Cybuster Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 02, 2004
What They Say
In 2040, the continuous pollution and the mysterious series of earthquakes left the city of Tokyo in ruins. A young man named Ken Ando is in training to become a member of DC, an army-like organization designed to investigate and protect the collapsing environment. Ken, with the support from his sick sister, Sayuri, gives his best to become a part of the elite group that the young longs for, but he receives the devastating news of being cut from the team because of his poor performances in the evaluation sessions. Then, an ominous monster suddenly appears from the sky with a blinding flash and starts mowing down DC?s working robots with mysterious invisible forces. Ken, eager to show what he is truly made of, gets into one of the working robots and imprudently engages in a battle with the monster?
While trying to clean up the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Tokyo, the mission changes as mysterious people start flinging micro black holes around.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show has a pretty good stereo mix to it with some well noticed directionality across the forward soundstage, more often found during battle sequences than dialogue, but still present in a number of forms. The music track sounds good in general and uses the stereo channels well to provide a good warm sound. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing back in 1999, Cybuster is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being from 1999, it looks and feels like it was done with the more traditional animation methods and there's a definitely feel to it that's not found in most newer shows these days that's appealing. The series plays with real-world style color palettes so there aren't too many really vibrant areas but a few do shine through during it. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent but there's some noticeable aliasing in places, usually during really busy action scenes, that will distract some folks. The colors look good in general and maintain a solid feel, particularly the large solid areas.
Providing a shot of what looks to be some of the key players to the series, we get a look at the four lead characters standing back to back with the Cybuster behind them, both of these set against the ruins of Tokyo. There's much more green showing here than in the show itself but it does present a really interesting cover if you take the minute to look it over. The back cover provides a few shots from the show around the summary and the listing of episode numbers and titles. The discs features are clearly listed just above the small-type production information. The insert has the same artwork from the back on one side with the episode numbers and titles just above the chapter listings while the reverse side lists the upcoming release months for the next five volumes of the series.
The latest Nightjar menu is one of their more average design ones but it fits well with te show by using a variety of technological symbols and designs integrated with clips from the show and a really pumped up version of the opening song playing along with it. The layout is quick and simple to navigate with fast loading times. The disc also properly read our players language presets and played them accordingly.
As the series doesn't have any clean endings to it, the extras section has only two pieces to it. One is a translation of the Japanese staff credits and the other being the English staff credits. And yes, that's it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When you license a series that's just about five years old and nobody has heard of it, you really don't know what you're going to get with it. When Cybuster was announced there was a palpable level of "huh?" surrounding it and continues to be even months afterwards. With little noise and only one brief trailer to push it, it's been a mystery. Geneon's had some luck with this before such as with a personal favorite of mine like Master Keaton. Few people knew about it but it gained itself a cult audience.
Cybuster is an interesting property. The title robot, or what seems to be some sort of "elemental war god", is an original creation of the Banpresto folks that was used in the Super Robot Wars games from the late 90's. There's a storyline that goes with it and from what I've read of it, it ties into this storyline as well, but only in a very loose way according to the die-hard fans of the game. To them, the anime is a piece of work that did not treat their view of the property in the right way and many have disowned it as being really related. With that in mind, it's pretty easy to just look at Cybuster as its own piece of work and see what it's all about.
Taking place in 2040, it's been eleven years since the big earthquake hit Tokyo and completely ruined just about everything. Since then, there have been active efforts to get it all cleaned up that's being spearheaded by a group called DC. They've got a number of squat worker robots that they have piloted to move all the wreckage both above ground and underwater. The company works hand in hand with the government to do various reclamantions, replantings and in general cleaning up one hell of a mess. The company has suffered over the years though as a number of the more brilliant scientists who started with it have left and even its founder has died, which left the company in a strange place until a new chief, Shu, took over and moved things forward again.
Even though it's been eleven years, much of the place is still in complete ruins, so much so that just now some small plants are starting to grow up through the wreckage. Many people still live in the various ruins however and a series of monorails exist to move the population around from place to place. Air quality warnings are frequent as various gasses and other elements combine in the wreckage and cause even more problems. It's an interesting mix of life that goes on here now with some super-slums and then various areas of high-tech residences and commercial buildings. So much is still in ruins that you wonder if they've gotten anything done.
Introduced into things is the latest group of trainees that want to become pilots of the RT's, the robots that DC uses to do the cleaning. Out of 160 applicants, the final ten are being selected and through the circumstances we get to know a few of them closely as they serve as the windows for the show. The lead character is the fairly bland Ken Ando, a young man who definitely qualifies as a sheep in a lot of senses since he can only see the good that DC is and intends to do. He's joined by his fellow childhood friend Mizuki of whom he's been in every class with for their entire lives. There's the obvious love potential going on there but it's very understated early on here. In addition to them they have a new friend in Nanase while also getting to know Lyune fairly well. Lyune is a very blunt character as she's the daughter of the founder of the DC who died nine years prior and is convinced her name alone will allow her to do as she pleases within the company even though she has no legal rights to it.
Everything plays out as a fairly normal series with a new team learning their roles and working towards making Tokyo livable once more. There's some business related tensions and various personality conflicts that arise due to the DC Instructor and his boss Commander Saphine who seems to have an agenda of her own. What really throws things into the mix though is when a tall mysterious white robot appears out of nowhere. With it seemingly bent on causing destruction, the DC teams of RT's try to keep it at bay only to get smacked around a lot and broken quite easily. Though it turns into a regular event of stopping the robot and it disappearing only to appear again some other day, it does allow the DC teams a chance to try and figure things out and understand what's going on.
Nah, instead, the higher-ups set about loading up the RT's with weapons, firing anyone that disagrees with them and causing a lot of confusion in the RT team ranks by seemingly doing something the very absent military should be doing. Some don't mind that they're getting some weapons built onto the RT's but others are having serious issues with it and take it up with the company in general. There tends to be a lot of questioning about DC in general and what they're really up to when they start clamping down on personnel as well as introducing their own combat robot into the mix.
A lot of this plays out almost like a corporate mystery of some sort where everyone has their own agenda and the latest batch of new employees come in with the clear eyes of youth and try to set things right. Some have their own agendas like Lyune while others are like Ken in trying to find his place in life while doing good for those around him. There are some really good relationship moments that come throughout this due to Ken's father who is a former reporter who spends all his time investigating DC now. His disdain for DC plays against Ken's desires to be a part of the company well, but it also allows for us to get another view of DC and some of the mysteries that have been going on over the years.
With a somewhat grainy feel to the show, it has an interesting look to it due heavily to the fact that so much of it is based around the ruins of a city. That backdrop adds a lot of character to the show and helps expand the somewhat gloomy mood of several of the characters. Over the course of the first five episodes we get a good look at the DC company and what it's doing while mixing in both elements of cleaning up the city and defending it against the Cybuster and its constant appearances. Some of the animation for the show is just bad as well. Whenever the Cybuster retreats, they do this awful use of digital movement to have it slide up the screen and out of the picture. And while there's an allure to the traditional animation style here, some things just look bad based on how its done, particularly some of the destruction sequences. But there's some really interesting mysteries that are creeping into it as well, such as the appearance of massive black balls of energy that eat up everything around it as well as seeing where the Cybuster really comes from. While there's definitely more to it, it's surprising to get some early explanations during the time that one of the characters spends in this other world.
Cybuster is a hard show to really pin down how I feel about it. Parts of it feel like Dai-Guard with its focus on the business side of things while it also plays up the usual action elements. The look of the RT's reminds me heavily of Sakura Wars while the Cybuster itself unfortunately reminds me of Ohata's work on things like Cybernetics Guardian. The show is heavily influenced from other elements as well as the game itself. With it having five episodes, it does manage to really show some interesting possibilities as there are various sides working against each other here that the main cast doesn't even know about yet. The cast has just the right size to bring in motives from the past and present and enough threads to keep it all tied together. There's just something about how some of this plays out that's just odd though and I can't put my finger on it.
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2