Gestalt Anime Review
Choujuu Densetsu Geshutaruto
Ultra Beast Legend Gestalt
US Release By
2 30-minute episodes
1997-01-22 - 1997-02-21
In ancient times, there was a war between the most powerful of the gods of good, and Gestalt, who was banished to Earth. He is said to reside on a distant island, and is so feared that even his name is never spoken aloud. But a priest of light, Fr. Olivier, has received a calling to leave his order and travel to the feared island called only "G."
Unfortunately for the good priest, the head of the order isn't taking this sitting down, and has hired the dark elf Suzu to haul him back. Unfortunately for his pursuer, Fr. Olivier accidentally finds himself in possession of a pretty young slave by the name of Ohri who turns out to be a powerful sorceress, and takes more than a bit of a liking to her new "master." Things get more interesting when the traveling pair stumbles into a kingdom whose ruler has recently taken a turn for the nasty, and Fr. Olivier vows to end the injustices before him. Easy enough if it weren't for all the sorcerers and monsters wandering around...
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Gestalt just can't seem to decide whether it's a straight fantasy story with some humor, or a parody of classic role playing games. It's better as the latter than the former, with a few very funny send-ups of classic RPG standbys, but in either case it does little to distinguish itself from the crowd, the early computer-assisted animation occasionally ends up looking cheesy, and it's cut short after only two episodes to boot.
In all, although a serious fan of old RPGs or the original manga might get a kick out of it, for most people there's just not much to recommend.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Gestalt is an oddball little fantasy tale--it can't seem to make up its mind about whether it's a straight fantasy story with some humor, or a parody of classic role playing games. It's better at the latter than the former, but in either case it's not really a noteworthy series, and it's unfinished to boot.
When you look at old-school RPG-inspired fantasy, the two opposite ends of the spectrum are Record of Lodoss War and Slayers. Gestalt fits right between those two poles... but not at the halfway point. Instead, it's like Slayers' brand of comedy-with-plot taken to the extreme, awkwardly blending serious story and outright parody. One moment it's decent, if unoriginal, fantasy, then a minute later somebody's pointing at an onscreen dialogue box (for a mute sorceress, of course) straight out of an old video game and asking "What's with this?"
An odd combination to be sure, and while both the silliest and straightest parts are good, the rest is lackluster. On the straight end, the story has the makings of something epic and cool, but the way it's executed doesn't support that scale or level of seriousness, at least in this half-finished form. It's more successful as a parody of fantasy RPGs, though I found myself wishing it had gone farther over the top to live up to its rather hilarious potential.
As a classic dice-and-paper RPG homage, it goes a step farther than Slayers and Record of Lodoss War, pulling the names of monsters and spells straight out of Dungeons & Dragons. Ah, the fearsome Carrion Crawler (though they're not actually supposed to be anywhere near as awe-inspiring as their portrayal in this series). If you're a fan of those old fantasy RPGs, Gestalt might be worth watching just to holler out "So that's what an Undine looks like!" For the RPG-uninitiated, though, there probably isn't much to enjoy, since the monsters aren't very creative if you don't get the in-jokes.
The characters are like the rest of the production: A few high points--main duo Olivier and Ohri--but mostly uninspired. I was quite fond of our hero Olivier--he has some real personality and is among the tiny group of heroes who actually decides not to toast the guards because they're ignorantly following orders. His generally gentle demeanor is a nice contrast to the usual brash youth or sullen anti-hero types. He plays well off Ohri, who's pretty hard for an anime fan not to like--a cute, possessive, ultra-powerful sorceress from a mysterious far-off land--though even she could've been more interesting.
Artistically, Gestalt is noteworthy for being one of the series created during the industry transition from camera-and-cel animation to computer-composited anime. While it's a step up from the earliest efforts, it suffers from some growing pains. Still, for the most part the computer compositing, pans, and effects work well enough, and I'm pretty sure that with old-style animation it wouldn't have looked nearly as good on the same budget. The magic is the most interesting bit--almost all done with computer effects, with varying degrees of success. Some of the ripple and transparent effects are kind of cool, while others are awkward or look like a cheap video game.
The art is very clean, and nicely colored, but is also quite simple--particularly disappointing in contrast to Yun Kouga's original artwork. At least the backgrounds have enough detail. The animation is respectable, with the exception of weak character animation. The action is passable, although a little infrequent (for those wondering, it's all "sorcery" and no "swords"). The production design is similarly uneven; most of the characters look pretty good (especially the guys, who have a near-shoujo look to them), but most of the monsters are relatively silly (kudos on the Carrion Crawler, though--a huge step up from the picture in the original D&D book).
I've only seen the dub, the acting in which is varied, relatively well cast, and generally good-enough. Not really remarkable, but there are no sub-par performances, even in minor roles. I can't say as much for the writing, which is rather weak. Funny at times--ending a wordy verbal assault with "...and that's why you suck!"--but too cheesy and awkward to take very seriously. On the non-vocal end, the sound effects are underwhelming--the big, impressive spells are way too quiet. The background music isn't really noticeable, but is good enough. As for the end theme, the vocal one in the second act could have been nice, but there's too much talking going on over it to tell.
In all, Gestalt is an odd mix of serious fantasy and silly fantasy parody, with some fun characters, a plot that could have perked up if it hadn't been cut off after two episodes, lots of old RPG references, and a smattering of magical action. Old-school D&D fans should get a kick out of the references and in-jokes, and if you love light fantasy it'll be an amusing diversion. Otherwise it's uneven and not creative or funny enough to be worth spending the time or money on, even as a rental.
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Very similar to Ruin Explorers, Record of Lodoss War, Fire Emblem, and many other fantasy shows, but the closest to it in execution is Rune Soldier Louie, which much more effectively pulls off a mix of humor and straight fantasy, followed closely by the simultaneously more serious and much sillier Slayers. Gokudo deserves a nod as well for similarly-themed and far more over the top fantasy comedy.
Notes and Trivia
Gestalt is based on an 8-volume manga series by Yun Kouga, better known for the shoujo/yaoi series Earthian and Loveless. It's worth noting that the Gestalt manga eventually introduces some yaoi themes, but the animated incarnation never gets that far. VIZ finally began a US release of the manga in 2009, releasing the final volume in mid-2010.
The animated version follows the story of the manga relatively closely (the first two episodes cover roughly the first third of the manga series). The parody of fantasy RPGs may be obvious in the anime incarnation, but it's downright blatant in the manga. For example, whenever a character appears, a box shows up with their stats: Age, race, name, character class, level, etc. And whenever someone casts a spell, a convenient info box is included with the complete statistics for it (level, MP used, etc.). I must admit, as a longtime role-player I found that hilarious when I first saw it.
Among the producers of the anime is the old-time RPG maker Enix (prior to their merger with Square), so it's not exactly a surprise that it's got some RPG blood in its veins.
US DVD Review
The DVD contains both episodes, both languages, a subtitle track, and little else.
A couple of off-color jokes and skimpy costumes, but not much else.
Violence: 2 - Violent, but not very serious.
Nudity: 2 - A flash once.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - A kiss or two.
Language: 1 - Not noteworthy.
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
(originally listed in alphabetical order for some reason)
Olivier: Lex Lang
Ohri: Wendee Lee
Suzu: Sandy Fox
Raja: John Smallberries
Shazan: Terrence Stone
Soushi: Jerry Gelb
Carmine: Melora Harte
Guard: Bob Bobson
Messiah: Steve Kramer
Inkeeper: Laura Salisbury
Gladiator A/Shazan: Terrence Stone
Gladiator B/Raja: John Smallberries
Gestalt/Olivier: Lex Lang
Frost Salamander: Kaeko Sakamoto
Original Story: Yun Kouga
Producers: Tomoyuki Igarashi, Yumiko Masujima
Director: Osamu Yamazaki
Assistant Directors: Minoru Murao, Hikaru Takanashi
Storyboard: Kazuhiro Ochi
Character Design: Takashi Kobayashi
Creature Design: Hikaru Takanashi
Art Director: Tadashi Kudo
Animation Director: Kazuhiro Ochi, Takashi Kobayashi
Creature Director: Hikaru Takanashi
CG Director: Hiroshi Kubo
Music: Toshiyuki Omori
Produced by: TV Tokyo, Sony Music Entertainment