Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 75
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Black Heaven
Black Heaven Vol. #2
By Jme Wheeler
February 06, 2002
Release Date: December 26, 2000
It really is difficult to fully describe the true plot of Black Heaven. From a generic anime standpoint, it's about a guy who plays guitar and whose prowess at such is needed by an alien race to somehow save the universe. A buyable plot slightly akin to Macross. What sets this story apart from the aforementioned and basically every other anime out there is that our protagonist in the series isn't some twenty-something superstud, or some awkward, undersexed high school student, but instead a THIRTY-something father and husband. Very unique indeed in today's world of anime.
Ouji Tanaka is a beaten man. The end of a short lived career as a heavy metal guitarist has left him a beaten man. He settled down and got married, had a kid, and overall, succumbed to the trappings of the average, Japanese salaryman. That is of course until he meets up with a beautiful woman from space, who poses as an office assistant. Through the course of the first episode, we learn that not only is this alien woman, Layla Yuki, a fan of his music, but also that his, and only his specific sound can be used by her military to destroy an (as of yet) unnamed enemy.
Throughout the first few episodes, we see Ouji taken to a special stage (cleverly hidden inside a model home) to play his beloved Flying V. We are also introduced to the rather light witted comedy relief of the show in the form of Layla's assistants, Kotoko, Eriko, and Rinko.
Most of the first four episodes focus around Layla and her assistants getting Ouji away from his wife in order for him to play his guitar and save the galaxy. Much humor abound as the three girls attempt, on two separate occasions no less, to convince Ouji's wife, Yoshiko, that she has won some sort of prize.
Of course, most of this information you have probably already gotten from the other reviews. So on to the reason you are probably reading this alternate angle, my personal thoughts on the show.
First of all, I guess I'll get the negative out of the way. As far as the animation goes, I am totally unimpressed. I know I'll probably gain a lot of enemies for this, but hopefully as many allies as well. I am just not a fan of the new style of digital animation. I think the digital panning is horribly jarring and just plain ugly. I felt the same way when watching the new Sol Bianca and a couple of others. And much like Sol Bianca, I really like the character designs themselves, but I think their execution is quite lacking. From what I understand, Black Heaven is completely digital, and it shows. It's also clear that different people were assigned to different characters, and the difference in their styles is apparent. In general, I'm always far more impressed with traditional cel animation from an artistic (and artist's) point of view.
The show also uses some CG effects. Some of which are pretty good, others, not so good. In general, I'm not a fan of this either, but in some cases it can be handled very well. Macross Plus and Cowboy Bebop being shining examples. Whereas the CG Nazca I thought was pretty terrible. I just find that the mix of CG and cel animation is just too jarring of a contrast. For me it takes me out of the show because I can't really buy into one world or the other.
Now on to the positive. As far as the story goes, I absolutely love this show. The main character, Ouji, is the first in quite some time to really have me feeling for his plight, and wanting to see things get better for him. Early in the series, his wife throws away his last, and most precious guitar, his Flying V, and his son destroys his favorite record album. The grind of the daily salaryman's life is getting him down and his wife, in the beginning anyway, seems to do little else but nag at him.
Once Ouji begins to play his guitar again though, he begins to change and becomes more driven and considerably happier with his situation. I love how the show tackles the theme of potential infidelity, with Ouji's wife, Yoshiko fearing that her husband slipping away with another woman could mean something is amiss in their relationship. It isn't the usual lust driven, thoughtless act, it's just the realization that in a relationship, there are a lot of things to take in consideration. Ouji and Yoshiko have a pretty complex relationship with one another, and I really like how the show deals with that. Very few anime couples are married, much less in their thirties.
I also like how the show balances the comedy of Kotoko, Eriko, Rinko and the rest with the serious issues surrounding Ouji's marriage and his love of music. I think this is a comedy show designed specifically for older audiences. And for once, not simply by the virtue of sex.
In conclusion, in spite of the rather, IMO, bland, perhaps even sometimes cold visuals, this proves to be a very interesting and entertaining series with a lot of potential. Thanks for reading and happy viewing!
Sony DVPS-300 DVD player, Sony STR DE-325 reciever, Sharp Cinema Select 36" TV, Jensen front L+R speakers, Infinity center and rear speakers