Super Atragon Essential Anime (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, October 08, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, October 26, 2004



What They Say
Moments after an atomic bomb falls over Hiroshima, a secret Japanese submarine sails into battle against its American counterpart, and both are lost to history. Some fifty years later, a special UN task force sent to investigate unusual phenomena in Antarctica is threatened by a mysterious black cylinder. The incident in the Antarctic is only the first round in a cataclysmic battle of wills between two descendants of an ancient race dwelling within the Earth. Standing against them is a single, amazing ship, the RA, a Yamato-class battle sub secretly rebuilt after its supposed destruction in World War II.



The Review!
Bringing the two part OVA series back for another release with a minor upgrade in the Essential Anime collection, Super Atragon once more sets sail.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This is a pretty basic stereo mix with little in the way of real directionality, but it fills up the forward soundstage nicely. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout it with no noticeable dropouts or distortions. The English language track gets an upgrade over its previous release to a 5.1 mix and it comes across well, if a bit louder, with better clarity across the forward soundstage and a bit more oomph in general..

Video:
Using the same print as the previous release but with a bit more skilled hand in the authoring process, the transfer for these two OVAs comes across quite well. Two of the things that bothered us heavily with the first release was the amount of print damage that was noticeable in the form of nicks and scratches and the other being the amount of cross coloration. In regards to the first, it looks like the bulk of this was fixed or severely minimized as it's nowhere near as noticeable as it once was. You can still see some of it sneaking in there, and it's just a problem inherent with traditionally animated pieces, but other than a couple of small areas it looks good in this regard now. With the cross coloration, it's still there but looks to be highly minimized compared to the original release. Of course, we've gone on to a new TV and three DVD players since then so it's not exactly a dead on comparison but we like what we're seeing in this release in regards to the video.

Packaging:
The front cover provides a good cast and ship image, with character shots along the top and bottom while the big boat that’s the focus of things slides into the middle of the shot with a blue mix of sky and water in the background. The closer you look the more detail you notice. The back cover provides a number of small animation shots and a look at the menus. There’s a good summary of the show and a clear listing of the discs features and production information. The insert provides a different piece of artwork in the same vein as the cover while the reverse side lists the two main episodes and what previews are on the disc alongside character artwork.

Menu:
The menus here are pretty simple, with an upfront static image of Ann with the full headgear while the background itself is fairly indistinct with abstract pieces of artwork and blueprint pieces. There’s little to the disc outside of the show, so the menus are simple and straight to the point. Access times are nice and fast and the disc read our players language presets without issue.

Extras:
Though not listed on the packaging, there is an extra included in the form of a clean opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on a novel, Super Atragon tells an interesting tale of military adventure and the fate of the world. While I think it does suffer from some novel to animation translation, what we get is a solid straightforward story about the end of the world and a group of people who are determined to save everyone.

The tale actually starts back in 1945, just minutes after Hiroshima is attacked with an atom bomb. We follow the crew aboard a surprisingly advanced Japanese submersible warship, who hears the warnings from the American fleet to avoid the area due to what happened. While the crew reacts, we notice a strangely garbed young woman, almost looking like something from another culture, sitting in a prominent position.

Even with all that’s going on, their ship isn’t alone in the sea. They raise to the surface to indicate that they’re not intent on fighting, only to find out that the opposing ship has another woman like they have, and that they’re quite intent on sinking them. A fierce battle ensues, and the captain insists the XO leave with the woman in his trust. The XO sends her off in a launchable fighter with Kageyama the pilot, but returns to his duty. The ship is his place to be, even if it is to die.

The show then moves into something resembling the present, where we follow Go Arisaka, a young man in the UN Peacekeeping forces who, along with Annette, get assigned to investigate the disappearance of a team at the Antarctic base as well as to find out what the massive object they find on their radar is. Things have changed recently, as icebergs have been sailing south and waters are definitely rising. So the team heads off to discover what’s going on. There’s some personal banter between Anne and Go, both of whom didn’t tell the other that they were going on this mission.

Their arrival in the Antarctic reveals the object to be an massively tall black cylinder, one that doesn’t like it when they get close and starts firing lasers off at them. The team is nearly destroyed, but a few make it back to the ships. This only brings the mysterious enemy closer to them by using some huge floating rings that have a micro black hole in the center of them, allowing the cylinder object to fire from a distance and redirect the beam. The UN fleet is cut to pieces, and Go loses Anne to the sea. His own life is at risk as well, but fate has different plans for him.

Those plans bring him into contact with his families past, where his father had disappeared years ago on an expedition on the sea and where his grandfather was the XO of the ship from the beginning of the show. Go’s awakened in a ruined and gutted ship, only to realize that it’s his fathers missing ship. That ship, and a very futuristic looking one, are hidden deep inside an iceberg where it appears the ships been worked on for years. It’s with this varying band of fighters that Go learns of the invading army of Subterraneans from inside the Earth’s core.

That’s right, humans from inside the Earth’s core. They’ve had it with the surface dwellers and intend to end it all. With each day they launch more of those massive cylinders into space, forming them into a massive and impenetrable black ring around the planet. When it’s complete, it’ll put out a huge pulse of radiation and energy that the entire surface of the planet will be razed. Unless, of course, Go and the crew he’s found himself with can do something about it.

These two OVA’s play the story very straight, with some good action sequences between conventional military equipment and the futuristic technology of the enemy. With the bulk of the animation done by Phoenix Entertainment, I was amused to see some things they do are common through at least some of their shows, as at times Anne looks like Ryo from Princess Nine with her expressions, and some of Go’s pieces show up in other characters from that series. The design of this show is quite good, and presumably has some good material from the novel to base itself off of.

If there’s anything to complain about, it’s that parts of it just feel rushed. Squeezing down however long the novel was to two 50 minute OVA’s means things must have been lost, and what suffers the most is the character interaction. Go’s sequences with the crew of the Ra are minimal and lack the questioning one must have, especially with the family history he has with it. Anne and Go’s relationship suffers as well, though the two do get some good time together, it definitely needed more fleshing out.

To some extent, they really don’t seem to make them like this anymore. It’s a serious show with no kids running about trying to save the world, but dedicated military folks trying to avert a disaster (except for the American looking UN captains who look like they just want to nuke everything). Super Atragon was an entertaining way to pass an evening, but I feel like I’d rather curl up with the novel instead and get more out of it.

In Summary:
While the video enhancements and audio upgrade is always a welcome thing, Super Atragon continues to seem an odd title to go to the extra effort for. The price drop alone is worthwhile and the show is definitely worth checking out for fans of this particular genre but it's never been nor likely will ever be a mainstream title. This is a good niche story that doesn't involve having teenagers running around to save the world. Fans of this show likely picked it up the first time around and will have to weigh the improvements for themselves but I can't see a lot of new people picking this up if they didn't get it the first time around.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening sequence

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: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Super Atragon