Blue Gender Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Blue Gender

Blue Gender Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     October 23, 2001
Release Date: October 23, 2001


Blue Gender Vol. #1
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Yuji, a high school teenager, discovers that he has an new incurable virus. With life looking very bleak, he's left only one option - hope that the future may hold a cure. With his decision made, he opts to undergo artificial hibernation...

When Yuji awakes, the world he knew is gone. The year is 2013 - an era of war, despair and death. While he's been sleeping, the Earth has been taken over by BLUE, a mysterious creature that eats anything for food including human beings.

Hunted and on the verge of extinction, Mankind has fled. Now, their only chance for survival is to destroy BLUE! Now, Yuji must fight not only for his own survival, but for that of the entire Human race!

Contains:
Episode 1: Oneday
A young man named Yuji awakes disoriented inside a sleeping pod under heavy military escort. During a surprise attack by the alien creatures called Blue, he witnesses the deaths of his protectors. As he attempts to make an escape flashback memories fill his mind. A startling discovery causes him to scream in horror, and he soon finds himself surrounded. What terrifying truth has Yuji learned and how will he ever escape Blue?

Episode 2: Cry
Yuji learns the horrible truth about the Blue. They have infested the planet and forced earth's remaining population into space. His own chance to visit the space station called Second Earth is thwarted when the Blue suddenly attack again. Does he have the strength to conquer his fears and face this terrifying enemy?

Episode 3: Trial
Tired of being a burden to his rescuers, Yuji pleads to be trained as part of the team. He gets a crash course in weapons and how to handle the controls of a mecha-suit. Yuji learns whatt to do in a battle against the Blue but can he find the courage to fight them?

The Review!
Originally airing back in 1999, this late night show aired around 1:50 in the morning according to some of the materials here. With this late of an hour, the show managed to acquire a strong cult following and allowed the creators to be more violent than you normally get during prime-time shows. The result is definitely something much harder feeling than most TV series. Plus, hey, the main character looks like Luke Perry. You can't beat that with a stick.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show makes really excellent use of the surround channels, with a lot of music and sound effects being thrown to the rear speakers. Dialogue is primarily center channel based, but there's some good depth to it and to a number of the action sequences, giving this a stronger and more immersive TV soundtrack than you normally get.

Video:
Being a recent show, it's definitely got some great looking animation, especially for a late night series where you wouldn't expect that large of a budget. It also looks like they didn't employ much use of digital painting, as you can see in a number of early scenes where the brush strokes are on the Blue's and some of the character animation. There are a few scenes that look a bit soft early on, but it looks intentional, though it allows for some slight pixelation there. Otherwise the show looks quite solid with only a little color banding going on and no visible cross coloration and very little in the way of shimmering during panning sequences. This is a good looking disc.

Packaging:
The first cover to the series is rather different from a lot of others out there. There is a heavy use of black here, giving a very minimal background, which gives a strong impression of the two main characters. The logo for the show is clear, but it's in the lower right area and not very prominent. Thankfully the front cover and the spine both list volume numbers. The back cover gives a good listing of the features, runtimes and other technical information. They also list the episode numbers and titles with some animation from each of the episodes. The insert provided gives another shot of the front cover while the foldout of it provides individual episode summaries with animation shots and the chapter listings. The back cover shows some boxart for other upcoming shows.

Menus:
The menu was a bit hard to rate, because in some ways it's very slick. There's a lot of animation movement going on with subtle audio uses here and there. The main problem with it tends to be repetition & length. You start with the initial load which brings you to the main menu. Check out a few extras, go back to the main menu full load again instead of a completed menu. Same when you go into the other submenus, when you go back, it's the full load again. The setup menu was also somewhat problematic in its layout. I've seen hundreds and hundreds of menus over the years, but this one at first left me somewhat stumped. When you select the subtitle you want, it defaults to the language on that line. You don't actually select the language itself, as it's bundled together. They're not locked in playback or anything, but it's very odd at first look. Essentially, after going through all the features in the disc, I found myself waving the remote at each load, willing it to go faster. But barring those issues, these are some great looking menus that combine the animation to the design.

Extras:
There's quite the good amount of extras included here. The character profiles section goes into a small number of the main characters, talking about them and then a page about their English voice actor as well as a picture (I now wish to meet Laura). Unfortunately there's nothing there on the Japanese talent, but that's par for the course. The textless songs section is textless versions of the opening and ending, which are definitely needed here as both are great songs. Either the English or Japanese versions can be selected on the fly as well as the subtitles for the Japanese song (no subtitles for the English version). Funimation ADR director Christopher Sabat and two of the voice actors participated in an audio commentary for the first episode as well. Strangely, this track is not available during playback of the episode itself, but is encoded with the first episode separately. There's essentially two versions of the first episode on the disc from what I can tell. I'd much prefer the commentary to be with the actual episode itself, but there must have been some reason to go to the expense of authoring a full video episode. The commentary track is quite good, talking about how they went into things with a different perception and different goals, some interesting bits on the actors and how they got into their roles and the general feel of the show itself.

One of the original Japanese advertisements for the home video release is also provided here, along with video image gallery that runs just over a minute with music and provides some rough sketch artwork for the early episodes. Funimation also included some of their own previews and a credits section for work done on this disc. For those like me that look into the authoring houses used by various companies, I believe this is the first time we've seen work from Vision Wise, Inc. For their apparent first effort with anime, I'm quite impressed.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this being Funimation's foray into what can really be called "true" anime releases, with no editing, very accurate scripts and a different kind of respect for the material, it's something that we've taken some extra time to go through and check out. Our technical review side was probably a bit longer than normal, but that's because I'm essentially considering this their first real release.

With that in mind, Funimation has obviously been listening to the loud fans who are clear in what they want. It's provided here in spades. The simple fact that they took time to dub the opening and ending songs is something that even I appreciate, and something that I wish was done by more studios. I miss all of those old Pioneer dub songs.

The shows opening takes place over a period of twenty two years or so. We're initially introduced to Yuji when he's awakened abruptly from his cryogenic slumber in 2031, where he's the sole survivor being taken out of a facility by a couple of armed soldiers and a giant mecha. Through flashbacks, we see Yuji in 2009 when he's learned of an incurable disease that he has, and that they hope to have a cure someday and they'll awaken him then.

The flashbacks to the past help to illustrate just how desperate things are in 2031. While we see a number of people and life in general in 2009, the world of 2031 is nearly empty. Sometime in 2017, an invasion of sorts by the creatures called Blues arrived, and they pretty much acquired the planet overnight. Theses large scale bugs treat humans much as we do bugs. But the Blues have the ability to eat anything and turn it into energy or waste. So our world is one large picnic table for them.

The flashbacks to the past do serve as a setup for something else we're bound to see; we get introduced briefly to a friend of Yuji's names Takashi. Yuji promises that once he goes into cryosleep, he will one day, somewhere, somehow, see Takashi again. So while it's plainly obvious we'll see him again, it's the how he's turned out part that will likely be the shock.

Now granted, the way Yuji is woken up in 2031 is something that will throw anyone. While being wheeled towards the exit of the building, one of the Blues attacks and kills the soldiers and gives the mecha a hard time. Yuji awakens to see all of this, including one soldier sucked into the Blue. So yeah, I'll cut him slack when he freaks and runs. And when he ends up in his original sleep chamber section, where he sees others he went to sleep with having their chambers in ruins. And when he notices that the Blues seems to mold the dead bodies into these cabbage like pieces that they'll "get to eat later", I'll again let him freak some.

Thankfully, the woman piloting the mecha, the rather attractive but cold hearted Marlene, gets him out of the base and meets up with the crew of regular bad asses she works with. Yuji learns of humanities flight from the Blues and that what's left of mankind is now up in orbiting space stations, which is where he's going to be. But through the various encounters early one, Yuji continues to freak about everything.

Well, up until Marlene gives him one good hard slap. Then Yuji starts to develop some backbone, and as their situation gets worse and worse as they make their way to a take off base, Yuji becomes more involved with the dwindling crew. While the crew outside of three or four of the characters are pretty much just cyphers, those we do get to know are being fleshed out well.

The show is fairly desperate in style, with little regard for character life. Characters you initially think are going to be interesting are quickly slaughtered - brutally slaughtered. The Blues themselves are pretty icky to begin with, but the violent way they're dispatched will only add to that. The first three episodes are essentially set up, and it does a good job of it. The world of 2031 is definitely a hell in a handbasket and portrayed as such. Yuji's character is the one that's going to be hardened by it, and it looks like it'll be an interesting trip. This is definitely something more along the lines of a hard sci-fi series than we usually see here.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image gallery,Audio commentary,Character profiles,Extended music videos,Textless Songs,Cast Bios

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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