Crusher Joe (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, December 04, 2003
Release Date: Wednesday, January 15, 2003



What They Say
The galaxy is a strange and dangerous place, and there are times when even the United Space Force can't help. That's where the Crushers come in - skilled troubleshooters who will deal with any problem, large or small, for a fee (large only!) And there is no better Crusher than Crusher Joe!

Contains:
Crusher Joe: The Movie
Joe and his team are hired to med-evac a cryogenically frozen heiress to the planet Miccola, only to have her kidnapped out from under their noses while in hyperspace! Before they know it, the team gets accused of space piracy by the United Space Force and suspended by Crusher HQ.

Crusher Joe: The OVAs
A double feature of derring-do! The team gets hired to adjust the orbit of a prison cometary core before it impacts on an inhabited planet, only to get caught up in a political double-cross of astronomical proportions. Then they take on the task of rescuing a military officer who is safeguarding an ultimate weapon that can destroy all the life on the planet while leaving the real-estate intact, only to find that the planet she's crash-landed on is infested with mutineers (not a problem) and self-replicating quasi-organic semi-intelligent kamikaze death-bots (big problem!).

The Review!
Before there was the Dirty Pair, Haruka Takachiho had built up an impressive universe with Crusher Joe. This release manages to contain all four hours that are available for it.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. With these shows being as old as they are, I wasn?t expecting more than a decent stereo mix, even if it felt like a mono one. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and the sound effects come across well. Things basically fill the entire soundstage with little real directionality, but it all comes across clean and clear.

Video:
There are two discs included in this release, both of them dual-layered. The first disc contains the two-hour movie. The transfer here of this 1.33:1 film comes across quite well, considering it?s from 1983. Colors look good without any noticeable bleeding or cross coloration, darks hold up and aliasing is fairly minimal outside of some long panning sequences. In some of the scenes where the entire screen goes red, there?s some dot crawl showing up there as well as some around the logo itself. Barring that, the main problem people will likely come across with this transfer is the nicks and scratches that are prevalent during at least the first half of the disc, though they taper off as it progresses. It?s not truly distracting, and to people like me, I think it enhances it a bit by giving it a real age feel.

The second disc contains the two OVA episodes, both running just about an hour each. This disc is also dual layered, so they?ve really worked the bits to get a good encode here. The source materials are a bit better off than the movie, most noticeably in terms of the nicks and scratches, but there?s still some dot crawl in a few areas, again noticeably with the logos. Colors are good with only a slight over saturation with some reds, but with hardly any cross coloration to make things ugly, I?m pretty darn happy with these transfers. The only odd bit I noted is that in playing the first episode by itself, there is no timecodes available for it. The second OVA does have timecodes however.

Packaging:
Packaged in a single keepcase with a secure flap inside, both disc reside snugly here. The cover art for the release feels similar to some other recent AnimEigo releases with its near-painted feel and almost manga-ish look. The main cast and the ship show here, though the series logo is really hard to see right off the bat. The back cover provides a summary for each of the episodes on the disc as well as a few pieces of artwork. Basic production information and technical specs are also listed here. The insert, in the usual tradition of the recipe cards, is a solid piece that provides two sides worth of dialogue from Mr. Takachiho, while the other card provides song translations.

Menu:
Designed to look like the screens inside the ship, the menu here is a bright and busy piece that?s still quite easy to maneuver with and has really good access times. There?s some music and sound effects playing along with the animation here as well. Though not a major standout, this is a solid and good-looking menu that?s both functional and easy on the eyes.

Extras:
None, unfortunately.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Crusher Joe brings us four hours of classic 80?s anime, something we?ve been seeing more and more of lately, much to our pleasure. Crusher Joe is one of those series of shows that we had read about extensively back in the days when reading was one of few options really available, since finding shows was hard. I remember reading one magazine that went into detail on the universe of books and anime for this series, as well as its ties to Dirty Pair, with that being my first introduction to that particular duo.

Now, after all these years, I?m finally able to see these shows that I used to read about, but ?fell out of favor? as they weren?t as new as they used to be. Thankfully there seems to be some serious effort to go back and release these shows, and as part of that older generation of fandom, I?m ecstatic. I only hope that the newer generation gives these shows a chance. Crusher Joe is a prime example of some of the great things from way back when.

The concept of the universe is that there?s a company/group or trade if you want that?s called Crushers. They?re essentially freelance agents of a larger company that hires out for assignments. They may be simple bodyguard duty or they may be saving a planet from a planetoid falling on it. Crushers are fairly well renowned throughout the known galaxy, as their exploits are often deemed legendary or mythical. Of course, they tend to run counter to the authorities at times, which mean there?s no love lost between them and the space military forces out there.

Crusher Joe focuses, obviously, on a Crusher named Joe and his team. Joe?s a unique Crusher in one sense, as he?s the son of the man who founded the Crushers. So he?s a bit cocksure, somewhat overconfident but definitely what you would call prime material for such a job. He?s built himself an impressive team to take on jobs, with his main partner being Talos, an older battle scarred Crusher who helped found the entire deal with Joe?s father, Alfin, a former princess and Rikki, the youngest of the crew who?s learning his way.

Crusher Joe is a show that basically exemplifies the space opera format. It?s arrival, as noted in the liner notes provided, coincided around the time of Star Wars release, which helped the science fiction genre move out of it?s stagnant area in Japan of being focused on 50?s style American SF. The arrival of more contemporary space opera novels and manga helped expand the field greatly and likely reinvigorated it. With Crusher Joe, Takachiho started with his series of novels and then moved into the anime form, with Sunrise and VAP bankrolling a very lengthy two-hour film.

And what a film. In the end, it is your basic space opera, with lots of battles, heroic moments, chase scenes and daring moments of bravery and women in trouble. But it?s all so beautifully executed. Joe?s team gets hired to transport a very important daughter of an industrial magnate from one planet to another, as she?s in cryogenesis and the family wants nobody to know. This simple mission goes completely awry during transport, as they get thrown out of hyperspace during an accident and end very off course. To make matters worse, the woman and those accompanying her have disappeared along with any trace of actually being there. This sets Joe off to find out what they were really doing and what was really in the stasis chamber, as there are larger things going on.

That in itself only covers maybe the first twenty minutes of the film, but it sets off a very strong series of events that everything just keeps rolling and rolling along for nearly two hours. The film is at times like a continual adrenaline rush, as the moment it stops you feel exhausted. The team ends up going from location to location to try and solve the mystery, all while being hampered by the space military and those who are concealing their tracks. One thing in particular made this a great bit of fun was that the space military commander was voiced by Goroh Naya, better known as Zenigata in the Lupin world. His voice is just so recognizable that it was a great treat to hear him in one of the few other roles he?s really done.

The OVA?s don?t run the viewer quite as ragged, but they?re still quite busy pieces of work. The Ice Prison episode is a great piece of space opera. On one planet, where they take political agitators seriously and send them to an ice prison on a comet core in their system to work, things go very bad and it?s on a collision course with the planet. Though they don?t want to call in the Crushers, the government does. It?s a big news event when Joe?s team comes onto the scene to try and break up and push away the core before it hits as well as trying to save all the prisoners. But this is all just a fašade to something else that the government is plotting, and it all starts to go badly on camera as the core doesn?t break apart properly and the Crusher team appears to be killed off in the accident.

The final OVA, ?The Ultimate Weapon: Ash? goes for the big doomsday weapon idea. After being contacted by the president of a planet that just signed a peace agreement with their neighbor after years and years of war, Joe?s team is informed of a very powerful weapon that needs to be destroyed before opposition forces in his own government can succeed in a coup and restart the war. The weapon, which can turn all living matter on a planet into ash, is hidden on a nearby planet and he has an operative whose been captured there that can deactivate it. But the planet is also home to another military weapon gone wrong in the form of semi-intelligent ?cloakers? that hunt and stalk anything that moves.

I had an absolute great time watching these episodes over two nights. Between the film and the OVA?s, it really brought me back to the kind of shows that I really enjoyed when I was younger and the kinds of shows that I?ve longed to watch since first getting into anime. This is a show that many fans watched with scripts or just plain raw and enjoyed for the pure visuals. Going back to something that?s so richly animated in the traditional way with cels as opposed to today?s style makes me appreciate it all the more, and gets me to really enjoy all the nuances of it.

This release is an absolute bargain for science fiction fans. Four hours of grade A material for such a low price. There?s nothing I can find fault with here. This is a fantastic set of discs. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

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: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimEigo
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 238
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Crusher Joe