Gunparade March: Aratanaru Kougunka ( ƒKƒ“ƒpƒŒ[ƒhEƒ}[ƒ``V‚½‚È‚ésŒR‰Ì` ) J.C. Staff/MBS/Fuji TV/Pioneer LDC, 2003 U.S. Distributor Pending. Directed by Katsushi Sakurabi. Not Rated. Contains graphic violence and mature situations. by areaseven - http://areaseven.net/ Based on a popular PlayStation 2 video game. In 1945, World War III abruptly ended when an alien race appeared on Earth and began to slaughter the human population. The year is 1999 - 54 years later, mankind is still fighting to survive against the alien forces. Earth forces now use advanced mecha called Humanoid Walking Tanks (HWTs) to combat the invaders, but throughout the ordeal, far too many pilots have been killed in action. As a result, high school students are now recruited to become HWT pilots. Gunparade March follows the lives of the 5121st Platoon, who have just added a mysterious girl named Mai Shibamura to their ranks. Story: B+ At first, Gunparade March seems derivative of many anime titles with the alien invasion plot and is rather slow-paced. Character development doesn't sink in until episode 2. But after that, the series and its characters grow on you. As predicted, the show's male protagonist Atsushi Hayami has the "Shinji Ikari Syndrome", always pessimistic and apologetic. Scary part is that Gunparade March somewhat feels like Azumanga Daioh as well; perhaps because Mai and 10-year-old Nonomi Higashihara are kind of like Sakaki and Chiyo. Animation: A J.C. Staff (Azumanga Daioh, The Slayers) did an excellent job animating this series. The HWTs (designed by Kazunori Iwakura) have shades of Labors (Mobile Police Patlabor), TAs (Gasaraki) and Arm Slaves (Full Metal Panic!). You'll also enjoy the character designs by Yasuhiro Irie. Soundtrack: A Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell, Mobile Police Patlabor) supplies a remarkable orchestral score to go with the series. The opening theme, "Shinjitsu no Tobira" by Yoko Ishida (Pretear, Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar), is very upbeat and light-hearted. Cast Gunparade March features Akira Ishida (Xeloss in The Slayers, Athrun in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED) as Hayami, Akemi Okamura (Shu in Now and Then, Here and There, Belldandy in Adventures of Mini-Goddess) as Mai, Junko Sakuma as Mio, Junko Noda (Mitsune in Love Hina, Maho in His & Her Circumstances) as Matsuri, Mayumi Yoshida as Nonomi, Akio Suyama (Hige in Wolf's Rain, Ohgami in Sakura Wars) as Takigawa, Hideyuki Umezu (Nubata in Outlaw Star, Kamado in The Hakkenden) as Setoguchi, and Emi Shinohara (B-Ko in Project A-Ko, Angel in The Big-O) as Motoko. The Bottom Line Despite a very slow beginning, Gunparade March looks like a very promising anime title. Mecha fans should pick this title up online. As for a domestic release, Pioneer Animation will probably be the ones behind it as they have the DVD distribution rights in Japan.