Miami Guns Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, July 16, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, August 03, 2004



What They Say
Following the introduction of the deadly police duo Yao and Lu in the first volume of Miami Guns, the gloves are off and nothing is sacred. Miami Western Village (yes, you read that right) is the home of cowboys, gunslingers, and the mysterious killer Maria Rose. It's Spaghetti Western done Japanese style!

And when a mad bomber threatens Miami City with explosives disguised as watermelons, it's up to Yao, Lu, and special FBI liaison, "Bruce," to save the day. And did we mention the pro wrestling tournament?

The Review!
Miami: A place where it's the size of the Louisiana Purchase apparently.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is nicely done with some well placed bits of directionality across the forward soundstage. This is also a loud show in that there are a lot of things going on during the program with plenty of music and action sound effects so it's a pretty active mix. Dialogue was clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2000, Miami Guns is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer for the show is excellent with a really great solid feel to it. The show is very brightly done with a lot of outdoor and bright light sequences and the transfer does a great job of showing solid colors with no breakup. Only a few areas, generally with some camera panning involved, had some aliasing going on around the edges of the characters. Cross coloration was pretty much non-existent and the overall feel of the show is a good mix of the transitional animation that was going on back in 2000. Some of the characters occasionally look a bit too layered on top of the backgrounds but this continues to fairly minimal.

Packaging:
While the first cover gave us the girls in their uniforms to appeal to a particular nature, this installment goes for the more skin is better angle with both of them riding jet skis while the chief wrestles with an octopus. It's a very bright and colorful cover with a lot ground given over to the blues of the sky and water so things like the swimsuits and characters themselves stand out nicely. Both the front cover and the spine provide the volume number while the back cover has a listing of the episode numbers and titles. There are a couple of small animation shots but a lot of space is given over to the summary and production information. The discs features and technical information is all nice and clearly listed though I'll make my usual push for my beloved grid format. The insert takes on the form of the translation and culture notes. We get four panels overall of notes and information mixed with shots from the back cover and a listing of the shows staff and voice cast.

Menu:
After the new opening animation for the AN Entertainment logo, we're dropped right into the menu as we like it. The menu is a very nice full screen static image of the leads in the foreground while other cast members line around them. With no animation or anything (even music), the menu layout is simple and easy to navigate with fast access times. The only area that's problematic is the extras menu where they attempt to be cute but having the background image change slightly every time you move to a new selection. This introduces some lag in being able to move about as the image has to load which isn't always as fast as one would hope. During our initial playing of the disc, it read our player defaults for language and subtitle settings.

Extras:
Continuing what we got on the first volume, it's more of the same but with new content inside. The character profiles section is nicely done with some of the main cast members getting their quick bios plus a selection of production artwork related to them. There's also a full production art gallery included at the top level of the extras menu. The Japanese promo trailer shows how the show was pushed onto that market, but the best extra comes again in the form of the translation and cultural notes pages, which I believe replicates everything in the booklet. If you can do them in a booklet, you can do them on the disc itself. Usually each company does it different but generally just one way and not both. AN gets major kudos for providing them in both areas.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume got us with some laughs and its way of completely doing a reimagining of what the Japanese (comically?) view Miami as, the second set of episodes only takes the gags a bit further. In fact, this volume seems to flow better in general, partially since it's all new material (I had seen the first episode previously) and only three episodes to it. Some series work better with less material seen in one sitting.

This installment starts off in a way that will have most American's laughing, probably more so than the Japanese did at it. Lu and Yao are heading off the Miami Western Village to hunt down a notorious criminal named Maria Rose. Maria's a killer who has taken down far too many people and is considered one of the five best gunmen in the world. She's killed lots of bounty hunters over the years and is just becoming more and more problematic so Lu is using Yao to get her and the 10 million Miami Dollar prize. So it's out to Western Miami they go. Where there's sprawling red sand deserts. And cactus. Apparently Miami spreads at least through areas of Texas. Or maybe there is no Texas in this world and Miami took on the original Louisiana Purchase and kept expanding westward. Either way, it's amusing as hell to have everyone dressed up in cowboy gear in a ramshackle town and doing the entire classic western routine motif.

One of the cuter parts of this story as the two hunt down Maria Rose in the town full of bounty hunters is that they end up helping a greenhorn who isn't the best at shooting but can sniff out the target better than anyone else. What's different about him is that he's got a small hyper-intelligent chibi alligator on his shoulder that's good at shooting and can do all sorts of other advanced thinking as well. Al is an amusing addition to the show with his history of escaping from a biochem lab and being on the lam from the scientists who wanted to experiment on him. It's just so out there in some ways, especially with his facial expressions, that you can't help but laugh when he's on screen.

The second episode manages to play with the 90's American icons pretty well as well. The Miami area is under siege as a big time terrorist named Joke Joedan has spread over one hundred bombs throughout it. To make the plan even crazier as they make their demands of a billion Miami dollars is that the bombs are hidden in watermelons. So the police have to spend their time hunting up all the watermelons in the city and to then try and defuse them. All of this is done under the directive of a special FBI agent come to help, Bruce Tsuji. They play up the Bruce Willis/Die Hard aspect plenty, especially in how he's unkillable, and mix it in with the wackiness that Miami is quickly becoming in this show. Toss in some amusing nods to Pro Wrestling and the episode really flies by with all sorts of parodies. Normally the entire wrestling aspect would turn me off from it but this is just so over the top with Jii and the Watermelon Man that I couldn't help but laugh.

The last episode is probably the strangest one, starting with the Princess Mononoke name parody and going through a process where Yao gets devolved into a primitive after her father tells the chief that he can fire her since he doesn't want her on the police force anymore. This leads to some initially fun and amusing moments, such as when she gets tossed from her plane by Jii and ends up walking around the city with a huge dead shark on her back. But then it just goes into parodies and areas that just didn't strike me quite as funny. Some bits here and there were, but this is probably the weakest episode of the series so far.

What's been interesting is in watching the series in both languages, you can almost give this show two ratings. While the language changes aren't quite as bad as the Lupin changes in some way since the Lupin show as a product of its times in the 70's doesn't really give the same feel, Miami Guns main reason for being 17 rated so far as I can tell is due to the English language track. There's a fair amount of bitches and bastards and the like tossed about that doesn't come across in the original language version at all. In fact, originally I believed that the 17 rating was for actual on-screen issues and had put this as a late night show to avoid any problems with my kids. But this volume was for the most part problem free if watched in Japanese.

In Summary:
While sometimes the gags come a bit too fast and furious to quite get them the first time around, a lot of the humor in Miami Guns is pretty up front and straightforward. Things like the Bruce Willis parody are more obvious to the anime crowd but there's also some in there for older fans such as the Leone piece in the first episode. I'm not sure that I actually care or even like most of the lead characters so far but they're at least entertaining and the stories are fun and well paced with a good mix of action and comedy. I wasn't sure how much I'd get into this at first but it's coming across quite well.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Guides,Production Sketches,Original Japanese TV spots,Translation & Cultural Notes

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: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AN Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Miami Guns