Ellcia (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, September 29, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2006



What They Say
The Sacred Book of the land of Eija has been rediscovered and with it the legends of a mysterious and all powerful ship. Now Princess Crystal of Megaronia has set forth on a quest to recover the ship and its ultimate weaponry. All that stands between her and total domination of the world is a small group of piratical misfits.

The Review!
When a prophecy is discovered about the balance of power shifting in the world, some make light of it while others fear the worst. In the middle of it all is a ragtag band of pirates who are much more than any of them realize.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The OVA isn't all that expansive with the stereo mix that it was done in so what we get is a fairly mild and not all that impressive mix where it feels a bit flat and lifeless through the center channel. It has a rather full feel at times but that's weak in general but it is essentially how it was done at the time. The mix is clean and clear though and it doesn't have any noticeable problems during playback. As a plus, not only is there a decent English mix featuring some voice actors that haven't been heard in an age, but there is also a Spanish mix.

Video:
Originally released to video back in 1992 and 1993, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this are fairly decent but its age is showing. The transfer is in good shape for the most part but you can see some nicks and scratches throughout and a fair bit of dust and dirt in some scenes, but more so you can things like fingerpints and paint strokes much more easily. There's a mild level of grain to it and that's resulting in a fair bit of noise throughout, both in foreground and background animation. It's a bit more "alive" than a lot of shows of this vintage but not outrageously so. Essentially, some of the issues that seem to be common to older shows and traditional animation are evident here but there aren't any really big deal breakers involved. Fans of the show will find this to be about on par to the VHS releases though a bit sharper and with many more features.

Packaging:
The cover art is a bit minimal but it works fairly well for the release and has that fantasy edge to it that might catch a few eyes. Featuring a good shot of Eira with the start of some tears, it has some really nice detail to it and the colors are very vibrant and eye-catching. The framing of it is a bit hard to notice but it ties it all together very nicely and has that bit of old school feel to it but still sharp. The back cover keeps the style with the orange shaded marble like backgrounds where we have a few stills from the episodes and a bit of artwork of the key sword to the storyline. The summary covers things pretty well, though it omits a name or two I would have expected to see talked about, and it also covers the production and technical side cleanly as well. The running time sort of confuses me though as the four episodes all run close to thirty-five minutes each, something fairly standard for OVAs of this time period, but the technical lists it as one hundred total. Even doing a one hundred and twenty would have been closer but looking at most sites that list information about the show, they talk of episodes being fifty minutes a pop. Expecting the show to be over at the usual twenty-five minute mark per episode will have you feeling like you're getting more than you thought or that you might have nodded off and missed the end credits for the episode you were on.

Menu:
Utilizing some of the character artwork from the cover and adding in a more expansive background image, the menu for this looks quite good as it frames it nicely and the layout is simply but effective. Tied with a bit of somber music that plays at the standard interval, it's a touch stretched and a bit lighter than the printed version but it looks good and fits the shows mood quite well. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
As included on the VHS release, the only extra on the DVD is the production portfolio gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the very few releases left from their VHS catalog that hasn't transitioned over yet, Ellcia has finally gotten a release and it makes out pretty good here overall. The full four episode OVA series is on one disc and it gets the added benefits of having soft subtitles, something we mostly take for granted these days, and three different audio tracks to meet the needs of a diverse audience. With its self contained story and fairly quick progression of events that would make it ideal for being condensed into movie form, Ellcia is a decent quick fix in the fantasy vein.

The concept running around Ellcia isn't exactly original and you can imagine plenty of influence from a show like Record of Lodoss War given the vintage of this and other similar shows from this time. With a grand introduction of how the world was formed and romantic ideas of a particular gods fingers being cut off to form four islands, the world is a diverse place. A lot of this changed though when the people of Megaronia, under King Nabosu, discovers a boatload of technology from a lost civilization that had been buried centuries before. With access to all of this power, they've become the dominant force of the land as they now have armored battleships and weapons that are centuries ahead of everyone around them.

While Nabosu has done a decent job of basically conquering as much ground as he can, he's also made sure that those various kingdoms on the four finger islands are all disbanded and under his control. With decades of rule under him, the old man is now somewhat nuts and completely secure in his belief that his power and technology gives him an unlimited rule. The arrival of a book with a prophecy about the downfall of this kingdom through the hands of a mysterious single person known only as the Chosen One does nothing to make him cower. He simply can't believe that a single person would be able to accomplish anything. His daughter, Princess Crystel, feels differently though and is able to take up arms and forces in search of this person who is believed to be among a group of pirates that operate to the south.

Crystel's got her own plans though, as she simply can't wait for her father to die and presumably take over. She intends to do things by force and ensure her own rule is not that of simple transition. If she can use the power that the Chosen One has and redirect it to her own needs, she'll be able to take care of two problems with one solution. This gives her the impetus to really figure out who this Chosen One is. To the viewer, it's plainly obvious the minute we meet the crew of the ship (well, if the cover didn't give it away!) as there are only one or two seemingly normal people involved. Some day they'll take one of the short, crazy and weird characters and install them as king in a story. The mildly diverse crew has its own quirks, from one of them being a former member of royalty that's simply trying to survive to the Amazonian woman warrior whose eyes simply creep you out after awhile. The ship that they ride, the Ellcia, is what takes them on this journey as they make their way about their lives only to find themselves suddenly wrapped up in an epic story.

Or at least that's the idea. I'm admittedly a bit jaded in this since it's a fairly common fantasy tale, even one tinged with technology. I can't count the number of fantasy novels I read in my younger days that essentially play out like this, both better and worse. It's also something that was a bit more common fifteen to twenty years ago in the anime world and Ellcia feels like another one in that line. Usually there's something in the various shows that helps it to stand out more than the others but for this one it seems like the mix of technology is the only piece they wanted to use. Ellcia comes across as somewhat bland and entirely predictable. When the major characters take the stage it's not a bad show, but when it focuses on the minor characters of the pirate crew and sticks with them for a bit you just can't wait for it to finish out. And I'll say it again, that amazon woman's eyes are just creepy. It's a really bad design.

The rest of the designs fall into standard roles though there are a few nice twists here and there. Eira herself has a nice twist in the way her hair is done with a blossom of red in the front while the rest is a dirty blonde with pigtails. You have to love a lead heroine who has pigtails. Crystel is also another nice mild twist in that while she does exude some sexuality in her clothes, she's got something of a butch thing going with the short cropped red hair and her masculine stances. But these are some of the only areas where it stands out and even that isn't all that much. The characters otherwise feel like they could be interchangeable with any number of other shows.

In Summary:
While ADV Films does have a fair bit of titles still left to the VHS catalog and most of those I doubt we'll ever see again on any format, Ellcia has managed to make the grade nearly nine years after DVDs debut. Getting an older show back on the market isn't easy and certainly finding the rights owners of something this far back is problematic, but it's intriguing to see it as a piece of evolution in the anime world. With this being an early show done by JC Staff, it's quite a difference from what they work on today but you can still see some of their methods in there. Fans of Ellcia will definitely love this release and those who need a fantasy/technology fix will feel right at home. Beyond that, this is a much harder sell to the mainstream just because of its age alone. It definitely deserved a release though, particularly for those that have longed to upgrade their tapes.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,Spanish 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Portfolio

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray 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: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ellcia