Mania Grade: D+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Media Blasters
- MSRP: 29.95
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Babel II
Babel II Vol. #1
By Chris Beveridge
September 15, 2002
Release Date: August 27, 2002
Babel II Vol. #1
What They Say
© Media Blasters
Fall beneath the wave of exploding psychic powers! Koichi is an ordinary youth given extraordinary powers to fight a shadowy underworld of renegade psychics. Hidden in a forgotten desert lies the tower of Babel, created by an unknown force. As its successor, Koichi summons three psychic guardians and challenges Yomi, Leon and any other renegades brave enough to stand in his path.The Review!
Like a bad penny continuing to haunt me, Babel II gets another incarnation from the original manga series and has come to infect the new millennium.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Though the show only just ended airing in 2002, the show features a pretty basic stereo mix that doesn?t really take advantage of forward directionality all that much, though the music does a good job of giving things a nice full sound during the opening and ending. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and there aren?t any noticeable distortions or dropouts.Video:
Originally airing in late 2001, Babel II seems to have gotten a pretty small budget as the shows animation feels very awkward and almost unfinished right from the first episode. The transfer is quite good here, showing through the nice color palette of the show and dealing with things such as sandstorms without any breakups. But the material itself just isn?t all that involving.Packaging:
The front cover provides a rather nice image of Koichi in the foreground along with Rhomdem roaring behind him as the blue and black colors whirl around each of them. The packaging makes out better than most by having the volume numbering not only on the spine but on the front cover. The back cover provides a number of animation shots and a good summary of what to expect. The discs episode numbers and production information is also clearly listed and the technical aspects are wonderfully listed in a great little grid at the bottom. The insert provides a listing of the chapter stops on one side while the reverse is just adverts.Menu:
The main menu is a nice piece of mixed static animation and some flowing colored clouds moving through the background while Koichi is standing centered in front of the citadel as he glows blue and green. Music from the show plays during this as well. Access times to the submenus is nice and fast and moving around is quick and easy with a simple but effective layout.Extras:
For the opening volume, there?s a couple of extras included. We get a good textless version of the opening sequence and there?s also a few outtakes from the English dub production.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Koichi Kamiya really has it all going on. Not only does he attend a really privileged school, a place filled with ?children of the elite?, he?s also one of those people who truly excels at sports. He?s currently on the line to be chosen to represent Japan in an international tennis tournament. But for all of this, he?s pretty oblivious to things going on around him, as his friend tells him about the secret society called ?Hades? that?s on campus, a society that he just caused one opponent to fail to get chosen for, as he took him out in competition.
His victory in this match brings him into contact with the student body president, Hikaru Homura. He brings Koichi into the secret lair of the Hades society, where he?s told that his achievements have brought him this far. While walking there, Koichi thinks about things that his friend told him, and wonders about Homura, only to have Homura start answering the questions in his mind. During his introduction to other members, Homura talks about how each of them have their own society names. Homura is known as Leon, and he decides that Koichi?s name will be Babel II.
As soon as he says this, Koichi passes out. We learn that they started running simple tests on him and have learned that he is indeed the heir to Babel from his genetics, and that he must be brought toYomi, the grandmaster of the Hades secret society. Koichi almost goes along with this, until something just feels very wrong about it, and he ends up fighting with Homura with sudden psychic powers. Koichi just feels a pull inside him, a pull that takes him out across the world to where the original Babel tower was built thousands of years ago, which he finds with the help of the black talking panther named Rhodem that he comes across.
It?s at this tower that we learn about the original Babel, an alien who had come to Earth and had grand plans for the world and its people. The people of the time were not ready or able to help him achieve his goals, so he placed his fate to being reborn in the future. The control system that maintains the tower tells him that he simply must allow his personality to be wiped and Babel?s placed there instead, and Babel will again rise. Though Koichi has gone along with a lot of things so far, he finally balks at this point and instead decides to go on a journey to discover things about another Babel candidate and about how to take over the role without giving himself up.
The story then follows Babel as he makes his way around the world and with different people to find out about his past. There?s a growing secondary cast of characters, such as Yomi and his organization as well as the UN woman who mysteriously shows up at the right time to save Koichi a couple of times. Then there?s the family he lived with for the past five years. Apparently the people who gave him to his adoptive father wanted him watched, which he did. He got along quite well with his adoptive sister as well, which apparently was a byproduct of his latent psychic and telepathic abilities.
Watching this show play out, it feels very stilted and awkward, as if they had a lot of information to put through to the viewer but just couldn?t do it right. A lot of it just feels like the viewer should be expected to know who the characters are, such as the giant bird Loplass that shows up. The pacing is very off in the first episode in particular, with a lot of quiet moments that just don?t feel properly placed. Part of the problem is that you have a lead character whose being asked to give up his personality, but he has such a distinct lack of one for the most part, you can?t really get too sympathetic.
The shows animation is another place that just feels awkward. With the series origins in the manga and being considered linked to the existing original 1973 series as well as the 1991 OVA release, there?s an attempt to provide both the style of the original and a mix of what?s considered modern. You get Koichi with the wild 70?s floptop hair and then you get Yumiko with a more modern hairstyle. The general character designs go along this line as well, with a mixture of both styles, but neither one really working well with the other. And then there?s just the poor animation itself. Watching these characters walk around in the first episode is almost painful. The CG level is also apparently low, as you?ll have scenes where a car comes driving fast towards the screen and it just feels so incredible out of place. The production as a whole feels like so many different forces trying to dominate, but none winning.
We did listen to the dub on this show a bit, but not enough to really come away with anything conclusive. The only thing that really bothered me that seemed just too obvious was that when Rhodem shows up, for some reason he becomes a leopard in the dub instead of a panther as he is in the sub. It just seemed so? needleess.
Suffice to say, we came out of watching these opening four of thirteen episodes with a pretty low opinion of the entire production. I?m not entirely surprised as just about anything I?ve seen involving the Babel Tower has left me shrugging my shoulders and just not all that interested. There?s always a hope that a new twist could be done, but apparently this one follows the original manga more than the previous two incarnations, so I?m not surprised by my dislike of the show.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Dub Outtakes
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.