Danguard Ace: The Movie Collection (DVD)
Shout! Factory / 2009 / 330 mins / NR
In 2009, William Winckler Productions began editing together feature length films from Toei's classic anime television series catalog, most of which haven't been seen in the United States in years and have never been available in their original formats on home video. To date, Shout! Factory has released the first two sets in the "Toei Classic Anime Movie" collection, GAIKING and STARZINGER and now you can add three more movies to your library with DANGUARD ACE: THE MOVIE COLLECTION.
PLANET ROBOT DANGUARD ACE (the original title) ran for 56 episodes from March 1977 to March 1978 and was shown in America as part of the New England based anime series "Force Five," which showed English dubbed versions of five different anime series (one per weekday) in the 1980's. DANGUARD ACE ran on Mondays, STARVENGERS on Tuesdays, SPACEKETEERS (aka STARZINGER) on Wednesdays, GRANDIZER on Thursdays and GAIKING on Fridays. Only 26 episodes from each series was dubbed and shown so more than half of most of the series never aired in America. It is these dubbed versions that appear to be the basis of the movie compilations.
DANGUARD ACE: THE MOVIE COLLECTION includes three nearly two-hour movies that nicely condense the original 56 episodes. On a future resource-depleted Earth, a new planet named Promete was discovered and was seen as a possible last hope for humanity. The first explorers to Promete were lost by a mysterious disaster. Shortly after this event, the ultra-wealthy Doppler (voiced by Jason Barker) leaves for Promete in his own ship and declares himself Chancellor of the new world building a massive military to defend "his" planet. Our story picks up years later on the Earth controlled Jasdam Base where pilot Takuma (voiced by Paul Oberele) and his gigantic transforming robot/fighter ship Danguard Ace are preparing to join a massive assault against Doppler to claim the resource rich Promete in the name of the Earth.
DANGUARD ACE is pure old fashioned space opera with loads of giant transforming robots battling it out in outer space. The series was created by Leiji Matsumoto who also created the legendary anime series SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO (known in the US as STAR BLAZERS) and the other "Force Five" series STARZINGER. While several of the characters in DANGUARD ACE could be the Siamese twins to characters in his other series, they stand on their own here and most casual fans wouldn't even notice. While personally I found STARZINGER to be more fun, DANGUARD ACE is an engrossing story that sucks you in pretty early on. I would recommend this to anyone who has a love of classic era anime and a fond remembrance of the time when anime was the newest and wildest thing you had ever seen on television.
Like STARZINGER (and probably GAIKING) before, it appears that the original 1.33 television aspect ratio simply had the top and bottom of the picture cut off to create this anamorphic 1.78 aspect ratio. The picture looks extremely cramped with close-ups frequently cutting off eyes and medium shots losing important picture information (such as characters' heads or action happening on the ground in front of them). Other than that, color is strong and well saturated and line definition is a bit soft (due to the picture being blown up) but not too much.
The sound mix is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is a fine representation of what anime of the era was like. Dialogue usually stops when special sound effects are required and the music track plays underneath continually. Overall, a solid technical presentation.
DANGUARD ACE: THE MOVIE COLLECTION is a great return to a time when anime was first being introduced to American animation fans. Until the entire series becomes available, this set will have to satiate anime fans unquenchable appetite for vintage giant robots. Recommended!