Great Dangaioh Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2003



What They Say
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 guarding the island an advanced fortress and the three humanoid robots that launch from within!
-Long awaited sequel to the original Dangaioh OAV
-Written and Directed by popular character desginer/director Toshiki
Hirano (Fight! Iczer One, Vampire Princess Miyu, Megazone 23)

The Review!
The Dangaioh team has no time to rest as three more opponents rear their heads. After the first four lackluster episodes, the writers have also reared their heads and have provided some good character development. While the show is still formulaic, there may be hope for the remaining episodes.

Audio:
For my primary viewing, I listened to the Japanese audio. While the overall volume of the audio seemed lower than volume one, the quality seemed richer. The action was not coming primarily through the center channel but provided great stereo effects throughout the episodes.

Video:
As with volume one, you would be hard pressed to find a flaw with the video for this disc. Colors are vibrant, and the detail in the picture is stunning at times. No defects were noticeable during playback.

What did change from volume one were the subtitles. The unique font used in volume one was replaced by a more standard white font. It looked much better and was significantly easier on the eyes. The subtitles were still large enough to read but small enough to not detract from the show.

Packaging:
Viz continues the motif established with the first volume. The three mecha that form Dangaioh are set against a metallic background with Miya and Yonamine standing in front of them. Again a large volume number appears in the bottom left corner.

The back cover contains an episode list and description of what to expect in this volume along with a few stills. The extensive listing of production credits returns at the bottom next to the listing of features. Once again, the back cover is marred by the "13 Up" sticker that was attached directly to the keepcase. This time I was lucky as it was placed in the empty space between the logo and UPC code.

Inside is a one-page insert that contains the front cover image on one side and a listing of episodes and chapters on the reverse side.

Menu:
No changes were made to the menus for this release. The main menu consists of a list of episodes; each episode has an option to play the episode or go to that episode's scene selection menu. Rounding out the main menu are options to go to the language and extras menus. While the menus are easy to use and get you into the content quickly, a touch of background music would have been a nice touch.

No changes mean that the same issues from volume one are present here. You are still dropped into the actual show when you load the disc rather than being brought to the menu. Playing an episode from the main menu does not return you to the menu at the end of the episode; instead, the disc acts as if the absent "Play All" option was selected. Chapters still consist of only the opening, episode, ending, and trailer making the scene selection feature almost pointless.

Extras:
Viz provides the same extras in this volume -- line art galleries for the characters and episodes as well as textless opening and ending sequences. The textless opening and endings were not listed on the back of the DVD however.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a slow and disappointing start, Great Dangaioh comes back with two solid, character building episodes. Menace in the Sky begins with the Dangaioh team heading towards an island nation to intercept and eliminate Von Dinosaur, an evil scientific genius. The island nation claimed that Von Dinosaur is dead, but Yonamine has managed to convince the UN that this is not the case.

The team flies in and takes out a horde of robots; much to their surprise, a catapult rises from the middle of the island and begins to launch a shuttle into space. Despite the efforts of the team, the shuttle launches into orbit; the mission has failed and in more ways than one. A misplaced shot from Kuya?s gun hits Manami?s Flail knocking her unconscious.

The rest of the episode revolves around Von Dinosaur?s plan to take over the Agwarda Fortress satellites for his own evil purposes. While the action and end result are predictable, this episode gives us our first real taste of character development. Kuya is obviously racked with guilt over accidentally shooting down Manami. Hitomi tells him to get over it and go see Manami in the hospital; before he goes, she gives him a cute, teddy bear phone strap.

This turns out to be a subtle trick by Hitomi to give Kuya and Manami something to talk about. Manami is really into cute items like Kuya?s strap and fawns over it. A befuddled Kuya tells Manami that he will give it to her since she likes it. However, a sudden flash of Hitomi giving it to him makes him believe this is a mistake. He feels that he might hurt Hitomi?s feelings if he gives the strap to Manami.

Kuya cannot get Manami out of his mind and decides to go shopping for a strap to give to Manami himself. Von Dinosaur naturally interrupts this plan leading to an awkward moment in the hanger after their victory. Hitomi comes to the rescue by giving Kuya another teddy bear strap; she walks off wondering aloud why she bought two in the first place.

It is clear that Hitomi is attempting to play the matchmaker between Kuya and Manami while at the same time trying to express in her own way how much their friendship means to her. Kuya has also managed to develop a crush on Manami. Both of these threads are wonderfully continued in the next episode Howl of the Sea King.

Kuya?s infatuation with Manami continues to grow, and Hitomi is not helping matters. She alternates between teasing Kuya about how Manami must have another man in her life and ?gently? persuading Kuya to go tell Manami how he feels. We reach a touching scene where Kuya and Manami end up alone on the beach. Manami tells Kuya that Dr. Kazamaki is worried about her health; Kuya reacts strongly and tells her that dying for the project is not worth it. He flashes back in his mind to the time when he found out his brother died; he does not want this to happen to Manami. Manami tells him that it is OK; she does not mind fighting because she does it for the one she loves just like Kuya does.

This leads to the obvious setup; the villain of the episode knocks Dangaioh about causing Manami?s life to be in jeopardy. Another predictable trashing of the villain leaves the team pacing about the hospital worrying about Manami until Dr. Kazamaki comes out smiling.

The final episode, Costume Confusion! Shipwreck at Sea, returns to the mediocrity of the first four episodes. Athletic girls are being kidnapped from Ho?o Academy, and Hitomi decides to use herself as bait in an attempt to capture the kidnapper. What follows is a slightly amusing chase as Hitomi shows that she is a master of disguise. Eventually, she ends up in the kidnapper?s clutches until Dangaioh and a few unexpected friends come to the rescue. This is an almost forgettable episode if not for some of the clever costumes, one of which is an Iron Chef outfit complete with the theme music.

There are still some problems with the logic of the show. It is clear that Dangaioh does not stray too far from the Agwarda fortress. Why do the villains continue to strike at them directly? Why are they not taking advantage of the destruction caused in episode one and conquering other nations? Build up your power and force Dangaioh to fight you far away from the home field advantage. Give us viewers some sort of intelligent fight rather than rushing headlong into Dangaioh?s fists of fury.

There was one new clue revealed about the past of the Dangaioh project in episode six. Dr. Kazamaki is telling Miya (whose name I have yet to see mentioned directly) that the project is not worth risking Manami?s life. After an exchange that leads to Kazamaki insulting Miya, Miya slaps Kazamaki; Kazamaki retorts ?You want that tragedy to happen again?? The reaction from Miya clearly indicates that the tragedy ten years ago is somehow related to the project. Also, the mysterious man in shades hangs about again while Yonamine is still trying to get approval for something from the Foundation. What is this Foundation, and what does Yonamine want from them? And why should we care about our mystery man?

Unfortunately, these threads are still not being pulled on enough. With six episodes left, can the writers successfully take these threads and weave an interesting story? If not for episodes five and six, I would have said ?no?. However, this disc has shown that the series does hold some promise. The action is still predictable, but now there is a sense of danger for the team. Manami?s health might pose a problem as might Kuya?s feelings for her. If the writers can build on this and tie in the mysterious threads more, this might just end up being an interesting series.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,ARt Gallery,Textless Opening,Textless Ending

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable.




Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A
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: 24.95
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Great Dangaioh