Mezzo DSA Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, August 05, 2005
Release Date: Monday, July 18, 2005
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, who’s part of the Danger Service Agency (DSA), gets away with murder (literally). It’s a good thing too – because in the world of Mezzo, staying alive is never easy!
Mikura and her teammates – Harada, a gear happy engineer always ready for action with a high-tech toy, and Kurokawa, a bitter ex-cop with insider knowledge of the underworld – are always ready to take on any job that reeks of danger and mayhem! The DSA doesn’t waste any time with Mikura and friends on the case. Danger has never looked so good.
Girls, guns and tight fighting orange attire are the order of the day for Mezzo DSA, but is this series really as superficial as it first appears?
I watched the first disk of Mezzo alternating between the Japanese and English soundtracks and both of them are more than adequate. The Japanese soundtrack is in stereo only but everything comes across crisp and clean. The English soundtrack has been remixed into 5.1 and as such has more surround use for dialogue and sound effects. The thing that struck me most about both tracks though is that it actually sounds as if the voice actors were having a really good time with their characters, and even on the dub all of the actors also sound ‘right’ for their roles – something that I usually have a problem with.
Colourful is certainly one word that could be used to describe Mezzo, from Mikura’s rather tight orange suit and Harada’s unusual blonde punk hairstyle to the bright pink Volkswagen they drive, bright colours are the order of the day. With such vibrant colours being used I thought there would be a large amount of colour bleeding but I didn’t notice any. The only issue I did notice was an element of line noise in some scenes, although this was not particularly frequent or distracting. Mezzo also has its fair share of darker scenes, either set at night or inside dark abandoned buildings. The darker colours also come across well and contrast levels are excellent.
Subtitles are in the usual easy to read ADV yellow font and I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar mistakes.
The cover design for Mezzo has grown on me considerably since I first got the disk. Of course the cover just has to have Mikura taking centre stage in her tight fitting orange action attire, with Harada and Kurokawa shown in profile on either side of Mikura in bright yellow. It was this colour combination that really put me off initially, but after watching the show you realise how well the cover relates to the colours used in the show. Also on the cover are profile shots of one of the clients from the first episode as well as Asami crouching near the bottom of the cover. The back cover shows a series of screen shots from the show with the usual ADV information grid giving all the technical detail.
As is usually the case with ADV disks we also get an alternate reversible cover, which while not as colourful as the front cover still uses some bold colours. Against a backdrop of a blue wall we have Mikura (once again in her orange suit), standing next to Asami. Both girls have quite a cheeky grin on their faces and look like they’re about to spring into action. Appearing through a hole in the wall we have Harada and Kurokawa, this time in red and yellow respectively.
For the menu we have a static shot of Mikura in her orange outfit looking backwards with guns in both hands. The background to this is a blue wall (similar to the reversible cover) and through a hole in the wall is another shot of Mikura holding a gun ready for action. Blood spatters are shown on the wall and gun smoke / fog moves across the menu. Menu options are on the right hand side and are easily selected. The opening music accompanies the main and setup menus, and the closing music overlays the extras menu. All submenus continue with the blue wall theme with different characters appearing in the holes. Access times for all sub menus are nice and quick.
One of the first things I noticed about the extras menu was that it contains the URL for the advfilms.com website, which seemed a tad strange as ADV obviously have their own UK based site.
That aside the extras on Mezzo disk one are the bog standard basic fare that can be found on most anime DVD’s. The clean opening and closing animation are included as are a large number of production sketches. I must admit to liking the slide-show approach for ADV production sketches, it’s certainly effective and means you don’t have to keep the remote handy. ADV previews round off the extras with trailers for Aquarian Age, Divergence Eve, Chrono Crusade, Puni Puni Poemy and Sakura Diaries.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Mezzo DSA is the 13 part spin-of series from the OVA Mezzo Forte, featuring many of the same characters. Having not seen Mezzo Forte I was expecting to be a bit lost initially as I thought the series would start where Mezzo Forte left off. As it happens Mezzo DSA does do this, but also manages to re-introduce the characters for those viewers who are new without retreading old ground.
Mikua, Harada and Kurokawa make up the Danger Service Agency or DSA for short. If you want a job doing that’s a bit on the dangerous side they are the guys to do it – for the right price of course. While Mikura isn’t exactly the brains behind the operation she’s certainly the brawn, and is not averse to being in the thick of the action. The first episode opens in pretty spectacular fashion as Mikura and Harada are recovering a vial of some new wonder drug from some heavily equipped bad guys. The drug that they’ve been asked to retrieve is going to be used to get retribution for an old, but rather heinous crime, which kicks Mikura’s sense of justice into overdrive.
The second episode takes a more sci-fi bent with the DSA being employed by a local weather girl to find a new friend of hers who has mysteriously disappeared. However, this is not a straight forward missing person case, as the person who has disappeared is actually an alien who is on a mission to save the Earth from being drowned by continual rainfall. The DSA’s mission is made even more difficult by the appearance of a second alien who is also trying to track down the missing person to kill him. When the second alien also kidnaps the weather girl and holds her hostage the DSA are up against a seemingly invincible foe.
Episode three sees the DSA team involved in industrial theft without really knowing. A briefcase has been stolen from a research agency that contains a new type of bacterium. Mikura and Harada are to take to case to a remote location in order to pass it to another party, but unaware to them they are actually being set up for the theft. The briefcase actually contains a very dangerous bacterium that could start to infect people if the refrigeration unit build into the case breaks. Luckily for Mikura and Harada, Asami (a girl they rescued in the first episode) has seen the briefcase by chance before the criminals disguised it. It’s up to Kurokawa and Asami to make sure that the real bad guys get their comeuppance.
The next two episodes form a nice two parter, where we see the same investigation playing out from different viewpoints. With Mikura having a day off to go and catch up with an old friend, Kurokawa and Harada are left to follow a wife whose husband suspects her of adultery. During the course of the day whilst Kurokawa and Harada are following the wife, their paths cross with Mikura, although neither party is aware of this. It’s only when things come to an explosive end that they are brought together by totally unrelated circumstances. The first episode in this two parter follows the investigation from the viewpoint of Kurokawa and Harada, where the second episode focuses more on Mikura’s day as she meets up with an old friend who is not all she initially seems.
The idea of viewing the same / similar situation from different viewpoints is nothing new, but the execution of this in Mezzo is actually well done, and makes for an enjoyable two part episode. This episode also gives us a tiny bit of background as to how Kurokawa meet Mikura, and how she was before she joined the DSA. We also get a potential revelation about Mikura’s past although whether this will have any bearing on the series remains to be seen. The second episode of this two parter also references events that happened in Mezzo Forte, but don’t worry if you’ve not seen this as they are fairly self-explanatory.
While the episodes on the first disk are mostly standalone, they do have some recurring themes that are probably going to be explored in greater detail in future episodes. One of these is an assassin who is trying to kill Kurokawa; he’s had a couple of attempts so far, but Mikura has managed to foil these attempts either directly or indirectly. Who this is guy and what he’s got against Kurokawa is hopefully something we’ll get to see explained in future episodes.
While Mezzo might not be unique in the formula it’s working with, it’s certainly created some interesting characters. Mikura is definitely the lead character and she’s a lot of fun. A former street girl turned good, she’s got a very definite sense of right and wrong – unfortunately her definition of this seems to suit her own experiences. As a result of being a former street girl, Mikura really knows how to handle herself and in many of the fights easily gets the upper hand over the bad guys with her superior strength and fighting ability. Mikura’s not one to shirk away from one on one action if it means obtaining her goal. She’s also very abrupt, both in what she says and what she does and you really don’t want to get on her bad side.
Kurokawa’s the ex-cop who for some reason left the force and now works for the DSA. His knowledge of the underworld is of great help. While Kurokawa is obviously the ‘father’ of the group he’s not averse to putting the others in danger – especially when it means they can get money for more noodles. Harada completes the trio and is the guys who creates and supplies most of the gadgets that the team use. He also works alongside both Kurokawa and Mikura in the field, but his is mainly a support role. He’s an interesting looking character though, with his blonde punk hairstyle and facial tattoo. The last character is the young girl Asami, who Mikura and Harada rescued during the first episode. Because of this she’s developed a hero worship complex about Mikura and wants to become just like her.
As you might have gathered Mezzo is relatively violent – something that’s highlighted quite nicely in the catchy opening credit sequence. There are numerous hand-to-hand fights as well as quite a lot of gunplay. These sequences are done really well, with fluid movements and animation that really brings out the intensity of the fights. Mikura’s certainly not backwards at confronting the bad guys, and as a result we get plenty of blood spattered around the place. However it is rarely done completely gratuitously, and even though Mikura seems to have super human strength at times the fights are not totally unbelievable. Most of these fights also seem to occur in fairly abandoned places – old factories and hospitals so the overall destruction factor is usually quite high.
From watching the trailers for Mezzo, I got the impression that it could turn out to be a bit superficial, but I was wrong. So far it’s certainly not taken itself too seriously and the series has been quite entertaining, and certainly better than I really expected. While it probably won’t go into deep and meaningful territory the stage has been set to explore the characters a little more, and they are entertaining characters at that. Mezzo could probably be compared to Noir in premise, but as far as execution goes it rolls along at a much faster pace with a fair number of laughs along the way.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Production Sketches,Clean Opening and Closing Animation
Panasonic 42” Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2