DVD Review: Gilgamesh


The Complete Collection

ADV Films

Whereas Evangelion used a pinch of Christian mythology to spice up its plot, Gilgamesh draws its flavor from something much older, the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,’ the original story about a half-god/half-man.


The ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ is one of the oldest stories in human history.  It centers on Gilgamesh, the fifth king of Uruk (an actual (and perhaps first) city of antiquity which was inhabited 6000 years ago).  The Epic is most famous for including one of the source stories for the Biblical ‘Noah’s Flood,’ the details of which are virtually identical to the newer and more famous version; though in this case, the hero is named Utnapishtim.  Beyond that, the Epic is about a great and powerful man who  is still at the mercy of death, and thus seeks immortality.  Humans really haven’t changed that much in 6000 years.

It’s impossible not to compare this series to Neon Genesis Evangelion, even though Gilgamesh is based on a manga from the ’70s.  Both series are about lanky, disaffected teenagers who are given the power and responsibility to fight otherworldly monsters, and are bossed around by a hot, older woman who keeps secrets from them.  They also both takes place several years after a catastrophic, worldwide disaster.

To Gilgamesh‘s credit, the religious aspects of the story are much better integrated.  Often, it felt as if Evangelion‘s religious references were simply tacked on to make the show seem deeper, or more mysterious than it actually was.  With Gilgamesh, the historical basis is fully integrated into the plot, and it’s done in an interesting way, inspired by but not blindly copying the original.

The character designs have been the subject of debate.  They aren’t the most attractive of people, but there’s something ‘real’ about them.  Just because the cast doesn’t look like ’50s pin-up paintings, doesn’t mean the art is bad, it’s consistent and it effectively sets the tone of the series.  While it may not appeal to everyone, the show at least has a distinctive look, unlike most anime.

Anime series have a habit of creating complex worlds and never really explaining them, expecting the audience to piece together the rules themselves.  Gilgamesh is a little more forthcoming, there are enough flashbacks and revelatory conversations to give us a pretty clear picture of what’s going on.   And it is a fascinating world, I’d almost like to see a prequel series focusing solely on Heaven’s Gate.

The characters are well developed, though melodramatic at times.  They’re mostly teenagers, of course, so that’s probably appropriate.  All of them dress very well, in a style that’s like a mod version of goth.

Gilgamesh is a great series.  It’s dark and dank, but engaging all the same.  What’s more, the mysterious aspects of the show actually pay off in the end.

The 26 episode series is spread across five DVDs.  Audio is in Japanese and English, and there are optional English subtitles.  Video is in anamorphic widescreen, and looks good.  Opening and closing credits were changed to English.  There are no extras.


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