Mill Creek's GAMERA 3 blu-ray is a Keeper


Written By: Evan Brehany

Here we go again. Evan Brehany talking about Gamera 3.

Thanks to a series of fortunate events, I was able to own the blu-ray release of GAMERA 3: INCOMPLETE STRUGGLE which was released by Mill Creek. The Heisei Gamera trilogy has been a lucky one, looking back on it. All three films are great works for the genre, in particular the third one which is something of a milestone in Japanese cinema. More importantly, the films have been lucky here. Each and every release of the films here in America (on a digital format) has been a great product. Anamorphic widescreen (most of the time), fair picture quality, a wealth of special features which are from Japan (Save some embarrassing material ADV produced), all in subtitles.



Does Gamera’s luck continue into the blu-ray age?

Of course it does. Thanks to the insane cheapness of the blu-ray for GAMERA 3 and the double feature blu-ray of the previous installments, these films are not only among the first kaiju films to be released on blu-ray here in America but are also very accessible to even the most scrooge-esque of collectors. Because of such popularity, this particular product has been noted for it’s three hours worth of material to the trilogy as a whole. Such a package seemed out of the scope of my imagination. Mill Creek Entertainment has been known to bootleg crappy pan and scan prints of the Showa Gamera films for years now (though it seems it is only GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE is being done now in a multi-pack). This was definitely something out of left field. Almost as big of a turn around as what Classic Meidia showed back in 2007.

But how does the package handle itself overall?

VIDEO: 4.5/5
I cannot comment on the quality of the high definition transfer. I can only hope it is beautiful. The best special effects the kaiju genre has to show for and I am stuck watching it in 480p due to not owning composite chords or a HDMI chord. I can however speak about different aspects of the picture though.

In comparison to a copy that I own (sourced from the next to last printing of the R2 DVDs), I can say that the new transfer is better in terms of color. The colors are not as vibrant as what my DVD has, but in return that has something I haven’t noticed before - the amount of bleeding in the picture. It’s not a big difference, but it is noticeable. The bleeding might not even be bad, for it creates a more atmospheric appearance (like how one might like to watch films on VHS). For those who see bleeding as a problem with past releases though, you’ll like this transfer.

AUDIO/SUBTITLES: 4/5
You are going to have to refer to other reviews for more specific and technical based analysis on the disc’s audio. You got two Japanese tracks and an atrocious dub track (I have never seen GAMERA 3 dubbed and I do not plan on it).I will say that even though I am using regular A/V chords to connect my player to my tv, there are some elements which I could hear better than what I could on other releases.

What should be mentioned here though is the subtitle tracks. No, I am not going to complain about them too much. Either they are too big or they are late. I’d personally have the latter. I can piece together what subtitles go with what section of the video. I will complain about the fact that this is a new subtitle track. I am complaining about it because some of the old mistakes the translation on the ADV DVD release had are made again.

For example, when Nagamine finds out that Ayana has a magatama, we go over to the scene of a phone call in which one whole line for Asagi is, “Magatama”. On the ADV DVD, that is translated not as the proper noun it is “A curved black jewel” (a magatama is a magatama, to say “curved black jewel” is like replacing a proper noun with descriptive adjectives). It is worse on this commentary track in which the line is translated as, “You found one?”

There is also noun misusage when Ayana tries to prove herself to the female bullies at school by going in and trying to lift the rock out of the cave. Ayana asks what is in the cave only to be told “…a monster or something” (line is basically the same on both releases). The antagonist chick does not say monster, rather yokai. Yokai like gappa or one of those things from Daiei’s Yokai series (Great Yokai War anyone?) It seems Japanese terms are being ignored. That’s part of the charm of the Gamera trilogy, they are more Japanese than their Heisei Godzilla counterparts.

One improvement was better though. After Gamera’s attack on Shibuya, you have Ayana’s little brother calling her to come see what is on the television. On the ADV DVD, the subtitles translate what he is saying (which sounds like “ohniynjah”, clearly not “Ayana”) as “Ayana”. On the new translation, it is read as “Come quick!”. Easier to believe.

SPECIAL FEATURES: 5/5
For you Gamera die hards and fans out there, this is the reason to get this one disc. In fact, because of this reason, every fan in every country - including Japan - should own this Blu-Ray. The answer is simple - the three hours of material on this disc is material sourced from the Japanese laserdisc box sets for all three films. That is a big deal.

The fact of the matter is this - three main companies handled the video releases of material pertaining to the Gamera trilogy. You had Amuse Video, Daiei Video, and Kadokawa Video. The model was like this: never copy something from one medium to another. If something was released on VHS, do not put it on laserdisc or DVD. If something was put on laserdisc, do not put it on DVD or VHS. Even in Japan, if something was put on DVD, VHS, or Laserdisc, it did not go onto the blu-ray. The Japanese blu-ray for the Gamera trilogy only had one special feature - a three part feature (just a whole bunch of interviews edited together and split into three parts). Unless you had a laserdisc player or bought materials from an illegal source, there was no looking at the special features in the laserdisc box sets.

Until now. Even more interesting, Mill Creek Entertainment has gone the extra mile to even subtitle the material for us. Not everything from the blu-rays are on here now. For example, the laserdisc box set for GAMERA 3 did contain the music video for “Tell Me Once Again”.

Rightfully so, most of the material on the blu-ray belongs to GAMERA 3. It starts off with a Gamera test which shows off the terrible sliding the back shell platelets were prone to. After this and the material for the first two films are over with, there is the “REVENGE OF IRYS REMIX”. To those who do not own the G3 LD Box set, this feature was actually supplemented with a book. The remix is basically the sound mix/track (sound effects, dialogue, ect.) for areas of the film that used SFX and instead of the scenes playing out like they do in the film, they are made up of corresponding B-ROLL footage. For example, with the atmospheric battle between Gamera and Irys, Gamera ramming himself into Irys would be shown via two guys holding shoulder and head props of the kaiju with the following attack changing to in-progress CG work. You see what computer programs and such the production team used. You can edit in each of these bits into their corresponding places within the film and you wouldn’t go out of the 108 minute running time (and if you do, it is just by a little). It is quite a unique feature.

There is also G3 trailers, which unlike the ADV DVD do not come subtitles (for the record, for those who didn’t get it, the vertical line of text at the beginning of some of the trailers is the same text that goes up the beam of light Irys is producing on the poster. It says “I will never forgive Gamera”, which is quite more hefty than “Godzilla dies”).They are not as plentiful as the ADV DVD either.

The best piece is the deleted scenes. Sure, the subtitles are out of sync for this, but at least they do not take up the entire screen. While some say the deleted scenes help answer things about the film, they actually (for me) form more questions than answers. While I can see why they would be cut out, the deleted scenes with Asakura Mito and Kurata Shinya should have been kept. Would have helped with the mythology. Such as further allusions to the I, CHING, the questioning of Nagamine’s theory that the Gyaos truly were biologically engineered, and such would have been so grand.

GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE gets the short end of the stick here, with just a short little tidbit. But what a tidbit! Talking about specific equipment the crew has to use and specific camera lenses and such really are great for those wanting to learn about the technical making of a kaiju film. Adds to a dictionary such as “oh, that prop is a kapock figure” or “those guys helping out the suit actor are Gamera kakari”.

GAMERA 2 has basically just a bunch of b-roll. With the material being sourced from a laserdisc, it should come as no surprise that there would be problems. The images on screen are too dark for a section. But, it is not all that bad. The making of the Legion suit, the b-roll with certain scenes and such really is interesting. Just too bad that some of the more important things, like the quick usage of motion capture in GAMERA 2 wasn’t in with the clips.

That being said, this is great when it comes to the actual making of the films. Yes, as it has been said, those who are completists should definitely keep their ADV DVDs. No doubt about it. But, both products together gives one quite the comprehensive insight. Again, if there has to be one reason to pick up this disc, this is the reason. With the Japanese laserdiscs going for over $75 (the GAMERA 3 laserdisc rising towards a $200 price ticket), it is wise to buy this blu-ray. This goes for fans in every country. Germany, China, Mexico, Iraq. If you are a kaiju fan who cares about seeing making ofs and such, you should get this rather cheap disc.

OVERALL:
Originally, I was going to hold out for the Japanese blu-ray box set. Thanks to finding an unused gift card under the oven, I was able to buy this blu-ray from Walmart. To have thought I would have waited for such is inconceivable. The film is presented nicely, and probably greatly if I had a HDMI chord or composite cables. The extras are the selling factor of the release and are a must. Only bad thing to say it is with neither release the subtitles for the special features are perfect. Chances are, if you are as well informed as me in your research, you have been bits of the special features on youtube (They were uploaded on there before the blu-ray was release, sans subtitles), but the G2 material is new to me. And it is subtitled. It’s great!

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