Now and Then, Here and There Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Release Date: Saturday, December 08, 2001
What They Say
Shu leads an ordinary life. At least he did until the day he meet LaLa-Ru, a girl with mystical colored eyes. Attracted by her silent mystery, Shu tries to coax the girl to talk with him, but just when he thinks he might be getting her to open up, they're both attacked by men riding monstrous machines!
In the ensuing battle, Shu finds himself sucked into a time warp that drags him 5 billion years into the future - to a world that is more like a battlefield than a place to live. Over the course of the millennias the sun has expanded and the cooling waters that Shu so loved have vanished. Now in this desolate land, the human race must fight to survive under the cruel leadership of a few. And one of those leaders, General Hamod of Hellywood, thinks he knows Lala-Ru secret: the link to a new water source. And he'll do anything he has to to have it.
Contains episodes 1-5.
Director: Daichi Akitarou (Jubei-chan the Ninja Girl / Elf Princess Rane)
Character Design: Ohizumi Atushi
This show is something of an oddity. It's quite rare that a show created by Pioneer Japan doesn't get itself licensed by Pioneer USA for release outside of Japan. But this is the second time its happened, and so far I'm quite pleased that it's getting a release, as it's something I can see Pioneer USA shying away from.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. We also listened to large segments of it in English 2.0 as well as some checking of the English 5.1 track. But primarily, we sat and absorbed this show through it's original language. The show is very dialogue driven, when the kids aren't getting their faces beaten in. There's a fair bit of directionality for action sounds and some areas of dialogue. The English 5.1 track does an excellent job of making the audio much cleaner, albeit a bit louder as well. The dub to my untrained and poorly attuned ears sounded quite good, with a good number of the kids actually sounding like kids.
Originally released in Japan in 1999, this is quite a recent show with excellent production values. There's a sequence early in the first episode where two kids are sitting on smokestacks as the sun sets across the bay. The richness of the reds and oranges and the look of the shading is wonderful. The colors then take the opposite direction as the show progresses, as things get dark and murky, but the colors still retain their solidity nicely. There's a few very minor instances of cross coloration and some slight jagged lines during a few camera panning movements, but overall this is a great looking transfer throughout the five episodes here.
This section will be updated upon the discs release, as we were supplied only with a final check disc and not a completed release.
The menu system is nicely laid out, with a static image of the front cover on one side with some manipulation of the background and some banners floating across the bottom while an instrumental version of one of the songs is playing. Selections are quickly accessed on the right, and moving around the menus is a breeze.
There's a fair share of extras included on this release. The art gallery plays a selection of nice stills from the show, while there are also galleries devoted to things such as the characters, the mechanics of the world and the background things such as the main station we're introduced to in these episodes. Thankfully a textless ending was included, as the music here is great and quite evocative. The cast and production page gives you what you expect, with both sets of actors accounted for. The storyboard to animation segments continue to be intriguing, watching how the leap from pencil to animation went.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Frankly, there's an awful lot to like about this series on a lot of levels.
My first main draw to this series is that it's directed by one of my favorites, Akitaroh Daichi. This man is responsible for some of my favorite shows, such as Jubei-Chan, Child's Toy and Animation Runner Kuromi. His sense of style and use of the camera gets me interested in his work a lot, and this show is no disappointment. It is however a departure from his previous efforts. At most, it's like some of the darker and more serious moments of Jubei-chan, but on crack.
Another reason is that for all I joke about AIC and their amazing ability to recycle character designs, they tend to produce some really well crafted shows every now and then. The style used for the characters here make you think of Tenchi for the lead boy named Shu for a few seconds, but after that the way the world is built pulls you away from that. If anything, the design, look and feel of things are much more closely related to Green Legend Ran than anything else AIC has done in the past ten years.
The meshing of Daichi's work and the style of Green Legend Ran with a truly dark feeling story results in this fascinating piece of work. The show opens in the present day, with the young Shu and his highly overconfident view of himself. It's not arrogance, but just a feeling of "Whatever I do, I can do it well!" kind of thing. His time spent in kendo class is obviously his favorite time, where he's aggressive but almost jovial about it. He loses due to his overreaching and lack of actually thinking through his attacks though, so he tends to not be a very good opponent.
It's on his way home that he sees someone sitting on one of the smokestacks high above the town. He makes his way up a different one, and tries to get the attention of the girl whose sitting there, looking out into the bay and admiring the sunset. She doesn't speak when she finally acknowledges him, but just points out to the bay. Shu makes a lot of talk during this time, which lets us get to know him and just how much of a good guy he is in general.
It's during their conversation that Shu's world goes upside down, when out of nowhere dragon-snake like craft appear piloted by humans, and a woman in charge of the group begins the capture of the young girl, which he knows is named Lala Ru. Shu does his best to defend Lala Ru, and manages to do some impressive damage to a group of people who probably expected nothing in the way of someone fighting back, but he eventually finds himself overpowered. But through luck, when the enemy escapes, he ends up getting sucked into it as well.
Shu now finds himself alone on a world where the sun is a million times larger than what he's used to. The world is run down, children who've been taken from their villages and from other worlds find themselves being citizens in a military style "city" that's ruled by the truly mad King Hamod. Hamod, one of the few adults you see in general, is quite simply insane. But a brutal schizophrenia is a closer way of describing him, along with his bowl haircut. He's trying to bring about his vision of a world of peace under him, and fighting back the enemies who are after him. It's impossible to tell what's really going on, but it is obvious through the episodes and the fighting that there are forces opposed to him.
Shu finds himself on the run in this world, not knowing what's going on and why things are the way they are. He eventually becomes separated from Lala Ru, but ends up with her pendant, which he also loses during a fight. Lala Ru and this pendant are apparently key for King Hamod's quest to rule the world, so no expense is spared in finding it. When Shu's eventually captured and interrogated by Hamod's trusted Adelia, he's brought to within inches of his life it seems. The boy is bloodied and bruised, the beatings visually strong. Some will find them to be disturbing to be sure, but not as disturbing as the beating that Hamod gives out.
This is one of the things that people point to this series about, is its brutality with the characters and the children. It'll be hard to say how it'll fly over here, but for those looking for something serious and fairly edgy in their material, I really can't point anywhere else but here for something that may very well challenge them. This is a wonderfully scripted show, where each line of dialogue seems to be said with some larger purpose behind it. The children on this world are mean little bastards, but there's also some very intelligent and cunning ones who are trying to get through all of this. Even with five episodes out of the thirteen made here, this disc sets up things nicely but doesn't delve into the guts much. There's definitely a lot more to be learned, and a lot more disturbing visuals to see.
And frankly, I can't wait. This is a very enticing show.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Cast and production list,Textless closing,Character sketches,Mechanical sketches,Background sketches
Storyboard to Animation
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Now and Then, Here and There