world where the show takes place -- nothing more than a D&D campaign with a newbie DM, frankly -- Gestalt is the evil overlord who was somehow involved in creation and destruction and other godlike machinations. Although all the gods have disappeared off the scene, there is still a city in the far south named G after you-know-who. Go evil bad guy gods.
The plot starts when Father Messiah (a sacrilegious name for a priest if ever there was one) hires the dark elf Suzu to bring back Father Olivier, who's having a crisis of faith and has decided to leave his monastery to travel to the forbidden city of G. Suzu tracks him down, but Olivier's having problems of his own. After performing a miracle of blossoming flowers (wow how amazing I believe in your god now oh holy one), a local townswoman buys him a girl called Ohri for his services. Olivier's not interested but takes her along to avoid her being sold back into slavery. How nice of him. Go good guy monks.
However, Ohri isn't all that she seems. She's had a silence spell placed on her, and she's really quite a powerful sorceress. Getting her power back involves kissing Olivier, which makes about as much sense as anything else in this show. Once she does, she can repel Suzu's attacks and protect Olivier, who as a cleric only has defensive powers. On their journey, they wind up in the midst of a city's turmoil caused by a sinister queen holding a bloody tournament, and violence ensues well before they get even close to their destination of G. Go bloody tournaments and wicked queenies.
As you might have guessed, I didn't really think all that highly of Gestalt. As a short 2-part OVA out of the late '90s, it actually features some very bright animation and decent character designs (that is, if you like bishonen guys and slinky females). Other reviewers have mentioned that this was one of the first programs to use lots of digital editing, but I didn't notice all that much. Granted, I saw it on VHS, and despite the inferiorities of that format, digital programs don't always show off their shortcomings on videocassette. But it's important to note because all this show has going for it are the pretty pictures anyway.
Gestalt is funny at times. The first fifteen minutes are cute in a cloying sort of way. Ohri is introduced as a mute but with an RPG-style text box to explain herself, and it's amusing for a couple of minutes. The setup, while derivative, isn't awful. For a little while, I thought the show might be onto something in the vein of Dragon Half, a hysterical program that I want to see again just writing about it.
However, Gestalt really isn't about the humor, and soon it settles into a standard tale of battles and spells and wizardry. The second episode is packed full of battles, but they are dull and uninspired. It goes back to the old truth that one or two things blowing up in a movie are cool, but watching a half-hour of explosions gets old quick. The second episode of Gestalt seems desperate to try to conclude the plotline that it started for itself, but there's no hint of character development or any remotely interesting going on. Boredom set in very quickly. I don't even think that fans of similar fantasy shows like Lodoss or The Slayers are going to like this show much, though they are the target audience. It just feels limp, and the longer it goes, the worse it gets. It's not amazingly flawed or even offensive in any way, it's just...there.
Gestalt has been out on DVD for some time, so if you haven't already picked it up, you're probably not going to, and that's just as well. But just in case you see it on special somewhere and you think it might be worth the risk...eh, I wouldn't bother if I were you.
Gestalt -- violence, mild innuendo -- C