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Gamera the Brave:  The Day Toto Became Gamera (Region 2)
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Japanese Title: Chiisaki Yushatachi – Gamera:  Toto Ga Gamera Ni Natta Hi (“The Little Heroes – Gamera:  The Day Toto Became Gamera”)
Original Release Year: 2006
Running Time: 51 minutes

DVD Released By: Kadokawa Entertainment
Video: Fullscreen
Audio: Japanese 2.0
Extras: Featurettes, trailers, merchandise info
Subtitles: None
Closed Captions: None
Region: 2
Format: NTSC
Chapters: 5
Packaging: Keepcase (clear)
MSRP: ¥ 1,500
UPC #: 4988111282309
Catalog #: DABA-0230
Status: Available


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The Film: Preview DVDs have become a popular way of promoting upcoming tokusatsu films in Japan.  In the U.S., preview discs are usually offered as giveaways, with or without additional purchases.  In Japan, they are offered for sale at a reasonable price just prior to the theatrical debut of the feature they support.  This was the case with Cutie Honey (Making of Cutie Honey), The Great Yokai War (The Great Yokai War Summer Movie Preview), and now Gamera the Brave.

The main feature on this disc is “The Day Toto Became Gamera,” a 31-minute preview of
Gamera the Brave.  It’s hosted and narrated by Totogametarou, a plush Gamera toy who is apparently the film’s promotional mascot.  It begins with a teaser trailer, and features many clips from the film scattered throughout.  Footage from location shooting is shown, and the difficulties of working with the real baby tortoises that played Toto are discussed.  There are segments dedicated to the main characters, including Toru (the young boy who raises Toto / Gamera), his father (who witnessed old Gamera’s final battle in 1973), and Mai (the neighbor girl who is like an older sister to Toru).  Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with the lead actors are included (even a modest birthday celebration for Kaho, who plays Mai).  There are also interviews with some of the staff, including director Ryuta Tasaki (Masked Rider 555:  Paradise Lost).  There is some brief footage of special-effects filming, along with some comments from FX director Isao Kaneko (no relation to Shusuke Kaneko, director of the Heisei Gamera trilogy).  Monster action highlights include scenes of old Gamera’s battle with a quartet of Gyaos, and Zedus’ initial attack on Shima, the village where Toru and company live.  This is a good program, even without subtitles.

Other features on the disc include:

- The theatrical trailer for
Gamera the Brave.  (1 ½ minutes)

- A teaser trailer for
Gamera the Brave.  (1 minute)

- A short featurette showcasing Kaho, the pretty young actress who plays Mai in the film.  She is filmed while visiting locations for photo shoots, for a photo book called
Step In.  (7 minutes)

- The final featurette is “Gamera Chronicle.”  For about 8 minutes, this serves as a brief recap of Gamera’s film career, covering both the
Showa and Heisei eras.  It includes clips from all the Gamera movies (in chronological order), and info screens featuring the starring kaiju.  Then, it reveals itself as a big plug for the 13-disc Gamera Z-Plan 40th Anniversary DVD Box.  This set includes the 11 Gamera films, plus two discs of bonus features; a Gamera figure with a scale Z-Plan capsule, and a replica Gamera scute (shell scale).  There is a brief look at the sculpting of both the shell pieces, and a large statue that will be the basis for the figure.  Lastly, some info on the Z-Plan Box specs, pricing, and availability is given.  This is very similar to the “Godzilla Battle History” segment on the Godzilla Final Battle DVD.  (9 ½ minutes)

- Finally, there is a series of info pages for Gamera-related merchandise.  These include:  The maxi-single CD
4 Love by Mink (featuring the song “Eternal Love” that plays over the end credits), Kaho’s Step In photobook, and various Gamera toys such as Microman “man-in-suit” figures, and Bandai standard 6”-scale vinyl figures.  (The Bandai lineup consists of reissues of Showa Gamera, Gamera 1999, Gyaos 1999, and a new Gamera 2006.)

All in all, this is a good collection of supplements that give viewers a good idea of what to expect from the new Gamera movie. 
Grade:  A

Video: All of the various trailers and film clips are shown in their correct aspect ratios, in non-anamorphic widescreen.  The featurettes and new material is in fullscreen.  All of it looks good.  The toy images in the merchandise section are too small to show much detail; some are downright fuzzy.  Grade:  A-

Audio: The sole audio option is Japanese 2.0.  Considering most of the material is interviews and behind-the-scenes stuff, multiple audio options or 5.1 surround sound isn’t necessary.  Everything sounds good.  Grade:  A

Extras / Menus: Since the disc is a collection of extras, let’s focus on the menu and layout.  The main menu is a still image, with no music or sound.  All of the selection options are in Japanese.  The main feature title (“The Day Toto Became Gamera”) is prominently displayed, so it’s easy to find.  This program is divided into five chapters, and also has its own chapter select menu.  The next options on the main menu are the trailers, and you use the ‘down’ arrow on the DVD remote to “scroll” down the menu for the other options.  The problem is that the main menu is set up to look like a web page, complete with a (non-functional) navigation frame to the side.  There is a lot of extra text on the screen, which can’t be selected and doesn’t do anything.  This can lead to some initial confusion until you find all the real items and learn to just ignore the rest.  Grade:  C

Final Analysis: This is a good preview disc, even though it’s missing a few things that feel like they belong on it.  It should include a music video for Mink’s “Eternal Love,” and TV commercials for the toys would be amusing.  So, is it worth it?  Here are two ways to look at it:  It's reasonably priced by Japanese standards.  However, considering that many good region 1 special edition movie DVDs cost $10 - $15, spending $15 plus shipping for a promo disc may be too steep for many U.S. fans.  Or, you can use this as a companion to the subtitled region 3 Gamera the Brave DVD (which is a good presentation of the movie, but lacking special features), and still spend the same (or less) than for a non-subtitled region 2 Japanese DVD of the film.  It’s your call.  Final Grade:  B+
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