As mentioned, Vols 3&4 contain entirely episodic shows, with little to now exploration of the characters or the the 105 episode spanning plot. While I agree that taken by the each these episodes are nothing to write home about (I'd give them two to three stars), I'm giving the box set four stars because of classic source material, the fantastic restoration, and the truckloads of extras (althouth I still haven't gotten around to seeing all of the extras yet!). Also, the dubs are quite useful--I feel very strongly that you'll get much more enjoyment out of watching the series in the original Japanese--it just hits harder and the acting is so good, that you forget how campy it can taken. Still, I applaud ADR for the faithful dubs, the actors take their jobs seriously, and once I've seen the episode in Japanese it's great to have it play in English so the viewer doesn't have to concentrate as hard (maybe you can get some work done while you watch?). Also, it's interesting to see the different dialogue, and the dub-actors takes on the characters.
Watch these largely throw-away episodes, many of which don't even show the series main villian Berg Katse and certainly don't flesh him out, and then contrast it with the later volumes to see how much better the story gets (the animation and monsters/mecha are *still* superb)--also, watch as the writers take the sometimes ridiculous material from these earlier episodes (the "who is the Red Impulse" stuff, Galacactor's foil to the Ninja Team--the Blackbirds!, and ESPECIALLY Joe's insane "doggy injury" and turn them into dramatic plot points or weave them into intricate story lines that keep you glued to the screen and guessing episode after episode.
Some of the extras are obviously "filler", but with so much to choose from I certainly don't want to discourage ADV--The (noted comic artist) Alex Ross material, artwork and especially the interview are fascinating, the original Japanese material (a video-still, translated version of the original Japanese comic) and sketches are enthralling and show what a phenominal success this show was back in the early 70's, and how it still holds up today. The English dub actors/producers commentary is good,
Volume 4 is certainly the more relevant of the two disks, with the first appearance of Sosai X, Joe's display of obsession regarding Berg Katse, the biggest glimpse of who the Red Impulse is and why he helps the Science Ninja Team, and Joe's injury which plays a MAJOR part in the story much later, especially episodes 98-105; the best episodes of ANY animated series.
Included on this DVD are the eps:
The Mysterious Red Sand
The Fearsome Ice-Kander
The Fearsome Jellyfish Lens
The Indestructible Machine Mechanika
Revenge! The Whale Operation
-Extras include Clean closing animation, Commentary with Luci Christian (the english dub Jinpei) and Charles Campbell (ADR director), Gatchaman Karaoke, and ADV previews.
Hell's Speed Race (a Great Joe/Katse show--Katse almost unmasked!)
A Critical Moment for Science Ninja Team
Who is Governer X? (obviously, a good Sosai X show)
Firebird vs. Fire Eating Dragon (A good Red Impulse Show)
Giant Raging Mecha Ball
A Neon Giant Who Laughs at the Dark
extras: Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Commentary w/Victor Carsrud (Ryu), Gatch Karaoke, ADV Previews
Extras DVD Vol 2 (included in the Vol 3&4 box set)
Joe Condor Profile
Joe Character Sketch
Joe the Condor (English Dub) audition footage
Interview w/Brian Jepson (Dub Joe)
Gatchaman Publishing Gallery
What is Gatchaman?
Interview w/Alex Ross
Gatchaman Manga Volume 1
Buy it because you'll enjoy it. Buy to support ADV's efforts. Buy it so you'll know what's going on in the next volumes when things start getting REALLY good!!!
PS: Vols 5&6, which are scheduled to be released in October, should contain the following stand-out episodes:
#29 "Gallack X, Demon Man": First appearance of the female general--she'll be very important later.
#32-33 "Grand Operation Gezora": The female general shows up with a plan to kidnap members of Gatchaman--who is the female general?? Hmm, time will tell...
#27 "Gallactor's Witch Racer": One of the first of many love affairs Joe has with a woman on the wrong side of right and wrong.
#31 "Plan to Assassinate Dr. Nambu": Joe get's into a rumble with a Gallactor Devil Star Assassin on the road (basically a hot female-killer with a mask), which causes him to think about how he lost his own parents. Joes triumphs, but his confrontation with the Devil star will come back to haunt him--ONE OF MY FAVORITE EPS OF THE SERIES.
#39-40 Jigokiller Parts 1 & 2: This two-parter is the first real display of Ken's feelings for Jun, and sheds more light on the Ken/Red Impulse connection.
#44 "Gallactor's Challenge": Dr. Nambu let's it slip that Ken's father is alive, but who can it be? Shouldn't be too hard to figure out if you're over 10 years old, but still a great episode.