Review Center – Hyper Speed GranDoll

Before I get started, let me do a little rundown.  You know all those tapes I wanted to review for both Review Center and Crap You’ve Never Heard Of?  I couldn’t because whenever I played them on my VCR, my tuner would stop recording video.  I pinpointed the problem as Macrovision, a copy protection encoded into VHS tapes.  I thought I needed to buy a Macrovision remover to fix this problem. But on a lark, I decided to look into a software fix instead.  Good call on my part.  Daum Potplayer manages to allow me to watch Macrovision-encoded tapes with no problem whatsoever.  As it turns out, Windows Media Center seems to be able to detect Macrovision and automatically stops recording.  But does it tell me it’s copy protected?  NOPE.  It hides that bullshit behind a “low bitrate” error message.  In short: Fuck you, Microsoft.

That said, there was much rejoicing, followed by the sadness of knowing my backlog instantly filled up.  Next time on Review Center is the long-awaited Psychic Wars.  I CAN’T WAIT!  But on to what’s being reviewed NOW: a perfect specimen of mediocre U.S. Manga Corps releases… Hyper Speed GranDoll!

You know, just in case you can't read in all-caps.

You know, just in case you can’t read in all-caps.

The series starts off with a girl in a space pod flying toward Earth.  The last message of her parents – their wish for her to survive – resonates.  We are not going to mention the obvious reference/rip-off going on right now.

Meanwhile, on Earth: A mad scientist / substitute teacher is on a date!

Over-the-top mad scientist substitute teacher in the first minute?  We have a winner.

Over-the-top mad scientist substitute teacher in the first minute? We have a winner.

 

Oh gawd, he's not going to carve a message on the moon, is he?

Oh gawd, he’s not going to carve a message on the moon, is he?

Their date is interrupted by a space pod crashing into the park.

YEARS LATER…

The thing about mad scientists: they're mad, but they're also effective.

The thing about mad scientists: they’re mad, but they’re also effective.

In one of the more amusing alarm clock scenes I’ve ever seen, our heroine, Hikaru, swats her chatty alarm clock to the floor.  The clock proceeds to commit seppuku and self destruct.  So already we are introduced to the kind of madness Hikaru has to live with every day.

I guess you get used to this BS after a while.

I guess you get used to this BS after a while.

Hikaru rapidly gets ready for school, including a non-explicit shower scene and not including a triangle of toast in her mouth.  Imagine that.  Oh, and despite Hikaru’s mad scientist upbringing, she’s a pretty average girl with a quirky personality (and secretly loves a superhero show, which is one of the cheapest ways to establish “this girl is quirky”).

She also meets / introduces the audience to her best friend Haruna, who ultimately isn’t all that important and therefore has one of the most wasted character designs in the series.

Meanwhile, aliens.

I think there are better ways to be mysterious and vague about what you're after without sounding ridiculous.

I think there are better ways to be mysterious and vague about what you’re after without sounding ridiculous.

So, there’s this alien named Peos.  He’s after something on Earth.  Think of him as Kefka, only he never gets an upgrade.

I think you meant "mobilize."  They're... kind of opposites.

I think you meant “mobilize.” They’re… kind of opposites.

Here’s Peos’ disapproving… something.  I guess she’s on the same side, but I dunno why she takes orders from him.  They don’t seem to be equals, but she gets to operate independently.  It’s not complicated… we just never get any details.  Oh, and her name is Sigil.  Think of her as the Celes, I guess.

Anyway, Peos sends a henchman to investigate.  The henchman gets a reading, but can’t tell if it’s coming from Hikaru or Haruna.  Gee, I wonder where this is going… Anyway, this tiny statue in Hikaru’s room detects danger and tries to telepathically communicate with her.  Meanwhile, Hikaru’s racket (apparently designed by his father) detects danger (in the form of a tennis ball flying right at her) and puts up a defensive barrier.  Peos’ henchman totally takes this the wrong way (which is somehow, accidentally, the right way) and determines something is protecting one of the two girls, so he’s on the right track.

You would think the gem is the key.  Nope, it's the entire damn statue.

You would think the gem is the key. Nope, it’s the entire damn statue.

Oh, BTW, Hikaru is in love with an older student who plays tennis.  He’s kind of easy-going and doesn’t have much else to his character.  Haruna invites Hikaru to a double date in one of those absurd Disneyland-esque amusement parks that seem to exist  in every major anime city.

Someone on the staff decided it would be HILARIOUS to take liberties with the subtitle dialogue.  Avoiding crappy script decisions is the reason I avoid dubs.  You're taking THIS away from me too?

Someone on the staff decided it would be HILARIOUS to take liberties with the subtitle dialogue. Avoiding crappy script decisions is the reason I avoid dubs. You’re taking THIS away from me too?

The double date goes swimmingly, up until Hikaru gets separated in a funhouse and ambushed by that henchman.  This results in her not taking him seriously until shit gets real and she’s taken hostage.

If this were an animated .gif, you'd be seeing a hilarious backhand.

If this were an animated .gif, you’d be seeing a hilarious backhand.

 

There's those liberties again.

There’s those liberties again.

The henchguy determines Hikaru can’t possibly be the person they’re looking for.  So it must be Haruna, right?  Well who gives a damn.  The best way to flush her out isn’t by kidnapping her best friend; it’s by firing missiles into the crowd like a dumbass.

Naturally, this triggers Hikaru’s protective instincts as she gives inner monologue #1 about how everyone she cares for has to be protected, and she won’t forgive anyone who disrupts that peace.  Meanwhile, she is saved by Sigil, who is bothered by some sort of warriors’ code or somesuch.

Oh, by the way… it was Hikaru they were after all along.

Where would our magical girls be without talking instruction manuals?

Where would our magical girls be without talking instruction manuals?

Well, at least they're following the How to Make a Magical Girl Show cookbook to the letter.

Well, at least they’re following the How to Make a Magical Girl Show cookbook to the letter.

Not explained: why she suddenly doesn't need glasses.

Not explained: why she suddenly doesn’t need glasses.

As Hyper Speed GranDoll, Hikaru is ridiculously overpowered, and simple kicks and punches have incredibly destructive results.  And without any guidance, she somehow knows what her finishing technique is:

G Gundam could have been a VERY different anime.

G Gundam could have been a VERY different anime.

So we finally give the mysterious item a name: the Gran Royal Armor – a name that means nothing to us, so why bother keeping it a secret?

So, Hikaru is now a superhero, and the aliens want her armor for reasons.  Where do we go from here?

Grandoll-2014-02-01-23h32m20s119

Best father ever.

Best father ever.

Episode 2 starts off with a flashback from Hikaru’s alien childhood.  She sings a song about two stars that are different but the same.  Then we move on to Sigil, who apparently had a childhood in the same planet.  GEE I WONDER WHERE THIS IS GOING.

Considering the era, wearing a see-through suit during your obligatory bathing scene may have been ahead of its time.

Considering the era, wearing a see-through suit during your obligatory bathing scene may have been ahead of its time.

Sigil’s backstory is fairly simple: she felt trapped in whatever religious institution she was in at Planet Gran, and Sir Friedschalf saved her.  Since then, she has been completely devoted to him.  Is it strange that Sigil is the most fleshed out character in the series so far when her character has been done over a dozen times over?  At least she looks gorgeous.  And most of the cast seems to agree once she infiltrates Hikaru’s school as Shigi Rumiko, the mysterious transfer student.

Whelp, that's her character in a nutshell.

Whelp, that’s her character in a nutshell.

Subtlety is apparently not her strong suit.

Subtlety is apparently not her strong suit.

All the guys instantly fawn over her.  And so does Hikaru.

Please say yes.

Please say yes.

Despite the fact that Sigil should have already seen the transformation in person in the last episode, she is under the impression that Haruna is the owner of the armor.  So she challenges her to a duel.  Okay then.

Research is also not a strong suit for her.

Research is also not a strong suit for her.

Mops: The weapon of choice for proud warriors.

Mops: The weapon of choice for proud warriors.

I kind of wish Haruna turned out to be a match for her, but that would be taking an interesting turn and we can’t have that.  Let’s just have Sigil lose in the most convenient way possible.

Called it, but still pretty funny.

Called it, but still pretty funny.

Sigil wakes up in the infirmary and sort of befriends Hikaru because hell, why not?  This is also pretty much the exact moment Sigil defeats Haruna and becomes the new best friend of the heroine because reasons.

FORESHADOWING

FORESHADOWING

Hikaru invites Sigil over to her house, and Sigil immediately recognizes the small statue that houses the Gran Armor.  The Gran Armor tells her that Sir Friedshalf is in fact an evil person.  She gets all pissy and tries to take the armor by force, but, well… force field.  After destroying Hikaru’s room, Sigil is forced to flee.

Oh, but before that, she offhandedly calls Hikaru “Princess Shania,” which is apparently her true name.  Which also makes it confusing that her true parents call her Hikaru in her flashbacks.

Here it comes...

Here it comes…

Grandoll-2014-02-02-00h11m27s40

Grandoll-2014-02-02-00h11m34s110

I'll admit, this is one of the better moments of this series.

I’ll admit, this is one of the better moments of this series.

Grandoll-2014-02-02-00h12m36s221

YOU WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO SAY IT!  Wait, Superman was a princess?

YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO SAY IT! Wait, Superman was a princess?

Fun fact: that’s actually just more liberties / Americanization.  In Japanese, Miki refers to Kaguya-hime, not Superman.  Not that the comparison to Superman isn’t more accurate.

While Sigil has been failing to get anything accomplished, Peos goes and does something Sigil disagrees with, but is ultimately… well, not smart, but more the obvious thing to do.

Just in case you forgot he existed.

Just in case you forgot he existed.

It’s time for a good old-fashioned ransom scene.  But first, the reason Sigil is so devoted to Sir Friedshalf: attachment.  *sigh*

Not creepy at all, Sigil.  You're not being the least bit used.

Not creepy at all, Sigil. You’re not being the least bit used.

Peos says Sir Friedshalf approved of the ransom plan, so Sigil decides to go for it even though it goes against her warrior code.  Y’know, the same warrior code Sir Friedshalf taught her.  So… is Sir Friedshalf really a good guy?  Was he replaced by someone else?  Is Peos lying?

Let’s just mull over that and get to the fight scene.  Hikaru and Sigil exchange attacks briefly before telling Sigil she’s not acting like herself (after knowing her for, what, a couple hours?) and this causes Sigil to just give up.  Peos decides to take matters into his own hands by attacking random citizens with his spaceship.

Well that was kind of random.

Well that was kind of random.

Honestly, how hard could it have been to produce a figurine with exchangeable armor?

Honestly, how hard could it have been to produce a figurine with exchangeable armor?

WHAT IS SO SONIC ABOUT POSITRONS?

WHAT IS SO SONIC ABOUT POSITRONS?

Well, Peos is nothing if not practical.

Well, Peos is nothing if not practical.

With Peos defeated, all that’s left is the problem of Sigil.

What kind of happy are we talking here?

What kind of happy are we talking here?

So, Sigil is torn about what she should do and runs off… only to show up in front of Hikaru’s home because she has nowhere else to go.  In the rain.  Which results in this happening:

Not that I'm complaining.

Not that I’m complaining.

And then this:

LET'S TAKE THIS FURTHER, SHALL WE?

LET’S TAKE THIS FURTHER, SHALL WE?

So, I guess Sigil and Hikaru have somehow solidified their friendship, and we are treated to Hikaru’s first true nudity scene of the series.  It was a long time coming, but we finally managed to get it in the third of three episodes.

You bastard!  I already made that joke in the banner!

You bastard! I already made that joke in the banner!

So not only do they have happy bath time together, they also sleep together.  Why can’t we just have Haruna in there for the hell of it?

Now you're just getting desperate.

Now you’re just getting desperate.

They can’t sleep, so they exchange stories about their memories of Gran.  Turns out, Sigil also knows the same song about the two stars that are actually the same.  In the previous episode, the Gran Armor once mistakenly referred to Sigil as Princess Shania, and Hikaru’s (adopted) mother Miki made a comment about Sigil and Hikaru looking like body doubles.  WHAT DOES IT MEAN?  Well, still no answers because Sir Friedshalf finally makes his appearance… to all of Earth via a television broadcast.  Threatening to destroy the planet if Hikaru doesn’t give the armor up.

Wait.  So you're saying GranDoll copied Superman, and Man of Steel copied GranDoll?

Wait. So you’re saying GranDoll copied Superman, and Man of Steel copied GranDoll?

Hikaru wants to give up the armor, but the armor says giving it up puts the entire universe in danger.  Then Hikaru is like “I must save my planet,” and so she heads to Friedshalf’s ship to save the planet.

Sigil confronts Friedshalf about why he’s doing what he’s doing.  Friedshalf responds by changing the subject entirely and challenging Sigil to a sparring match.  Then Hikaru appears, and Friedshalf tells her about how he led a rebellion against the Gran royal family and stabbed Hikaru’s real parents with their own royal sword.  Which he now wields.  And he wants the Royal Armor because it will make him an undefeatable dictator.  Because that couldn’t POSSIBLY give the heroine with barely any resolve the resolve she needs to fight, right?

You have officially run out of attack names.

You have officially run out of attack names.

The Grand Armor easily trounces Friedshalf in a complete curbstomp of a battle.  During one of Friedshalf’s exchanges, Sigil runs in front of him and takes an attack meant for Hikaru.  Oh, and turns out Friedshalf really DID love Sigil, so having accidentally killed her (and blaming Hikaru for it) results in him no longer having any fucks to give.

I don't know why, but stabbing the ground always results in a cooler attack than trying to stab your opponent.

I don’t know why, but stabbing the ground always results in a cooler attack than trying to stab your opponent.

RAAAAAAAGEQUIT!

RAAAAAAAGEQUIT!

Grandoll-2014-02-02-00h49m32s107

Well.  That escalated quickly.  Why did he even need the freaking armor again?

Well. That escalated quickly. Why did he even need the freaking armor again?

Hikaru responds to Friedshalf’s attack by transforming into the GranDoll’s final form.

Need a final form?  Just add wings.

Need a final form? Just add wings.

Oh, and and turns out Sigil survived… just long enough to be with Friedshalf in his final moments aboard his soon-to-be-destroyed ship.

I like Sigil and all, but... I felt nothing.

I like Sigil and all, but… I felt nothing.

I had to rewind this scene several times because I kept blanking out.  It was literally one of the weakest climaxes I’ve ever seen.

DENIAL.

DENIAL.

So, after Hikaru’s battle has ended, her father, mother, and love interest appear in front of her in space suits, and she celebrates having protected her loved ones.  Oh, and her love interest tries to spit out a confession.

End credits.

…there is no epilogue.  Sigil’s dead.  Deal with it.  What was her connection with Hikaru?  I guess just that they were on the same planet and heard the same song when they were children.

Comedy: 2
It started out great, but threw away all its potential for third-rate  drama.  Ironically, the best character in the series is responsible for turning it into trash.  Then it devolved into “boring,” which is the worst thing you could do to a comedy.  The series seriously needed a LOT more of Hikaru’s parents, as they were the only thing that made it seem fresh.  There was enough in there to stretch the series into an entertaining 4-6-parter, but they just blew it in the third.

Pleasure Rating: Guilty Pleasure
It was enjoyable while the quality was there.  Nothing spectacular, but not particularly bad.  Until it got particularly bad.

Rewatchability: 3
This is yet another OVA I wouldn’t look forward to watching again, but would be OK with watching again to show friends or a spoiled anime club.

Music: Forgettable
The only notable track is the generic “danger” music, which sounds vaguely like the Mortal Kombat theme.

Marketability: 2
You would think that with great designs and multiple armor forms, this would be a slam dunk.  I guess settling for mediocre will do that.  As it turns out, there is a PS1 game based on this anime.  It looks horrible, turns Sigil into even less of a character, and doesn’t appear to have Hikaru’s parents in it, resulting in an even bigger abomination.

Seriously, look at that first cutscene.  The VERY first cutscene is Sigil kidnapping the love interest and having no moral qualms about it.  On the upside, Haruna is completely trivialized right off the bat so we aren’t under the false impression that she’s in any way relevant.

Overall, GranDoll was okay, but generic and forgettable.  It actually had some interesting, original ideas in there, but completely buried them so they ultimately seem like an afterthought.  We needed more mad science, and we especially could have used some scenes where Hikaru could have been under the impression that her Gran Armor was just another invention of her father’s.  Also, I can’t help but think all the fanservice in the third episode was just put there to make up for how terrible the rest of the episode would be.

Next up: Either a Review Center of Vampire Wars or a Crap You’ve Never Heard Of featuring Virtual Assassin, starring Michael Dudikoff.  It’s a movie that doesn’t even appear in his Wikipedia filmography.

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  1. Because I know my featured images don’t show up on Apoc: GranDoll Review Center banner.

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