Gamera: Guardian of the Universe appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a great presentation, the movie largely looked fine.
For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Occasional soft spots emerged, and not always for logical reasons.
I expected some lack of definition from effects elements, but other iffy moments made less sense. In any case, the image usually brought appropriate delineation.
No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects emerged, and edge haloes remained absent. The film boasted a nice layer of grain, and sound flaws seemed minimal, with only a few small specks on display.
Colors veered toward a blue impression or some amber. These hues never excelled but they appeared more than adequate.
Blacks were a little dense but generally good, and shadows followed suit. Though a few low-light shots became a bit murky, most of them felt acceptable. This was a perfectly watchable “B” image.
Similar thoughts greeted the movie’s generally positive DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Given its era and genre, the soundscape seemed more limited than expected, though it still mustered fairly good involvement at times. Obviously, the flick’s many action scenes became the focal point, and these could open up the side and back speakers in a positive manner.
But they rarely did so in an impressive way. By 1995, robust multichannel mixes were common, so I expected more from this one.
The track broadened the elements in a generally solid way, with decent use of the side and rear channels. However, it tended to seem a bit speaker-specific and didn’t always blend in a smooth way. Delineation between front and rear didn’t feel as fleshed out as I’d like.
Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed reasonably natural, and music featured positive punch.
Effects also seemed fine, as they showed good clarity and definition. Speech seemed natural and concise. This felt like a pretty positive mix, albeit not anything special.
We find a mix of extras here, and we open with an introduction from film historian August Ragone. A staple of these discs, Ragone chats for four minutes, 34 seconds as he discusses the series’ reboot. He provides the usual efficient overview.
For the movie’s audio commentary, we hear from artist/film historian Matt Frank. He provides a running, screen-specific look at the reboot's evolution and path to the screen, cast and crew, creature design and various effects, story/characters, and related topics.
Though the commentaries for the first five movies ranged from very good to excellent, the quality collapsed for the next three. The best still seemed subpar, and the worst became genuinely awful.
Happily, we rebound with this lively and informative commentary. Frank delivers an energetic personality and he tells us plenty of good details about the project. Expect a pretty terrific chat here.
Across all three reboot movies, we get a long documentary under the banner A Testimony of 15 Years. Here we find Part 1, a one-hour, 55-minute, 47 piece that brings info from actor/stuntman Tomohiko Akiyama, animatronics Tatsuya Abe, stunt action coordinator Mitsuo Abe, producer Morio Amagi, assistant art director Yumiko Arakawa, 1st assistant to SFX cinematographer Masahide Iioka, digital composite Nobuya Ishida, script supervisor Kumiko Ishiyama, SH lighting chief Shigeru Izumiya, screenwriter Kazunori Ito, sound effects Shinichi Ito, SFX production assistant Masato Inatsuki, practical effects assistant Kenichi Ueda, production designer Hajime Oikawa, producer Yoshiyuki Oikawa, composer Koh Otani, monster actor Akira Ohashi, first recording assistant Satoshi Ozaki, creature modeling assistant Takashi Oda, SFX unit leader Katsuro Onoue, SFX production Masaya Kajikawa, assistant SFX art director Yoshiyuki Kasuga, first AD Shozo Katashima, matte artist Keisuke Kamitono, director Shusuke Kaneko, SFX 1st AD Makoto Kamiya, Gyaos actor Yuumi Kamayama, and assistant practical effects to the SFX unit Kenji Kawaguchi.
Unlike most documentaries, “Testimony” doesn’t attempt a chronological portrait of the films’ production. Instead, it presents the participants mentioned in no particular order, as they offer memories of their experiences, and we also get shots from the sets.
Cumulatively, these comments bring generally informative insights, and the behind the scenes material adds value. However, the random structure makes “Testimony” a less than coherent package.
That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it to fans, as it comes with enough useful material to merit attention. However, the way the documentary just bops from one participant to another with no rhyme or reason means it feels lazy.
From 2002, we get interviews with director Shusuke Kaneko and FX director Shinji Higuchi. In this 35-minute, 48-second piece, we hear from Kaneko and Higuchi via separate sessions.
Kaneko chats for the first 20 minutes, 13 seconds and looks at the Gamera character and franchise as well as historical elements that influence the films. Higuchi fills the remaining 15 minutes, 45 seconds with a view of the Gamera costumes.
Kaneko’s remarks feel more philosophical than usual, so he doesn’t say much about the production nuts and bolts. However, he offers good perspective for the genre and franchise, and Higuchi delivers a fun glimpse of the monster suits.
Next comes another Interview with Shinji Higuchi. Recorded in 2001, this one-hour, 32-minute, 42-second program provides Higuchi’s chat with Studio Ghibli founder Hirokatsu Kihara.
The show covers the effects for all three of the 1990s trilogy films. Though it comes with plenty of movie clips, the interview could use behind the scenes footage as well. Nonetheless, it becomes an informative discussion as it looks at the series’ effects work.
Behind the Scenes fills 16 minutes, one second. It includes the expected footage from the shoot and it tosses in “on the set” comments from Higuchi, special effects photographer Hiroshi Kidokoro, specialeffects art director Toshio Miike, mechanical staging Izumi Negishi, and actors Yumi Kameyama and Naoaki Manabe.
As expected, we get more info about the movie’s effects. Also as expected, some of this repeats from earlier programs, but we get some fresh notes, and the glimpses of the production offer value.
With Production Announcement, we go back to April 25, 1994 for a five-minute, five-second reel. Here we see the press event at which the producers officially revealed the plans for a new Gamera movie. It’s worthwhile for archival reasons but it’s not especially interesting.
Called Backstage Clip: The Legend, a four-minute, 17-second reel runs behind the scenes footage along with a pop-rock tune. It’s not all that interesting, mainly because the shots seem so random and don’t last long enough to show us much.
From February 1995, Yubari Film Festival goes for six minutes, 13 seconds and takes us to the movie’s premiere. It’s another clip with archival value and not much more.
Hibaya Theater Opening Day fills two minutes, 55 seconds and takes us to March 1995 for the movie’s commercial debut. Some cast/crew appear at the auditorium as well, but this becomes a forgettable addition.
Two forms of Alternate English Credits appear: “US End Credits” (5:17) and “UK End Credits” (1:57). Neither seems compelling.
Under , we find two teasers, a theatrical trailer, six TV spots, and a US video trailer. We also get an ad for the Gyaos Destruction Strategy Super Nintendo video game.
The disc concludes with an Image Gallery. Across its 90 stills, we see the usual collection of production images, art and ads. It’s a good compilation.
Objectively, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe offers a mediocre movie at best. Subjectively, I recognize its flaws but still think it provides enough monster movie action to make it watchable. The Blu-ray comes with generally positive picture and audio as well as a long roster of bonus materials. Guardian becomes a decent reboot for the franchise.
Note that as of August 2020, this Blu-ray version of Guardian only appears as part of a “Gamera Complete Collection”. This packages 12 Gamera adventures.
The “Complete Collection” also features a 120-page reproduction of a 1996 Gamera comic book and an 80-page retrospective book. My review copy didn’t include these components so I can’t formally discuss them.