Argentosoma Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, December 29, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 04, 2003
What They Say
In an effort to learn more about the aliens that have been plaguing the planet for years, Dr. Noguchi and his assistants, Maki Agata and Takuto Kenishiro, examine the remains of a scavenged alien. However, in the process of reviving the monster, aptly named "Frank", rogue soldiers invade the Morgue facility, inadvertently killing both Dr. Noguchi and Maki, while leaving Takuto scarred and heart-broken.
Emotionally distressed by his ordeal, a mysterious man, Mr. X, offers Takuto a chance for vengeance on the monster he blames for destroying everything and everyone that he cared for. Now, reborn from the ashes of Takuto's soul, Ryu Soma joins the military organization, Funeral, to help stave off the threat of the attacking alien hordes, and bring a measure of peace to his troubled soul!
A version with the box is available and limited to10,000 copies.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though it’s very recent, it’s a pretty basic stereo mix with only a few areas of really good directionality, mostly during the combat sequences, across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout without any noticeable dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing back in 2000, the materials here look fantastic with this transfer. Colors are spot on, cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is extremely minimal during panning sequences. There’s a few areas where some dark scenes with blues in them look a little grainy, but it looks to be by design for atmosphere. Bandai’s approach has changed a bit with this release in how they handle things though; the opening sequence retains the original Japanese credits (which we like). The end credits, which used to be untranslated as well, are now done in ADV-style, which means we get fully translated credits in the rolling up format. I’d personally rather have that at the completion of each episode and retain the original Japanese credits, especially since some shows do them up so nicely.
The style of the show definitely comes through wit this cover, even though all we have really is two character designs and some faded schematics in the background. The design of the characters is very striking, particularly with the male character, that it’ll get this volume picked up and looked over on the shelf. The back cover provides some very small shots of animation and several paragraphs of show description. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed (with volume numbering on the spine and the front cover) as well as the discs features and production information. The insert has another shot of the cover while it opens to talk about three of the primary characters. The back of the insert provides the full production information including bilingual cast listings, something wevery much like having now. Bandai also went the extra step and did this release as a reversible cover; the front of it has just Soma himself in the same stylish format while the back cover goes minimalistic with just the artwork pieces and a Shakespeare quote.
The menu design here is really nice and reflects well the shows opening mentality, as everything is set up like mirrors, which shatter upon loading and then reform in a crooked way when you go to submenus. Moving about is nice and easy and the layout is pretty standard and access times are nice and fast for the most part.
There’s a few extras here on the first disc, but I think they went into the mode of just getting the show rolling, and hopefully we’ll see more in later volumes. The first extra is a multipage Tech Files section that details how the SARG’s work and provides various schematics for them. Also included is a textless opening, something just about always welcome on every release. What makes this one even better is that there is a romaji and English translation included during playback. Maybe.
When played on our Panasonic RP-82, we get the translation but cannot turn it off, so if we wanted just the visuals we’re out of luck. But, when played on our Toshiba TV/DVD combo unit in our office, we can’t get the subtitles to come on at all and are denied the ability to change them on the fly. It’s a strange issue and likely something in the coding for it is just flagged wrong somehow.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Argentosoma, at least by this first volume, is a series that can be hard to pin down for a review how you really feel about it, especially if, like myself, you’re in a sense already committed to the entire series. After watching these first five episodes, I’ve found myself definitely intrigued by what they’re presenting, completely unsure of where it’s going, and yet still confused by some aspects of it, since we’re pretty much thrown into things and asked to take one or two really big leaps in terms of disbelief.
Taking place in the mid 2050’s (which is the new “future” area that most creative people seem to be settling on these days), we’re introduced to Takuto, a college lad who’s doing exceptional work within his science field. The college he’s at has a heavy military presence, likely due to the amount of research funding going on there. But it’s also noted that from some background information we get here that things are going badly around the world and that there’s something larger going on.
Takuto’s having a rough time of things lately as he does nothing but argue with his girlfriend Maki, as she’s been spending more and more time with the professor she’s working under than anything else. Yet when she suddenly goes missing and he’s left with clues to find her, he races through the maze that was set up for him and ends up in the presence of the professor and Maki. With surprising little discussion, he now finds himself involved in the professors experiment due to his brilliance with metallurgy.
Now there’s a career path you’d never think would lead off an anime series.
The professor has been madly searching out parts and pieces and has assembled them in this huge research room. When Takuto sees them, and the massive sized alien lifeform that it represents, he throws himself full throttle into the project to revive the creature, especially since Maki is so very vested into it. And while they do accomplish their goal, it’s not without repercussions, as other forces have learned of the alien and have come to take it, timing it perfectly with its revival. Within minutes of it coming to life, the lab is destroyed, nobody is to be found outside of an almost insane Takuto and the alien has disappeared into the wilderness of the United States.
Some time later, we’re re-introduced to Takuto, though anyone who met him before wouldn’t recognize him as he’s radically changed, with half his hair going in spiked silver, scars all over him and a powerfully confident attitude that just didn’t suit his past demeanor. He’s also cast off his name, now going by Ryo Soma and is a second lieutenant in the military force called Funeral. This is the group that deals with the alien incursions on Earth, and it looks like they’ve been going at things for years. We find New York in ruins, though we’re not given much else as to how the world stands.
Ryo’s entrance into Funeral is for one thing, and that’s to find the alien that he helped revive, amusingly named Frank, and to eliminate it. With the alien now in Funeral’s control, he’s trying to figure out the best way to accomplish this goal while dealing with the larger problem of more aliens, only to find out that he’s going to need Frank, as well as the child that Frank has taken a shine to.
Argentosoma is a confusing mess of plots, partially due to the sizeable shift in direction after the second episode and the re-introduction of Takuto as Soma. The lack of an idea of what the world has undergone over the years with the “alien of the week” that comes and invades doesn’t help much either. Once we’re in the Funeral side of the storyline, we get to see quite a number of new cast members, since there’s a military team that’s been created to handle the alien incursions and like all teams, they have their own quirks. Sometimes it just feels a little too large too quickly, but then it feels like you don’t have enough to really go on.
But there’s a lot of intriguing things in there. I want to see what Soma is going to do now that things have stacked the way they are. I want to know more about these strange aliens, and I certainly want to find out what the deal is with Frank. The show is very well animated, at least early on here, and the design in general is quite good. Overall, not a lot of shows from Victor get picked up in the U.S., especially compared to other studios, so when we get a new one from them, it’s usually with a crew and cast I’ve known or heard little about, so it’s a plus in getting to know some new creative teams and hopefully something new in the end result. I think that hope, plus the included teases here, are what’s going to keep me watching this series.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Tech Files,Textless Opening
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: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2