Beat BtX Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: C-
  • Packaging Rating: C
  • Menus Rating: D
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Illumitoon
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Beat BtX

Beat BtX Vol. #01

By Chris Beveridge     May 24, 2007
Release Date: February 27, 2007

Beat BtX Vol. #01
© Illumitoon

What They Say
The earth continues to suffer from the throes of mankind's pollution and environmental destruction. The Empire of Machines secretly schemes to take over the world and have succeeded in creating supreme "Roboticks" known as B'T (Beat).

In a crucial battle, a dissident by the name of Teppei is gravely injured. The blood loss resurrects a B'T known as X. Now Teppei and B'T X battle the evil empire in an attempt to save humanity.

The Review!
When the Dominion kidnaps Kotaro Takamiya to further their scientific goals it's up to his brother Teppei to rescue him.

Illumitoon has put two stereo mixes onto this release that are both encoded at 192 kbps. The Japanese track sounds decent for what it is but with its age and at the time average materials there isn't a lot to expect here. There are some differences between it and the English track however. Though the English track is done at the same encoding level, the dub for it has all the audio bumped up a bit in volume. The English track has also redone some of the music, most easily noticeable is the opening and closing songs which are now slightly altered instrumental pieces. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 1996, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being an older show there wasn't a lot of high expectations for the visual quality especially after seeing some other launch titles from Illumitoon. The worst part of the release comes in the opening sequence where it's littered with dot crawl, aliasing and a fair amount of motion blocking going on. With a number of very fast paced animation sequences in it the visuals simply don't hold up. Within the show itself it tends to do a little bit better with less break-up but there is still some blocking to be seen. Dot crawl comes up in a number of sequences as does a fair bit of aliasing at times. The overall visual quality of this reminded me more of what I would get from some decent looking VHS copies after a couple of generations.

Though far too dark for my liking, the cover art is fairly decent in what it is considering how little material is likely available. Using a scene from the opening sequence, it has Teppei in full action mode with X behind him while the background is made up of starts and lots of blackness. The logo looks decent as it uses the original one from what I can tell but overall the cover just feels too dark. The back cover brings in various shots from the show to form a collage which is fairly well covered by a lot of text. The episode numbers and titles are very prominently listed and the summary uses some surprisingly large text to convey the basics. The bottom portion of the cover has some of the production credits or both sides and a very minimal amount of technical information, with its dual language status practically hidden. The runtime also lists it as 80 minutes which isn't close at all considering each episode runs twenty-four to twenty-five minutes. No insert is included with the release nor is the cover reversible.

The menu design is simple but works fairly well as it's laid out in a faux letterbox style. The bottom strip has the navigation strip while in the middle there's a brief bit of flashing animation from the opening sequence set to some somber instrumental music. The language section however is a complete travesty in design; when you make a language selection, be it subtitles or audio, the menu freezes on it until the thirty second or so loop is finished. Doing this twice to change to what you want and you'll spend far too long in here. This design is simply embarrassing to see in a release ten years after the format was launched. This happened on both our PS3 and our Panasonic DMP-BD10 player so it's not an isolated event.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Masami Kurumada, B'T X is one of those shows that feels like it came from the 80's and not the mid 90's. With a minimal introduction and even less setup as to what the world is really like, the series simply throws us into a future world that's got only some similarities to the present day. Directed by Mamoru Hamatsu who failed to thrill me with his work in Ronin Warriors or Heroic Legend of Aslan, the series is one that will interesting those who are nostalgic and young children.

The show kicks off in a confusing manner as it introduces us to Kotaro Takamiya who goes by the name Kit. He's at a giant science conference and is a keynote speaker due to his being a robotics prodigy. Originally leaving his home at the age of eleven to go abroad in order to study, he's world renown for his genius and ability. He's little interested in the conference just yet though as he's anxiously awaiting his younger brothers arrival, a feisty fourteen year old named Teppei who goes by Tepp for short. That arrival is well timed as an android from the Dominion has gotten close to Kit in order to try and kidnap him. As it turns out, Tepp has spent the last several years training to defeat various robots from the Dominion so he could serve as a proper bodyguard for his brother.

Of course, the Dominion won't stop at one kidnapping attempt and another gets underway quickly and much more successfully. Tepp finds himself now tagging along in an awkward manner to try and free his brother which brings him to the massive Dominion base/city in the Gobi desert. Though he's pretty skilled at the moment and has a neat gadget or two up his sleeves to help him out he's still very incapable of freeing his brother from the Dominion's grasp. He does have a large dose of luck thrown his way though as when he falls into a massive trash heap, blood from his cuts drip down and activate a B'T that had been thrown in there years ago.

B'T's are an interesting creation in that they're robots basically with many varied designs but there are many levels to the kinds there are. The B'T that Tepp ended up reviving is named X and is shaped like a Pegasus. B'T's like X are bound to their master in that only the blood of them will compel them to do what they're told. B'T X for example was "brought to life" by a woman named Karen who became the best of the best before she left the Dominion and was hunted down. Tepp's ability to revive X has left everyone surprised, particularly X himself. X refuses to obey Tepp though since he considers only Karen to be his Donor and is unsure of why Tepp was able to revive him.

The mystery of Tepp's ability is slowly revealed as is some of his back story as Tepp tries to convince X to listen to him and help him free his brother. X for his part is very uninterested in heading back to the Dominion for anything after being in the trash heap for several years. Through their short discussions and exposition of the past, forces of the Dominion are arrayed against them which puts both of them on the run. At the same time, we see some of what makes the Dominion tick as Kit's time there shows what his real purpose for being there is. The Dominion has an interesting premise and the prospect of a mechanical race intent on removing humanity isn't new but there are some good little quirks to it such as the Donor's that give it some potential.

With this being an older show, it's fairly easy to get into its style of storytelling. It's a bit minimal in explaining the Dominion and the way it exists with the rest of the world but some elements come in about it over the first four episodes. The animation for it is decent for the time but is likely representative of its manga origins. There are lots of pans and big action moments that involved some yelling but nothing that stands out in any really bad way. It's very much a piece of work that reflects its time period. The character designs certainly fit into that classic mold with almost 70's style hair at times. Though nothing stands out as really different from other shows there isn't anything that just screams awful either. If anything, it reminded me heavily of Saint Seiya but with a mechanical bent.

One of Illumitoon's launch titles (some of which have been fixed as of this writing, though this disc is from the launch), it's got some serious flaws to it. In addition to the above mentioned technical issues with the audio and video as well as the menus, there are others to be found as well. If you select an episode from the menu to play, once it's done it goes back to the menu. The biggest problem people are likely to have is that it's dubtitled and poorly so. So many lines cross over into the next segment where only one word is carried over that it's highly annoying to read even as "Closed Captions." That aspect of it is also very bothersome, from the note that "instrumental music" is playing during the eye-catch to the various screams, grunts and other indicators. Naturally, the timing of the dubtitles is so completely off as to make the Japanese track unwatchable " particularly when there's a good deal of dialogue in Japanese which isn't dubbed and just left empty.

Particularly bothersome to me is the way that the opening and closings have been tweaked to remove the Japanese vocals. While Japanese language openings certainly aren't going to achieve mainstream mass appeal, it is 2007 and a good chunk of shows that hit Adult Swim and elsewhere are left completely intact. Simply put, Illumitoon continues to look like it's appealing to the youngest crowd available who won't know the difference. While I can enjoy B'T X well enough if it was done properly, it's near impossible to enjoy like this. Even the dubbing had me cringing badly. While Tepp and X aren't bad, some of the others just made me want to throttle them. Having one of them with a bad Australian accent just made it all the worse.

Illumitoon has a little animated graphic at the start of the volume where it has their logo and a couple of people doing a curve in a classic convertible. That car then morphs into a bit of white text that says "We know better DVD" and has the DVD logo underneath it. Between Bo-Bobo and this release, everything reminds me of how FUNimation's first Dragonball Z DVDs were like. With these two releases and impressions of the Beet the Vandel Buster release, it's very clear that to start, Illumitoon does not know better DVD and I have to question if they know DVD at all. This is a release by committee if you go by the "reversioning" credits and it very clearly shows.

In Summary:
With series like Saint Seiya slowly winning me over and my being open to trying anything once, I want to give B'T X a chance. This first volume, which has seen some corrections with a fixed version that I do not have, has made it very difficult to get enthused at any level. With so many technical issues and a number of artistic issues, watching this first volume was more an effort to just get through it rather than simply take in the content itself. Every aspect of it was annoying while trying to watch it in Japanese while the English version simply annoyed me for different reasons. With this being a fairly lengthy DVD release with likely eight volumes, unless the second installment features a completely different turnaround there is no way I could recommend it to even the most die hard fan.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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