Meg and Jo return in upscaled high definition with the full TV series and the OVA in one slick little collection.
What They Say
A new law and a dark underground syndicate have delivered devastating chaos to Tokyo. The city's only chance for survival is a fearless mercenary, her dangerously beautiful comrades, and a massively armed and armored mech. In this land where war has spread like a disease, they will have to put their very existence on the line and fight to be the cure.
Contains episodes 1-24 and the OVA, Burst Angel: Infinity.
Burst Angel was a rare TV series that had a really good original Japanese 5.1 mix to it and that along with the equally solid English 5.1 mix carry over to this release. The difference is that the DVD was encoded at 448kbps, the max for the format, while this Blu-ray edition is done in lossless Dolby TrueHD. This is a very good release with its audio presentation as it takes what we had before and opens up the gate even more. There's a fair amount of directionality, again it's the fight scenes that excel, and the directionality during it and other dialogue scenes is quite solid. Burst Angel isn't a huge upgrade, but it's definitely one that makes the show better for having it presented this way.
Originally airing in 2004 for the TV series and in 2007 for the OVA, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is encoded at 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across three discs with ten episodes each on the first two discs while the third has the final four, the OVA and all the non-commentary extras. Because of the time when this was originally released, it's believed to be an upscale though FUNimation hasn't said one way or the other as of this writing. Regardless, Burst Angel looks fantastic here with really nothing that comes across badly that isn't source related. There are some visible gradients with the amount of CG that's used throughout the series, mostly in some of the sky backgrounds, but that's about the extent of it. Colors are very rich and vibrant and the details come across very clearly and without any noise or cross coloration making its way into it. I came away from this release very pleased by how it looks as it showcases the animation very well.
Burst Angel is done similar to other three disc sets from FUNimation on Blu-ray in that we get a slipcover to hold two standard sized Blu-ray cases, where the first one holds two discs while the second one holds the third disc. The slipcover looks good as it uses one of the more common shots of the two leads, contorted as they are, against the red background which looks very striking with the blue in the format logo along the top. The back of the slipcover has much better artwork of the pair that's very appealing. It's balance with a few shots from the show and a brief summary of the overall premise. They have a very good breakdown of the episode and disc count along with how many extras are on here. The technical grid is solid as well as it breaks down the extras and the main feature with its various configurations.
The two cases inside the slipcover are really nicely done as well as it provides for a lot more artwork. The first volume has a really great shot of Jo against a dark red background that's very appealing with all its detail, the general layout of it and the colors and detail. The second volume is even better with Meg kneeling down as she brandishes her long rifle while wearing her full on cowgirl outfit. The back covers to both of these cases are laid out the same with some layered text along the back while the foreground lists the episode number and titles along with the extras to be found on each of those volumes. The cases also have artwork on the reverse side in full color that were used for various packaging and promotional materials in previous releases. It's all pretty good with a lot of appealing artwork outside of the front slipcover. No show related inserts are included in this release.
The menus for the release are pretty nice though they’re somewhat simple in the end. There’s a lead-up of action with shots fired, flashy animation flipping through with the logo until it settles on a red background which has the logo along the lower right and the navigation strip along the upper right, which is also the same as the pop-up menu during the program. The left has a yellow strip down it with the disc number located there. What’s nice is that every ten or fifteen seconds or so there are shots fired into the menu and it adds up over the course of the loop. Navigation is simple and effective but the last disc left me puzzled. When the TV episodes finish, instead of going into the OVA episode, it goes back to the menu and you have to select that episode by itself. It’s almost more of an extra than an actual part of the program. Unfortunately, the discs do not read the players’ language presets as it defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles
All the extras outside of the commentaries are on the third disc and are in standard definition. FUNimation has a ton of extras on this release and they push it strongly on the back cover by talking about the 140 plus minutes of them that there are as they don't seem to be listing the commentaries in that. The extras really run the gamut and provide a great deal to go over if you’re into the show that far. Commentaries are included for several episodes on all three discs and you get the clean openings and closings as well. There are dub outtakes and you get some of the original promotional pieces and even the alternate opening and closing sequences. Add in a number of cast interviews and a few individual pieces with the creative staff and you get a solid idea of what went into the show even with it being fairly standard press material. The sheer amount of extras here is a huge selling point for this series, especially at this price and collection style. Sadly, the radio dramas did not make it over from the last DVD collection as they're not on this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Gonzo delves into manga and novel adaptations for their series, they do a fair number of original creations as well. Based on a screenplay by Fumihiko Shimo, someone who is involved in a number of rather popular shows in the last few years, Burst Angel is the kind of series that handles the weekly adventures pretty well and gives you reasons to come back. When taken in total though, the weaknesses of the series design shine through a bit more and that makes it more difficult to work through.
When Burst Angel was first released in single form by FUNimation, I made it through the first episode before looking for someone else to review it. With a glut of shows out at the time and this one looking pretty unappealing, Even with subsequent re-releases and the OVA, I never got around to watching past that first episode until the Viridian DVD set came out back in 2008. Watching the show in collected form at that point was probably the best way I could get into it for what it is as it’s very easy to see how a show like this would frustrate me in single disc form. Taking it again a year later, this time in high definition, I must admit that my feelings have not changed. Sometimes presentation can make a huge difference – witness my about face on some titles like Fist of the North Star.
Burst Angel takes place in a near future where a newly rebuilt Tokyo is seeing a massive rise in crime. In fact, it seems to be occurring all over Japan to different levels, but Tokyo takes it to the extreme both in the problem and the cure. The cure that’s used is privatizing the police in the form of RAPT – Recently Armed Police Taskforce (though it says Tokyo in one of the on screen listings). RAPT doesn’t exactly have a rosy reputation but they are by and large fairly respected as they do deal with most of the problems out there. Especially since the general populace can get weapons licenses now so having more official police in any capacity out there helps to keep everyone a bit more in line. Crime is still rampant though and problematic because of Cybot rampages.
Within all of this there is a small group of women operating under funding from the Bailan group with the leader’s granddaughter in charge of it. Sei has put together a diverse group of women to carry out her plans which involve the overall meta story that doesn’t truly become revealed until the last three episodes. Prior to then, the series delves into the issues that come up weekly in that various Cybots end up becoming twisted and warped in their programming and plans, generally around the idea of “glowing brains” that signify that they’re not the norm. In order to figure out what’s causing this and acquire the information so that they can head off potential problems within the Bailan group, Sei’s team tackles each of the occurrences as they happen and other missions as well.
With Sei as the leader, she doesn’t get too directly involved in the individual missions that come up, rather taking a directing lead and providing support for them in the big trailer that they live and operate out of. Tackling things head on is left to the three women she’s brought in. The most outgoing and bubbly is that of Meg, a young woman who has a Western cowboy feel to her with her outfit and personality. She’s got a love of life and is intent on enjoying it. Unfortunately, she ends up being caught by the bad guys fairly often and finds herself in compromising situations that makes everything more difficult.
Thankfully, Meg is rescued regularly by the real brawn of the group in the form of Jo, a quiet silver haired young woman. Jo’s the strong and silent type who uses her twin pistols to great effect and has no problems leaping about from moving vehicles or Cybots to take down her enemy. Jo spends much of her time outside of the fighting just being bored and uninterested in things, mainly waiting for the next mission to come along so she can have fun. Her quiet nature is offset by that of Amy, a somewhat younger cute character who is the technical genius of the group that doesn’t get involved in the actual fighting. The cyber wizard type, she brings in the spunky little girl stereotype as well as one that delves into the network and related areas.
What’s unusual about the show is that it opens up by introducing us to Kyohei, an aspiring patisserie going to a culinary academy. He ends up meeting the girls when Sei tries to hire him on as their cook so he can gain experience and they can get some decent meals. Providing the role of the outsider looking inside with the group, Kyohei seems like he’s going to be more of a regular than he is. The first couple of episodes put him in a bit of danger but he’s more in an observers role more than anything else. Over time he’s minimized even more and only has a couple of episodes where he’s really involved in things. It’s almost as if they realized that it wasn’t working along the way and it was easy to just push him slowly out of the picture. On the plus side, there are no awkward romantic possibilities brought in which helps immensely. All the potential love is kept between Meg and Jo.
Burst Angel does have an interesting setup to how it tells its stories. With the way it starts, I fully expected a Cybot/incident of the week kind of show. What it does instead is to tell the bulk of its stories across two episodes. Events aren’t quickly figured out and the action is doubled up in regards to that particular story. The rampaging Cybots are a bit part of it, but the build up to them going crazy or dealing with them takes a bit more time. This is a big positive as it allows the incidents to be a bit more detailed and fluid and not so quickly paced and easily resolved. The downside is the main problem of the show in that up until the last couple of episodes, there really isn’t a big bad guy or corporation fully behind it. It’s hinted at, teased with a few ideas and possibilities, but it’s never really showing us what’s going on from that side. When we do get material on it, it’s weak and insubstantial with almost no character names given since they’re not on screen for long.
This can work in a great number of series, but when the show finally hits the final few episodes, there isn’t a strong connection to what’s going on. Jo’s origins get explained easily enough and it all makes sense, but the impact of it just isn’t felt. The origin side of the series does get explored for all the characters at one time or another, and there are some nice foundation moments provided because of it, but they aren’t moments that are used throughout to help solidify it all. Jo’s story becomes a big part of the ending but it’s not built up to properly. Meg’s story is a bit more interesting since it’s a human one and they do a really nice job of giving it some closure with the OVA. Amy and Sei tend up getting the short end of the stick as their stories are fairly short and don’t provide much in the way of long term use within the core storyline.
Visually, there is a lot to like about the show and the OVA in particular. It’s a very clean looking series that even when it’s stuck in the grimier colors of the city it has a very distinct feeling to it. It’s more apparent when the series takes a side trip to Osaka and delves into the more easy going lifestyle that’s portrayed there since it’s a happier city than Tokyo. The set designs look really good throughout with a lot of detail in the backgrounds that gives it a very lived in feeling. The CG animation is a bit iffier at times, and at first it made me wonder if Satelight was involved in the production because of how the Cybots moved. The character designs are attractive throughout as well, though they do fall into the trap of wearing the same outfits constantly. The OVA provides a nice break from that for Meg and Jo at least. Everything about it is basically quite competent and solid, but there isn’t anything that raises it to another level to make it truly memorable. And that unfortunately sums up the series in total.
Burst Angel as a series is one that has a lot of fun moments along the way, cute characters and some engaging action sequences. It works the individual stories well by spreading them over two episodes for the bulk of them which allows it to tell slightly more involved tales. The downside is that the characters don’t get deeply explored overall and the stories tend to fall short of tying everything together in a truly compelling way. FUNimation does things almost perfect with this release overall as we get two solid lossless tracks, a very strong looking visual presentation with nothing that’s really wrong here and a solid package. Where it falls short for me is that they didn’t port all the extras as that’s a significant black mark, especially as the DVD set had a huge amount of extras overall. Still, if you’re just interested in the show, this is the best it’s ever looked and is highly appealing when it comes to the core presentation, enough so that I can recommend it pretty easily.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Staff Commentaries, Original Radio Dramas, Japanese Cast Interview, CGI Artist Interview, Character Designer Interview, Original Japanese Trailer, Alternate Opening and Closing, Battle Record of All 24 Episodes, Ugetsu Hakua (Character Designer) Special, Textless Songs, Outtakes
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.