It’s a bit sad that a lot of the anime from the 90s have almost completely vanished from the realm of popular discussion, but here’s a hidden gem Generator Gawl.
While the huge hits like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragon Ball Z, and several Gundam series have survived, most of the shows from before the new millennium are rarely ever talked about anymore. So, today, I’ll be shining a light on a possible hidden gem from the late 90s by director Seiji Mizushina (Fullmetal Alchemist) known as Generator Gawl.
Three teenaged boys, Gawl, Ryo, and Koji, have traveled back in time from the distant future. Their mission: change history and prevent a catastrophe that destroys the world as we know it. Gawl is also a biologically manipulated being known as a Generator, who can morph his body into a killing machine to fight off other Generators he encounters. However, their jump back in time is slightly off, and now they only have three months to save the world. In the meantime, they take on identities as new high school students in the town where the key events will occur, all under the watchful eyes of several suspicious teachers and constantly dodging the curiosity of their new landlord/classmate, Masami.
At first, this one felt like it was going to be a generic action series with no substance.
As the episodes pass, however, it starts to dabble in themes of biological manipulation and its consequences, especially relating to Gawl, the ordeals that he goes through, and how people perceive him. It doesn’t really go into as much depth as I had hoped, but some of the concepts brought up in this series are worth discussing. In a sense, I guess I would describe this series as Parasyte-lite; not quite detailed enough to be fully engrossing, but enough to capture your attention.
The series does have some problems with the plot structure and presentation though, often resorting to overused tropes and megatons of exposition to convey its story. I ended up liking the characters enough to not be bothered by the cliché plot developments, but the multi-minute exposition scenes feel like they drag on forever. The finale also gets extremely confusing when they start messing with time travel even more, and the resolution almost feels like a bit of a cop-out that I don’t quite understand, but the ending is still fairly satisfying.
The characters turn out to be pretty interesting to follow as well.
Gawl’s simple-mindedness mixed with his unfortunate circumstances make him a really compelling character without having to doll him up with fancy dialogue about friendship or never giving up. Even though he and the other characters are high schoolers, the story they act out feels very mature, and Gawl sits at the heart of this and really drives the story forward.
Meanwhile, Ryo and Koji try to balance out their concern for Gawl’s well-being and their pressing need to stop the world’s destruction as soon as possible, and it leads to some pretty interesting conflicts. Masami also gets a lot of solid moments as well as the outsider trying to get closer to Gawl and the others, though certainly not at first since they have to go through the “misunderstanding that causes us to hate each other for a bit” route first. Admittedly, Masami does make the first episode of this series a bit groan-worthy, but she definitely picks up afterwards once they give her time to flesh out.
As for the antagonists, they feel pretty menacing most of the time, though the central bad guy feels a bit one note and flat. The other supporting antagonists do stand out though, especially once the last two episodes come and certain truths about them are revealed.
The animation by Tatsunoko Production holds up pretty well considering the era.
It’s very refreshing to see hand-drawn cel animation every now and then, and the dark colors and chilling atmosphere that this animation uses definitely makes it worth the effort. The Generator designs are creepy and menacing, and the action set pieces are choreographed very effectively, with lots of long takes and a lack of cutting to give the fights a sense of flow and weight. Not everything holds up well, in particular with some of the particle effects, but on the whole, it’s definitely above average for the time it came out.
Unfortunately, I have to recommend skipping the dub again, surprisingly for the exact same reason as I did with The World God Only Knows. The more Steven Foster dubs I consume, the more I really start to not like him for taking so many liberties with the script. It really is a shame too because the acting itself is pretty solid, especially with voice acting legend Vic Mignogna as Gawl. For me, random references to Johnny Depp are not something I welcome in a dub, so I recommend sticking with subs on this one.
As for music, Norimasa Yamanaka’s score is effective at conveying both the intensity of battle and the eeriness of some of the tenser and more psychological scenes.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any tracks that I thought were especially compelling or memorable, and some of the tracks also feel incredibly dated; that kind of 90s music that no one talks about anymore because it really hasn’t aged well.
While I wouldn’t necessarily describe Generator Gawl as a hidden gem, it is still a solid series that deserves to be remembered as time passes, and I definitely recommend checking it out.
Generator Gawl is technically licensed for purchase by ADV Films, though availability might be a bit of an issue with this particular company, and the series is, unfortunately, unavailable for streaming.
Final Score: 7/10