Aoki Ryuusei SPT Layzner DVD Perfect BOX 02 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

0 Comments | Add

 

Rate & Share:

 

Related Links:

 

Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C-
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Japan
  • Released By: Vap Video
  • MSRP: �21,000
  • Running time: 508
  • 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 02

    February 08, 2006
Release Date: December 05, 2001



What They Say


The Review!
Note: This DVD boxset contains episodes 25-38 of the SPT Layzner TV series and the 3 OVAs on five discs, which covers the second arc of the anime and concludes the story. DVD Unlike DVD Perfect BOX 01 which is out of print at the time of this writing, many retailers, such as amazon.co.jp still have BOX 02 in stock. All 11 discs of SPT Layzner have been repackaged as single volumes.

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 the TV episodes. The audio presentation is simple but clean. The three OVAs are recorded in stereo but are not mixed to take full advantage of the format.

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. However, the picture quality is not absolutely perfect due to the limitations of the technology of 80s anime cel processing used to make the source material. There is still a little bit of nicks and damage to the print, and if you watch the DVDs on a computer you'll notice frame splicing at the bottom of screen during scene transitions. Thankfully, the splices occur lower than the bottom border for televisions as to make them unnoticeable for most viewers.

I think it's worth noting that the video quality has a slight increase in detail, and richness of color - especially in the opening and ending animations - and less print damage than in Box 01, hence my score bumping from an A- to an A.

Packaging: Much like Box 01, this boxset consists of a thin artbox housing a 5-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 features Layzner and its nemesis, the golden Zakaal, surrounded by their respective V-Max auras. The booklet cover features the mecha of the Death Demon Squad (Shikitai). The gatefold box opens on the side with sides to show a panorama of the heroes and villains of the series, with Eiji and Anna on the left, Julia (and the mysterious Cuzco Medallion) in the middle, and Gresco and Le-Cain on the right. Under each DVD hub is a picture from a mecha of the series, and the interior consists of long shot of New York City. Character designer Taniguchi Moriyasu again provides the gatefold illustration. I like this box design quite a lot, and it is a vast improvement over Box 01 because the picture design is more complex, artistic, and the characters are drawn and colored in greater detail than their previous Box incarnations that looked rather flat.

It's barely worth mentioning, but astute observers will note that while discs 1-10 of the TV series have starry backgrounds printed on the top of the discs themselves, the concluding Disc 11 has the Cuzco Medallion printed on in.

Although it could very well be considered an extra, the 30-page "Explanation Booklet" features a full interview with Takahashi Ryousuke (director/original story) and Ito Tsunehisa (original story), information on the events between 1996 and 1999 and the Gradosian Seal; background information, line art, English/Japanese names, and technical information for all mecha in episodes 25-end; 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 and Zakaal information from their appearance in Super Robot Wars 2 for the PS2. The next to final page gives information and draws of the Layzner Mark II, the mecha that explodes in every episode's opening animation but actually never appears in the series due to the series' early cancellation. 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: The only on-disc extras for this release are the creditless OPs/ENDs for the series (two of each.) We don't even the get LD covers were given new backgrounds and recycled for the single DVD releases or the DVD BOX promotional posters. I have to admit it's disappointing that there does exist a body of Layzner artwork: VHS covers, CD covers, promotional posters, toys, etc, that for whatever reason was not reproduced for either of the DVD sets.

I suppose it's useless trivia, but the creditless OPs are somewhat amusing to me as they still contain the inserted previews for episode 1 and episode 26, respectively but creditless OP 1 has "Nippon Sunrise 1986" printed on it whereas the original episode 1 OP has "Nippon Sunrise 1985." Considering that OVAs 1 and 2 use each creditless OPs, the year stamp seems to imply first creditless OP had to be reconstructed for after the release of OVA 1; however oddly enough, OVA 3 uses a second creditless OP that is much higher in quality to the version used in OVA 2 and included as an extra.


Content:

WARNING: Any explanation or reference to the plot of the second half of SPT Layzner inherently spoils the first half. If you wish to avoid spoilers, I highly suggest you stop reading this review at this time. This is your final warning!



The second half of the outstanding mecha anime series SPT Layzner starts and ends in a most unfittingly peculiar way. After the dramatic, excellent, and utterly infuriating cliffhanger ending of episode 24, episode 25 is a recap episode. But that in of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. The problem lies in makeup of the episode. The episode edits events in the early episodes out of order, such as Eiji fighting Gail BEFORE entering the UN Mars base, and greatly eliminates the more interesting character dynamics and development. But even more so, it fails to be a good recap episode since it only covers the first half of the first arc with Eiji leaving Mars and headed toward Earth. It made me think aloud "uh, hey guys, you just finished 24 episodes of solid story and now you're going to stop retelling it at episode 12?" Episode 25 is the first and sadly not the last bad episode due to pointlessness.

That pointlessness of episode 25 is all the more emphasized by episode 26, the beginning of the second arc of Layzner. And you can tell it's going to be a new story arc because the opening animation sequence changes and we're given a new ending theme song ("La Rose Rouge", which I prefer to the first ending theme) and accompanying animation. Few episodes in anime disorientate the viewer more than episode 26 of Layzner. With a brief introduction it is explained that Eiji, he uh, well... um...

To be blunt: he lost the final battle and is now missing, presumed dead.

That the hero would lose big time is almost unheard of in anime, but it does make sense that even with Layzner Eiji could have never hoped to defeat the entire force of the Gradosian invasion fleet. It is now three years later after episode 24 (1999) and the Gradosians have conquered the Earth, and in the invasion 70% of Earth's cities and 30% of Earth's population was annihilated. Rather than exterminate the Earthlings completely because he was the only one besides Eiji who knew Grados' most critical secret: that Earthlings and Gradosians are the same species, Gresco has seemingly given in to his lust of power and now rules over them but with a sullen brow. Everything about Earth's language and culture is now banned: books, music, tapes, writings, videos, etc and society is now split into two classes: collaborators: those with skills who serve the Gradosians and live as second class citizens, and those who remain who refused to betray their fellow Earthlings and are forced to work in extreme poverty and are seen by their conquerors no better than wild animals.

Anna quickly returns as the narrator " she now works in a sweatshop but secretly is helping an underground resistance movement by storing audio tapes of the Earthling's history and books. She also functions as a kind of surrogate big sister for a new character, a boy named Mash who works in the sweatshop in New York City with her and gathers information about the Gradosians' armies' movements. Quickly "normal" life comes to an end as a twistedly evil military officer (who can be best described as a flamboyantly gay nazi) by the name of Gueler exposes Anna's operation. David, now leader of the resistance, comes to her aid but is captured along with her. They are both scheduled for public execution. At the detention center, they meet Roanne, who has seemingly become a cold-hearted and calculating collaborator with the Gradosians. He offers them to join the victors of the war, but David " hotheaded as ever " chooses death over turning his back on his planet. At their execution however, Eiji reappears after three years as a ghost and saves his friends. Later on, Simone meets up with the old gang and serves as a (scantily clad) resistance fighter. Still providing the goofy butterfingers comic relief, Arthur has become chubby- not to mention a collaborator- but helps the resistance. Well, he tries, but three years seemingly hasn't increased his brainpower. Some people just don't change much.

Okay, so the Earth has been more or less destroyed and its current rulers are hell-bent on destroying every single last remnant of Earth's culture, but now that Eiji lives he can just fly Layzner to Grados' headquarters in New York City and demand their surrender, right?

But of course there'd be no story if it were that easy.

Gresco's one and only son Le-Cain, quickly arrives from hyperspace portal between Grados and Earth to assume control as the Supreme Commander of the Gradosian forces. Le-Cain is arrogant, cold, and convinced of the genetic and cultural superiority of the Gradosians, Le-Cain announces "I have come to rule the Earth!" and those who think otherwise can answer to his Zakaal, the most technically advanced Super Powered Tracer ever constructed. Le-Cain doesn't come alone either; he brings the four-member Death Demon Squad as his wingmen and personal bodyguards. They're all highly talented, have powerful custom-made SPTs... and just so happen to be psychotic, murderous bloodthirsty lunatics who "have come to make the Earthlings suffer!"

Le-Cain's plans encounter more major obstacles: he cannot understand why Gresco will not permit him to purify the Earth of Earthlings (as Gresco does not reveal to him Earthlings and Gradosians are the same) and a new force other than Eiji has mobilized against him: Julia, who reappears as the leader of a powerful, new mystic Earth cult. Calling themselves the Holy Women of Cuzco (named after the ancient Incan capital), they advocate peace between the Earthlings and Gradosians. Naturally, Le-Cain doesn't approve and goes to kill Julia in public to make an example of her insolence... but finds himself strangely bewitched by her powerful, fearless demeanor and is unable to harm her. He instead, despite his better judgment, lets her do as she pleases and rescues her from the authorities on multiple occasions.

She is unimpressed.

One who IS impressed " that Julia has returned at least " is her crazy one-time potential suitor Gosterro, who serves in the Death Demon Squad; Le-Cain revived him as a cyborg to serve as his personal bodyguard. Gosterro now resumes his old mission: cause as much suffering to and then kill Eiji.

The remaining conflict for the series is now set between Eiji who desires to free the Earth from enslavement and Le-Cain who desires to eradicate everything that opposes his iron will. Eiji and the resistance, while able to recruit some freedom fighters, lack the sheer manpower and military supplies needed to stage a massive coup against the Gradosians, so they resort to guerrilla warfare in the ruined metropolis of New York. The cast of old and new characters makes for some very interesting and surprising interactions because it's not always clear who's really on whose side, as there's a good bit of intrigue and in-group fighting among both factions.

Layzner's second half is very striking for its dark ambiance. Whereas the first half dealt with the horrors of war and the isolating affects of racism on the individual, the second half addresses the spirit-crushing hell of enemy occupation under a regime that combines the traitors-from-within aspect of the Nazi occupation of France as well as the destruction of culture undertook in the Japanese occupation of Korea. Given the latter, it's not difficult to surmise why Layzner suffered from a lack of popularity that forced its premature ending. Unfortunately, after halfway through the second arc it becomes clear the story is being truncated and rushed since established characters suddenly start dying, sweeping character development, and plot revelations occur. This culminates in the nonsensical final episode of the TV series, which is edited together so poorly it seems it is literally missing half of the episode, and is so lacking in both a coherent plotline and even an explanation of what's even going on it feels like a symbolic extended middle finger from the director for the series' early cancellation. How ironic that the first and last TV episodes on this boxset form the only two horrible episodes of the TV series.

Had Layzner finished with one of the biggest "um, what just happened?" episodes in anime, the series would be remembered as a failure, but thankfully enough fan interest (and anger) merited the creation of three, hour-long OVAs. OVAs I and II recap the two arcs of the TV series. Although they cover much more material than the summary episode 25, it's hard to become highly absorbed in these home video episodes because technology has rendered their original function obsolete. Back in the latter half of the 80s, Layzner was not available on home video in its entirety, thus having two specials to remind viewers of the general overview of the story before releasing a direct-to-video conclusion was a necessity. Since the advent of a full run of the TV series on VHS, as well as Laserdisc boxsets and now DVDs for the new century, these summary OVAs serve more as historical landmarks rather than meaningful entries in the series and are easily skippable.

OVA III has the real meat, the hour-long actual conclusion to the series taking place after episode 37 ends. Much of the footage from episode 38 is seamlessly edited into the OVA; further giving the impression episode 38 was literally half of episode cut into random bits. OVA III does a wonderful job wrapping up the anime in a highly satisfying manner by converging the characters' stories as well as the little hints of plot and intrigue dropped throughout the TV series. The only complaint I have is that although Layzner is one of Takahashi's pioneering realistic robot science fiction mecha series, one very dominated by a pervasive sense of brutal racism and nihilism, it falls into Takahashi's tendency to create an overly mystic, borderline deus ex machine device to end the story conventionally.


Summary:

Albeit slightly below the exceptional quality of the first half, Layzner DVD-BOX 02 still packs a wallop of dark, depressing, thoughtful, emotional, and satisfying story and sexy mecha action. As an old school title more than two decades old and a commercial failure to boost, it won't show up on most anime, even mecha anime fans' radar, but those who do watch it shall be well rewarded since Layzner offers a unique interpretation of the Real Robots anime movement woefully unexplored by other works.

Features
Japanese Language

Review Equipment
Toshiba 21" TV, Daewoo DVD-5700 Player, S-video cables

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES



Be the first to add a comment to this article!


ADD A COMMENT

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Please click here to login.

POPULAR TOPICS