Kikaider 01 (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, March 16, 2004



What They Say
The destruction of the DARK organization has left Jiro wandering from town to town and pondering whether or not he would ever see Mitsuko again. But it is during this journey in which Jiro encounters a beautiful girl named Rieko who is protecting a little boy from the evil Professor Gill. The boy?s name is Akira and son of Professor Gill, but more importantly?the key to Gill?s malicious secret weapon and his plans to conquer the world. As fate brings Jiro into an alliance with his brother Ichiro as well as Kikaider 00 and Bijinder ? Will they be able to protect Akira? The journey is almost at an end and Jiro will stop at nothing to bury all evil, once and for all!

The Review!
After a fairly successful TV series, Kikaider continues on with this four episode OVA series.

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 released to video in 2001, the transfer for the OVA series looks to be about on par with the TV series itself. The style of animation used with the bold vibrant colors comes across very well here. There's hardly any noticeable breakup in the amount of solid colors flashing across the screen and some of the more complicated moments, such as some of the fuzzy scenes at the beginning that are done intentionally with the smoke, come out looking great. Cross coloration is pretty much a non-issue here and only some slight digital camera panning created aliasing shows up in a few scenes.

Packaging:
Mixing some small imagery, the cover is a dark piece that has one of the villain androids set against the moon causing his shadow to fall over the barely visible shrine that Jiro and Ichiro are at. While nowhere near as stylized as the TV series covers, this one at least doesn't suffer from the poor use of the metallic foil. The artwork just doesn't inspire though. The back cover has a collage of a lot of dark shots from the show set underneath a fairly descriptive summary of the show. With little on the disc, the features and extra section is amusingly padded out while the bottom provides the usual array of production and technical information. The insert uses a really good looking piece of artwork with Jiro defending Rieko and Akira against the setting sunlight that opens up to a two panel mini-poster spread of several of the Kikaiders. The back panel lists the full production credits as well as bilingual cast listings.

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 showcasing scenes from the episodes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kikaider 01 takes place after the TV series that aired in 2000 in Japan, but there's precious little in the way of a visible connection between the two series to bridge things. The four episode OVA series opens with Jiro racing his bike along the highway with a young woman and a little boy in the passenger car as they're being chased by flying robotic squids and jellyfish. It's a fast paced opening scene, but it also sets the stage for what you can expect from the show: lots of action and violence, but none of the soul searching qualities that made the TV series stand above other shows of a similar nature.

How Jiro ended up with Rieko and little Akira in his motorcycle doesn't really get explained, but it's a situation where you know Jiro helps out some in trouble. With the giant robots searching out for little Akira, Jiro does what he can to help defend against the attackers until they can get away. Once they get some quiet time he tries to figure out what's going on, but all that they know is that Akira is the key to something bigger that this organization wants. Jiro's sensors bring his attention to a shrine nearby where he finds himself being drawn to.

To his surprise, the seemingly abandoned shrine isn't quite what it seems. The monk there, Fuuten, used to work in robotics with Dr. Komyoji and has spent the past years being the guardian to a prototype version of Jiro named Kikaider 01, or Ichiro as he likes to be known. This Kikaider is termed to be Jiro's older brother and he takes to the role, though not to the same level Jiro might due to the fact that he doesn't have the same special circuitry in him that makes Jiro so conflicted about everything. With some help now, the pair do their best to help Rieko and Akira avoid capture as the Shadow and others in the organization step up their attacks.

It's not all easy though as we start to get more on the background of what's going on when the original Hakaider shows up but containing Professor Gill's brain inside of it. With Akira being his son, Gill has come up with a cunning plan to use him in the oversized Armageddon God robot so that they can take over the world. Utilizing several of his associates, he's turned them into Hakaiders as well, upping the ante in the fighting sequences with multiple Kikaiders going at them. Fuuten goes so far as to cobble together another Kikaider as well, giving Jiro a younger brother to help in the fight.

Are there any humans left in this show?

The quality of the show is pretty similar to the TV run in terms of the animation. The character designs all retain that 70's feel, though the women come across poorly as each of them reminds you of the one from the TV show, so much so that at first you can't be sure she isn't. The designs and color style used are great looking and it's definitely very stylishly done, managing to do the retro material justice in a modern feel. Unfortunately though, the story is very weak and simply doesn't provide much than four episodes of extended action sequences with a bit of tension once in awhile.

In Summary:
Kikaider 01 is very heavy on the action. While there was plenty in the TV series, much of it was filled with angst as Jiro was trying to find his place in the world. With this one, it's a very formulaic story with the hero being on the run trying to protect someone while he and his comrades are constantly attacked. Adding in a new Kikaider every episode and losing the material from the TV series as a bridge gives this a side-story feeling rather than a real follow-up to the original.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Illustration Gallery

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: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kikaider