Kikaider Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 03, 2004



What They Say
While Mitsuko studies the blue print of Jiro’s Conscience Circuit, Jiro’s catastrophic experience reaches its peak when Saburo’s whistles take full control of his mind and drives him to commit horrible crimes. However, when Jiro is ordered to kill Mitsuko, he finally wakes up from the evil spell and stands against Saburo. Thanks to Mitsuko’s love and help from good friends, Jiro recovers, but will he succeed in burying the evil for good and live happily ever after with lovely Mitsuko? What fate awaits this lonely hero who can never share his sorrow with a human?

Episodes
11: The Destroyer
12: The Machine That Dreams
13: The End of the Dream

The Review!
As the series moves rapidly to a close, Jiro learns many things, including just how close to being human he really is.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Sporting a solid stereo mix, the opening episodes here have a good sense of directionality that’s used primarily for sound effects as opposed to dialogue. There isn’t a lot of depth to it, but the track overall sounds quite good, particularly the instrumental moments. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2000, Kikaider is a series that uses the digital animation look to mesh with the feel of the series 70’s style. This results in some rather great looking areas, but also provides some trouble here and there. The transfer has very vibrant colors and a clean look to the show, giving it a very stylized feel with its similarities to the layout and movement of a manga series. With the compilation episode, we get some of the repeated cross coloration due to the same film being used, but that’s relegated to just those repeated scenes.

Packaging:
With a dark purple for the main color here with black used for the artwork, the mixture of them is a good looking image but one that’s really hard to see without looking closely at it. The artwork itself is that of Jiro and Mitsuko each looking a different way and it looks good with the rough style to it, but it’s so heavily dark. The back cover makes much better use of the foil by providing a schematic look at Kikaider while fleshing the rest of it out with artwork and story premise information. The discs features and basic production is clearly listed though a bit hard to read due to the foil on some areas. The front cover and the spine earn extra kudos for listing the volume number while the back cover lists the episode numbers and titles. The insert uses regular painting for a variation of the front cover artwork with a light shade of purple that works better that opens to a listing of each of the episodes and a summary for them. The back of it provides the full credits listing including bilingual actor credits.

Menu:
The main menu is nicely done and keeps in theme with the show in a unique way, utilizing the split aspect of some of the Kikaider’s designs. The bulk of the screen is a static image of the body blueprint with selections ringed alongside it while the left quarter of the screen has animation from the show playing over the solid aspect of the body shot all while some of the more action oriented music plays. Access times are pretty fast and the menus load nice and quick.

Extras:
The only extra included is a brief art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kikaider finishes itself out with three more episodes where Jiro finds himself continually tortured in various ways while Mitsuko undertakes some mental anguish as well. While the previous volume scored low with us for the recap episode, something that’s definitely unnecessary in a series as short as this, the last volume is straight story all the way through and brings things to a good conclusion.

With Saburo having learned that his whistle can distort Jiro’s senses properly, enough to send him on rampages throughout the streets and lose control entirely, he’s had fun with him by sending him all around causing chaos and destruction. Once things are in a really bad way, he lets him go so that he can get repulsed by what he’s done, sending him deeper into a shame spiral that is undoing his core emotional processing. Saburo’s intent to destroy him is clear, but he wants him to be so far gone and filled with rage that he’ll unleash his hidden untapped powers before flaming out.

Saburo’s plans continue to irritate Professor Gill quite a lot, as he’s got his own plans in motion that require Jiro to be dead and out of the way so he cannot interfere. Saburo’s insistence on playing with his prey is unsettling, though he gives in somewhat due to the way he phrased his orders to the robot. But for someone like Professor Gill to not re-instruct Saburo, it seems like a foolish opportunity to be missed and you know it’s just going to come back to bite him.

With Jiro trying to avoid causing any more problems, he takes refuge in the ruins of the lab where he was born. With the police looking for him even more than before after he rampaged through a police cordon, he doesn’t want to cause any trouble and looks to hide from everyone. Mitsuko realizes that the lab would be the best place that he’d hide, so she goes there to try and help him out of the predicament. Though she starts to get through to him that he wasn’t in control, something that he doesn’t want to hear as an excuse anyway, her attempts begin to falter when Saburo appears and whistles his magic tune that turns Jiro against her.

Saburo reveals himself as something more than we’ve seen before as he takes on the name of Hakaider and brings his fight right to Jiro as both take on their full robot forms. Hakaider is a curious beast, unlike the smooth roundness of Jiro’s form, Hakaider is much sleeker and angular as well as almost all black with only a few areas of yellow in the form of lightning bolts. Even more surprising, the top half of his head contains a brain connected to the body unlike Jiro’s fully mechanical brain. In a shocking moment to Mitsuko, Hakaider reveals that it’s her fathers brain, Dr. Komyoji, that’s in there.

With new incentive to take down Saburo and to find the location of Gill’s hideout since there is now the chance of rescuing the good doctor, Jiro and Mitsuko fight with a new energy. In the time before the final battle, we get some very good scenes where Jiro and Mitsuko deal with the emotions that Jiro has and how he needs to balance them so that he doesn’t fall under the sway of things like Saburo’s whistle. The evolution of Jiro over the course of the series hasn’t been completely evident the whole time, but there have been some good leap moments that bring us to this point.

The end of Kikaider, which plays out very quickly with these three episodes, is probably one of the more exciting sections of the show. While the series opened in a creepy way and sort of meandered a bit in the middle, it ends strongly with a sense of purpose and a set of characters willing to achieve their goals. The twists with Saburo are nicely done as well as giving Masaru some perfect lines about just who is being selfish about things. If anything in the show really stands out as being unnecessary, I keep going back to the detective and his assistant. They had some small useful moments in places, but overall the series takes an odd turn with their inclusion.

In Summary:
Kikaider seems to be one of the less talked about series out there, even for one that was shown on Cartoon Network. With its nod to the original designs from the 70’s and its slow and creepy style through the first half of it, it’s not something that people likely caught on quickly with during its initial run. All told, it’s a decent series that does an interesting update on the property. Much like a lot of Leiji Matsumoto’s work, this series manages to work well in the digital animation world of the now while retaining much of its classic feel. This doesn’t look like a lot of anime you see these days and that alone is often enough to get my interest piqued. Those who end up eventually grabbing this on the cheap will find a nice little gem being added to their collection.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery with Character Descriptions

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kikaider