Votoms, Armored Trooper Stage 2: Kummen Jungle Wars (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, April 06, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2006
What They Say
After the fall of Uoodo City, renegade Armored Trooper pilot Chirico Cuvie travels to the jungles of Kummen where he signs on as a mercenary in a bloody civil war. When he discovers the guiding hand of the sinister Secret Society behind the conflict, Chirico is swept up in a whirlwind of battles that not only reunite him with Fyana, but also bring him face to face with his deadliest opponent yet: Ypsilon " a fierce Perfect Soldier with a score to settle! Contains Episodes 14-27 on 2 DVDs.
Having made it through the dark pit that was Uoodo, Chirico continues his journey in the jungle country of Kummen.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese and that's all that's on here anyway. The show is a pretty basic stereo mix that has hardly anything truly noticeable in a directionality way since it's rather old. The mix is very full feeling in how it comes across though there are some areas where it can be faked a bit if you've got a large setup and your ears pick up both speakers in different ways. It is a good sounding mix overall though and it avoids problems such as dropouts or distortions. A few high notes here and there touch a little scratchiness but it's so minimal across the entire run it's barely a blip.
Originally airing back in 1983, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ration. While CPM has cleaned up this release and it is certainly better than the NuTech release from a few years ago due to it being a clean print with no burned in subtitles, it's not quite as clean and solid as the Japanese full remaster that was done a few years back. That said, this is still probably the best the show has looked in its various US releases and overall is something that people who watch any amount of older shows will find looks great. The main area that's noticeable throughout the print is either the grain or the nicks and dirty on the print. The grain for me was less of an issue since I like how it gives it a more film like feel and with the bold colors such as Chirico's red uniform, it adds a certain softness to it that helps. The nicks and dirt on the print, which is very much cleaned up overall, is still there though and can certainly be a problem for some. Like the grain, I have to admit that it almost adds a certain charm and it's something that I do expect to see on something in the anime world that's from the early 80's. A cleaner print would definitely be better but I can't begrudge this one for how it looks much.
I've got mixed feelings about the packaging for this release but since this isn't the final packaging for it I'm not sure how much of an issue I want to make out of it. It is final in the sense that this is it and I've got what was released to retail, but at the end of the run there will be the box that it all goes in and the issues with the digipak become a non-issue. Essentially, the standalone digipak is good overall but without any kind of closure on it or way to latch it shut, it feels incomplete and prone to problems, such as the coupon falling out of it constantly or discs sliding out. The front artwork for the package has a good shot of one of the Scopedogs in action with fire and a ships interior behind it while the new logo sits overheard which looks really good. Each set is marked by both a stage number and what particular area it takes place in. The back cover has a strip of shots from the show down along the left while the space to the right provides a few choice quotes and information about the creators as well as a decent summary paragraph for it. The discs features are clearly listed though the technical information is a bit hard to find in the fine print below. The digipak opens to provide to plastic trays where the discs reside and other than the coupon that's it.
The menu layout is nicely done with the top and right side having line artwork of the Scopedogs where the top has the logo and the right side has the standard navigation section that we see on most CPM releases. The rest of the menu is given over to a series of animated clips under a grid overlay that looks nicely done as almost a minute's worth of vocal music plays along to it. It's certainly far better than what we got with the NuTech releases and it's all nicely in theme here between font and layout. Access times are nice and fast and with there being only one language available here, player presets are pretty much moot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the second set of episodes from the Armored Trooper VOTOMS series, the show has moved through the first two arcs and made it halfway through the entire run. The series is well laid out in that there are four distinct arcs to cover with pretty strong markers where things change over which makes it very easy to package as well as to take in a particular storyline in its total. The Kummen arc follows the Uoodo arc and shifts the scene considerably from the dark interior of that city and its ragtag gangs to a jungle warfare setting.
Taking places three months after he escaped from Uoodo City, Chirico has found himself working alongside with the mercenary side of the army in the Kingdom of Kummen. The country is an oddity in that it's an autonomous region outside of Melkia and has managed to keep its independence throughout the hundred years war that had gone on. The country hasn't been devastated like much of the rest of the planet as we've seen in the first arc but it's a very backwater place. The kingdom has found itself now in a civil war due to the way the royalty has decided to make changes in the nature of its make-up. Instead of continuing to work through the traditional ways, the king and most of the family has decided to make a move forward to becoming an industrialized nation that could potentially help everyone. One of the princes through wants to keep to the old ways and has gained a strong following which has led to the war that's now in place.
Amusingly, Chirico easily falls in with the royalty side's military movement as its made up of a lot of mercenaries which has allowed him to blend in quite well. Along the way he finds himself in a sizeable camp which actually is a decent sized village that has a number of real buildings to it, including a bar/restaurant that's owned by Gotho and has Vanilla and Coconna employed there. They managed to get out of Uoodo as well and provide some good threads from Uoodo to shift over to this arc. While they do make appearances throughout, they're not as strong as they were during the first arc but they do help out at key moments and provide some sort of semblance of friends for Chirico during his adventures here.
Chirico spends most of his time dealing with the mercenary crew he's working with, which includes a somewhat cocky veteran type as the captain named Kan Yu who doesn't like listening to others. He's the military type who believes he knows exactly what needs to be done and nobody else has a real clue. He and Chirico butt heads continually which is amusing at times but the story shifts a bit when Chirico realizes that the renegade prince is working with those from Uoodo who were in charge of the Perfect Soldier program. The chance that Fyanna survived and that he can get closer to her again is now paramount in his approach which leads him to taking some chances along the way. But things aren't as smooth as it could be when he finds out that another Perfect Soldier named Ypsilon is working with Fyanna but he's not quite the prototype she is. His level of hate is much stronger and when set to find and kill Chirico he takes it to heart and the two end up in a number of solid action sequences throughout the arc.
The Kummen arc is a lot of fun after how the Uoodo arc played out where so much of it was underground in dank places as well as having to do so much setup in general with character interactions and motivations. Even better, the Kummen arc doesn't really have anything in the way of recaps or real filler as everything is working towards the story goal of putting Chirico on the path to finding Fyanna and picking up where they left off. The setting change alone adds a good new element to it since it brings in more varied locales and then we also get the mercenary crew that Chirico spends a lot of time with after establishing his place with them. While they don't have the camaraderie of some teams, particularly with Kan Yu as the captain, it's a small but amusing group with distinct reasons for what they do and why they're fighting in the war.
With continuing background storylines from the first arc making its way through here as well as the overall plan of those behind the Society with their Perfect Soldiers, VOTOMS moves forward with some interesting revelations, lots of action and plenty of scenes of Chirico in those big red pants that you would think would make him a huge target in the jungle. The Kummen arc plays in some interesting political aspects as it gets further into the show and the military side from Uoodo gets involved but overall this is a solid and fun jungle military adventure that's a bit over the top at times and hard to believe that these kinds of mecha could work in there but it sets the stage for the next arc just right as it goes forward. It's definitely a show that is showing its age but taken in context from when it was released and what it could do at the time, this is a good fun action piece.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI 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: C+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 350
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Votoms, Armor Trooper