Great Dangaioh Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, November 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2002



What They Say
A mysterious explosion on Futagami Island begins a new chapter in the Dangaioh mythos! Witnessed as a bright light up in the sky by only one young girl, the arrival of a mysterious someone in the sky may or may not be a signal for the end of the human race.

Flash-forward to ten years later when led by the evil Professor Katou, a band of warriors calling themselves the "Tartarus Knights" have, thanks to the help of four mighty generals, begun their campaign to lay waste to the world. Their final objective? A small research station on Futagami Island. Katou's victory seems almost certain - until he encounters an advanced fortress guarding the island. From it, a group of three humanoid robots are launched.

A new, thirteen-episode series from the creative mind of Toshiki Hirano (creator of the 1989's Dangaioh OAV series), Great Dangaioh is the culmination of years of questions and excitement from viewers both in Japan and in North America. A series that many fans have long felt needed to be made, at last the legend of Great Dangaioh lives on, after a decade of silence.

The Review!
Viz launches another series, and like some the rest of their recent releases, there are some flaws that shouldn’t have gotten by, but the show manages to survive better than some others. Unfortunately, the show itself is pretty mediocre.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The mix for this TV series is a pretty decent stereo one that makes some good use of the forward soundstage directionality, mostly during the combat sequences. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we noticed no distortions or dropouts on either track during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in the summer of 2001, Viz has gotten a hold of some fantastic looking materials for this transfer. The show looks a lot like other recent AIC series, which is bold striking colors, great looking backgrounds and a near complete lack of cross coloration and aliasing. There’s hardly anything to really complain about here with how this show looks.

Packaging:
Using the same cover artwork from the first Japanese DVD release, the simple reworking of the logo is the only change and it looks good. A nice shot of the three primary pilots along the bottom while the combined Dangaioh unit is behind them set against a steel gray background. The back cover provides the volume numbering as well as episode numbers and titles and has a lengthy summary of the shows premise. There’s a few pictures from the show and the lengthy list of production credits and the discs features. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while the reverse side has the chapter listings. Much like other recent releases, the 13UP sticker is on the keepcase itself, and even worse this time was that it was underneath the top sticker, so it tore when that was taken off.

Menu:
You wouldn’t know there’s a menu by loading the disc, as it bypasses it and just starts the show, making the incorrect assumption that everyone watches anime the same way. The menu itself is similar to the Project ARMS one in that you have each episode listed against a piece of static animation where you can then do scene selection from underneath it. The menus again feel very cluttered and overly filled with material instead of smooth and easy to navigate. Access times are decent and menus load without issue when prompted.

Extras:
There’s a good selection of extras included with this first volume. The original opening and ending in textless form is the main nice extra here, getting to see the artwork clearly without credits flying fast across. There’s also five image galleries, one for the characters and a gallery for each individual episode that shows varying kinds of artwork and conceptual pieces for that specific episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’ll get my main gripe with the discs production out of the way quickly, so I can move onto the show itself. As with other recent VIZ releases, the way they do their opening/ending sequences leaves a lot to be desired. Once again, both are left completely unsubtitled for the songs (and unsubtitled in the extras section as well). In the ending sequence, the Japanese actors are omitted completely and the English cast doesn’t get listed with their respective parts. And just to make sure I was truly annoyed, the end credits sequence for each episode is cumulative for all thirteen episodes and not a direct translation of the actual episode credits. That just smacks of laziness.

Great Dangaioh manages to start off in a way that likely alienated a good portion of its audience. We’re introduced to high school girl Miya Shikitani as she heads off to school on a very important day on Futagami Island. Not that we learn what that important thing was, because as she’s running down the street, an accident of some sort occurs and the town is left in complete ruin. Surprisingly, she’s still alive, though beaten up a bit. Something in the sparkling air around her is speaking to her.

Ten years later.

I hate that kind of plot device. Apparently in the same town, things have been rebuilt nicely since then. The city looks all nice and new, fairly high-technology and all. But there’s bad stuff afoot once again, as the mysterious and obviously evil Dr. Katou and his large group of evil followers launch an all out attack on… the world. Not one to go just for a local fix, he takes on everything, everywhere, and essentially wins. No nation survives with its military intact nor are nuclear weapons able to stop the troops he’s sent out to fight for him. The world is essentially his.

If not for Dangaioh! While ninety-four percent of the world gets consumed in flame, this organization, located on Futagami Island, launches their three piloted Dangaioh machines into the air and effectively destroys the enemy completely. It’s three pilots are specially trained high school aged kids, Kuya Amagi, Minami Mishio and Hitomi Chidou. Using their talents combined with the special abilities of their three craft, plus the ability for all three to merge together into the Great Dangaioh, they’re able to fight back against Katou and bring peace to the world.

And that’s all just in the first episode! This is all just set up for the rest of the series of course, but unlike some other recent AIC series that actually went and worked with the story, Great Dangaioh goes and says, “Let’s use the Tenchi formula again!”. We’ve got the lead pilot of Kuya, whose attracted in different ways to the two girls on the team, and each of them have varying feelings for Kuya that grow over the course of the episodes. The show alternates between having the relationship be the focus or the action be the focus, with neither winning all that well in providing the balance needed. A lot of this show just feels very unevenly told, and it’s inability to decide what it wants to be is a large part of it. Unlike Dual!!, they haven’t managed to find that sweet spot of what could make this show work. Instead, it almost lumbers in areas.

Of course, don’t mind that so much of things are left unexplained. Remember that 94% destruction rate? It gets mentioned in passing on a monitor as “well, it’s all cleaned up now, we’re all happy”. There’s no indication of how the rest of the world would react to all of this, as you could imagine borders are beyond recognition, countries would be gobbling up others or being gobbled up. When there’s a battle involving Taiwan, I can’t imagine it even properly existing based on the events of the first episode, knowing how countries would react afterwards. It’s this kind of storytelling laziness that affects the overall story they’re trying to tell, and adds to the inability to really get into it. If they ignore such gaping holes as that, what other ones are they going to ignore? It’s also bad when the official AIC site provides more background as a press release than the first four episodes do.

AIC’s update of the Dangaioh anime doesn’t do the original justice, and it’s a sad fact that the original is still not available on DVD yet. If you absolutely need a fix of Dangaioh, this is the only way, but it’ll likely leave you unfulfilled.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Galleries,Textless Opening,Textless Ending

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 104
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Great Dangaioh