009-1 Vol. #2 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: 009-1

009-1 Vol. #2 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     August 22, 2007
Release Date: August 21, 2007


009-1 Vol. #2 (also w/box)
© ADV Films


What They Say
The battle between East and West continues to escalate as Agent 009-1 takes on her greatest challenge yet: trying to find time to relax! First she finds herself going toe to toe with a deadly cyborg that has "strategically placed" golden guns. Then she discovers that an old friend, who originally helped her defect, has gone double agent and is smuggling intelligence to both sides for extra cash. Will she reminisce with him about old times or have to take him out?

Meanwhile, Mylene's superiors think she's going too soft on the bad guys. Are they actually keeping an eye on the body count?

Contains episodes 5-8.

The Review!
Playing in the vast field of spy stories set in an alternate world, 009-1 manages another set of engaging and alluring episodes.

Audio:
The two mixes on this disc are pretty different though each of them has their appeal. The Japanese track is done at 224 kbps in stereo though it has a lot of bass to it. Sometimes it's almost overwhelming in how it plays out but it adds a lot of impact to the action sequences and to the music. The English 5.1 mix is done at 448 kbps and has much the same impact but it's spaced out a bit better with sharper clarity overall. Both tracks come across very good here both in terms of providing dialogue placement and overall action effects. While we listened to this primarily in Japanese, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With lots of varied locations, the series has a great looking visual palette to it that's almost theatrical at times. Colors are great throughout and there is a real slickness to it at times without it being too glossy. The show looks solid in general though there is a bit of aliasing cropping up from time to time during various camera pans. These aren't all that frequent however. The first episode has some noticeable noise in the backgrounds in a few scenes but it seems to become more minimal as it progresses and barely noticeable throughout the remainder of the disc.

Packaging:
Similar in design to the first volume, the cover artwork here looks great as you have Mylene in some casual clothes set against a dark and stormy sky. I also like that the clouds actually do form a skull in them, pink it may be, which is partially obscured by the silver foil logo which hides it well enough at first glance. The back cover adapts the styling of the eye-catch for its layout and in-between the ribbons it provides a breakdown of the shows premise. A few shots from the show are across a strip while the bottom portion features the usual production information and clear technical grid. The release also includes a booklet that looks to be almost the same style and dimensions of the Japanese one. It provides several pages worth of character artwork and a breakdown of the world concept. A couple of very interesting interviews with the creative staff are also included.

The second volume in the series also comes in a disc+box edition and ADV Films has again gone the extra mile for something interesting. The box for this edition is a small metal tin briefcase which has the series logo attached to the front of it. It's about the same in terms of thickness and durability as the Coyote Ragtime Show tin except that it has a handle on the side and is rather minimal all told. It is a great little stylish piece however and it really fits the shows concept and theme very well.

Menu:
Taking elements from the eye-catch for the overall design with the ribbons running across and then some of the character silhouettes from the opening, the menu design has a good of garish sense of color. Rotating large bands of color in the background while changing it out over the thirty or so seconds it runs, it's almost hypnotic to watch €“ until you get to some of the more garish colors. There's a bit of action instrumental music playing along to it which is decent and sets the mood well enough. Access times are nice and fast and the navigation is quick and easy. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets without issue.

Extras:
A good selection of extras have made it onto this release that will likely please fans of the show. In addition to the clean opening and closing sequences, there is a collection of commercials for the first volumes release and the soundtrack. Also included is a multi-page weapons and gadget breakdown that has conceptual pieces of artwork and explanation of what each of them is. My favorite piece here though is the pilot video which runs a couple minutes long and has various scenes from the series but some of them are done in a different way. It's a great little promo that really sells the show well and made me all the more interested in it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first volume of 009-1 introduced an interesting world where the Cold War had gone on for a hundred and forty years with no signs of it stopping. Though there is a peace of sorts between the Western and Eastern blocs, the real war continues through the efforts of spies and scientists. The military may continue to pump its importance and roll out the big weapons and artillery for show, but the real changes are done behind the scenes where nobody can see it going on.

Though it's essentially an episodic series, the first volume of 009-1 rather wowed me with its overall presentation. I've grown to love the kinds of character designs that Ishinomori is known for and Naoyuki Kanno captured them perfectly. But even beyond the design is the way the show plays out in its pacing and style. It takes nods from several classic spy films while retaining a very Japanese sensibility to it. With each tale playing out within the confines of a single episode, it doesn't get too detailed and bogged down but rather flows in a free style that may not always be apparent at first. If anything, it's the lack of real predictability in terms of what will happen that keeps it fresh from episode to episode.

The four episodes in this installment are solid across the board though the third one is the weakest. What was most surprising was that we get an episode that really delves into Mylene's background and shows her from the ground up. Generally in spy stories there are some nods to the characters backgrounds and maybe a mention of what motivates them from their younger days but it's rare to see it fleshed out as fully as this. Mylene's past as someone who was escaping from the Eastern bloc with her family is done in tragic style, with her parents and brother being killed. Haunted by the words of freedom from her father, she still agrees to head into the Western Bloc with the agent who was helping them.

Though he warns the young child not to become a spy when she grows older, the opportunity shows itself to her when she's a teenager. Having no family or anyplace to go when she came over, she spent her time in various institutions that took care of her but didn't really foster her. The chance to go into something that would let her be free of those places while also potentially helping to fight for freedom was too strong. What's interesting about the episode is that it plays against a bookend story in the present which takes her back to her past. It's laid out with some of the elder men of the Zero Zero organization talking about how soft hearted she is and whether she's really cut out for the organization. So much is tied together and neatly explained here that Mylene shifts from a cool and neat character to a rather interesting and humanized one.

The other three tales in the volume are all fun and interesting on different levels. The weakest of them is episode seven which revolves around an investigation into how secrets are being moved out of the country. It involves a pair of characters that really don't resonate well and isn't laid out well in terms of its plotting. As it is revealed it becomes more interesting but the gist of it is that it seems to set things up more for episode eight in highlighting Mylene's soft-hearted nature. In fact, that's something that's common across most of these episodes. One story focuses on Ironheart as Mylene has to go to where he's hiding to convince him to give up the secrets that he's acquired during a mission but refused to turn back over to the Western Bloc for debriefing. The negotiations she performs with him is fascinating in that it goes back to an early mission she did with him after she moved into the field. Seeing Mylene as less than smooth and cool as she is now and more confident in herself provides a good evolution for her, though you wonder just how much time has passed between then and now.

In Summary:
There are few series that really play in this arena so 009-1 doesn't have a lot of competition or comparisons. The nature of the series, being mostly standalone episodes, works in its favor in that we get a good variety of missions to it which bring in other 009 members when needed. But it also allows for it to focus just on Mylene herself when needed. The series has a good sense of pacing and style to it, going over the top in some ways but also keeping itself rather grounded in others. This is a world that I would love to see revisited on a more regular basis and lament that we're already more than halfway past it with this release. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language, Pilot Video, Japanese TV Commercial Collection, "Weapons and Gadgets," Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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