Vandread Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2002



What They Say
Even human encounters mean trouble for the Nirvana! As if running from dangerous aliens wasn’t hard enough, Hibiki makes an enemy out of Rabat, a trouble-making peddler with an unhealthy interest in Dita and the Vandread.

Then, the Nirvana discovers a stranded human colony that awaits the prophesized "Munya." When the aliens attack, Hibiki and Jura finally combine to form a Vandread! Initially, Jura is not happy with the results, but soon finds that there is a certain elegance in being able to put a protective barrier around an entire planet.

Finally, Christmas arrives on the Nirvana, but can you still have a white Christmas in space?

The Review!
After a somewhat lackluster second volume, we found the third set of episodes to pick up the pace a bit better, and though they are all once again self contained episodes, things didn’t feel as forced.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show features a very nice pro-logic track here with some good use of the entire soundstage. Music and sound effects regularly are thrown to the rear speakers while there's also a good amount of directionality across the forward soundstage. The rear channels aren't exactly getting a workout, but they're used much more than normal and are well done.

Video:
The transfer here is pretty much top notch. Colors are lush and vibrant and the blacks look nice and solid. Cross coloration is non-existent and I’m hard pressed to find any aliasing going on either. As an added bonus for HDTV folks who are going to want to zoom in on this, Pioneer was extra careful and made sure that the subtitles all take place inside the picture and not the widescreen bars, so you won't lose subtitles during the zoom.

Packaging:
Continuing the use of the foil like cover, the background takes advantage of it with the planet and Jura’s ship being the main users of it. Jura herself gets the cover here and just looks… tasty. The back cover makes use of the foil features throughout the animation shots and logos. The discs features and summary are nicely laid out and the episode numbers and titles are listed clearly, though there is no volume numbering. The insert features Jura again but with some character design artwork behind her as well as the chapter stops. This volume has a limited pack-in with it, which is a couple of Vandread trading cards, with the image of Jura from the cover being the one facing up.

Menu:
Very much in the style of the show, Nightjar provides another set of great looking and great sounding menus that are also functional and easy to navigate in the style of one of the ships control panels. Moving between the menus is a breeze and access times are nice and fast. The menus are also done in the widescreen mode to keep in line with the show itself, so zooming here results in no loss as well.

Extras:
The extras are pretty similar to the previous volume, where we get the textless openings for the three episodes, since each opening is slightly different. There’s a couple more commercials included and some more character line art.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With these three episodes, there’s little overall plot development, though I’m really unsure there is a plot beyond the Voyager-like “let’s get home!” kind of deal, but the character development has a little bit going on here and in general these episodes are, well, fun.

Ok, guilty pleasure. I’m enjoying watching Jura’s breasts bounce all over creation.

Anyway, each of the episodes is pretty self contained. The second one brings some nostalgia to mind early on as the crew comes across a new planet where they may get some supplies. It’s an entirely marine world, meaning covered in water. But there’s one island where there’s life an people going about their business. The nostalgia factor comes in as I’m reminded of the (corny) issue 80ish run of the original Star Wars comic which also had an entirely marine world, but underwater people. None of that hear, but it brought a smile to my face.

The main focus of the episode tends to be the ongoing “feud” between Hibiki and the girls that want to combine with his Van-type. Jura’s pushing harder and harder. When they check out a strange orbiting ship, Hibiki fights her off for quite awhile as they battle some strange little alien robots. It’s only when they’re thrust through the atmosphere do they combine, and we get to see what their combo looks like. It’s just hilarious, especially Jura’s reaction to it.

The episode plays out in a fairly brief Trek-like fashion as the Captain deals with the inhabitants and their Logan’s Run-like devotion to the Harvest whose coming for their Spiral Code, i.e. the strange orbiting ship. While this segment of it is pretty hackneyed, the action sequences are great fun with the new combo team and how the entire battle plays out. I really got into Jura’s character during this episode and enjoyed the way she dealt with it all.

What I didn’t like was that while on this island city, there are men and women living together and nobody comments on it. Yet in the final episode, when the crew discovers some ancient visuals of a male/female family unit celebrating Christmas, they’re all shocked by it. There’s a real lack of internal consistency when it comes to the whole gender thing here.

The opening episode had some fun with the whole relationships game when a roguish trader male with an ape got involved with the crew. Though he seemed there mostly to figure out what their ship was like and how capable they are, he took advantage of the situation and charmed the ladies and sold them make-up. Rabat is an interesting character, though for some reason Utan the ape just doesn’t sit right with me. His impact overall seems minimal, unless it’s just setup for later in the series.

And as with every series it seems at times, there’s the infamous Christmas episode. This actually was a fair bit of fun since we got some good lines about how the men’s world of Tarak isn’t all that keen on celebrations. There’s the usual bits with Meia feeling like she doesn’t belong, Hibiki and the other men not quite understanding and the women in general just having a blast with the entire event. There are some good tender moments throughout though that help you to like the characters a bit more if you’re still feeling like they’re too one-dimensional.

Vandread isn’t quite a guilty pleasure, since while I’m having a lot of fun with it, it’s not quite something that gets me as excited as Gatekeepers, a true guilty pleasure. But this volume was a lot more enjoyable than the first two and actually have me looking forward to more. Bring it on!

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Openings,Commercials,Line Art

Review Equipment
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: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vandread