Zone of Enders Dolores i Vol. #5: Only the Strong Survive (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, September 01, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, July 01, 2003



What They Say
Get ready for action as the war for Mars rears its ugly head. James Links is finding it no easier to keep his friends than it is to evade his enemies. And tearful reunions and departures bring the Links family closer to their ultimate fate. In this uncertain world there are surprises and setbacks, but the headstrong family bond is keeping the Links' defiant. They are determined to do the right thing not only for Orbital Frame Dolores and for Mars, but the whole galaxy as well.

The Review!
The penultimate volume of ZoE takes the action up several notches and leaps forward into warfare that I think even Heinlein would approve of.

Audio:
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 we noted no dropouts or distortions.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The front cover this time provides an interesting mesh of artwork, focusing strongly on the Chief Inspector and his subordinate while giving a nod to the new Orbital Frame and a young woman who becomes key to things briefly. The artwork continues to have 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 has a great nice looking shot of the secondary cast members on Team Links that have been helping out as well as a touching scene for Missy in the backdrop with a Raptor. 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.

Menu:
The menus here are decent, if unexceptional. Static artwork of one of the cast members 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.

Extras:
The extras are again a mix of similar and new material. There’s a 10 minute ADR session with Japanese voice actors Takahito Koyasu and Yumiko Nakanishi as they go through a session. I always enjoy watching voice actors perform and this is no exception, particularly placing Koyasu’s deep voice to a real person as opposed to an animated character. The production sketches section runs just under five minutes and has lots of shots of the various characters in both black and white and color while the conceptual artwork section runs just over two and a half minutes with some great looking background shots. Dolores’ Diary returns for a new round and she goes through a variety of bits about the Links family in the two minutes that it runs. What was really interesting in this set of extras is the detailed discussion and materials on the Orbital Elevator, a piece of science fiction that has long been a fascination for me throughout the years. There’s a lot of material talking about it in general terms and then in regards to the show itself.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Talk about out of left field. I’ll admit right up front that I probably missed a number of clues, but there’s a sizeable revelation in this volume as the show moves into its final motions for the big plot. I certainly didn’t see it coming and that meant that I really enjoyed watching these episodes more than usual.

After the events of the last volume, the Links family and friends are moving closer to getting Rachel away from those who have kept her locked up. Using the information they’ve gathered, they come up with a daring plan to send a group of them into the base posing as prisoners while Jim and Dolores give them cover by attacking at the same time. Both sides of it goes well, though Jim and Dolores end up facing off against far more Raptor models than they expected, but also gain a new ally in one of the Raptors who decides he’s got something of a crush on Dolores.

The rescue attempt of Rachel is well done as is the actual reunion. After making this such a goal for so long, it’s great to see it play out. The anticipation to see how each would react upon reuniting, especially since Rachel had believed her children were dead, was simply right on, down to her slapping of Jim and the support of the children for him. Jim has definitely come full circle from the beginning of the series where he could barely get them to even look at him, never mind defend him against their mother. The changes and growth in this trio have been a real highlight, even more so now that Rachel is back in the picture and her integration into the unit takes a different approach.

The family side of this entire affair plays out nicely when it’s done, but it’s simply wrapping up a particular arc before the big finale. Martian Independence is brought up as the main arc at this point, with Rebecca’s father bringing things to the forefront in insisting that now is the time, even though his gear isn’t exactly ready yet. With promises that it will be and other assurances to the military men who will support this, he sends them off to begin the coup that will lead Mars to throw off the yoke of Earth.

With it, we get three episodes that do a great job of moving things along in a large scale planetary war. With the Martian forces attacking the Earth military at every encounter, and the Earth military sending as many LEV’s down to the surface as they can to counterattack them, the destruction is wide and varied. It’s particularly dangerous here as both sides end up smashing into a number of the spheres, bringing the war right into the streets of the civilians. A lot of them end up getting so drunk on battle that they don’t realize the horror they’re creating, but that’s simply what war is, regardless of whatever else someone may say. The horrors created here are more than Jim and the others can stand, which leads him into joining the battles to try and separate the sides at some key areas.

But this can go on only for so long, once they learn that the entire independence objective is a front by someone behind the scenes pulling the strings. With the real target being the Orbital Elevator on Earth, Jim and the others race towards a shuttle launch area to try and stop the man behind it from sending his forces there to deal with it. Bringing in some elements from the OVA episode, the series takes on a much larger scope with the revelations in this episode as we learn the real story of what’s going on. Things end up clicking nicely into place in ways I didn’t expect, providing a very enjoyable experience.

Even better was seeing the Chief Inspector get his just rewards.

Zone of the Enders continues to be one of the more surprisingly enjoyable science fiction series of this year. It’s had a number of twists and turns and has kept us pleasantly surprised and unsure of exactly where it’s going. Jim continues to be a great lead character, particularly against the usual array of young kids in leading roles in science fiction shows in the past few years. Zone of the Enders manages to really surpass its game origins and become something separate, something really rare in this day.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,ADR session footage with Takehita Kayasu (Napth) & Yumiko Nakanishi (Rebecca),Dolores' Diary Part 2: Orbital Elevator,Clean opening and closing animation,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: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Zone of Enders