The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Overman King Gainer

Title: Overman King Gainer
Company: Sunrise/Bandai Visual/WOWOW
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 7 Sep 2002 – 22 Mar 2003

Synopsis: After years of environmental damage, the surface of the Earth has become virtually inhospitable, forcing humanity to take shelter in artificial structures known as domepoli. There may be a sense of security, but only as long necessities are provided by the Siberian Railways. There is, however, an alternative to this dependence by making an exodus to the one undamaged land, the subtly named Yapan. This is one such exodus, led by the Black Southern Cross, Gain Bijou, and game king Gainer Sanga with the help of his Overman, King Gainer.

The Highlights
Premise: Simple, yet likable.
Characters: Simple, yet likable.
Comedy: Simple, yet likable.
Action: Out there and excellent.
Opening: Same as above, but with dancing robots.

I’ve got to give Tomino some credit for this. He took what could have easily been a heavy-handed drama with a strong environmentalist message, and played it for laughs. Despite its premise and material, Overman King Gainer remains a tongue in check drama without a schizophrenic atmosphere. Tomino may have his share of comedies, but this one is by far the most unquestionably funny.

With 40 years of experience when he made this, I think it’s safe to say that Tomino has gotten anime down to a science. If you’ve seen any of his works, you know how this is going to go, from the anti-social protagonist, to the trek style storytelling, to the revelation that everything going on is much greater than what people gave it credit for. The direction is all too predicable, and even watered down when compared to his previous works. But where everything falls into place so comfortably, they easily become props for the sake of comedy.

King Gainer is probably not going to gain any points for me saying that it is an endless supply of slapstick. Though for what it’s worth, it provides some of the best physical comedy I have seen in anime. Many of the jokes are rooted in the formula of taking a grave situation, then disarming by treating it in a casual manner. In fact, the more seriously someone tries to be taken, the more likely they will be the comedic fodder. There is a sort of logic to it all that never made me feel even once that my intelligence was insulted. Having the cast face hilarious consequences, while acting completely in character, works miracles.

As stated earlier, much of King Gainer’s humor is derived from physical comedy. In fact it is, in the truest sense, an action comedy. Rather than having serious fights sandwiched by a bunch of teenage hijinks, the battles and the humor are interconnected. Aside from simply being a good storyteller, Tomino has never failed to deliver excellent battles. These are not insipid spam brawls or slow moving real world conflicts. There is real method to the choreography. Each conflict, or simple use of an Overman, is some sort of unique way to exploit conflicting Overskills. The sheer amount of innovation ranges all the way from overloading a telepathic machine with pure thoughts of love, to just trying to fit a stolen cloaking device onto King Gainer. This combined with the show’s causal nature, is a tough comedic formula to beat.

For all of the great work Tomino has done over the years, I cannot shake off the feeling that he is tormented by his earlier works. Turn A Gundam felt almost like and apology for Victory Gundam, and Overman King Gainer seems like an apology for much of his career. The attitude is contrary to what most people associate with him, one with a unique sense of joy. Coming from “Kill ‘Em All” himself, a vision involving dancing squirrels and robots may seem suspect. But then again, if “Kill ‘Em All” Tomino, feels like putting dancing squirrels and robots into the opening, then he must have a very good reason. And whatever that reason may be, it is hard to deny the result of his vision.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx

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