IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, June 08, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2006



What They Say
Team Satomi is still in the running for the IGPX championship, but first they have to beat Team Sledge Mamma. That won't be easy because River is now the forward for Sledge Mamma and he knows all of Takeshi's moves. Will Takeshi be able to fight off River while trying to maintain control of his mecha with a virus sabotaging it?

Whoever wins is going on the final IG-1 finals to face the Cunningham Hume and Team Velshtein. In order to beat Velshtein, they're going to have to dodge their ultimate attack, the Indraga mano, which no one has survived.

The Review!
The final races of the season for the IG-1 crowd gets underway and underdog Team Satomi must battle its way to victory.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The full release has a good set of audio selections as there are 5.1 and stereo mixes for both Japanese and English. The Japanese 5.1 mix that we listened to is very solid and the kind of track you expect from Production IG in that there is a good deal of activity across the rear speakers and plenty of directionality with the forward soundstage. The mix in general is really good as it's very strong right from the opening song and through the various race/fight sequences, such as when they go through the hoops and around the loops. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either of the 5.1 language tracks.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Not unlike many other Production I.G. series, IGPX is a visual treat that takes the kind of work that they've done on Stand Alone Complex and shows that it can work with just about any other kind of show. The production values in the show are very apparent with the transfer here as the meshing of CG and animation looks fantastic, colors are beautifully vibrant and solid and there's a depth and feel to it that makes it feel so much more alive than many other series. While the Stand Alone Complex material is dark and beautiful, IGPX turns on the lights and shines it on a very interestingly animated world. The transfer here is spot on throughout and the only area where it's slightly off is some of the CG has some jaggies to it during various panning moments but these were only visible the closer I sat to the screen.

Packaging:
This volume mirrors the previous one pretty closely as it provides a mix shot of the racers with plenty of speed lines and effects flowing from it as well as a shot of the darkened inside where the pilot is. The layout is fairly standard but it does look good here if a touch more cartoonish than normal due to the speed effects applied to the racer. The back cover is lighter in tone as it has everything set against the wide open sky as it provides a decent summary of the premise. The discs features, episode titles and numbers as well as the extras are clearly listed but the technical grid is the usual minimal kind we get from Bandai releases " there isn't even any mention of the discs being an anamorphic widescreen release. No insert was included with this release.

Menu:
The menus, done by Littlehaus, are pretty decent with the main menu has about half of it given over to a waving CG checkered flag that has the navigation and logo on top of it while the rest plays out clips from the show through an interlaced style filter. The menus load nice and fast, the layout is quick and easy to use and I like that they did the language selection in that once you select something it's highlighted afterwards so you know that it took. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras for the release continue to be similar volume to volume which means we get some good stuff here. The third pilot episode is included here and again, seeing the differences in how each version of this series was approached is a fascinating insight into the creative process that we rarely get to see. There's a new commentary track by the CN producers that I can't quite get myself to listen to much of but the other new extra was much more interesting as it's a video interview with Mark Hamill. Of course, they do bring up the Star Wars questions which I guess just can't be avoided, but his talking about the voice over business in general and the approaches he's used on past series is always interesting to listen to.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
IGPX essentially ends the first half of the series (which in its English adaptation is often referred to as the end of season one, whereas the Japanese don't refer to the two halves as seasons) as the final two races it has to deal with come into play. With a rematch against the folks in Team Sledgemama as well as having to take on Team Velshtein one last time, Team Satomi has earned its reputation as the underdog who exceeds all expectations.

As key as the races are to this volume, there is a good bit of time spent again with the characters which helps make this series much more than it could be otherwise. In a lot of ways this is no different than a lot of the team sports shows that come over since they work through a similar methodology so there's a lot of appeal in that as these kinds of feel good shows are enjoyable within the mix of other releases. And as feel good as they do get at times, they are filled with challenges and emotional moments that help create some great moods to it. The relationship side of the show is kept fairly minimal but still fun to watch as we get to see the growing relationship between Fantine and Takeshi. It's not often we see members of competing teams to get into relationships since it's more often members of their own team so this is a nice change of pace and it's fun to watch their racing partners tease them about this.

Watching the two of them go through their slightly awkward relationship, made more so by Takeshi's lack of understanding that he's now a visible personality who will be sought after in public, is one of the highlights of this volume since they get to go around the city while trying to avoid being seen, we get to learn more about the lay of the land and how important IGPX and its racers are to folks. While this would otherwise be a normal date with probably some minorly amusing bits about fame, it actually starts leading into something more interesting as a group of thugs make some concerted efforts to take down Takeshi and make sure he's really roughed up. This is kept as an open plot point that gets revealed later on as to its true meaning and paints a dark portrait of some fans.

The racing side of this volume is probably some of the best so far. The race against Team Sledgemama has a great edge to it as it's now the first time that River and Takeshi get to go head to head against each other since River's defection. In fact, since River left the team, Team Satomi has had a much more balanced and peaceful feel among its members and doesn't have that edge of tension that River kept bringing into it. That said, their race is one that reveals more about River in a positive way than I would have imagined and helped to turn his character into a slightly more interesting one. He'd drawn the short end of the stick since being on Team Satomi due to Takeshi's innate skill so seeing him able to not only perform but to finally really show his passion is a real plus.

In Summary:
IGPX continues to be a fun show and I have to admit that I really like the mixture of the racing and combat that the whole premise brings to the table. The combination of the CG and animation works really well and any initial fears I had about the co-production being too westernized have long since disappeared. IGPX isn't a show that's going to make a huge long term impact but when it's on and I'm watching it, it's a really fun piece of work with great animation, interesting characters and just good fun entertainment.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,IGPX Pilot Episode 3, Commentary Track,Interview with Mark Hamill

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: IPGX: Immortal Grand Prix