IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, November 27, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What They Say
After a devastating attack by Team White Snow, Amy is sent to the hospital and grounded for two races. In their next race against Velshtein, the legendary Rocket G takes Amy's place. The Rocket may not be in the same shape as he was in his prime, but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Meanwhile, Takeshi is in a mental slump that is affecting his racing and his relationship with Fantine. Takeshi may lose more that just the race against Team Skylark if he doesn't break out of it. Amy's leg is healed in time for their race against Sledgemama, but is she really ready to get back on the track?

The Review!
Moving effortlessly through three new races and some character issues, IGPX continues to be an engaging and simply fun series.

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.

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.

Still using the mixed layout of having the racers and their equipment done in a split format, we get some good looking artwork of the racer in its action mode as well as the headshot of the character. Unlike the previous cover, this one is a bit smoother and not quite so bothersome on the eyes as the racer is done up in silvers and blues that are a bit muted. 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.

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.

Unsurprisingly as the series gets closer to the end, the extras continue to get less and less. This volume provides only the fifth Pilot Episode of the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the challenges that most competitive sports teams and individuals encounter at some point comes across in this volume. Having made their way into the IG-1 at the beginning of the series and winning in the first season, they have to deal with maintaining that position. Some people thrive on this but others find the thrill only in trying to achieve something new.

For Takeshi, this becomes some of the thrust of these episodes as he basically hits a slump where the feelings he had for the IGPX aren't what they once were. He's accomplished some amazing things in his career and he's also learned some surprising secrets. The revelation of who Rocket George was likely helped to move a bit of the fairy tale nature from his mind and gave the entire thing more of a real world feel. But it's the races themselves that, while not exactly boring him as they continue to be challenging, don't inspire and incite him to the kinds of tricks and maneuvers that he would perform in previous ones.

This becomes even more apparent when the team takes a serious hit while racing against White Snow. The black sheep of the IG-1 now, we haven't seen too much about them but not only do they look unfriendly they apparently play very dirty as well. The race from the previous volume concludes with a very nasty move by them that leaves Amy incapacitated and in the hospital. She'll be out of the races for at least the next two or three and is forced to face her own issues because of it. The White Snow secret move of using their opponents' machines against themselves is a brutal one that would scar almost anyone.

With Amy down, losing a couple of races will put them pretty far between and place undue pressure on Amy to get better quicker. The option of fighting with a two man team of Takeshi and Liz isn't likely to happen either as they're fighting like cats and dogs, mostly due to Takeshi's mid season slump. What's surprising is that Andrei actually does suggest that he revives his old Rocket George self and rejoin the races until Amy is better. Andrei's been an interesting and amusing character since the start, providing that bit of old man wisdom alongside the other mechanics. Seeing him getting back into the saddle and competing with the younger kids is just a lot of fun. The banter manages to work as does the interplay between him and the other teams when he takes to the track.

The character interactions throughout this volume are entertaining as well. Takeshi and Fantine go through some changes as his sour mood hits her. Some couples are able to work through this easily, but often it's a matter of time and being used to the kinds of moods that someone has. With these two being so new still and not having a lot of time with each other, Fantine easily interprets everything as being about her in some way but also sees it as a chance to become someone more. While Takeshi has plenty to deal with, one of the best moments for him was seeing him deal with his frustration with Andrei through the practice swords. But like what happens with Amy and her dealing with coming back to the track, it doesn't get a huge amount of time but just enough to get it all done.

The visuals of the show are an area that still proves to be a lot of fun. Though the "matrix-like" moments of slowing down the action and shifting around it some may seem trite, the movements of the racers and their machines are often so fast that it's good to see the detail and technique used. The animation in general is very solid and like most Production I.G. shows it just has such a great feel to it. There's a certain flow to it that's appealing and the meshing of the CG into all of it is almost seamless.

In Summary:
IGPX I think unfortunately gets something of a bad rap because of the involvement of the Cartoon Network folks. The end result of that interaction is something that's just a lot of fun though. Heavy on the action but not ignoring the characters and their interactions, the show just flies by and is highly entertaining. It's got some strong visuals and there hasn't been any really noticeable dip in quality throughout it. This volume works the crew through some interesting but mild conflicts while still keeping the action intense and the races fun. While it may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's still a series I can't help but recommend.

Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,IGPX Pilot Episode 5

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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: 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