Eat-Man 98 Collected (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2000



What They Say
Bolt Crank is a mercenary, but he's no ordinary man. He's gifted with the ability to eat metal objects. Later, he can produce these items from his right hand, as the need arises. Bolt is the strong silent type-he doesn't say much and prefers to let his actions speak for themselves. And in the course of this series, Bolt will serve as protector to many people. He will hunt down a murderer who is brutally killing scientists, protect an entire country, and destroy a demon. And that's just the first disc!

All 12 episodes - the entire series - on one low-priced 2 disc set!

The Review!
The most surprising release by Bandai Entertainment in their initial batch of releases definitely has to be the Eat-Man 98 collection. While many were surprised and happy with the episode count of Cowboy Bebop and others furious about Blue Submarine No. 6, an equal amount of people were simply stunned at a 12 episode TV series being collected into a 2 disc set for such a low price.

One of the obvious reasons for the low price is in the audio. Not that there's anything wrong with the audio. The Japanese language track is clean and distortion free throughout all twelve episodes. There's a bit of front soundstage directionality from time to time, but otherwise it's your typical TV series soundtrack.

What is missing from the majority of the disc is an English audio track. Eat-Man 98 was one of the releases from Bandai on VHS that was relegated to two episodes per tape with some amount of lead time between each release. Presumably sales were low for this already cult title and the dubbed version didn't sell well, so it was dropped. This collection does include the dubbed tracks for the first two episodes though, and for the most part it's a shame that it wasn't fully dubbed. The voice actors seem fairly good for the main characters, though I think Bolt's voice should have been deeper.

On the video side I'm pretty much in love with what I see. With the relative newness of the show and the fact that Bandai should have access to the best film elements, this transfer is top notch. It's not a terribly vibrant show with lots of episodes taking place in barren desert areas, but there's just a quality to it that is rarely seen with a lot of releases. There's no sign of any moire or rainbows. There was maybe a hint or two of pixellation in one episode on the second disc, but otherwise this is one of the sweetest transfers I've seen. It's not quite as good as some of the more recent Bandai region 2 discs, but it's nipping on the heels of it with a hungry look.

This two disc set comes in a double keepcase, the kind previously seen used by Central Park Media for Heroic Legend of Arslan and the Urotsukidoji Perfect Collection. The cover artwork is fairly nice with Bolt getting most of the front and a couple of characters from the first two episodes sharing it with him. It's a bit dark overall. The back cover provides a few screenshots of the anime itself and covers a bit of the plot and main character. The insert inside provides a story summary for each of the episodes as well as a picture from each episode. The discs themselves got a fairly basic treatment with a green paint job with the title logo and the disc number. Overall the packaging is pretty decent, but reflective of the low cost of the set.

Another way to note the barebones release is the static menus. Music is overlaid over it, but there's no animation or anything else as there was on the other two Bandai releases. It's not necessarily a bad thing, since you're here for the content after all. Selections are made quickly and everything we tried worked properly.

One nice trick that they did use in authoring the disc is when you use the play all feature, and have the English language selected for the first two episodes, it does switch to Japanese and English subtitles when it hits episode three, so you don't have to bother with your remote.

My only real disappointment with this set is the lack of credits for the voice actors. They're simply not anywhere I could find it. The episodes are presented in their full form, but the credits are all in the original Japanese without the English additions. But otherwise, this is a technically solid release.

But what about the content? Prior to it's release I'd heard many varied opinions. Those who loved the first series (which you don't need to see to watch this) hated Eat-Man 98. Those who saw Eat-Man 98 first loved it and hated the original. Those who had seen neither before tended to be in the love/hate relationship as well.

For myself, after watching the first four episodes, ordered the soundtracks and the domestically translated graphic novels. That means I liked it and liked it a lot.

Pretty much right from the opening I was intrigued. The music alone had me really paying attention, so much so that with each episode, I never fast forwarded through the openings or endings. That and the ambient music used through each of the episodes hooked me pretty fast.

This series isn't really a cohesive plotline. It's definitely a more episode series, with a couple of two parters, one four parter and some singles. This is pretty reminiscent of the old 70's wandering stranger series that aired here in the US such as the Incredible Hulk and whatnot. Quiet brooding type travels around in search of something, sometimes becoming embroiled in local disputes. The formula is used pretty well here, with some episodes seeming to come closer to Bolt than others.

One particular episode that struck me as a highlight of the set is the fourth one entitled Bodyguard. It's a simple setup. Bolt is waiting on the dock for the ship to come in since he missed the previous one. A stranger tells him it'll be back in another hour. Within seconds he's hired to guard a young woman in a tower, but only for an hour until the next boat arrives.

While guarding the woman, she tries to tell him her story but he doesn't care. He's just doing his job and guarding her. As the evil mob starts invading the town, he starts morphing weapons from his hand and takes out what feels like hundreds of people. There's nary an emotion across his face. He's just doing his job. The woman is going on and on, but Bolt just keeps shooting. And when the hour is up... what a smile it brought to my face.

I think throughout the entire series he smiled once, and that was during the last episode, briefly. Bolt's a fair mystery overall, and the world he inhabits is definitely a strange place. From high tech cities to small outskirt villages armed with axes. And Bolt's there eating weapons left and right. It's pretty amusing, and the sounds that they use for it is on target, especially when he actually eats bolts and screws.

This series definitely isn't for everyone. When you're looking for a solid plotline throughout a series and character growth, Eat-Man 98 will disappoint. If you're looking for something offbeat with great voice acting and a gorgeous video transfer, this set is a bargain.

Features
English Language (episodes 1 & 2 only),Japanese Language,English Subtitles


Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 39.99
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Eat-Man 98