Divergence Eve Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 14, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 01, 2005
What They Say
Something wicked is waiting to be unleashed! In the 24th Century, Intergalactic Space Travel has become a reality. One of the first outposts in the far reaches of space is Watcher's Nest - an inflation hole drive portal - which has recently come under attack by a mysterious force known simply as GHOUL. A group of young female cadets assigned to the portal are unexpectedly thrown into a hornet's nest of trouble as they finalize their training to become an elite pilot in the Seraphim Squadron.
Defending humanity at the outskirts of space known to man, four young women arrive for final training at the outpost where mankind has its darkest secrets.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly standard stereo mix to it that does have some rather good directionality during a number of scenes, particularly the exterior ones inside the armor suits. With the characters, it's a fairly decent dialogue show and there is a lot going on but it's never excessively going to one side or the other though it does shift from time to time. Overall, the dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we haven't had any trouble with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing back in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. In watching the five episodes on this volume, I'm hard pressed to find anything to complain or nitpick about. With such bright colors, solid areas and great looking computer animation mixed in, the transfer is essentially flawless here. Colors are solid without any noticeable blocking, cross coloration is non-existent and color gradient issues simply aren't here. Add in a lack of grain or aliasing and this is just a beautifully detailed transfer.
Using the same main artwork as the regular edition first volume Japanese release, we get the main shot of Misaki in her uniform with her weapon outstretched in front of her. The logo is the same as the Japanese one just placed on the other side while the bottom part has the same blue banner but instead of Misaki in her pilot uniform they go with a much more fanservice oriented one with her in her sports bra and bikini. I like the look of the cover with the coloring and the layout in general but dislike the change to give it more fanservice when there's plenty there already. The back cover provides a few shots from the show alongside a summary of the premise as well as a listing of the extras which all works well and doesn’t crowd each other not provide more than is really necessary. The bottom half is filled out with the production credits and technical grid and contains all the useful information in very easy to find format. The insert for this show is split into four sections across both sides with a different character in each getting some of their basic statistics, a character shot and some small clips from the show itself. The cover for this release isn't reversible but the other side is taken advantage of through the clear keepcase with the left side talking about the Watcher's Nest while the right side provides information on the Rampart Armor.
The opening menu layout is a bit garish with its heavy yellow and white colors that are set to the background and selections while having a bit of character artwork set off to the right. They layout itself is fine and navigation is easy but the colors just don't work well here and you want to get through it as quickly as possible. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets without issue and played accordingly.
There's not a ton of extras for this release but it's nicely filled out. In addition to the standard clean opening and closing, we also get a set of production sketches and some of the Japanese promo TV spots advertising the series. Another neat but somewhat awkward inclusion is the mini-manga for the show which sort of serves as a mini-prequel; it's done with the pages as their own screens and translations to the right but it is unfortunate it couldn't be printed. Also included is a commentary track by Carl Macek in which he brings in various actors to talk about the ADR process and how it's done which is surprisingly informative in its detail though I knew most of the basics already.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From the start, Divergence Eve had a lot going against it with me. Just the character designs with their overweighted upper halves being so prominent and more so than most (but not all) other series was something that just gets the eyes rolling. Add in that it's a science fiction series and has the kind of tag line about five women in training at the ends of space and you can easily imagine what it would be like. Hell, it's been done how many times before. The final nail in the coffin came when I saw that Hiroshi Negishi was directing it. While he's done a few things that I've liked before, his resume reads more like a list of B-list fanservice shows that are mostly forgettable these days.
So color me extremely surprised when this actually turns out, at least in the first five episodes here, to be an very science (albeit pseudo-science) heavy show that's very much character driven with lots of dialogue, atmosphere, pacing and an overall intriguing plot with a fascinating setup. It was so completely unexpected based on past history for me that it probably became even more interesting just because of that. The entire concept of the show from what was available beforehand just doesn't translate into what these opening episodes actually were and I'm still shaking my head about it days later.
The story is told somewhat disjointedly but it makes sense. The prologue of each episode follows a timeline in the past from the 21st century on where we see how mankind discovered a way of traveling outside of the solar system. By using the discovery of parallel universes and a gateway that could be used on the moon Titan, ships are able to go through the gate into the parallel universe and emerge at the other end of the gateway far across the galaxy. Over the years, we now have the farthest flung colony called Watcher's Nest where most people are going to and there are some ten million people living in this strange looking hourglass shaped world. Within the core of the split planet is something the size of a moon but with its layers and layout it looks to be something more.
What's kept secret from everyone except those at the top is that when people travel through the parallel universes, sometimes something tries to come along as well or tries to come out on its own at one end of the gate. Labeling them as Ghoul's, these massive demonic looking beasts are slick and powerful and able to cause massive damage. Their powers are intriguing and seemingly electrical based; depending on how quickly they can be contained upon discovery by the laser platform that orbits the small moon, they're able to send something called a sepular out into the main planet where it takes on a partial form of them and wrecks havoc all over. These have been happening more and more on Watcher's Nest lately and are just labeled as unexplained explosions or electrical issues.
The show actually opens with events three months later than where most of the series takes place. Initially we see a massive event taking place at the end of December with the four women going down to the contained moon and dealing with the Ghoul that's there and decidedly strange things happen across it. It has dialogue but most of what we get isn't helpful and the episode would normally be classified as a bad one if it wasn't so intriguing. This is done to provide a solid hook into the show and I think it works really well, since it then shifts to three months prior when the five women first arrive at Watcher's Nest to begin their training. One of them is set to become the new ace of the base as the current leader, Lyar, is moving up in position to something in the command chain. So she must work with and watch these five candidates to see which one will become the one.
The four are fairly standard stereotypes, and all quite chesty, that are mostly separated by hair color and then slowly by actual characters. As we learn, four of them were previously selected for such a duty but the fifth one, the younger blue haired Misaki, was from the reserves and was selected for some unknown reason. Through the training and diagnostics which cover most of these episodes, we start to see the spark that someone else saw in selecting her and for the most part we follow these five as they move through that training. Each of them slowly gets a bit more character so they're not complete stereotypes but the focus is heavily on Misaki, especially since she's the weakest of the five in her training and she's the one that ends up in the wrong areas at the wrong time. She ends up learning in a couple of bad ways about the Ghouls and it seems to get her even more motivated to do what has to be done because their introduction into her life seems to slowly unlock her real potential.
Talking about Divergence Eve is surprisingly difficult because it's built up in such a way, with the three timelines of the story being told, that so much neat information is revealed in subtle ways and much of the mystery still remains. Misaki's encounters with the Ghouls' come in different ways and each of them provides a different insight but also more mysteries. The encounters on the floor of the captured moon are the creepiest of them all but the tension of the one she encounters with the little girl is heart pounding. Beating all of them out though is a fascinating one when a sepular that appears aboard their descent craft and everyone gets introduced to the Ghoul in a very violent way. The revelations of the science and mystery behind the Watcher's Nest is seemingly done in such a slow and methodical way that works so well that I keep checking the credits each time to ensure I'm seeing Negishi's name there as this project is so unlike his past works.
The biggest hurdle I initially had with this show was the character designs but I was surprised at how little of a focus their massive breasts are really given all things told. They are prominent throughout – how can they not be – but outside of a couple of scenes where they seem to be saying "hey, lookit these!" they're not something that's really used on a constant basis. Taking them away and you're still left with some really good looking character designs. I love the uniforms for the trainees, even though they are just adult sized sailor suits, but they're just so nicely colorful and attractive that I'm willing to give on that much. Each of the characters is nicely distinct and the animation for the show is well budgeted as it looks great. The numerous panning sequences are just perfect and free of some of the problems that's usually associated with them, from stuttering stops and rolling motions that just look bad, none of that is here.
I had dreaded this release since I first heard it was picked up and had seen the character designs but by the end of the first episode, I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat for the bulk of the remaining four episodes. This series has managed to do things I didn't think Hiroshi Negishi was capable of doing anymore and the show has gone from being dreaded to very much anticipated. In a way, I've already been to the end of the series due to the way the first episode is done here but the rest of this journey and hopefully an epilogue will prove to be just as interesting as the start of the series is. I'm eager to see more but I'm cautiously optimistic.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening and Closing Animation, Production Sketches, Japanese Promo Spot, Divergence Eve Mini-Manga, Commentary with Carl Macek (ADR Director) / Kira Vincent David (Misaki) / Luci Christan (Prime) & John Swasey
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: A-
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 14 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Divergence Eve