Guyver TV Vol. 1: Days of Future Past
Did the world need more of The Guyver? I surely didn't think so. At least two animated variations on the original manga appeared in the West in the early 1990s, and though they sold well, they weren't well respected. They caught the eyes of teenagers who wanted to see the promised "ultraviolence" that ensued when armored heroes ripped through all sorts of nasty tentacled creatures -- nothing more, nothing less. I saw a little of the original OVA series many years ago, far before I took up writing reviews, and it left little impression at all. What with its reputation and a live-action direct-to-video version starring Mark Hamill circling the drain, I never expected to see this low B-list title ever again.
With that history out of the way, we skip ahead to 2006 and ADV Films' release of the very recent Guyver television show. This, friends, is the reason why companies send out screeners, for not in a million years would I ever have paid money to pick up anything related to Guyver. When it arrived at my door, I didn't even know the TV series existed. But even I, the jaded cynic, have to admit that the opening volume is pretty darn good.
Sho's just an ordinary kid who runs smack dab into an extraordinary occurrence. Someone has thieved a special bioarmor suit from a mysterious corporation known as Chronos. Said thief is quickly struck down by a team of soldiers seemingly headed by a monster. Sho and his friend Tetsuro are out by a lake where they've gone all their lives when this goes down, and through a series of events, the bioarmor container opens and attaches itself around Sho. All of a sudden, Sho is attacked by the same team, only to destroy them with little effort with the help of this suit known as "Guyver." As the story progresses, we learn that Chronos is unaware of who Sho is, but they have a clear photo of Tetsuro and realize that if they have one, they'll likely get the other. Meanwhile, Sho's concerned because weird growths have developed on his back, apparently the mark of the Guyver suit that protects him when danger arises. The two friends start making plans in hopes of surviving the wrath of Chronos' fiendish agents.
On a surface level, it could be easy to miss the appeal of the new Guyver. The animation is pleasant but not impressive. The story is by no means unique, and over the last twenty or so years we've seen several iterations of it; those who feel that they've "seen it all" may be bored. The episodes follow the typical "fighting show" rhythm where there's plot exposition, followed by a battle...not something that enthuses me. And for those expecting the legendary "ultraviolence," there really isn't any. Sure, there are violent moments, but it's not particularly gory in any sense of the word, certainly not enough to earn the MA rating that it currently holds. Perhaps this changes later on, but the first three episodes are far from gruesome. (That wasn't a negative for me, but it may be for those expecting the next coming of Gantz.)
And yet...it's been said that every story worth telling has already been told, so all that's important is how you tell it. In my opinion, Guyver TV starts off really well in this department. I for one appreciated that there was some character development right from the beginning. It's clear that Sho and Tetsuro have been good friends for a while, and the decisions they have to make because of it have weight. I also like the fact that while they may be teenagers, they aren't stupid. Tetsuro in particular realizes the danger that surrounds them and starts making plans to get them as far away from Chronos as possible. Meanwhile, Sho's interest in Tetsuro's sister Mizuki is in the far background, but it's still palpable...he's not pining over her, but there's just a hint of tension, especially when she subtly shows her crush on someone else. It's clear to me that these characters are not just stock figures thrown into a sci-fi adventure but personalities that somebody (whether the director, screenwriter, or original manga creator) took time to develop. And although one of the talking hila monsters gets a little over-the-top in his characterization, for the most part, the heroes and villains are remarkably restrained for the "sci-fi fighting" genre. What's more, there are no stock transformation sequences or specially named attack sequences that tend to make these shows silly...at least not yet.
Another solid point is that Guyver TV presents us with several mysteries that it appears willing to hold in tension as we move forward. We do not know where these monstrous villains are coming from, other than that they are linked to the Chronos organization. There are at least two other Guyvers out there, but we don't know why they exist or if they are related to the beasties we've seen. We're given hints, but there are enough questions to make me interested to find out what exactly will happen from here. The checkdisc ADV Films sent was missing the fourth episode that will be on the final release, and I have to say I was honestly sorry it wasn't there.
I don't know how many new fans the new Guyver will find, especially when they find that the first volume is not remarkably gory or excessive. There's no getting around that you may have seen this show or something like it before. But so far, it appears that the new show is going to take its time, establish its characters, and try to get the whole story just right. Only future volumes will see if they hit their mark, but from the first volume, I'm optimistic.
Guyver TV Vol. 1: Days of Future Past -- violence -- B+