Garzey's Wing Anime Review
Gaazii no Tsubasa
US Release By
Fantasy War Story
3 30-minute episodes
1996-09-21 - 1997-04-09
On his way home from college, Chris, an ordinary lad, happens on a bit of trouble: He's sucked into an alternate dimension where he is apparently some sort of savior known as Garzey's Wing. Thrust into the middle of a slave uprising and expected to lead the group's trek to a mystic tree and the lasting freedom from oppression it will bring, Chris is at a complete loss. Well, more accurately, half of him is. Back in modern times, he's getting on with his life and getting ready for a class reunion. Until, that is, the two halves of Chris start talking via a necklace given to him by his grandmother. Thanks to this communication, Chris in the real world is able to provide tactical guidance and some anachronistic chemistry to Chris in the fantasy world. This is a start, but the road to freedom is a long one, the former slaves are outnumbered, and the pursuing army is relentless. Will Chris, and Garzey's Wing, be enough to pull them through?
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Garzey's Wing may be written and directed by the creator of Gundam, but that doesn't make it any less of an interesting idea written and directed so badly that there's almost nothing left to watch. Despite some tactical cleverness here and there, the bright spots are few and far between. Worst of all is the English dub--adding insult to injury, the badly-translated dialogue is so awkward that it takes effort just to decipher what's being said.
If you're absolutely enthralled by unusual fantasy war stories, or are interested in seeing what certainly deserves a place among history's all-time worst dub writing, then you might want to try Garzey's Wing. Otherwise, it's a major waste of time.
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Hey, look, it's a magical girl story where the main character is a guy and there's way more fighting and dirt! Actually, Garzey's Wing is more like a fantasy war story with a creative twist, but that doesn't matter, because it's bad. Really bad. Garzey's Wing ranks among the worst anime I've had the displeasure of watching, and the promising ideas involved make it all the more painful.
You might think with Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino credited as creator, writer, and director that it would be hard to go wrong. And, indeed, there are a number of clever ideas sprinkled throughout the story. Most are along the lines of battle tactics--holding lanterns on long poles to spring an ambush early or various creative fighting styles with a primitive form of gunpowder. The abrupt shifts between Chris' fantasy self and the real world capture some of his disorientation and should make for a distinctive twist.
Sadly, "should" is the operative word for the entire series. It's so badly written and directed that no amount of clever ideas could even come close to saving it, and the interesting storytelling devices are lost in the mire. It's as if Tomino came up with a bunch of neat ideas but all he did with them was write out a long list of scenes that are individually devoid of flow and tied together awkwardly at best. The pacing isn't just bad, it's nonexistent; the scenes are choppy to put it mildly, and more often than not they jerk past too quickly to even get a handle on what's happening.
As for all those clever ideas (and the rest of the story, for that matter), you can tell they're in there, but the execution is so poor (both visually and in terms of writing) that I needed to actively work at just figuring out what was going on. It's a shame, because I could easily imagine how half-decent execution could have taken the exact same scenes and ideas and turned them into something watchable, and there's honestly nobody to blame but Tomino.
Even the characters are almost completely uninteresting. Chris' predicament and the spectrum of suspicion to worship of the people around him should be interesting, but just plain aren't. There is a grand total of one character that I had any interest in, and that was our hero's cute fairy sidekick, Falan Fa. In a bit of a twist, she's in the same situation as Chris, drug unwillingly into another world. Her spunk and reluctance but eventual determination to be helpful makes her somewhat interesting, a big step up from the rest of the muddled cast. If only the series had been about her.
Now, to be completely fair, some of the blame is shouldered by the atrocious English dub. The cast isn't the problem--their voices fit and they emote passably well. But no one, and I mean absolutely no one, could have taken those lines and made them sound anything like acting. The first few lines are so awful, I thought to myself, "You've got to be kidding--it must get better." It doesn't. Heck, the dubbing could have used some subtitles itself--it sounded like they completely forgot to have a native English speaker go over the translated dialogue and do things like correct the grammar or make it intelligible to someone other than whoever wrote it. I'm serious--some of it is so bad it took effort just to decipher what was being said. Perhaps the mangled English could have slipped by in subtitles, but it's painful to listen to in the dub, and it ruins what little writing quality there may have been. For that reason, although I haven't seen the sub, I can guarantee that it's better. It certainly couldn't be worse.
At least the visuals aren't quite as ugly as everything else. The character designs and art are satisfactory, although the backgrounds are overly simple. A few of the action scenes are animated reasonably well, but most of the rest is choppy and, more importantly, badly directed. That's the real problem--the way many of the scenes are executed, the onscreen action lurches by too fast to get a handle on it. (I don't know if this was added in the dub, but they go so far as to point out what's happening onscreen on much of the time. Worse, it helps.)
The sole bright spot is again the fairy--most of the bits of character animation that actually look good involve her. There's a very good sense of her scale, and a lot of her simple actions (flying around, hanging on to things, drawing a map) look natural.
The only other thing to mention is the music, which is about on par with the writing: almost nonexistent.
In all, Garzey's Wing is an interesting idea written and directed so badly that there is almost nothing left to watch. Despite some tactical cleverness here and there, the bright spots are few and far between. Worst of all is the English dub--adding insult to injury, the badly translated dialogue is so awkward it's hard to understand. If you're absolutely enthralled by unusual fantasy war stories, or are interested in seeing what certainly deserves a place among history's all-time worst dub writing, then you might try checking Garzey's Wing out. Otherwise, it's a major waste of time.
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If you want to see more equally bad fantasy, you might check out Panzer Dragoon. You'd do better to try The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Record of Lodoss War, or some other half decent fantasy series, though.
Notes and Trivia
Garzey's Wing is part of a series of novels written by Yoshiyuki Tomino, collectively called "The Tale of Byston Well" ("Baisuton Ueru Monogatari" - バイストン・ウェル物語). The series is composed of 6 books of "Leen's Wing" (first published from 1984-1986, also romanized as "The Wings of Rean") and 5 books of "Garzey's Wing" (1995-1997). The series can also be counted as including the related two books of "The Tale of Fau Fau" (1986-1987) and the 11 book series "Aura Battlers War Record" (1986-1992). The animated version is obviously based on the Garzey's Wing arc, which began publication the year before the anime went on sale. There was also a single radio drama CD released.
There is also a much older TV series (available from ADV) and some OAVs, Aura Battler Dunbine, based on the same series of novels, but it's much more of a fantasy-mecha war story than Garzey's Wing. More recently (2005-2006) there was an animated and manga adaptation of Wings of Rean, also related to the same world; it's available in English from Honneamise.
Though Yoshiyuki Tomino has written a number of novels, he's probably best known as the main creator of Gundam. He has had an active hand as writer or storyboard artist in the production of a number of anime series, including Tezuka's Astroboy way back in 1964.
This particular OAV series is one of the few that Tomino can be credited as having conceived of, written, scripted, storyboarded, and directed. Sadly, while the creative ideas that have made him famous in the industry are visible, there's really nobody but him to blame for the failed execution.
US DVD Review
I have not seen USM's DVD, and for all I know it has a better dub than the earlier VHS release. In any case, it's budget priced and claims a director biography and trailers as special features.
Plenty of serous combat, but not much else, making for a 13-up.
Violence: 3 - Not gory, but it is a war.
Nudity: 1 - Nothing worth mentioning.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Zip.
Language: 2 - Some coarse language.
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
Chris: Rick Nagel
Domon: Vincent Bagnall
Euforio: David Fuhrer
Falan: Roxanne Beck
King Fungun: Keith Howard
Hassan: Veronica Shea
Hendock: Ben Coates
Ketta: Lee Moore
Leelince: Amanda Goodman
Migira: Peter Patrikios
Ondel: Sy Springer
Philocres: Harry Peerce
Rumiko: Suzanne Savoy
Reijiro: Tim Breese
Towazzan: John Knox
Undo: Michael Goldwasser
Zagazoa: Greg Stuhr
Additional Voices: Shannon Connely, Rachel Kaplan, Brian Driscol
Producers: Taka Nagasawa, Koichi Hamamura, Hiroshi Ishikawa, Hiroshi Hasegawa
Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Screenplay: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Original Story: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Music: Shiro Sagisu
Production: BMG Japan, ASCII, TV Tokyo, Sunseibu Entertainment
Previously available in North America from US Manga Corps on a budget-priced hybrid DVD. There were also subtitled and dubbed VHS versions.
Though out of print since the company went out of business, the DVD is quite easy to find; RightStuf had stock for about $10 at last check, and Amazon had plenty of copies of either edition listed for a couple of bucks plus shipping: Garzey's Wing (2005 re-release), Garzey's Wing (original DVD).