Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Vap Video
- MSRP: �26,250
- Running time: 600
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Aoki Ryuusei SPT Layzner
Aoki Ryuusei SPT Layzner DVD Perfect BOX 01 (Blue Comet SPT Layzner)
July 19, 2005
Release Date: September 05, 2001
Aoki Ryuusei SPT Layzner DVD Perfect BOX 01 (Blue Comet SPT Layzner)
What They SayThe Review!
© Vap Video
Note: This DVD boxset contains episodes 1-24 of the SPT Layzner TV series on six discs, which covers the first arc of the story. DVD Perfect Box 02 covers episodes 25-38 (end of TV series) and the three OVAs. While DVD Perfect Box 01 is now, at the time of this writing, out of print, all 11 discs have been repackaged as single volumes. As of 6/16/2005, some retailers list having Box 02 in stock.
Layzner; it is the call of destruction, the darkness that lies at the core of the human soul.
Heralded as outstanding anime immediately after its 1985 TV broadcast, the stellar achievement of Takahashi Ryousuke's masterpiece SPT Layzner was only outdone by the series' colossal failure. Cited as too dark and depressing, the series was not popular and was reduced from a planned year's worth of episodes, then canceled at episode 38, forcing the conclusion to the story to be told in the new-for-the-time OVA format. Back in 2001 Bandai Entertainment licensed Layzner for US distribution and even translated the whole series, only to indefinitely delay the release because Bandai received damaged masters from Japan and is seemingly unable to obtain usable source material. Then their license expired. And that is such a pity it's a crime, because I can say without any reservation that Layzner is the best mecha anime of the 1980s and the best mecha anime, period, until Evangelion came along.
Audio: As a 1985 TV anime series, Layzner is presented in its original mono, which is clearly listed on the box. I detected no crackling, dropouts, or other distortions while watching episodes 1-24. The audio presentation is simple but clean.
Video: Remastered from a new print, Laynzer looks incredible for its age and much better than even the remastered DVDs of Lazyner's contemporary, Zeta Gundam. The picture quality is not absolutely perfect due to the limitations of 80s anime cel processing. There is still a little bit of nicks and damage to the print, and if you watch the DVD on a PC you'll notice frame splicing at the bottom of screen during scene transitions. Thankfully, the splices occur lower than the bottom border for televisions.
Packaging: This boxset consists of a thin artbox housing a 6-disc gatefold digipak and includes a 30 page booklet. Both the artbox and booklet's highly detailed illustration of Laynzer are created by series mechanical designer Okaware Kunio, who is also famous for his mecha designs for the Vifam and Dragonar series. The cover picture with Laynzer taking up most of the space and the shadowed figure of a pilot and the Earth reflecting in the bubble canopy sends a very ominous vibe, fits the program perfectly. The booklet cover shows Laynzer as the Blue Comet V-Max mode which definitely conveys power. The gatefold box opens on the side with sides to show the view from inside the U.N. Mars Control Tower. Under each DVD hub is a picture from a mecha of the series. The backside of the gatefold forms a panorama of the main characters looking out with mixed reactions at the Layzner and destruction occurring in space. Character designer Taniguchi Moriyasu provides the gatefold illustration. I like the scope of the picture, but the designs for the digipak look rather flat and cartoony, not at all like the designs used within the series (the characters have uniquely long heads like his GARAGA designs), and nowhere near as attractive as Taniguchi's original colored pencil sketches for the LD-BOX sets, OSTs, and promotional posters (sadly of which don't even show up here as extras.) The designs here are so different that if they box did not state that Taniguchi illustrated it, I would have never thought it was his.
Although it could very well be considered an extra, the 30-page Explanation Booklet features background information on Laynzer; line art, English/Japanese names, and technical information for all mecha in episodes 1-24; full page interviews with Okaware and Taniguchi; and character line art, cel art, and descriptions for the major players. Story of Layzner includes plot summaries, points of interest to viewers, and transcripts of the pre-episode preview dialogue. Age of Lazyner contains Layzner model kit information. Lastly, there is a full staff credit as well as TV episode titles and broadcast information.
Menus: Like most Japanese anime DVDs, all the discs play the anime instead of going to the menu first. The main menu has a scrolling logo and play bits of animation from the episodes, although the user can navigate at any time, which is a big plus in my book. The only thing to select on the main menu is what episode you wish to go to. From there you can choose to which chapter (opening, part a, part b, ending, preview) you wish to view. Fast and functional is the name of the game here and I'm appreciative of the lack of locked out animations. The menus are not gorgeous, but they look good, show effort, and are efficient, which is the most important trait for menus to possess.
Extras: There are no on-disc extras for this boxset, not even the LD covers which would be given new backgrounds and recycled for the single DVD releases. DVD Perfect BOX 02 has the creditless OP/END sequences.
In the year 1996, the Cold War between the USA and USSR has expanded into space with the colonization of Mars. (Go ahead and laugh to get it out of your system. When your fit has receded, please continue.) A group of international students arrives at the U.N.'s Mars Base to study, but only tragedy awaits them as a battle breaks out between unidentified, not-of-this-Earth robots. Thrown into a pit of confusion and surrounded all around by death, the students are rescued by Eiji, the young pilot of the craft known as Laynzer. Eiji has come to warn Mankind that humanity has been targeted for extermination by the inhabitants of the Planet Grados. The Gradosians have taken note of Man's inhumanities to Man and realize that with Earthlings at war with each other moving out into space, it's only a matter of time before the barbaric Earthlings destroy themselves and the Gradosians along with them. Thus, Grados' supercomputers decide the best course of action is to preemptively annihilate Mankind.
Naturally, the students find such an outrageous tale unbelievable, but as they unfortunately learn, Eiji's story is all too true. Soon Grados' vanguard arrives on Mars, hell-bent on destroying all of the man-made installations and their staff before they can send word of the invasion back to the Earth. The Gradosians also wisely bank on making the attacks nuclear so that the USA and USSR accuse each other of hostilities and are distracted while the Grados' ships make their way to Earth. Meanwhile, Eiji and the students start on a long and hard journey to try and find a way back to Earth and warn Mankind before the Gradosian fleet arrives.
And who is Eiji? He is half-Earthling, half-Gradosian, born from the union of a missing Japanese astronaut and a Gradosian woman. The so-called Super Powered Tracer Layzner he pilots is the prototype war machine his father created which Eiji stole from a Gradosian research company. With his father taking responsibility and now imprisoned, his mother and sister under close surveillance, and his best friend sent to execute him, Eiji is branded a traitor. But the Earth views him as an alien and a member of the enemy on a mission to wipe out humanity. Accepted by neither planet, Eiji now finds himself in a race against time to make it back to Earth and convince someone, anyone that the Gradosians pose a major threat to Mankind. However, the superpowers of the USA and USSR are too interested in acquiring Eiji's SPT, by force if necessary, to copy for their own production lines in a bid to win the Cold War.
The first arc of Laynzer, also known as Eiji 1996 is an emotional powerhouse filled with complex characters. Eiji truly wants to do the right thing and find a way for Earth and Grados to exist in peace, however he deeply struggles with his desire not to kill anyone and situations that appear to leave him no other choice but to kill to save himself and the Earthlings under his protection. Eiji finds himself under constant emotional torment because Laynzer, a machine free from morality, recommends he destroys the enemy's cockpits and the pilots rather than attempting to disable their limbs, because killing the operator is the most efficient way to subdue the enemy. As a result every time Eiji pilots Layzner, he loses a piece of his soul.
But not only Eiji suffers. Gail, Eiji's best friend, is torn between his love of Eiji and wanting to save him and his orders as a soldier and Gradosian to execute a traitor. Anna, the youngest of the Mars students, narrates the tale. She falls hard for Eiji but finds herself plagued by the carnage of war. The other students are equally interesting characters, but there is not enough space in review to give justice to them all, and explaining their motivations and issues would definitely spoil some of the episodes. The only character I dislike and rather wish he didn't exist is Gosterro. He functions as Eiji's foil: he is insane and murderous, wanting to kill Eiji for the pleasure of it but is willing to settle for his own wingmen's lives to satisfy his lust for blood. Some crazy anime villains, like Escaflowne's Dilandu and El Hazard's Jinnai Katsuhiko, are quite insane but are likable because they have charisma. Not Gosterro. He's just an annoying rat bastard with a high-pitched laugh and only thinks about and acts in order to kill people. He's simply too one-dimensional and excessively evil in a story about multi-dimensional characters and lose-lose moral dilemmas. Likewise, out of the students, Arthur is my least favorite because his character's simplemindedness (also read stupidity) is often used as comic relief in an otherwise relentlessly dark and gritty war story. These two characters are as unwelcome and out of place in Layzner as the silly Vanilla is in Takahashi's earlier dark and gritty Votoms. However, my issues with them are minor nitpicks that ultimately don't affect my enjoyment of the series much, but do make the series fall just short of absolute perfection.
Summary: Layzner really excels by placing its characters in unwinnable situations of ambiguous morality in which every possible choice will produce extremely undesirable results. The first episode creates a dark, oppressive atmosphere that never clears. The few happy moments of the series seem like desperate attempts by the characters to forget their hellish situations rather than actual signs things will ever get better. Eiji's conflict with his own machine is one of the central thematic issues of the series and is an utterly fascinating dynamic to witness. Although the first story arc could stand by itself as a complete series, albeit with the most evil cliffhanger I've seen outside of Fushigi Yuugi episode 26, I am glad the series is going to continue for another ten hours. Layzner is must see anime.
Toshiba 21 TV, Daewoo DVD-5700 Player, S-video cables