The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Generator Gawl

Title: Generator Gawl
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Tatsunoko Productions
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 7 Oct 1998 – 23 Dec 1999

Synopsis: Gawl, Ryo and Koji are teenagers who travel back in time to prevent the discovery of a certain part of the human genome that allows people to mutate into genetically enhanced beings – generators – that cause the third World War and destroy most of the human population. The trio registers at the school at which the professor who discovers the gene teaches; however, they are met with resistance from a mysterious pair who want the professor to complete his research at all costs.

The Highlights
Action: Good and violent.
Generators: Creepy, disgusting and awesome.
High school hijinks: Kill any semblance of dramatic mood.
Characters: Cardboard cutouts and not memorable at all.
Ass pull ending: You bet your life.

Generator Gawl should be a solid anime. The ingredients are there for a good science-fiction action series, even if some of the elements (notably the Terminator-esque time travel story) are cliché. However, the series seems at first torn as to what type of show it wants to be, and by the time it finally does decide, it’s too late to care about any of the characters. A true shame.

The series appears to be relatively serious at first. The main trio must blend into an unfamiliar realm with precious little time to complete their mission, so right away there is a sense of dramatic tension. And the various minions Gawl must battle are creatively conceived, with solid fight scenes to go along with each. But then the show swerves in a totally different direction by having Gawl, Ryo and Koji stay with a high school girl, Masami, and her mother, and moves ever so slightly in the direction of becoming a generic high school comedy… with Gawl sneaking off every episode to battle giant, crazy monsters, and Masami none the wiser for three-fourths of the series.

This absurd development could probably be pulled off well if there were any wit behind it. Alas, Generator Gawl aims for the lowest common denominator by mailing in the comedy so egregiously that I imagine DVD copies of the series came with a set of Gawl-themed stamps. There’s not one instance of humor in the show that has not been done elsewhere a million times before (and after). But there must be a subset of people who genuinely laugh whenever a teenager overeats, or a teenage girl gets angry and slaps some dude upside the head, or else those events would not happen so often.

These happenings might not be so bad if so much time weren’t dedicated to them. The main story gets random, rudimentary development, but God help us if we don’t make enough time for the school festival episode. And at the beginning of the series, if most people had a choice between the trio getting down to business right away, or Gawl getting distracted by a hamburger joint and eventually accused of being a perverted peeping tom, I’m sure that most would choose the former, but the writers chose the latter.

The story tries to make up for this by tossing in several plot twists in the latter half of the series; however, they all ring hollow because the characters are neither good nor sympathetic enough for these twists to have any impact. The story developments exist for the sake of existing and reek of desperation. There is one in particular involving one of Masami’s friends that is intended both as a game changing twist and a tearjerker. But, really, it comes entirely out of nowhere and is so ridiculous that laughter is the only acceptable reaction, particularly since there is zero reason to care about this character beforehand.

Everything culminates in an ending that is predictably disappointing. If you know anime, you can spot the Bad Ending warning signs from a mile away, and you probably know exactly the type of endgame for which Generator Gawl will aim. The only thing that would have been funnier is if the show had attempted a “Life Goes On” ending. But it settles for pulling a resolution out of nowhere that kills what little drama remains in the final episode.

Generator Gawl is one of those anime that probably sounded like a cool idea when pitched but can’t hold up when stretched out to a 12-episode TV series. The brief moments when the show is fun to watch just cannot make up for the monotony and goofiness of everything else.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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