Mezzo Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2004



What They Say
Her name is Mikura and she's all about service with a smile.

So what if that service is cracking skulls and the smile happens to be on the other end of a loaded gun? With a killer body, vicious skills, and an attitude to match, Mikura gets away with murder (literally). It's a good thing, too because in the world of Mezzo, staying alive is never easy!

Meet the Danger Service Agency (DSA), a high-risk trio that pays the bills by putting their asses on the line. It's only Volume 1, but the DSA hasn't wasted any time! Ducking bullets, and dodging punches, the trio find themselves working for a friendly ghost and a foxy weathergirl, helping old friends and hunting down an extraterrestrial. Whether you're looking to run recon on a cheating spouse or smuggle a deadly virus, if the job reeks of danger, there's only one team to call. With Mikura and friends on the case, danger has never looked so good.

The Review!
After a successful OVA, the Mezzo TV series goes forth with much the same action and energy and maybe just a bit less sex.

Audio:
For our primary viewing sessions, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. While not completely attached to the voice cast from the OVA, the continuity aspect was a plus. The series sports a solid stereo mix that has a good sense of directionality across the forward soundstage in both dialogue and action effects. There's a lot going on with this show and the track handles it well and it's all very clean and clear. During regular playback on either track, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in the first quarter of 2004, the transfer for this release is just beautiful. Much like a lot of Umetsu's works, there's a wide range of very vibrant colors mixed into the show and they shine through great here. From the oranges of Mikura's outfit to the splattering blood, it's a solid set of colors with no visible blocking and only the slightest hints in one or two scenes of some slight color gradation. Aliasing and cross coloration are virtually absent for the bulk of the print and all the high paced action is kept very solid. While it's not quite OVA level, it looks great here and is a transfer that's very easy to get lost in once it gets into gear.

Packaging:
With Umetsu's designs being so distinct, at least to me, this cover is naturally very eye-catching with shots of Mikura showcasing her shiny orange rear and the designs of the other characters, particularly Harada's hair style. This cover has some really good colors to it, from the blues used in the sky background to the yellows of the male designs right up to the orange. It's a disparate set of colors but it all manages to work together well here. The back cover is very nicely laid out with everything sectionalized and easy to find. There's a small number of shots from the show and another look at Mikura as well as a good summary of the premise. The discs production information and features are all clear and easy to find. The only weird thing to it is in the technical grid there's a spot for "Featured on the Anime Network" with a logo. Eh? While it's far better than a big non-removable section on the front cover, this is one of those instances where people like me just find too much tying between properties. It'd be like Paramount having a little block on the back of the Enterprise season sets that says "Featured on UPN". It just feels like too much. The reverse side of the cover has a great dual panel shot of Mikura up close while the rest of the leads are next to her on the other panel. No insert is included (nor needed) with this release. I continue to like the lessening of useless inserts in releases.

In addition to the disc release, there's also a disc plus box release that's designed to hold all three volumes of the series. The box is done in all white for the background and the main panel is the same artwork as used on the first DVD color but without the background color and some swapping out of characters. The other main panel has a good team shot of the DSA members and their fun little pink car while the spine has a very sexy shot of Mikura in her DSA swimwear outfit. Since it's a three volume series and ADV doesn't do chipboard for them unfortunately, it's a pretty flimsy thin piece. With nothing else included in the box, they at least dropped the normal price of this by a few bucks.

Menu:
The main menu is a decent piece that uses the image of Mikura from the front cover set against a bloodied and grimy brick wall where underneath you get bits of animation flowing through that looks mostly like fog or dust clouds moving by, all of which is set to a brief loop of part of the hyper paced opening song. Episode selections are lined along the right and submenu navigation is quick and easy. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players language presets.

Extras:
The opening volume has only a few of the basic extras that you can expect to see. The opening and closing sequences are presented in textless form and there's an art gallery in video form as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back in 2001 when the Mezzo Forte OVA release came out, we really enjoyed the uncut version of that. Umetsu's been controversial for what he's done in the past and Mezzo was his next big project that was getting all sorts of attention. Though it took a few more years to happen, the OVA eventually spawned this thirteen episode series that takes place some time after the events of the OVA and eventually tie into it pretty heavily at times, but not so that you're really missing out if you haven't seen it.

The premise is very simple. We're introduced to the DSA – Danger Service Agency – which is a group of three people who will basically go and do anything for money. They try to avoid danger but the kinds of jobs they get really don't allow for that. Headquartered in a London dual decker bus frame on top of a building, they're a strange set of folks. The group is pretty much led by former detective Kurokawa who fits the bill of an ex-cop/detective that's very familiar with the nastier side of the world and how it works. He's got a great personality and chains together so many phrases and styles of speech at times that just listening to him ramble on is both a challenge and highly amusing.

What probably spurned this business into operation is when Kurokawa came across a young Mikura a few years back who was a stray on the streets and the two ended up through an undisclosed series of events becoming friends and working with each other. Mikura's not quite the wild child of the streets she once was but she's spent the time since becoming so attuned and training her body that she's nearly superhuman in some respects. Adding in being good with weaponry and a high adaptability rate to whatever's going on around her and she's a lithe street fighter who even with her small body is able to give as good as she gets. Rounding them out is the spiky haired Harada, a guy who looks to be in his early twenties who is fantastic with electronics, good with a gun and can handle himself in a fight but tends to end up a bit more as support for Mikura during their jobs. He plays something of a half and half role of what both Mikura and Kurokawa are while bringing in his own technical side to things.

Over the course of the first five episodes, there's a mix of stories that really cross all over the place. From the simple one of finding someone who is trying to kill someone else and stopping them to being used as decoys for a bigger operation that's going on, the jobs are fairly diverse. They even go into the truly strange when there's a story about having to stop someone from acquiring a device that will allow an alien race to invade the planet after drowning all the cities. It's comical and weird but it manages to work strangely enough within the context of the episode and they end it so perfectly as well. The series also pulls off a rather fun event in a two part episode where we get two completely different stories, one in each episode, which keep intersecting and having effects on each other. Normally this is done within just one episode but the way they play this out is very well done and a lot of fun since it provides more information on Mikura's past but also lets her fly solo.

Visually, the show is just a hell of a lot of fun. Umetsu's designs aren't exactly the most pleasing in the world for the male characters but they're definitely distinct. He's come a long way since his work in the Megazone 23 series but Mezzo is much more streamlined than even his very angular Kite designs. Mikura, Asami and the women in general are all very attractive and very sleek looking; I can't help but laugh at the way Mikura's bosom bounces to perfectly during one spot in the opening sequence. The male characters are still rough in Umetsu's way but they're not as ugly as some of his past ones. The way the action flies throughout this show there's a lot of violence, bloody violence at that, with people being flung through walls, shot outright, stabbed and more. It's pretty violent but at times hits that comical level of violence. This is that kind of show where there's a real beauty in the way the violence plays out in all of these abandoned buildings and desolate areas where other people aren't in the way. The animation keeps up with their intent very well and the fight sequences are very fluid.

The dub cast for this show did an amazing job with their characters. Luci Christian has completely nailed the Mikura character down in just about every way and puts in a superb performance here. Mikura's such a wild character at times and says what she wants to say so she swings between very sweet to a near hyper violent style that it's great watching it being able to transcend between the style of languages. Luci gets huge extra points for her karaoke performance, right down to the winks in it. I also really liked how well Andy McAvin was matched for Kurokawa as he managed to get that kind of rambling phrase dropping almost too sure of himself nature that Kurokawa has. I also really liked how well matched Sasha Paysinger was to the Asami character and was really happy it didn't go to one of the usual players of such young quiet characters.

In Summary:
Mezzo just knocked my socks off with how much fun it was, from the sheer amount of infectious energy to the fan service and all the violence which is beautiful in its own way. This is the kind of series that doesn't take itself too seriously in a lot of ways but just hits all the quirky numbers right on the mark and runs with it for all its worth. With a great looking transfer, fun characters and strong performances throughout, this looks to be one of those short series that you wish was twice as long. With five episodes on the first volume alone, Mezzo manages to have fun with things but still gets in enough development and plot material that it's not overwhelming but rather smoothly paced and very enjoyable. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Clean open and ending animation,Production sketches

Review Equipment
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.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/34.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mezzo