Zone of Enders Dolores i Vol. #1: Countdown to Destiny (of 6) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002

What They Say
The planets are on the brink of war, but the only thing hard-working, hard-drinking, all-American hauler James Links wants is to reconcile with his estranged wife. But when he discovers the Orbital Frame Dolores aboard his carrier ship Ender, the entire Links clan is plunged into mystery, murder and mayhem!

Earth wants her; Mars wants her; everybody wants Dolores except the one man who has her. Blast off with a crew of unlikely heroes in the high-speed interplanetary adventure Zone of The Enders!

The Review!
After a very enjoyable OVA release, I was pretty keen on the TV series. Now, after the first five episodes of readjustment to the new plots, locales and storyline, I’m starting to get into the groove of this particular show.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series features a nicely dynamic mix that’s fairly active in the forward soundstage with good directionality in both the special effects and the dialogue. Dialogue throughout was crisp and clear, and the we noted no dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this show is nice and fresh. The show is one to feature a range of colors, with plenty of darks in space to a lot of bright colors throughout the Earth tour. Throughout, colors are strong and vibrant and backgrounds are very solid. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent while aliasing only shows up in some very tightly animated areas during a panning sequence. This is a solid transfer all around and can easily be identified as a fresh new show.

We get a good cover here with the main cast lining up in front of the orbital frame that we get to know well here as well. The artwork has a grayish tinge to it and a slate keepcase to match, giving it a very solid feeling. The back cover provides a number of animation shots from the show and a very brief summary of the show itself. The discs features and technical aspects are all nicely and clearly listed in a block while the production information is along the bottom. The insert provides a new piece of artwork on one side while the reverse has the listing of extras and audio selections against the image of one of the characters. A set of four cards is included, with various characters on the front. The backs of them look like they’ll form a part of a larger picture.

The menus here are decent, if unexceptional. Static artwork of the Frames and other pieces are on each of the submenus, but there’s no animation playing along anywhere. The opening music does play in the main menu though, which has access to each episode and then to the various setup and extra submenus. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is solid, if bland.

For the first volume, there’s a nice selection of extras. The opening and ending sequences are presented, which is always the best way to start off a series. Production sketches and the conceptual designs get their own sections, which shows some interesting evolutions of the shows overall look and feel. The unique extra for here though is a ten minute ADR session with the Japanese voice actors for Leon and Noel, with some amusing segments of them doing their recording session and just general interesting bits.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first five episodes now behind me, this is a series where I’m truly unsure of where it’s going to go or what it intends to do. To some extent, I’m really unsure who the real lead character is. But I’m also finding that I’m enjoying the general pace of the show, with the added bonus of the main cast all being in what seems to be at least their twenties, if not their forties. That alone tends to change how a series plays out.

Taking place in the near future, with background on the why of the worlds of Earth and Mars coming later in these five episodes, we’re introduced to the somewhat surly and drunk James Links. He’s a professional cargo hauler, having left the military service five years earlier. His life hasn’t gone well since his wife died and his kids essentially disowned him, so he’s just living things out and getting the job done.

After his most recent delivery, he finds himself being propositioned for another run, one he doesn’t want to take since it could be risky as the cargo is unknown and he’s had problems with the runner in the past. But circumstances change, and Links has decided to rebuild his life and take up with his kids again. Since that cargo is going to Earth, he decides to take the job and sets up to spend the next two weeks in transit reading books about reuniting with ones children. He even brings along an expensive purebred cat that he got for his daughter.

Things aren’t going to be that easy for him as inspectors arrive to check out his ship and cargo. He knows he’s going to get nailed for something about this particular cargo, but doesn’t know what. When one of the inspectors ends up letting loose with his rifle, killing the other two inspectors and then trying to kill Links, the secret of the cargo is revealed. It’s a female-type orbital frame robot that can be piloted by a human. What makes this bizarre is that there’s a recording of Link’s dead wife on it and the Frame sings a lullaby his wife used to sing to their kids.

Things spiral badly from here, and Earth becomes aware of Links now being wanted by the government. His kids end up suffering from this, with his son Noel being fired from his company. They all end up on the run, as seemingly different factions are after all of them, all while Links has the Orbital Frame Dolores with him, a Frame that seems to be learning about the larger world at the same time.

The show moves into something of a fugitive style piece, with Links and his two kids being chased by the police, with one particular nut-job being in charge. This guy, who I don’t believe is ever named or has his rank given, isn’t altogether there from what I can tell. For one thing, he’s quite prejudiced and continually calls James Link by the name of John Carter, with a brief mention of the novel. This guy is single minded in a bad way, and with his continual references to Carter, you wonder what’s unseated him in the past that makes him this way.

There’s a lot left unexplained in these early episodes, and with the cast moving the way it is, it’s really difficult to determine where the storyline is going. There’s a lot of these characters pasts that are going to become critical to understanding things, so they’ll surface in time. The science fiction angle of this show works very well for the most part, with one of my favorite technological devices being present: the orbital elevator. This features prominently during several episodes, which pleased me to no end. The Frames themselves aren’t talked about much though, leading me to wonder just how much of the PS2 games are “required” to full get this show.

For the most part, we did enjoy this show. The lack of information isn’t too surprising for a first volume, though there’s some things we wished were clearer. There’s some revelations as the show progresses, and enough of them that it does encourage you to keep watching as it unearths new pieces of the puzzle. The simple fact of an older cast alone will generally keep my interesting, since the plot has the possibilities of providing some really engaging stories without all the teenage angst and drama we usually get subjected to.

Fans of the games will likely enjoy this, and those looking for a fugitive-style science fiction adventure series will want to give this one a chance as well.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Collectable Card,ADR Session with Japanese Voice Actors Mitsuru Miyamoto & Narumi Hidaka,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Sketches,Conceptual Artwork

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: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Zone of Enders