Hikaru has always believed herself to be just a normal high school girl...well, as normal as a teenager with a genius mad scientist for a father. She spends her time with her best friend, day dreaming about the boy she loves and watching her favoite super hero show. One day, the past that she has knows nothing about comes back to haunt her. She is shocked to learn that she is the last surviving member of royal line from a far away planet. Even more, she finds out that she has been protecting the ultimate armour and that it can decide the fate of the entire galaxy.
Chō Kōsoku Gran Doll’s title is satirical—a fanservice-filled spoof of its predecessor, Chō Kōsoku Galvion (1984). Gran Doll is a culmination of many things, feeling sometimes as though Sailor Moon and Tenchi Muyō did a fusion dance to create this wacky ‘90s OVA! A high school drama, part mecha, part super sentai, part space opera, part fanservice, part shōjo-ai… among other things!
This review contains spoilers for Chō Kōsoku Gran Doll (1997)! You have been warned!
The story starts out with a young princess, who sent to Earth, so that she can start a new life away from the tyrannical kingdom, on her home-planet, Gran. The protagonist,
Hikaru Amagi, is a typical genki girl—similar to other archetypal heroines of the ‘90s, like Usagi Tsukino from Sailor Moon and Miaka Yūki from Fushigi Yūgi—she’s carefree and air-headed. But, unbeknownst to her and her adoptive parents, a spaceship from Gran is orbiting Earth—with the plan to sent soldiers out and abduct the royal escapee!
Hikaru’s normal life is turned upside-down when an evil alien, Garbiggi, attacks her and her friends at an amusement park. She is then greeted by a mysterious entity, called Gran Knight, who fuses with her in a parodical mahō shōjo transformation and then with her newfangled suit of armor, she fights the bad guy. In the last minute of the battle, she is rescued by a mysterious, beautiful girl who seems to have similar abilities.
That girl turns out to be Sigil, a solider of Gran, who has sworn her loyalty to the planet’s dictator, Friedshalf, because he saved her life when she was a child. Sigil then transfers into Hikaru’s class to capture her. But, after becoming friends with Hikaru, loses the will to see her as an enemy. In the last act, *Hikaru and Friedshalf face off on his spaceship and Sigil tries to get between them, almost dies, which ends in Hikaru killing Friedshalf.
*After Friedshalf threatens to annihilate Earth if Hikaru doesn’t comply. It is also revealed during this time that Friedshalf killed Hikaru’s parents.
NOTE: Sigil’s fake-out death was silly; she even did the thing when she mutters last words before her body goes limp. I didn’t want Sigil to die but using that tactic, if a character is going to end of surviving, is juvenile.
Despite the fact, that the lesbian bait was more of a bisexual, ‘we both have guys that we’re interested in’ type of thing—it was still touching. I was rooting for Hikaru and Sigil to get together. In OVA 2, Sigil backhands one of her servants because she ‘doesn’t like to be touched’ but lets Hikaru feel her forehead in the same episode. In OVA 3, they spend the night together, at Hikaru’s parents house, and they realize that they are both very similar. Hikaru caresses Sigil very intimately in this OVA. When they’re in the bath together, *Hikaru’s father even launches a talking robot into the bathroom, the says, ‘Go girls!’
*This turns into an ‘eek’ moment because it turns out that Hikaru’s father is using the robot to record them in the bath…
When Hikaru first sees Sigil transfer into their class, she ogles her, and her best friend, Haruna, asks if she’s ‘going lesbo.’ This development was kind of strange though because in OVA 1, Hikaru is head-over-heels for the tennis captain, Narasaki. Also, there are six girls featured on the promotional art of Chō Kōsoku Gran Doll—but only three are actual characters! The other three are just in the background, during the classroom scenes. I didn’t really understand the point of including them in the promo art, *unless the main draw of the show was the bishōjo designs.
*Which would make a lot of sense with the plot’s progression.
There are some suspiciously retconned scenes in OVA 2—(1) In the infirmary scene, Haruna teases Hikaru and says ‘you’re such a princess’ and then Sigil thinks ‘she must be Gran’s princess.’ What kind of WRITING is that? That is NOT a normal conclusion to jump to! (2) When Sigil is introduced, Hikaru’s adoptive parents have a strange telepathic moment—where they somehow know that Sigil is an alien! Keep in mind that Hikaru’s parents are regular earthlings. (3) At the end of the second OVA, Hikaru dramatically proclaims to Narasaki that she’ll never see him again after rescuing him in her Gran armor but at the beginning of OVA 3, she meets up with him to tell him that she’s an alien? So much for plot consistency!
I had an enjoyable first viewing of Chō Kōsoku Gran Doll, so, after I watched the subtitled version, I decided to try out the Central Park Media English dub and it was ATROCIOUS. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT watch the English dub for Gran Doll—it is one of the worst dubs I’ve EVER heard!
Japanese *VO versus English VO
*VO, as in voice over.
• Hikaru Amagi
Japanese: Junko Iwao
Junko Iwao is the seiyū for Tomoyo Daidōji from Cardcaptor Sakura and Akane Aikawa from Mahō Tsukai Tai, so she had a very sweet-sounding voice. Iwao has often had singing parts in her other series and Chō Kōsoku Gran Doll is no exception. When Hikaru sings Gran’s folk melody to Sigil, when they’re in bed together, it’s very touching because of Iwao’s pretty vocals!
English: Debora Rabbai
One of the better English dub voices, but still not good—passable, at best. During the singing bit, in OVA 3, the VO sounded horrendous! It’s obvious that the English dub actor hadn’t had any vocal training, prior to the recording!
Japanese: Yūko Miyamura
Yūko Miyamura is the seiyū for Asuka Langley Sōryū from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Kazuha Tōyama in Detective Conan, so a pretty reputable voice actress. She is very good at creating a ‘hot and cold,’ ice queen kind of character with Sigil. Which is funny, seeing as some anime historians cite Asuka Langley Sōryū as being one of the prototypical *tsunderes.
*Tsundere is a portmanteau derived from the terms ‘tsun tsun’ (ツンツン, means ‘to turn away in disgust or anger’) and ‘dere dere’ (デレデレ, means ‘to become affectionate’).
English: Elizabeth Craynon
In the cast list, this appears to be her only voice-acting role and it really shows. She was one of the worst voices in the whole thing. Craynon would go from talking in a really monotone voice, like she was directly reading off of the script, to trying to overact.
There are other bad performances in the English dub: Hikaru’s best friend, Haruna Saotome, is voiced by Shanon Conley. Conley went under another pseudonym and voiced Kurumi Imari, in the infamously bad English dub of Bible Black. So, Haruna’s voice sounded like a forty-year-old smokers’ would. Hikaru’s sultry mother, Miki Amagi, had a crackly voice as well—I’m not sure why CPM decided to cast the prettiest characters with ugly voices, but I guess I can’t entirely blame them for how little anime licensors used to get paid.
NOTE: Friedshalf was another weird casting decision, he’s an effeminate bishōnen but they gave him a really deep voice for some reason.
Central Park Media also took a couple of liberties with the script (1) when Hikaru’s family breaks the news to her that she was adopted, the script is adapted so that her parents compare her to Superman but in the Japanese audio, they clearly say Kaguya-hime (2) in OVA 3, the original audio has Friedshalf refer to himself as a dictator, the English dub doctors the phrasing to ‘capitalist’ dictator.
Additionally, I really loved Garbiggi’s Japanese voice. His seiyū is not super high profile, like the other two I mentioned, but he put a lot of passion into the sentai villain type of role. *Hidenari Ugaki put the kind of passion into that first OVA that Yoshitsugu Matsuoka had, when he voiced Inosuke Hashibira!
*Garbiggi’s seiyū, Hidenari Ugaki, is famous for voicing Wizardmon in Digimon.
The character designs were done by Toshinari Yamashita, the designer behind Divergence Eve and Nanako Kaitai Shinsho. The main reason why I looked into this OVA was because I am a fan of Divergence Eve. His designs are very archetypically *moe but good, nonetheless.
*Moe is slang for ‘cute’ in anime.
The *Gran battle armor looks like an amalgam of the armors from Ronin Warriors and Saint Seiya. Since Hikaru is the protagonist, she gets a special suit of armor, that looks more like a mixture of magical girl attire combined with Dejiko’s outfit from Di Gi Charat. The *ED is sung by Hikaru’s seiyū, Junko Iwao, and has a killer bass line!
*Worn by Friedshalf, Sigil, and Peos. The song is called ‘Sotto Chikau Shunkan.’
Conclusively, Chō Kōsoku Gran Doll is by no means a ‘good’ show but it’s enjoyable… if you don’t watch the headache-inducing CPM dub. I would recommend this series if you like dumb sentai, robot stuff with a hint of shōjo-ai. Overall, Chō Kōsoku Gran Doll gets a 6/10!