By submerging the pilot episode in an on-going mission, Generator Gawl starts off very confusingly. This is typical of the mecha-conspiracy genre; the first episode tends to expose more aspects of the plot than it is willing to explain.
There seems to be similarities with prominent works of the genre (read: Gundam Wing, Neon Genesis Evangelion), such as the mecha, the conspiracies, the involvement of teenagers in unsavoury missions to 'save the world' - the list can go on. Thankfully, Generator Gawl proves to be unique its own way after the initial haphazardness of events is set into perspective, and various issues fall into place.
What seems immediately promising even in this episode is the sensitive shading of the tone. The comic moments prevent us from taking Generator Gawl too seriously, and we do not get the gut-wrenching feeling of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Neither do we get the pompous sense of self-inflated seriousness in Gundam Wing.
This is not to say that Generator Gawl is flippant in the remotest sense. The purposeful and adept fusion of the serious and the comic creates a tapestry of moods that rests on a peculiar tension that is immediately engrossing. Masami's off-hand exclamations about the weather are juxtaposed immediately by the foreboding references to a "beginning". The way the three young men react towards their surroundings ("This is what a girl looks like?!" to "Look! A pool of water!") generates ticklish amusement and suspicious curiosity. Who exactly are they? What are they up to? Gawl's spat with Masami may be ludicrously entertaining, yet we are not allowed to brush aside the disturbing presence of a spy throughout.
While there is evident potential indicated in the conception and direction of events, this is not the case for characterisation, for there is nothing groundbreaking here. Kouji is the stereotypical aloof bishounen endowed with long, billowing locks of hair, and is concerned with the shortage of time without losing his cool (in all senses of the word). In contrast to his comrade's obvious dismay, Kouji is Trowa as Ryo is Quatre if we think Gundam Wing. Yes, the parallels between Ryo and Quatre are there - the mop of blond hair, the golden-boy countenance, the saccharine, unantagonistic personality. To be fair, Ryo is not so much a milquetoast as Quatre is (thankfully!).
Gawl is the usual goofy, brash male teenager concerned with simple pleasures like food and crude humour. Like most male protagonists of action anime, such as Recca (Flame of Recca) and Yusuke (Yu Yu Hakusho), it is almost impossible to believe that Gawl will ever rise to the stature of a hero. He interacts with Kouji in a very formulaic way - Kouji downplays Gawl's intelligence with the use of the word "baka" (idiot), reminscent of Mikagami's criticism of Recca and Hiei's contempt for Kuwabara.
Almost every anime from the genre of bishounen dramas is graced with a fantastic rock-edged opening theme, and Generator Gawl is no exception. The husky voice belting out "I Want Out!" with much gusto is an apt response to the innermost toils and traumas that our bishounen protagonists are doomed to grapple with. The lighter sounding end theme provides an interesting contrast with the opening theme, an echo of the comic-serious tension that is so effectively exploited throughout the episode.
I have mixed feelings about the technical qualities of Generator Gawl. The animation is generally smooth, yet the real test - the battle scenes (this is, after all, mecha drama!) - has yet to come. The artists are generally competent in producing decently detailed backgrounds. There is evidence of a variety of colours used, and the duller, less appealing landscapes are included to shape our response to various events (especially during the flashback), not to be mistaken as shoddy workmanship. Definitely not Ghost in the Shell, in which a visually-absorbing and multi-textured world in its own right is created. Nevertheless, artists who bother to reflect some quirky details that are often neglected (such as droplets of toothpaste foam and water splashed onto the mirror as Masami brushes her teeth) deserve some praise.
The pilot episode may not possess the qualities of an epic-mecha, yet there is no denying the interesting mix of varied, juxtaposed moods. Should you watch Generator Gawl? Personally, I will say yes. Perhaps I assert this opinion having already watched the entire series...
- JW, 2001.03.26