Gunsmith Cats-Bulletproof! (1996)

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Released 12-Sep-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer-2
Featurette-Credit Free Opening
Trailer-6
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 86:24 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:13) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Takeshi Mori
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Peter Erskine


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode teaser after credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Japanese animation comes in many varieties. There are shows for young children (Pokemon 2000 comes to mind), shows which can only be described as X-rated (nah, we haven't reviewed any of those), and shows intended for older teenagers and adults, including long series like Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, and short ones like Gun Smith Cats: Bulletproof.

    Gun Smith Cats: Bulletproof was screened on SBS some time back, and I've been waiting for it to come to DVD ever since. 

    There is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we have every episode of Gun Smith Cats in this one volume. The bad news is that there are only three episodes in total. It is quite likely that there won't be any more episodes, and that's a shame - these are of excellent quality, and are presented beautifully on DVD. The episodes are:

  1. Neutral Zone
  2. Swing High
  3. High Speed Edge

    This production involved some unusual steps. They took an interesting approach, wanting this show to demonstrate extraordinary realism. They sent the production team to Chicago to investigate locations, and details like police organisation. The central characters are gunsmiths, who do some investigating and bounty-hunting on the side. There are lots of different guns shown (over 100 types, reportedly), and every one is drawn accurately. Their car is a 1967 Shelby Cobra, also drawn in exquisite detail - they took extensive footage of a real Shelby Cobra so they could get all the details correct. They also used sounds from the real things in the soundtrack - the sound of a real Shelby Cobra, and the sounds of the real guns being fired. And not just any guns; Rally Vincent's preferred firearm is a Czech-made CZ-75 (beautifully drawn), and that's what we hear. This is devotion to detail to a near-obsessive extent.

    The central characters are the Gun Smith Cats - Rally Vincent (expert gun smith and awesome shot) and Minnie Mae Hopkins (who has something of an obsession with grenades and explosives). They have a helper called Becky Farrah (computer and data acquisition expert). Rally is a strong, independent woman, and very likeable; Minnie Mae functions almost like an annoying younger sister. We're introduced to the team on a bounty-hunting job, then they are blackmailed into a job by an investigator for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The story-line is as detailed as the drawing, and I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'm not going to tell you what happens. Suffice it to say that the author wanted this to be a treat for fans of guns and cars, and he succeeded. Although the total length of the three episodes is only just over 86 minutes (including three sets of credits), enough happens to make it seem longer.

    Oh, just one word of warning: don't think of this as a kiddies' show; there are some bloody deaths, and more than one display of feminine underwear - it's not M-rated by accident.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The show was made for screening on TV in 1995, and consequently is in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 - the DVD is presented in this exact aspect ratio. Understandably, it is not 16x9 enhanced. 

    The picture is very sharp and clear, without visible edge enhancement. I cannot assess shadow detail in animation. There are faint traces of low-level noise in a couple of dark scenes, but there are others that are pristine - I wondered if the apparent noise might have been deliberate.

    The colours are marvellous. Externals are slightly muted, but this is a conscious decision on the part of the animators after they reviewed their photographs of Chicago - the art director described it as a grey city. Interiors show nicely saturated colours, and no trace of colour bleed.

    There are no film artefacts visible. Aliasing is well-controlled - the first vertical pan is completely clean, but the first horizontal pan showed some aliasing. I saw no MPEG artefacts. This is a remarkably clean transfer.

    The only subtitle track is English. As is becoming my habit when reviewing anime, I watched the English soundtrack with English subtitles on. The font is clean and easy to read, and the subtitles nicely placed. The English dialogue and the subtitles clashed considerably, which is normal. The subtitles translate the Japanese dialogue, while the English dialogue uses different words and pacing so that it matches the animation. This time I consider them pretty much equivalent in content, so feel free to watch with whichever soundtrack takes your fancy - you'll get the story either way. 

    The disc is single sided and dual layered with RSDL formatting. The layer change is located at 14:22 in the third episode. It is badly placed, interrupting both dialogue and action quite obviously. If they'd moved it to about a second later, it would have been concealed in a scene change.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks, one English and one Japanese, both Dolby Digital 2.0 non-surround encoded. I'm pleased that they included the original Japanese soundtrack for the compulsive fans (and those who speak Japanese), and I'm happy that they included the well-made English soundtrack for those who want to watch the show, rather than reading it. I watched the entire show in English, and one episode in Japanese. The music and sound effects are identical. Only the dialogue differs, but the Japanese soundtrack sounds noticeably quieter - if you want to listen to the Japanese dialogue, you may need to turn up the volume a bit.

    Dialogue is clear and easily understood (at least in English!). I find audio sync very hard to judge in animation, although I did notice that once again the English soundtrack seems a touch better synchronised than the Japanese - there are moments in the Japanese soundtrack where there is dialogue but no mouth movement, and moments when there is mouth movement and no sound. I'd expect it to be the other way around.

    The score is excellent. The composer is credited as Peter Erskine in the credits, but the featurette calls him Peter Askin in one place, and Peter Askins in another - I'm trusting the credits. The sound is brash and brassy - it feels just right for Rally Vincent and Minnie May.

    The soundtrack is 2.0, not surround encoded, so the surrounds and subwoofer don't get a look in. That's a shame really, because I think the subwoofer would have enjoyed some of the larger explosions. That's not to say that there's anything lacking from this soundtrack - there's plenty of dynamic range, nonetheless.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are more extensive than I expected.

Menu

    The menu is static, with the theme tune playing. There's a nice animated intro.

Featurette - The Making Of Gun Smith Cats (40:19)

    That's right - this featurette is rather longer than any episode, and almost half the length of all the episodes put together. Much more than a studio puff-piece, this explores the process by which this show was made. It starts with the author of the original manga (comic book) version explaining where the idea came from. It then shows the production team's visit to Chicago, where they went to a real gun smith, firing range, police academy, and so forth. It shows their attention to detail with the guns and with the car. It shows the Japanese voice actors for the lead roles, and shows them recording one of the theme songs. Really interesting viewing.

Trailers (1:39, 1:38)

    Two trailers - one for the series (basically the opening sequence without credits), and one for the second episode.

Credit-Free Opening (1:34)

    This is the opening sequence without credits. Not too interesting.

Madman Previews

    This is an interesting presentation, arranged in a circle, without labels. It offers trailers for 6 other titles in the Madman range:

  1. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1:08)
  2. Tekken (1:39)
  3. Martian Successor Nadesico (1:31)
  4. Gasaraki (1:31)
  5. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (1:27)
  6. Spriggan (1:17)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 and Region 1 versions of this disc seem to offer the same features, except that we have the Madman Previews in addition to the other extras. Can't complain about that. Given the high quality of our transfer, and its lower price (SRP in the US is nearly US$30, which is close to A$60 at the moment), I'm recommending the R4 disc.

Summary

    I like Gun Smith Cats: Bulletproof, and it is nicely presented on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are considerably more than usual on an anime disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, September 13, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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