Macross Plus Vol. #1 (1st Pressing) (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, October 12, 1999
Release Date: Tuesday, October 12, 1999



What They Say
Macross Plus scores with its triple-play of dynamic mecha designs, dramatic characters and outstanding music creating a superb four-part Anime that will leave you mesmerized.
Part 1: 2040 A.D. - Planet Eden. The Ministry of Defense is testing and developing a transforming super-stealth aircraft, a new advanced defense vehicle to counter alien attacks. Isamu Dyson is an extroverted jet fighter maverick assigned as a new test pilot on project Super Nova. Competition heats up when he discovers that his old rival Guld Bowman is a test pilot for the competing project. The arrival of Myung, a mutual ex-girlfriend, adds more tension to the conflict.

Part 2: Computer generated pop star Sharon Apple has packed in the masses again for another of her best-selling concerts. Amongst the fans are, Isamu Dyson, the maverick pilot, and Yang, who is about to pull off one of the biggest computer hacking stunts ever in front of millions. When Isamu returns to the New Edwards Test Center, he is up against his old rival Guld for air supremacy as well as fighting for the affections of Myung, the discontented producer of Sharon Apple.

The Review!
Macross Plus has been on the fans to buy list for quite some time now. It's also one of the more popular and best selling anime videos around, so it was definitely something of a plus when it was announced to be coming to DVD, especially after the excellent previous releases by Manga.

But neither of those two releases really set up this release properly. This disc is simply one of the best looking DVD's I've seen. Let's get right into the technical side first.

The audio is bound to cause some discussion, heated or not. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite possibly the most continually immersive soundtrack I've heard on a DVD to date. Directionality is nearly constant with things moving from front to rear and all over the front soundstage. If you've got a friend whose waffling on the quality of DVD or DD 5.1, this is one of the discs you pop in there to convince them. And this is the amazing thing since the center channel itself isn't used. Unfortunately somehow Manga managed to not get the full 5.1 encoded on the disc. Depending on your set up, you may or may not notice it as much (I didn't for some time). The overall soundtrack is very immersive and no dialogue is lost without the center channel, but it's frustrating in itself.

The Japanese track, while not nearly as impressive, is very clear in quality and front soundstage directionality, but lacking in the overall "oomph" of the English track and naturally in terms of the rear surround splits. Purists who dislike soundtracks being tampered will be pleased, but those who like 5.1 and hate English dubs will have a hard time. Personally, this is one of those few dubbing jobs that I really enjoy just about as much as the original language track, so it was of little issue to me this time.

The video also takes on a near reference level quality. There are some scattered moire or line noise effects seen throughout, but it really depends on how well your system is calibrated and the all important seating distance. I initially was sitting maybe four feet from the TV when I got things rolling and noticed a couple of small patches of them, but when I got into a normal viewing position, those bits completely disappeared.

It is worth noting that several sequences on this disc are much darker than previous releases and possibly more aligned with the original Japanese release. Do not watch this in a room with a lot of ambient light in it.

Manga's packaging of the two episodes into one release presented itself a small challenge in packaging, as the original four releases all had great cover artwork. The front cover presents the first volumes artwork while a section of the second volume is blocked out onto the back of the volume. There's lots of information on the back in terms of story, kudos and special features, but there's two very important bits missing from it; running time and region coding.

The motion menus placed onto this disc are very well done and very thematic for the series. Everything is easily selected and you always know what you've selected, which is very important. The special features menu has bunches of things on it and is well thought out as well. Unfortunately, there are no DVD credits on the disc. People like me who follow the encoding side of things will be disappointed in that respect. Kudos definitely need to be given to the people at Crush Digital Video who did work on this disc.

On a technical side, this disc is as said, simply outstanding and gorgeous. What follows is the review of the content itself, which may contain spoilers. Please do not proceed if you do not want anything possibly spoiled for you.

Back when Macross Plus was originally released, my roommate who was not much of an anime fan at all, had heard some talk of the show from friends who were and decided to sit down and watch it with me. Of course, all that was released at the time was the English language version, so it worked out well in that respect. After that viewing, we managed to get several other people really into the show, which showed the broad appeal of a well done piece of anime. Even with the large back history of a show like Macross, Macross Plus builds upon but does not rely upon what has gone before. After all, it had been ten years since the Macross: Do You Remember Love movie had been released in Japan and fans tastes had changed.

And we all know how fickle a fan can be!

Taking place in 2040, Isamu Dyson gets transferred from deep space patrol to the planet Eden due to his reckless behavior and is assigned as a test pilot, which of course he's near deliriously happy to be. What's not hinted at early on is just how much history Dyson has on this planet. This show is about several things, but just like the original series, it's about relationships and all the mecha combat is window dressing for it. Window dressing with some great content and animation at that.

The animation for this four part series is gorgeous and very fluid. The large use of vibrant colors and high speed animated action come out extraordinarily well on the DVD. Having had the VHS and Laserdisc releases in the past, this release is definitely the best of all three by a large magnitude.

Can you tell I liked it a lot?

There are other things to recommend it as well. One of them being the introduction of the Virtual Idol, Sharon Apple. There's more than meets the eye here, and upon completion of the series it merits rewatching just to catch the little bits here and there.

And with the Macross universe, if there's one thing that's a near constant, is the music and its affect in the storyline. Macross Plus is definitely no slouch there, and it's also the first show where I was introduced to the extremely talented and wonderful Yoko Kanno. I still find the Macross Plus soundtrack to be among her best, though with such a wide and strong amount of material that she's done, there's bound to be disputes to that. What many find to be among her best piece is the opening song, Voices. This was also one of the very rare cases where the English translated song (or rather, adapted) is equally as beautiful as the original. What was a travesty was on the Laserdisc release was that the Japanese language track's subtitles weren't subtitles, but dubtitles. And I don't believe that the VHS release had the lyrics translated, but I may be wrong on that. Regardless, Laserdisc fans were left out in the cold for a true translation of the song, but the DVD definitely contains the proper translation.

As well as the rest of the disc, there are no issues with it being a dubtitled release. This is an extremely strong release for the DVD crowd and it should be a disc that not only every anime fan should have, but a lot of regular DVD owners themselves. This disc has a large crossover appeal. Manga deserves a lot of credit for such a fantastic release.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language Track,English 5.1 Language Track,English Subtitles,English SDH subtitles,Previews for each episode,Photo Gallery,Japanese production team credit menus

Review Equipment
N/A



Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: F
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Manga Entertainment
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Macross Plus