Review: Gad Guard (2003)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

First off, don’t be misled by the kiddie visuals of Gad Gard’s box art. It is actually quite sophisticated with some overt sexuality from the female players.

Gad Gard stitches together a retro patchwork of influences from sixties mod chic: short, pleated mini-shirts, sweater vests, mopeds, a jazzy saxophone in the title sequence straight out of Cowboy Bebop, to nineteenth century Dickensian street urchins armed with jet-powered skateboards and Faginesque villians. Patch this all into a Euro steam-punk future with cobbled streets and shingled roofs and you have another stylish series from the seemingly limitless output of Gonzo Studios.

The series has charm to burn. Hajiki Sanda’s child-like appearance contrasts nicely with his mature-beyond-his-years outlook. The character and mech designs have an Astro Boy-like innocence (Hajiki’s Techode, ‘Lightning’ features twin exhausts that have all the properties of a floppy woolen scarf), and sometimes villainess Catherine Flaubert is direct from Bebop’s, Faye Valentine Finishing School for embedding oneself into other people’s lives.

Opening with the discovery of a Gad in a junkyard, the series gets off to a flying start. Sk8ter-boi Hajiki unlocks a Techode and faces off against the pale, trenchcoat and skinny tie wearing mod Katana (thus redefining the sixties Mods vs Rockers battles for the new millennium). Katana is intent on returning the status quo of number of Techodes to one – his. Gad Gard’s battles are tense and dramatic with the robots carrying their owners in their hands in clear violation of mecha occupational health and safety codes. The appearance of Hajiki’s new Techode seems to be the catalyst for other robots and their owners to come out of the woodwork along with criminals hunting for Gads.

With a number of mysteries and sub-plots in place Gad Guard looks ready to kick on but the final two episodes stumble a little. Hajiki is a little too accepting of the awesome piece of tech at his disposal (although I could be wrong and maybe all Japanese boys prepare their lives for the day they come into the possession of a giant robot). Then, even more elements are introduced via some extremely unlikely plot coincidences. It gives the show momentum but leaves too many motivations unexplained.

I was completely seduced by Gad Gard’s surprisingly successful blend of a grab bag of styles. Hajiki has a refreshingly mature world view and there are enough unanswered questions that I am looking forward to going back just to see how Hajiki will respond. An anime that simultaneously looks back for inspiration while carrying off a thoroughly modern aesthetic, Gad Guard really delivers. Get on board. But for mercy’s sake, make sure you bring a harness.

8 steam-driven pistons out of 10.
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