Aquarian Age: The Movie (Standard Edition) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2005



What They Say
From MADHOUSE, the studio that brought you Metropolis, Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D, and X, with character designs by Haruhiko Mikimoto (Macross, Gundam), comes a tale of power and war where the fate of the world hangs on the brink.

Mayumi, the peaceful daughter of an E.G.O. leader, has never been able to come to terms with her faction’s mission or her psychic abilities. Everything changes when, in the middle of a horrific attack on Earth, a mysterious boy named Hokuto appears. Mayumi is suddenly infused with a power she’s never felt before.

The Review!
With the release of a new Trading Card Game, an OVA "movie" was created to help bolster and cross-promote the growing franchise.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for it is quite good and very enveloping throughout the show in both the dialogue sections which has characters moving all around the forward soundstage but also in the action effects which are equally as active. With the show being heavy on action sequences the forward soundstage gets a nice workout during a lot of this and it's a pleaser. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released to video in 2003, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The presentation of this show is one that reminds me just how different OVAs used to look from regular TV series in that the animation is such a cut above the standard, so fluid and active, that it really does stand out as something special and something to be really enjoyed. Whereas most shows and a lot of OVAs tend to have more static moments in them these days, this feature is full of motion and the vast majority of it is just very slick looking and fresh and vibrant. The colors really stand out here and avoid problems like gradient visibility or over saturation while maintaining a mostly solid feel throughout the presentation. If you upconvert via your player, you may find much more noticeable chroma noise in it but as the show was only intended for 480p authoring it's not something I'll hold against it. For most people, this will be a very lush and gorgeous transfer that really shines with colors and detail.

Packaging:
The cover artwork for the release is really attractive as it uses something akin to a theatrical poster layout with the cast of characters in great detail and style but with silver foil that perfectly accentuates the right parts of it. This is just a really gorgeous piece of artwork and one I'm going to have to find out if there is a poster for or not. The back cover provides a few shots of characters from the show in a nicely designed layout along one side while the other half is given over to a lengthy summary on the premise and a few promotional words about it. The discs production information is clearly listed and some of the on disc extras without much detail to them. The discs features are listed in a line along the bottom but it's not too clear on some of the material since it doesn't specify the languages themselves or the kind of video it is. Synch-Point again excels with their booklets and while not as thick as FLCL it's just as rich. It provides information about where this show stands in the grand scheme of things and what it's all about, it has two epilogue stories that follow-up from events in the show and it also provides several pages of character profiles and sketches. The card game itself merits a few pages with pictures and concepts and one page provides a breakdown and credit section for the soundtrack. The opening song is provided in both romaji and English and the back of the book provides a cast and crew summary with bilingual credits for the cast.

Menu:
With a brief loop of action paced instrumental music to it, the main menu and layout to this show looks good. The background is a slow moving wave of water with sparkling stars throughout it while over it you have a character close-up shot of Mayumi as well as spheres that highlight the different symbols of the various factions in this release. The navigation is standard and easy to use and access times are nice and fast. There are some transitional animations throughout the menus but they're fairly short and they blend very well and fit the release just right. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
This release has a good set of on-disc extras though I'll say that some of them are awful teases. The main extras come in the form of the standards like the image gallery which has some gorgeous concept sketches as well as the textless versions of the opening and ending sequences. After that, the more curious extras come in. There are four bonus videos which are basically different ways the franchise has been promoted, such as for the card game itself in which new animation was produced just for that. The tease is that it's done in regular TV style and if you didn't know any better (since none of these videos are subtitled), you start wondering if there was a TV series you missed. These are very interesting to watch and they provide a mix of animation from different sources as well as some good music but they're all just really expanded commercials in their own way. The other extra, and I couldn't help but laugh during parts of it, is the tutorial that shows you how to play the card game. This is a Japanese produced extra showing people there how to play as well as some footage from the tournaments but it's overdubbed and has some subtitles to it. This is no different than you'd really expect from a kids tutorial for any kind of card game and it's just very campy and amusing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Aquarian Age The Movie, which is really called Aquarian Age Saga II ~Don't Forget Me~, is an OVA released in 2003 that complements the release of the Saga II trading card game release which moves the property to the next level by introducing a new enemy as it eliminates the old one. For fans of the card game property, they will likely get far more out of this than anyone else. Those who have seen the TV series which is based on the first series, there isn't any crossover in characters with this particular release but just knowing the basics of how it all works from there will make this all the more enjoyable. Those of you going into this without any background, well, what you'll get is a beautifully animated series of exciting fight scenes combined with good music that has little meaning.

The premise of this OVA is fairly simple and direct and I really look at it as a huge love letter to the fans of the card game, this is a big gift to them and it really does show. It opens with the end of the first Saga as the various factions on Earth have come together at long last to fight against the biggest of their enemies, the alien Erasers race which has run roughshod over the planet and destroyed much of the cities. The final fight takes place in New York City and it's visually stunning as this humanoid whitish creature the size of the Empire State Building battles against the most powerful of the factions in a final battle. It is all resolved quick though and before we know it, the Erasers are no more as they flee to their homeworld. They've left and awful set of ruins on Earth though and most major cities are in shambles.

It flashes forward to a year later and Mayumi of E.G.O. has returned to New York with her friend Hikaru to view the progress being made on rebuilding. The country is in ruins and there's background chatter about hopes for the economy recovering but watching things it shows the strange dynamic of those in these situations as the city is half in shambles while new high towers are built. Fresh markets are even more prevalent now among the damaged streets but the people seem happy and hopeful for the future. The energy that can be felt here is invigorating to Mayumi as it shows there's hope in humanity and that they can survive what's happened all while clinging to her na´ve hope that there will be no more wars.

Naturally, things don't happen that way and while in New York the arrival of a new power starts the spiral of destruction all over again. To her surprise, a young boy provides the first look at it by showing her the changing skies and suddenly a fleet of dragons and other beasts have taken to the air and chaos ensues. Mayumi finds herself deep in it as her powers are awakened to a level she's never felt before and she does all she can to fend off the enemy and its seeming commander, a powerful looking woman riding one of the biggest dragons. Through this and with her brief talk with the boy, she learns that the Emperor of the Polestar Empire has decided to conquer Earth and subjugate all of the weak people there as they should be. The lad does encourage Mayumi to fight and expand her powers to their fullest though and to take on the Emperor. This is a theme repeated several more times as the boy shows up among others locations around the world.

The other factions of Earth find themselves facing problems where they are from the Polestar Empire as well, mostly as people long thought dead have come back to life under their control and seeking revenge. Stella of the Wiz-Dom group finds herself up against some form of Lancelot and a slew of soldiers, Alucard of Darklore has a rematch with Hannibal and the Arayashiki face off against an old Asian general who intends to light the lands on fire and purge the people. All of these events progress in similar ways with similar pushes that bring the factions back together to tackle the one bringing all of this evil upon the world.

This OVA is at its core one really long series of fight sequences. Normally that would be tiresome but the visual quality to it here combined with the different characters and factions all getting nearly equal screen time and having plenty of material to it really allows it to flow well. It does help having some background from the TV series since you know the basics of the groups, but really, this is just pure eye-candy through and through. The battles are all quite varied with different creatures and powers filling the role. While I hated the way Lancelot kept calling out Stella's full name, the visuals of Stella using her powers was beautiful. Equally impressive is the sequences with the dashing Alucard and Miharu as they fought off Hannibals attacks. These fights pull no punches either. From a horses head being sliced off and landing a dozen feet away to an entire war elephant being sliced up and literally falling apart in front of them, it's brutal at times and doesn't hold back.

And while it is fairly standard, I will say that I found Mayumi to be the most interesting of the characters in watching her fight. She goes from the standard fairly stereotype character of a young woman with immense power that's not unlocked and without any reason to really fight to someone who has it all together and knows exactly why she's doing such things. It's just that visually, with such great character designs and animation applied to it, you get a really strong sense from it that sucks you into it. When she finally gets mad and unleashes her powers, she doesn't hold back, including one disturbing scene of flying right into the dragons mouth and yanking its insides out. Again, this is all pure eye candy but it is just very well done.

In Summary:
The appeal of this particular OVA is somewhat limited I think but the entire release from start to finish just screams quality. I've enjoyed the TV series and can make the easy leaps in the story to enjoy this, plus having friends who are somewhat hardcore into the overall property that have talked about it with me over the last few months makes it easy to deal with all of this and enjoy it. I wish more OVAs were done this way both visually and in story terms since it does give fans what they want instead of more of the same as the series they're spawned from. The Aquarian Age movie release is a great piece of work though and fans of the property will love this from start to end.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Creditless Opening and Ending ,Aquarian Age Trading Card Game Tutorial Featurette ,Japanese video promotions for the Aquarian Age Trading Card Game ,Illustration Gallery featuring the art of the Aquarian Age Trading Card Game ,Bonus Aquarian Age Information Booklet with character profiles; faction information; soundtrack notes and story epilogues

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 480p, 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: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Synch-Point
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Aquarian Age