Big O II Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Big O / Big O II

Big O II Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     November 03, 2003
Release Date: January 20, 2004


Big O II Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
When we last saw Roger Smith, he was about to defend his home of Paradigm City against three invading robots. The battle is over and Roger Smith is now plagued by doubts about who he is and the world he lives in. New mysteries demand to be unraveled, old enemies threaten to wreak havoc once again, and more clues to the cataclysmic event that happened forty years ago. It’s showtime!

The Review!
The Big O returns and nothing could make me happier than seeing the world of Paradigm City revisited and explored more.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. We noticed a bit more sound going to the rear speakers in these last three episodes than most of the previous ones. Dialogue continues to be nice and crisp and clear with little in the way of directionality for the main speaking characters, though a number of background voices got sent to the rears. This is a solid sounding audio track all around.

Video:
Originally airing in Japan in late 2002 and then in the US, this series looks fantastic. With the fresh materials and the vibrant designs and color shading, this is a standout piece of work that really impresses. We noticed no cross coloration or macroblocking as well as no aliasing during camera panning sequences. With a transfer as good looking as this, it's very easy to just get absorbed in the show.

Packaging:
The original series had striking cover art and this one appears to be no exception. With the Big O center stage on the cover and images from episodes mixed around it, it’s a giant robot fans dream style cover with the big hand action going on. The look is definitely eye-catching and slick looking. The back continues the same style as seen previously with a lot of animation shots and a good summary of the episodes inside. Episode titles are listed but no numbers, though the spine at least lists the volume number and appears to match the original series layout so it looks good on your shelf. The insert provides an array of shots from the episodes on both the front and back while the center two-panel piece is a larger version of the front cover.

Menu:
The main menu is setup as the central viewer for the Big O robot itself and looks snazzy. The layout is identical to the previous series so there’s little problem with figuring out the “blank” menus if you’ve seen that. Access times are pretty decent overall and things are laid out in a straightforward way once you know where they are.

Extras:
The only extras included are a series of design sketches, which is conveniently broken down into three sections of characters, mecha and backgrounds.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Big O is truly one of those rare anime series. It’s not often that a series that is ended and essentially done with is resurrected and continued on with a few years later. Fans of the series who had seen it prior to airing on Cartoon Network lamented over the way it ended on something of a cliffhanger and without any kind of real resolution. If anything, it teased with what it knew.

From there, the show made its way onto Cartoon Network and there was much comment on how “normal” fans would deal with a show that didn’t end what many consider properly. The result came down in that Cartoon Network got more than enough ratings to justify becoming a co-producer in new episodes, another thirteen that will bring the series to a conclusion of some sort. So a property once deemed dead came to life again and much of the original crew has returned, including my favorite, Chiaki Konaka.

The world of Paradigm City is still much the same. People treasure memories above all else and long to know of the past. The world still seems to be centered on this single city and the rulers of it in the Paradigm Corporation. Roger Smith has returned as the lead again, and is immediately caught up in pitched battle in the bay against three invading Megadeus. While he fights and continues to lose against the three, we get hints of how the players are going to form this time around.

Alex Rosewater, the CEO of the Paradigm Corporation, talks at length while Roger battles about the three Megadeus that were sent from foreign lands. His references are vague but they provide some insights into what may be going on out there in the wild badlands beyond the city, something we see much more of as these episodes progress. The other parallel to him we see is the return of Angel, the buxom blonde woman who’s been involved with Roger before. She apparently doesn’t like the arrival of the three Megadeus’ and tries to stop them from arriving and fighting Roger, indicating that it’s not yet time for him to face them.

The opening episode is highly intriguing as it takes the battered Roger from within the Big O where he’s alongside Dorothy and fighting to the end and then taking him on something of a mental trip where he wakes up in the “real” world where things are vastly different. It’s through this display that they try to show other sides and potentials to Roger, someone who he may also be instead of just a Negotiator or a Deus pilot. It’s interesting how his mind populates the various roles he comes across, such as Beck being the president of the bank that’s in the location of his house. It’s also interesting to see a slightly more life-like Dorothy running about.

The battle with the trio forms the bookends to this episode and eventually is a plot point as the episodes progress and more mysteries get displayed to Roger as he’s now considered something more formidable than he once was. Between that though, he gets back into the routine of being a Negotiator. One of his first assignments has him dealing with the strange occurrence of some people in their twenties who seemingly have the memories of people far older. They’ve been assassinated the minute they’ve been found in the past, which is why one of the older people who have a clue into all of this is eager to have the assassin found. Roger ends up taking a contract job with one of the original senators of the city from forty years ago who has long since retired and fallen out of the public eye, who is also the only senator whose memories haven’t shown up in someone younger.

Hints and teases of the past about what may have caused everything to happen in Paradigm City move along the edge of the conversations, but the episode is important in that it brings in a new player to work against Smith named Alan Gabriel. This pin-stripe suited man whose face is covered in a white mask with red lips is a deadly and dangerous foe, one that’s seemingly employed by the Paradigm Corporation as well. As Roger tries to figure out what’s going on with the memories and their movement to younger people, he ends up having to deal with Gabriel as well. The tying of Paradigm Corporation to events that Roger is hired to investigate becomes more apparent here, as well as their lack of concern over his finding out about it.

What becomes rapidly apparently, if it wasn’t through the insinuations in the first season, is that the Paradigm Corporation is much more in control of what’s going on than expected. With their acquisition of some set future memories, memories from the past that affect the future, they’re seen as dealing with things in such a way that they must be prescient or god-like to those outside the Domes. Roger makes his discoveries along the way about them as well, particularly when Angel ends up helping him in and out of situations. The more we move into the depths and heights of this city, the more intriguing it becomes to me. There continues to be an element of the film Dark City in the grounding of this series that entices me greatly. Each new element that becomes clear then leads to more questions and propositions.

Much of what I loved about the first season is back here. The mystery and the characters are of course the big draws. While the first episode passes on the opening sequence in favor of more content, the classic “Big O!” opening sequence is on the remaining episodes here, bringing a big ass grin to my face. I was also really glad to see the neat next episode preview sections done in the same way. One of the new elements that I will admit made me smile was seeing Cartoon Network listed as a co-producer in the opening credits as well as having some individual credits in the end sequence. I know full well that we wouldn’t be seeing this without their own love of the show and I’m glad to see them get their props, as well as how the open inclusion will help some see that their involvement isn’t a sign of the apocalypse.

After all, some of the initial speculation about the release was that since they were funding it, there’d be no Japanese language tracks available for it, or that there wouldn’t be a DVD release.

One of the things that’s much more noticeable this time around is the style of the show. While the original was very stylish back in 1999 and with its mix of anime/Batman: The Animated Series imagery, the animation this time around looks even more amazing. There’s some fantastic detail to the Megadeus’ at times and the depth of the color palette has expanded greatly, giving the skyline a much richer feel. This is also shown in the striking character designs, even down to Angel’s overly pink outfits. The look and feel of the show is a strong element of what made it popular and this season takes all of that and enhances it beautifully.

In Summary:
I’m beyond thrilled to have more Big O to watch. What’s even more thrilling is that it’s not starting over or going down a different trail. This season picks up where the other left off and doesn’t really do character introductions or background. It starts right in on the revelations and discoveries of what’s making this world tick and it’s an exciting prospect to see what’s in the minds of those behind this series. Whenever I see Konaka’s names in the credits, I’m already intrigued to see what he’s coming up with this time. Even if it’s just writing a particular episode, I love his style and touches of dialogue.

Big O II is a welcome return to my line-up of shows to watch. This is going to be the ride I hoped for when the first season ended and I’m thrilled to be taking it at long last.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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