View Full Version : Legacy of the Bargain Bin: the Hollywood Video clearance
09-22-2006, 12:27 PM
Over the last few months, the Hollywood Video stores have been running a clearance sale on their old VHS tapes. Among these are anime titles from the likes of ADV, CPM, and AnimEigo that have been long out of print or impossible to find on DVD. Suffice it to say I've been getting my hands on everything I could find, and now for whatever reason I'll be doing a mini-review on some of them.
Since these are VHS tapes and not DVDs, I'll be covering content and presentation.
Megami Paradise 2
Run time: 30 minutes.
Released by: ADV Films.
Directed by Katsuhiko Nishijima of Studio Fantasia, I expected this title to be full of madcap humor and panty shots. While it does have its share of the latter, Megami Paradise 2 isn't especially silly. It's a fantasy/fighting show with an all-female cast and a simple plot: the shrine of the dark goddess is attempting to eliminate the holy power source of the ruling goddess clan. It's short enough that many of the characters are only developed in a line or two. The fight scenes are fairly standard with magic weapons and the like, but the animation is fluid and the camera is kept at a low angle, the usual for Nishijima. There's also a bit of playful bondage toward the middle to help offset the otherwise dull and by-the-numbers storyline. As a serious show it falls flat and as a fanservice show it's lackluster, but viewers may at least be pleased to recognize the voices of Atsuko Tanaka, Megumi Ogata, and Kikuko Inoue.
Content grade: D. Watchable, but why bother?
ADV's packaging is standard for their releases of the time: the front cover is a character artwork shot, and the series logo uses a nice block font in green, giving the front a relaxing tropical feel. I was particularly amused that the translated credits use Japanese name order, but with the English name-order reversing convention. For example, the director is credited as "Nishijima, Katsuhiko." It's a little awkward to read, so I'm not surprised that ADV dropped this style, but I'm amused to see that they used it at all.
Presentation grade: B. Eye-catching, serviceable, but nothing stellar.
10-27-2006, 12:32 PM
This one caught me completely by surprise, so I thought I'd put it up here.
The Blinkins: The Bear and the Blizzard
Run time: 43 minutes.
Released by: MCA Home Video.
The first episode opens with a young girl losing her doll in the woods on the way to school. The Blinkins, fairy creatures with glowing bottoms who live in the forest, discover the doll and try to figure out how to return it to its owner. But winter is coming, and they'll also need to gather food for their storehouse. With their owl friend Mr. Ben (Burgess Meredith, fancy that), the Blinkins decide that they'll keep the doll safe in their treehouse until the winter passes. Meanwhile, a bear named Sneed preparing for hybernation decides that he's going to need a mid-winter snack. With the help of an opportunistic frog, he captures one of the Blinkins and tries to ransom her for the storehouse contents. The Blinkins, however, are able to intimidate Sneed with the threat of an early winter brought on by their queen, the doll in an elaborate disguise controlled by puppet strings.
In the second episode, the girl wanders into the woods in search of her lost doll. Slipping on the snow, she twists her ankle and makes her way to Sneed's cave. The Blinkins rally to help, but when Sneed wakes up he again demands food. Finally the Blinkins are able to seal Sneed in his cave using a bear trap built by a mouse construction company, and fly the girl and doll back to her home.
The characters are upbeat and optimistic most of the time, but there are moments of peril brought about by both harsh nature and Sneed. For a show that was probably created to sell toys, it's at least somewhat watchable.
Content grade: D. Admittedly I'm nowhere close to the target audience for this show. Nothing in it rang particularly false, and the production values are good for a TV series. But aside from it being something rare if not impossible to find in today's anime market, it has little to offer me.
MCA's packaging uses a basic art shot of the Blinkins on the front cover that lets you know immediately that this is a cute show for young children. What caught my attention was the mention of Osamu Dezaki as a supervisor for the production. In his decades of experience as an animator, Dezaki has worked on everything from children's shows like The Snow Queen and Hamtaro to graphically violent and sexual features including Sword for Truth and Golgo 13. Naturally I was intrigued to see another instance of his work, and in the character animation for the human girl I was not disappointed--her interactions with the snowy environment and attempts to walk and run on an injured ankle showed attention to detail not usually expected in kids' shows. The second thing that caught my attention was the inclusion of Jennifer Darling in the voice cast. I've been a fan of hers for several years now, largely thanks to her role as Ayeka in the various Tenchi releases, but I've been hearing her ever since I was little when she appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Disney's Darkwing Duck and Aladdin TV shows. It was an interesting experience to be able to go back to an even earlier work of hers, although I have to admit I had a hard time picking her out without a thick British accent. As I feared, the characters aren't credited with their roles, nor is the vocalist for the catchy 80's pop insert songs.
Presentation grade: C. Gets the job done, but more information about the cast and series as a whole would have helped.
01-02-2007, 12:40 AM
Been a while since I've done one of these, but then again it's been a while since I've watched anything on VHS. That said, I hope I'm managing to entertain someone with these obscure reviews. :D
Run time: 90 minutes.
Released by: ADV Films.
A 3-episode OVA billed as a combination of fantasy and sci-fi, Dragoon ranks among such horrid adventures as Fencer of Minerva, Panzer Dragoon, and Dragon Slayer as an example of how not to write and pace a story. The premise is simple enough: the kind-hearted warrior-in-training stumbles upon an unconscious girl, naked in the snow. Naturally he takes her back to his home, where after a bit of flirting she reveals that she's lost all her memories, and of course she's being pursued by soldiers of a malicious empire. Over these three episodes which together make perhaps the first one and a half chapters of a much longer story, the two not-lovers-since-they-can't-figure-out-that-part-yet-and-anyway-she's-secretly-a-superweapon-and-he-wouldn't-know-what-to-do-with-a-naked-woman-if-he-found-one-in-the-snow-right-in-front-of-him gather your typical party's worth of adventuring allies: the bratty little sister with healing magic, the handsome ousted prince, and a female gambler-thief with a grudge against the empire who can't resist taking her clothes off. These five or six vaguely defined characters set off to do... something... the show just ends before it really gets underway, but at least in the meantime they've set up the major villains and hinted at our heroine's mysterious power, which comes out when she experiences strong emotions like when an obligatory enemy henchman tries to rape her. While Dragoon doesn't pull out all the cliches in the book, and has enough original elements of its own to sustain it for a little while, the common pitfall of trying to do too much at once and not doing any of it well rears its ugly head and curses the entire narrative to mediocrity. This show's writers should have looked to Record of Lodoss War for an example of how to put together a serial epic made up of stand-alone opening episodes.
Content grade: F. Now I see why there's no rush to get this show on DVD.
ADV pulls out some surprisingly attractive packaging for this title, with a heavy use of blues on the box and a scripted font that evokes that mythical/fantasy feeling the show is going for. The cover certainly fooled me into thinking I'd found a rare gem of a show that hadn't made its way to DVD, and a naughty one at that. The prominent "17+" label on the box made me expect a bit more in the way of mature situations, and with the attractive character designs you can't blame me. Sadly the show's clumsy handling of female nudity and a stilted dub made this more of a chore than a pleasure to watch.
Presentation grade: B. They did what they could with the material they had.
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