Starblazers Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2001
What They Say
Relentless planet bombing from outer space forces Earth's survivors to live underground-if they want to live at all. When the deadly radiation starts penetrating their subterranean cities, Space Cruiser Argo is launched on a 148,000 light year quest for the planet Iscandar. The legendary ship's mission is to return with technology that will neutralize the contamination. An elite force of Star Blazers has only one earth year to do it. During this intergalactic race against time they engage in spectacular space battles with Gamilon fleets from another galaxy, now based on Pluto. In addition to the overwhelming odds and superior destructive power of the invaders, the Argo's other enemy is deep space itself.
In this classic adventure, the ship's doctor is able to keep the captain alive, although he grows weak from radiation poisoning. The Star Blazers discover that one of their force is a cyborg. They are also surprised to learn that their robot has a sense of humor. Two friends resolve a bitter feud. One falls in love. And the biggest surprise is sprung when the surviving crewmembers see who greets them when they get to Iscandar.
Starblazers/Yamato, the name alone sends chills up the spine of many older anime fans across the US. Combined with Speed Racer and Gatchaman, this show is one of the holy triumvirate of shows that introduced America to the joys of Anime.
While purists may scoff at the treatment the show received in its Americanized translation; it nonetheless holds a place in many people's hearts. The cheesy opening theme still sends chills up their spines. The sound of the Wave Motion Gun powering up and firing gets their adrenaline pumping every time they hear it. In short, this is the anime many have been waiting for on DVD.
But how does the DVD treatment fare? Is it a hack job or is it the special treatment nostalgic otaku have been waiting for?
To put it bluntly, the audio stinks. While not noted on the packaging, I'm sure that it's MONO! The opening theme, while still able to send chills down my spine, sounds washed out and tinny. Dialog is clear, as is most of the audio, but everything sounds very flat. While I don't have a state of the art sound system, the audio wouldn't take advantage of it if I did. Of course, for 20-year-old source material I wasn't expecting 5.1 Dolby Digital, but it would have been nice if it had been digitally cleaned.
It is the original dub treatment the series received in its original US outing. Some voices are well done, some are cheesy as hell. It would have been nice to have the original Japanese audio with subtitles, but I don't think Voyager is going to splurge on it.
On a side note, If I remember correctly when it was originally aired, I don't remember captain Avatar ever referring to the Yamato by it's real name, using "Argo" in every instance. Here, in the first episode, he refers to it several times as the Yamato before renaming it the "Argo." Did Voyager rehire the original voice actor to say the word Yamato a few times? I haven't seen the VHS version in a few years so I don't remember if it was also in that version.
Again, the source material shows its age. The original masters have deteriorated with time and it shows it. The video shows wear and tear. It's shaky at some points and fuzzy in others. While I have not watched them side by side, it seems as if Voyager just ported their VHS copies to DVD. Colors appear slightly washed out, but there is very little moiré effect. I think that's more of byproduct of the colors being less bright than most modern anime. However, the digital signal seems to make the DVD version appear slightly better than I remember the VHS version.
One thing that really bugs me about this release is that the separate episodes are edited together to make one long movie. The opening intro starts the disk off and the credits end the disk. Until you get to the fourth episode there's no way to tell when one episode ends and the other begins. Only when the "Only 362 days" pops up on the screen do you realize that you've just watched 4 episodes of the series. The series moves rather slowly at times and it's sometimes hard to watch all the episodes in a continuous lump.
The packaging is okay. It's attractive, but not as informative or flashy as some of the Pioneer and ADV releases. Surprisingly, there is an insert! The insert lists the titles of the episodes. However, it doesn't reference the Chapter stops. Overall, I'd say the packaging is middle of the road. It's better than most CPM releases, but nowhere near as nice as what most companies are putting out.
Bare bones. The menu on this disk makes the "Eatman '98" menus appear to be state of the art. Upon boot-up, you are presented with two options "Start Movie and Chapter". The splash screen is rather ugly and is just the series logo on a gray screen. I would have preferred a picture of the Yamato, but we don't even get that! The "Chapter Menu" is disappointing. It's not even separated into the five episodes that comprise the disk. Instead, we get seven seemingly randomly placed chapter stops. A real disappointment.
There are no extras on the disk. Not even coming attractions or info about Voyager. With all the fan created material out there, they could have put some nice stuff on the disk, but they didn't.
You'll either love it or hate it. It is heavily edited, even more so than the Anime on network television. The dialog is cheesy and the animation isn't up to today's standards. If you didn't catch Yamato during it's original TV airing 20 years ago chances are you won't like it. However, if the Argo is one of your earliest memories, the nostalgia factor takes over and you're in bliss.
If you want more info on the series, there are several fan sites set up for it, including one hosted by Anime on DVD- http://www.animeondvd.com/specials/starblazers/starblazers.htm
Final Thoughts and Notes:
If you are a hardcore Starblazers maniac, and can find this hard to get disk, pick it up immediately. If not, you'll be wasting your money.
I'm disappointed with the disk, but I still love the series. The packaging contained a survey card asking what extras I'd like to see on the next disk. I only hope that the bare bones treatment this disk received does not continue with later releases. It seems like the disk was an experiment and that the treatment the series receives will increase in quality. Here's hoping so. Because I do not see anyone who isn't a Starblazers fanatic enjoying this disk.
Creative Labs DXR3 6x CD-ROM drive, Magnavox 19inch, Stereo Television. 2 speakers, subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: D
Video Rating: C
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: F
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Voyager
Running time: 112
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Starblazers / Yamato