We put Arrow’s new GAMERA Blu-rays head to head against Mill Creek’s 2011 Heisei Trilogy
This article contains several comparisons which contrast the older Mill Creek Blu-ray transfer with the new Arrow Video restoration. The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.
Coming August 18 from Arrow Video, the massive Gamera: The Complete Collection oversized box set will collect all 12 Gamera films together for the first time, plus limited edition content including an 80-page companion book and 120-page comic collection.
All 12 films have had prior US Blu-ray releases, 11 of which were published through through Mill Creek in a series of inexpensive multipacks released in 2010–2011, and eventually in a rarer complete boxed set of all eleven films. The franchise’s most recent reboot Gamera The Brave was published separately by Tokyo Shock in 2013.
The Heisei Trilogy
After its initial run of 8 Showa-era films produced from 1965–1980, the titanic turtle received a slick, effects-heavy reboot in the 90s, commonly known to fans as the Heisei Trilogy. (The Showa and Heisei eras of Japanese history are also similarly used as shorthand to designate the Godzilla series before and after The Return of Godzilla).
This screen comparisons article focuses solely on the Heisei Trilogy films, which utilize a new 4K restoration by Kadokawa Pictures. Across all three films, my observations are the same, as the experience is pretty consistent. Unquestionably, the new restoration is far sharper, and with terrific color correction and very fine grain. The older discs tended to have a warmer/golden tone, while the restoration is balanced much cooler. While the new transfers can occasionally skew too blue, in all meaningful metrics, the Arrow’s editions are clearly definitive.
However I do concede one important bragging right to the older transfers: while less pristine and far from technically perfect, they do look a lot like old theatrical 35mm prints and there’s value in that. Additionally, at times the lesser clarity does somewhat mask the unreality of the special effects.
One last thought — I don’t usually bring up these kinds of technical details because they can be misleading and it’s better to trust your eyes, but in this case there’s a very marked difference worth noting. Put simply, Arrow’s movie file sizes are approximately 2–3 times larger than their counterparts on the Mill Creek discs (which also combined movies 1 and 2 onto a single disc). It’s not a pure 1:1 comparison since Arrow has added multiple audio tracks, but even so it’s clear from the massive difference in file sizes that these new restorations carry far a greater data load/bit rate, and less compression.
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996)
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.