Gall Force: Earth Chapter

No one could call me a fan of the Gall Force series. In previous reviews, I've harped on the OVAs that opened the run, amazed that material so lackluster could possibly keep spawning sequels. However, with its combination of cute girls and violent tendencies, Gall Force was successful enough for animation studio AIC to continue churning out sequels throughout the late '80s. Even if they never reached the success of the studio's better-known hit, Bubblegum Crisis, the Gall Force legacy continued (for better or for worse).

With my attitude towards the series being pretty set, I was quite surprised recently when a package arrived from Central Park Media, who recently released Gall Force: Earth Chapter to DVD through their US Manga Corps division. I first had thoughts of just ignoring it entirely, not all that interested in continuing through the saga. But I wound up popping it in, and I found myself watching the best Gall Force story to date. Earth Chapter is not without some hefty problems, frankly, but it manages to rise well above its ignoble beginnings.

With a handy "Gall Force timeline" feature in the Special Features section, I was able to catch up after missing a couple installments. The Solnoid and Paranoid races from the original OVAs are long gone, their conflict finished eons ago. However, Professor Newman stumbled upon long-adrift Paranoid technology in space that he and others exploited to create mechanical beings known communally as the MME. The MME became self-aware, and events fall into place pitting the whole of humanity against the legions of machine organisms that belong to the MME collective. This is where Earth Chapter begins, as the humans begin a last-ditch effort to rid themselves of the MME as Mars-based forces make the trek to defend their homeland.

We are introduced to Sandy Newman, the professor's daughter and freedom fighter, as she works with the ragged resistance forces to lay claim to ancient nuclear weapons that might take down the MME. When it becomes clear that the Earth would be left a wasteland and that the MME wouldn't suffer but the mildest casualties, Sandy has to convince the others to stop their plan. At the same time, Mars forces plan to use a weapon that will destroy the MME citadel and shut down their hive mind but will destroy all of Australia and its people in the process. Sandy, her butch friend Score, and their small troop will inevitably signal either the salvation of humankind or its destruction at the hands of Gorn, the MME's leader.

I've been finding it difficult to accurately review Gall Force: Earth Chapter because the good and the bad about it have a ying/yang quality. It's hard to overlook the faults, and listing the considerable number of them would probably turn off those who'd enjoy the show. Cataloging its praiseworthy elements would do the same in reverse. So I'm just going to give my impressions of the show based on my previous experiences in the Gall Force universe.

Frankly, I found the previous installments of Gall Force tacky. Although the shows were ostensibly about girl power, they were simply exploitation flicks, featuring plots ripped off from far better movies and nudity for titillation's sake. Earth Chapter leaves these elements behind. In fact, it keeps only the barest connection to the previous installments, and in doing so, it winds up a better show. It lacks great execution, with its garbage synth keyboard soundtrack, melodrama substituting for genuine emotion, and draggy pacing. I can't even say that fans of the originals will like this section, since it strays so far from its origins. But I thought it quite a bit better than the other segments. Its grittier approach, its smaller character base, and its commitment to story make it worthwhile. For a 14-year-old show, it holds up nicely. And through its main characters, it makes a statement of female empowerment the other Gall Force bits just couldn't deliver. Even in its cheesier moments, it works. I mean, who can resist a nun with a gun?

The Gall Force series has always been grade-B anime, in my mind, but previous episodes have barely lived up to even that quality. Earth Chapter is still not anime I'd proclaim from the rooftops, but it finally proves that this series has some merit...even if that merit is late in coming. Because of the nice timeline and such on the DVD, you can jump into this title without wading through the mess of previous releases. As such, it's a very solid rental for those who enjoy science fiction action with women who can hold their own.

Gall Force: Earth Chapter -- violence -- B