Needless Collection 1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 21, 2011
Release Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Life as a priest of sorts in the midst of a land of destruction isn't easy.
What They Say
They're called Needless-mutants who wield amazing powers such as super speed, the ability to change form, and some, like Blade, the power to "learn" other opponent's powers. It's Blade's greatest ability. But is it powerful enough to overcome his weakness for cute young girls in revealing little skirts? Find out in the craziest action comedy anime of the year!
The audio presentation for the series has the Japanese and English tracks in stereo using the DTS-HD MA codec with a near-constant bit rate of 1.8mbps. The show has a pretty good forward soundstage mix to it as it uses a fair bit of action to complement the dialogue and it's very expressive at times with the way it gets almost wacky with it. The fighting sequences is where it stands out the most outside of the music when it gets to the hand to hand sequences as it has a nice bit of impact. The dialogue for the series is strong with lots of characters that are talking a lot, and fast at times, and it has a good warm and rich feeling to it. It's got some directionality to it that works nicely and some depth and overall it's a solid and clean mix with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the second half of 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. The twelve episode release is spread across two discs in a nine/three format with the second disc being a single layered disc. The show has an average bit rate in the high twenties which works well with the very bright colors that it has, especially the rich blues of the sky backgrounds. Needless has a very raw feeling to it with a lot of angular line work and detailed edges to it that gives it a rough feeling. The action to it is definitely exaggerated and the fast movements are well handled by the encoding. The colors are very rich and appealing and the transfer avoids problems like cross coloration and aliasing.
This release is presented in a standard Blu-ray keepcase though the artwork for this is different than how the DVD release is. While the DVD lets Adam take center stage against a dark background, this one has Eve in her school girl uniform against a white background. It's a very busy character design with the flow of her hair, the uniform and the drill and then the silver metallic style logo itself. It may be busy but it's also pretty appealing with its distinctiveness. The back cover's not as busy to be sure as it's blocked out well to allow for a section that has some shots from the show and character artwork as well as a brief tagline just above the summary. The summary is very minimal which isn't a bad thing and there's a good listing of what extras there are on the disc. Add in the production information and the technical grid which breaks everything down accurately and you have a decent cover overall. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the release is pretty good overall as it has a very large yet personal feel to it. The main menus for each disc has a different piece of character artwork with Blade on the first and Eve on the second where they have a dark and almost concrete feeling to the background which gives it a hard feeling. The navigation strip along the bottom doubles as the pop-up during playback as well as it uses the same kind of color scheme but has primarily the episode number selections which is designed in the cross form from within the show itself. It lists it by number and title which is a nice touch. The layout is very simple and quick to use but language selection continues to be a problem because it's not terribly clear based on the icons used within it what the actual selection is. And when you're in there, you have to select something in order to get out, making it easier to just select on the fly and avoid the whole section altogether.
The extras are all available on the second disc and there's a couple of things beyond the basics to be had here. The core things come in the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which are always welcome and they have a good encode here of it with a high bit rate at times. One extra here is called The Secret of Saint Lilly Academy which has its own submenu that brings up six pieces to check out. This is a sixteen minute collection of comedy shorts that puts the characters in a very different setting and has a whole lot of fun with it. It's the kind of omake that's generally a lot of fun no matter what, but even more so when the show already has a strong comedy angle to it since they take things even further. In addition to that we get a really nice and fairly detailed liner notes section that covers a number of the gags and comedy bits throughout and some of the subtler pieces that helps to flesh out things nicely. Liner notes are becoming a lost art so having some really well laid out and designed ones is welcome. The last extra on here is a series of character sketches that's done as a ten minute video piece with the heavy opening song kicking things off. You can skip by chapter as well but I only went so far as apparently there are spoilers here for things in the second set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the Ultra Jump manga by Kami Imai, Needless is a twenty-four episode series that feels like it was separated at birth with Gurren Lagann when it comes to the visual designs and overall energy. Needless predates it though and the manga is ongoing still with some eleven volumes out so far in Japan. Madhouse worked on this series back in 2009 and it definitely shows as it has a very distinct and edgy look to it that takes the energy of the designs and really utilizes it to make an engaging show that keeps you visually enthralled with all the details. The series is one that manages to mix the action and humor rather well to give it a dynamic feeling that keeps it moving pretty much all the time with little in the way of quiet moments.
Needless takes place in the year 2130, some fifty years of world war three suddenly erupted and caused numerous cities across the world to fall prey to the attacks, such as Tokyo which had a very expansive area turn to ruin. While the world went on afterward peace seemed to settle, the area in Japan where this attack happened became known as the Black Spot. People lived there, roaming gangs lived and operated out of there and the outside world generally seemed to have little to do with repairing it or moving back into it. A lot of the reason for this is that numerous people within this zone had their DNA altered and the result after five decades is a lot of people who have some very interesting abilities in their possession. Those who are these Needless only possess one ability but it's something that they often master as best as they can to survive and give them an edge.
Within the Black Spot, a man known as Adam Arklight as part of the Simeon corporation from the outside world is operating with a plant to acquire and crush the Needless as his ability is to learn, which means he can take on their ability for a time and use it himself. The show opens with a group of resistance Needless fighters who have just been crushed by his organization and are on the run with only one young man named Cruz who isn't even a Needless himself as the survivor. He ends up coming into contact with a man who looks like some form of a priest named Adam Blade who himself has the learning ability and quite the quirky sense of self. He helps him out and Cruz ends up crashing at the ruined church he operates out of with a group of strange individuals.
Cruz isn't called that by any of them as he's given the name Yamada against his will and basically does a whole lot of chores for them in between the growing number of fights that seem to follow. Blade's something of a priest but he's more motivated by money than anything else, well, except for cute young girls who call him brother to get him to do things. Along with him there's Eve, a doppleganger shapeshifter with a number of very deadly skills, and Gido, an older character who excels at science and all things mechanical. As a group they have a decent feel about them and as the episodes go on, the group expands a bit with an information broker and some pure muscle with a flame ability.
The larger storyline that comes out of this fairly early on is that Adam Arklight has a definite interest in Blade because his own body is starting to wear down and he needs a new replacement one and Blade's might be the most ideal one. Some of his subordinates are sent to check things out and to make their own exploratory attacks and that gets Blade to actually be proactive and go to find out what the deal is from Arklight himself, which gives the show a mild road trip feel for a bit. What this does primarily is to bring in more of the characters, including one of the sub-groups of one of the Great Four leaders, the beautiful Riru who herself had carved out a little empire in the Black Spot. She has a group of some forty-odd young women in school girl uniforms that she uses for an attack force. They've all god Needless abilities themselves and a core group of them becomes the main focus when Blade comes up to them at the Simeon building that's out in the midst of the Black Spot.
What defines the show is the kind of style it has as it shows Blade acquiring new friends and then going on the trip to figure out what Arklight wants. There's a wacky sense about it at times with some exaggerated motions and a sense of style that really feels like it's aping Gurren Lagann. It has somewhat over the top attacks and the abilities they have are all fairly basic but can be tweaked to be extra useful in a way that makes complete sense. There's a real sense of fun and anything goes with the style here that's infectious. While the show is definitely strong with its animation and visual design, seeing the comedy moments, the facial expressions and things like how Eve renames everyone she meets to fit her own worldview works really well. And with everything moving as fast as it does here, it's even more infectious as it manages to shift between action and humor easily as well as blending the two in a way generates a lot of laughs but also some surprising tension.
Needles takes a little bit to get going after a somewhat chaotic start because it has so much to introduce for the setting and how the the Black Spot is laid out. Once it gets settled in and the core group of characters is firmed out a bit and you know the basis of how the world works it really hits its stride. The journey to the Simeon corporation gives it some early direction and it lets it hit up a number of characters along the way. With strong animation, really fun character designs and some very fun abilities and action sequences, Needless is a whole lot fun. Everything comes together really well and the high definition presentation of it takes it to the next level. There's a lot to like here and still another half to go.
Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Omake Episode, Sketches
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.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: VC-1