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Gamera 2:  Attack of Legion (Limited Edition)
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Box Front Japanese Title: Gamera 2:  Region Shurai (“Gamera 2:  Advent of Legion”)
Director: Shusuke Kaneko (Gamera 3:  Revenge of Iris, Pyrokinesis)
Original Release Year: 1996
Running Time: 101 minutes

DVD Released By: ADV Films
Video: Anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Japanese 5.1, English 5.1
Extras: Interview with the director of special effects, press conference, theatrical trailers and TV spots, behind-the-scenes footage; footage of promotional events, exhibitions, and opening day; humorous outtakes, “Lake Texarkana Gamera” (extended version), ADV previews
Subtitles: English
Closed Captions: None
Region: 1
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 25
Packaging: Keepcase
MSRP: $19.98
UPC #: 702727038822
Catalog #: DGM/002
Status: Out of print.  It was included in the Gamera Complete DVD Collection Limited Edition Box Set.


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The Film: A meteorite crash interrupts a serene winter night in Sapporo, Japan.  The fact that the celestial object is nowhere to be found (despite leaving a sizeable crater) takes on a sense of sinister foreboding when the area is plagued with strange phenomena.  Lights in the sky, disruptions in communications, and a break-in at a beer warehouse (where the bottles, not the beer, are consumed!) all point to a visitor from space.

This is confirmed when subway passengers are attacked by a horde of insect-like creatures.  Soon, downtown Sapporo is shattered by the blooming of a huge flower that is tended by the creatures.  Investigators correctly deduce that the flower pod is gathering oxygen to launch its seed into space.  The force of this explosion will wipe Sapporo off the map, but it’s too late for the military to do anything about it!  Luckily, the Earth’s guardian Gamera senses the threat and arrives in time to destroy the flower.  Afterward, he is injured by the swarm and retreats back to the sea.

The insects (dubbed “Legion,” a Biblical reference) amass their forces for a second try.  This time, the giant Queen Legion runs interference against Gamera.  Against all odds, Gamera again destroys the flower, but at a terrible price.  The city of Sendai is completely annihilated, with Gamera at ground zero!  Can anything revive Gamera, or give the military the edge it needs, to stop the Legion’s relentless march towards Tokyo?

Gamera 2:  Attack of Legion is the follow-up to 1995’s Gamera:  Guardian of the Universe.  The first film was widely hailed as one of the best kaiju eiga since Toho’s golden age in the 1960s.  As such, it’s a tough act to follow, but Shusuke Kaneko and his crew do so brilliantly.  G2 moves along at a quick pace.  Despite the fact that Gamera doesn’t show up until the half-hour mark, the film never drags.  In best X-Files fashion, the mystery of the Legion grows and develops ominously.  When the monsters engage in battle, there is a real sense of urgency that is lacking in many monster films.  Far from being merely a technical exercise, the fights are true struggles for survival.  The overwhelming Legion needs to reproduce at any cost, and the audience gets a real sense of the painful sacrifices made by the noble Gamera to stop it.  Legion is by far Gamera’s largest and most powerful opponent.  Its strength is incredible, and it is able to neutralize Gamera’s attacks.  It is a creature which neither Gamera nor humanity alone can destroy.  Both must work together to preserve the planet.

There are great scenes in
G2.  It may seem like a simple thing, but snow is rarely seen in kaiju eiga.  The winter setting serves to add some great atmosphere to the early scenes in Sapporo.  Another memorable scene is when a group of people, mostly children, gathers in the ruins of Sendai to watch over the defeated Gamera.  This reflects back on Gamera’s legacy as the “friend to children,” without descending into silliness or camp.  The main characters (both new and returning) are still quite engaging.  There are a few CGI shots that are pretty obvious.  Ko Otani’s score is less memorable, but this may be because it is intentionally more low-key.  Any problems with the film are very minor.  Overall, G2 is a triumph.  Grade:  A

Video: This is the same transfer as the stand-alone release of G2.  The film is presented in widescreen, and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs.  There is no visible print damage or grain, and the transfer is clear and sharp throughout.  Color reproduction is good, if not particularly vivid.  Some darker scenes are lacking in detail, but it’s not a major problem.  Overall, the transfer is noticeably better than ADV’s first Gamera DVDGrade:  B

Audio: The audio is also the same as the previous version.  The film’s original Japanese language track, and ADV’s English dub, are presented in 5.1.  Both sound very good.  All of the dialogue, music, and sound effects are well reproduced.

The English dubbing, however, is a step down from
Gamera:  GOTU.  While the voices and lip-synch are okay, the dialogue includes many flippant phrases and one-liners.  This cheapens the film, as it makes this serious sci-fi drama seem campy.  Stick with the subtitled Japanese version.  Grade:  A-

Extras / Menus: Once again, ADV went all-out with the extras.  Except for the “Outtakes,” “Lake Texarkana Gamera,” and some of the ADV trailers, the extras are presented in Japanese with optional English subtitles.  First up is a 32-minute interview with Shinji Higuchi, the film’s director of special effects.  This is actually only one part of a very extensive interview.  (The first part is on the Gamera:  GOTU DVD, and the final installment is included on Gamera 3:  Revenge of Iris.)  The interview is conducted by Hirokatsu Kihara, a writer and former production manager for Studio Ghibli.  The interview covers all three films in the series, and ADV thoughtfully prefaces it with a spoiler warning.  The main topics covered are the staging of explosions and filming the monster suits effectively.  Higuchi also talks about staying consistent with such Gamera traditions as the great turtle’s appetite for flames and penchant for getting violently skewered by other monsters.  Like the first installment, this part of the interview is very informative.  It’s also fun to watch, due to the inclusion of many film clips (including alternate takes), and the friendly rapport between the two men.

Two press conferences are included.  The first one was held to announce the production of
G2.  It includes statements by Shusuke Kaneko and two of the film’s actors.  It ends with a photo-op staged for the press with the Gamera and Legion costumes, and a brief look at the participants eating backstage afterwards.  The second one was held in Sapporo, where the film begins.  The director and several of the actors comment on how the abundance of snow in the area both hindered and helped the production.  The two press conferences run back-to-back for a total of 7 minutes.

The “Japanese Theatrical Trailer Collection” includes 6 trailers.  The first one is an early teaser, consisting entirely of footage from
Gamera:  GOTU.  Four of them use the odd promotional title Gamera 2:  The Real Guardian of the Universe (spoken in English).  The trailers run for 6 minutes.  There is also a collection of 10 Japanese TV spots.  They run for 2 minutes.

Next comes a 3-minute montage of behind-the-scenes footage, set to the song “Gamera Always Wins.”  There is 5 minutes of footage from three “Gamera Promotional Events.”  These are exhibitions that are held around Japan.  First up is a look at workers setting up miniature sets, monster suits, and movie props for “
Gamera 2 Special Effects Studio.”  The next segment shows patrons (mostly kids) enjoying the “Gamera World” exhibit.  The final one is the “Great Gamera Exhibit.”  This show seems to include more merchandise and memorabilia such as posters and models.  It also includes fan art and children getting their pictures taken with both Gamera and Gyaos.

Also included is footage of the film’s opening day in Japanese theaters.  The film’s premiere is preceded by onstage appearances by Shusuke Kaneko, Shinji Higuchi, and several actors.  This clip runs for 4 minutes.

While all of these extras are taken from the region 2 Japanese DVDs, there are two comedic additions produced by ADV themselves.  “Outtakes” runs 4 minutes.  It consists of film clips with (mildly) humorous dubbing.  Next up is the one major difference between this disc and the old one:  “Lake Texarkana Gamera” has been expanded from a short diversion to a feature-length alternate audio track.  Now you can watch the entire movie with redneck dubbing!  It’s actually pretty funny.  Give it a listen and see if it’s your can of beer.  Yee-ha!

Finally, there are the requisite ADV previews.  This batch includes
Zone of the Enders:  Dolores, The Princess Blade, Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda Season 1, Farscape Season 3, RahXephon, and Gamera 3:  Revenge of Iris.  Unfortunately, the G3 promo again makes light of the film.  Why ADV does this is unknown.  There’s nothing in the Gamera clip that looks any more silly or cheesy than the Andromeda or Farscape clips, which are played straight.

There is also a promo for
The Anime Network that plays when the disc first starts up.  Most of the menus are still images with background music.  The chapter select and ADV preview screens have animated film clips in the selection windows.  Grade:  A-

Final Analysis: The only significant difference between this “limited” G2 disc and the previous version is the expanded “Lake Texarkana Gamera.”  Overall good presentation of the movie and a solid batch of supplements make this disc a winner.  Highly recommended for all kaiju fans.  Final Grade:  A-
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