Armored Trooper Votoms Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: N/A
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: NuTech Digital, Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Votoms, Armor Trooper

Armored Trooper Votoms Vol. #01

    July 17, 2001
Release Date: July 17, 2001


Armored Trooper Votoms Vol. #01
© NuTech Digital, Inc.


What They Say
A century of bloodshed between warring star systems has plunged nearly 200 worlds into the flames of war. Now, an uneasy truce has settled across the Astragius Galaxy....

Chirico Cuvie, a special forces powered-armor pilot is suddenly transferred into a unit engaged in a secret and highly illegal mission to steal military secrets - from their own military! Now he's on the run...from his own army!

Unsure of his loyalties and to cover their own tracks, Chirico is left behind to die in space. Surviving by luck, the renegade is now hunted by both the conspirators and military intelligence.

He is driven by the haunting image of a mysterious and beautiful woman - the objective of their mission, and his sole clue to unraveling their treacherous scheme.

But the conspirators will do anything to preserve their mysterious agenda...

The Review!
Overall Rating: 4.0
(on a scale of 1-5)

-Technical Ratings-
Sound: 5
Picture: 5
Menu: 4
Presentation: 4
Goodies: 4
Overall: 4.4

-Content Ratings-
Animation: 3
Sound: 3
Plot: 4
Japanese Acting: 4
Music: 3
Entertainment: 4
Overall: 3.5

-Intro-

Long ago, in the late 80’s, I saw a model for a VOTOM. Even then, I was struck by the boxy design and realistic look, especially compared to other mecha of the day (Robotech and Voltron). But it didn’t have the coolness factor of those mecha either. Well guess what? This series that created the VOTOM mecha is just as “uncool” as its creations. It’s gritty, it’s realistic, it doesn’t revolve around showy mecha and robotic fanservice. You can tell it’s same creator as Gasaraki. Let’s take a closer look.

-Technical Review-

This is the first disc by Nutech that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. The sound and picture were pretty clear and sharp on my set up. I was a bit surprised that the show looked as good as it did, especially after seeing the 1983 copyright date on the back. Looks like some remastering took place. And for its age, the show looks good. The menus are pretty neat. In a way they remind me of the Gundam Wing menus without the weird angles. You pick your options, get some simple animation and then you’re off. The keepcase fits right along with the show; it’s kinda boxy and more functional than showy. The disc itself is double sided (flipper). On one side is all the series material, on the other side are all the trailers. I’m glad Nutech decided to include all the extras on the same side with the show. The info on the keepcase mostly tells you what you need to know. You got Stereo sound, “All” Region Code, chapter listing and volume number. This disc is not rated, but it does have violence and nudity in it and a warning for that on the back. It does leave out the fact that it is only in Japanese and subbed. That’s right, no dub track here. It also leaves out the running time and only lists a few of the extras. So just what do you get? There is a production art gallery with what looks to be VHS covers and other promotional art. Then you get a section called “The World of Votoms”. It’s basically character and mecha design with explanations and bios. They are divided into Character Guide, Mecha Guide, and Episode Guide (which features art for minor characters and various devices, weapons and vehicles used in the episodes contained). The last element is a text lesson in the world of Votoms, called “The World Guide”. In this lesson you get a background into the 100 years war that is mentioned in these episodes. As usual you might want to wait before you do any reading, as some spoilers to episodes are given away in these extras. When it’s all said and done, you’ve got a pretty good disc here.

-Content Review-

You know, I have to change my stance on Mecha anime. People ask me if I like them and I always make a face and shake my head. But you know, I liked Gundam Wing. I liked EVA. I liked Escaflowne. I like Gasaraki. And now I have to say that with these first four episodes, I like Votoms. Why is it that the Japanese can make interesting stories and throw in Mecha and still manage to not have it feel rehashed? Maybe it’s just the stuff we’re getting out here, and we’re being spared the bad ones. Who knows? Anyway let’s do the recap thing.

The story follows Chirico, an 18 year old mecha pilot. He’s involved in the 100 year war between two intergalactic empires. His last mission starts the first episode. Chirico is burnt out, having started fighting from a young age. He was shifted from his special forces unit to help another unit in a secret mission. The fact that the mission is so secret, and everyone involved is keeping Chirico in the dark, makes him a bit suspicious. Unfortunately he has a soldier’s mentality ingrained in him. He doesn’t ask questions, he just follows orders. During the mission, Chirico realizes that they are attacking a base filled with troops on their side. He also finds a large capsule with a floating, naked, bald woman inside. That’s enough to freak him out. He starts to question his unit commander but gets sent outside to check for their drop ship. When he scouts the area, finds nothing, and starts heading back... he runs into a zero G grenade. His instincts take over and his suit takes damage, but he is not killed. His own team has tried to kill him. Whoa... there lots that happens here. O.K. Chirico gets picked up by a battleship on his side. Since he is the only survivor of the attack, the officers on board start to torture him to get him to reveal the whereabouts of the capsule and it’s contents. Chirico takes all the torture and tells them he knows nothing, his own team tried to kill him. But to no avail. Luckily our hero is not a fool; he launches a daring escape and makes it to the surface of his home world and into Uoodo City. Well, it’s like going from the frying pan and into the fire. Uoodo is a city in turmoil, especially now that a truce has been declared and the 100 year war is over. Chirico gets tangled up with the local underground slave traders and the corrupt police department. After a series of dangerous escapes and battles, Chirico gets to try his hand at mecha gladiator games. Of course Chirico is discovered by members of the unit that tried to kill him. They set up his first gladiator match. Not only is it to the death, but there is live ammo involved. Chirico has to use his wits and skill to get out of this, especially since his opponent is the commander of the unit that tried to kill him. Damn, doing episode synopsis of this show’s going to be as tough as the ones for Gasaraki.

O.K. first thing first, this series was done in the early 80’s. It lacks the polish that more recent series have. Cowboy Bebop this is not. It’s more along the lines of old Gundam series and Macross. The character designs reflect that time period. So does the reuse of animation... again and again. I do like the way the mecha look. Again this is more realistic looking and much more functional than Gundams. They are the precursors to the T.A.s of Gasaraki in many respects. The city design and the costumes are really basic and lack much imagination. I wonder if Chirico has any other outfits than the one he’s worn in all four of these episodes... and if it’s the same one (ewww). What this series does well is create a mood with its gritty, dirty look. Nothing is clean or shiny in Uoodo city, and it certainly feels oppressive. This is not a bright shiny world with pristine technology. You can almost smell the dirt and oil in the air. The sound effects match the animation. Most impressive is the sounds used for the VOTOMs. There is a sense of mass and weight to them. The rest of the sound design is pretty typical and didn’t stand out much.

So far this series has been dense in the plot department. Lots of things happen in the space of four episodes and the primary mystery is who was the floating, naked woman in the capsule and why did Chirico’s own military try to kill him for seeing her. Of course Chirico is the silent type. He has little dialogue and most of the time it’s other characters talking about him. In that way it’s also like Gasaraki. In this case, however we have Chirico’s silence as a defensive measure. He can’t trust anyone in this city that keeps getting equated to hell and Gomorrah. This seems to be setting itself up for some interesting storylines and characters and I’m intrigued to see more. Chirico is the focus of the story and although he might not be the most interesting type of character, he is pushing the plot forward. Again, this series is all about plot and not so much into style or mecha fan service (there is one episode that doesn’t have an mecha action at all!).

I always find it tough to judge Japanese acting. Sometimes they sound like they are overdoing it a bit, and other times I can’t tell if it’s a style choice or if that’s just how you say that phrase in Japanese. I took a class in elementary Japanese but languages are not my forte at all, and my teacher was not very good. As a result I know how some things (like “this is a pencil”) should be said, but when it comes to complicated dialogue about criminal undergrounds or military tactics... I’m lost. The acting seemed to be pretty good and not too much over doing it. All in all it’s a good acting job.

The music is one of those things that is tough to judge also. Mostly because you have to keep in mind when the series was made. The music has a 70’s style, "AM Gold" feel to it. It’s got poppy moments and probably fit in well for its time. Now it sounds pretty cheesy and I wonder why they didn’t go for a more traditional approach with the score. It’s an interesting twist, and it fits pretty well, but sometimes you're are pulled out of the action as some of the music hits that late 70’s/early 80’s cheese factor. I’m not talking about actual songs, but the score itself. The opening and ending songs also are done in the same style and fit the series, but might give older viewers flashback they didn’t want to have.

These episodes did not race by, but they didn’t drag either. I felt like watched about two hours of anime and that’s about how long it lasted. It’s got a good plot and some potential to get very good. I’m not to crazy about stoic characters, mostly because they begin to border on “I’m so cool I can’t stand it”. So if Chirico can lighten up a bit, I might find it more enjoyable. All in all it’s a promising start to a gritty mecha show.

Roman J. Martel
Tell me what you think! E-mail me at...
roman@animeondvd.com

Features
Japanese Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
General Electric Performance Plus (25 Inch), Sony Playstation 2

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