Votoms, Armored Trooper Stage 3: Deadworld Sunsa (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, July 24, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2006
What They Say
After their escape from the Kummen Jungle Wars, Chirico and Fyana find themselves trapped on board a space battleship bound for the war-ravaged planet Sunsa with Ypsilon and the Secret Society hot on their heels. Unable to alter their course, they fight a desperate running battle...but soon discover that Sunsa's burning, airless deserts are no safe haven. As Chirico hurtles toward his showdown with Ypsilon, none are aware of the devastating revelation that awaits him! Contains Episodes 28-39 on 2 DVDs
Moving into the third stage, new revelations come about that change the perspective of how this battle is being fought by Chirico.
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 this set has a new shot of one of the Scopedogs that the Red Shoulder's use as it has, well, a red shoulder on it, and it's once again set in front of a flame filled background along with the technology. This is one of the weaker looking versions of the Scopedogs but then again these suits aren't exactly made to be slick looking. 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)
Though it may seem forced at times with how this series is really built into very specific arcs, it does work out well when it comes to packaging it up and in releasing it so that you're able to take in a full piece and build it upon what came before nicely. This third arc brings us to the Deadworld Sunsa arc where the scenery changes once more but the characters only get more complex and interesting.
In fact, the changes of the scenery do a good deal in affecting how everything in each individual arc really feels. In Uoodo, the cramped interior nature of the city and its more technological bent even in its somewhat post apocalyptic feel was great and really defined the opening of the show in how Chirico was alone and up against huge mysterious unknown. When it shifted to the Kummen jungles, we got a movement to a lot more lush life in the backgrounds and plenty of skylines and fights that involved some interesting ruins and even some aerial movements. It opened up the show nicely in that we went from closed quarters to something more expansive and on the move. Just as with both of those arcs, Chirico makes his way at the end of those storylines to someplace new and it happens once more at the end of the Kummen arc.
In the flight from Kummen, Chirico and Fyana get some good time together to explore the ship that they're on which is mysteriously set to provoke Chirico in a number of ways. On almost all of the monitors, there's imagery flashing through it whenever Chirico is around that shows a number of missions that the Red Shoulder's have engaged in and the amount of damage, destruction and chaos caused by them. The brutality of the Red Shoulder's becomes all the more apparent and Chirico starts wondering just how much Fyana's opinion of him is changing, pushing him into being more of a loner. This trip also allows the show to once again bring about a couple of episodes of mixed flashbacks to the first two arcs of the series. While it's annoying to have so much flashback material, they do at least mix it in with new material so that it's not just a straight flashback.
Their journey brings them to an interesting place, a section of space that's somewhat of a cease fire zone between Balarant and Melkia. While there shouldn't be anything going on in there, it's not exactly quiet as Chirico and Fyana are being pursued by the group that now controls Ypsilon and the Balarant patrols are intent on finding out what's going on when they catch word that there are Perfect Soldier's involved in what's going on. Though it's not the best way to do things, Chirico ends up forcing their ship to crash into one of the smaller worlds surrounding a gas giant and they work at keeping from being captured by either side that comes down to check things out.
This leads to a number of lengthy and detailed chase and battle sequences as the forces looking to capture Chirico and Fyana work to get them. Chirico has some serious history to Sunsa so his being there doesn't help his state of mind much. Add in that it is a dead world with no oxygen and that gives it a really good atmosphere in that you're able to see the gas giant in the background continually or the blackness of space as they run about the ruins of the world. Chirico's fight to survive and understand what's going on with Fyana and the Perfect Soldiers in general has an amusing snag this time as a woman who lost her family due to Chirico's acts, or those of the Red Shoulder's in general to be more specific, has her on a quest to kill him. Of course, Chirico has something of a conscience to him now so he doesn't just outright kill her but it's almost crueler in the way their relationship plays out throughout here.
The inclusion of the Balarant forces doesn't expand much on the previous war but it is interesting to see that Rochina is apparently something of a really duplicitous agent as he seemingly works for everyone at one point or another, though mostly he seems to work for himself more than anyone else. His interest in the Perfect Soldier concept is one that is carried over to Balarant as well but it's hard to tell if he's really working in their interest or not. His move to their side does get some play on the Melkian side as it's what motivates them more seriously to get involved in what's going on in Sunsa. Rochina does seem to have more of a deep understanding of everything that's going on and after he gets through manipulating everyone to his plans, he's able to tweak Chirico just enough so that he sets off at the end towards the planet Quent where we'll supposedly get all our answers about who Chirico really is that are raised in this arc.
Each arc in the VOTOMS series moves Chirico forward on his quest to figure out what the Perfect Soldier concept is all about. While it's origins are still a mystery he's finding that he may have a closer connection to all of it than he thought and he's given the knowledge he needs through his actions on Sunsa to start figuring it all out. Similar to the previous arcs there are a lot of extended fight scenes throughout and plenty of chases going on as well as characters that probably shouldn't appear in this arc showing up, like Pops and Vanilla. That said, Sunsa is a lot of fun as it moves to a new setting and pushes Chirico to really get serious about what's going on.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI 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: 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: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Votoms, Armor Trooper