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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, December 05, 2006



What They Say
Team Satomi has finally matured into a team that has learned to optimize the use of speed and teamwork. They're also going to need a little luck to beat Velshtein and get to the IG-1 Finals. Waiting for them at the Finals is Team White Snow who wants to totally crush Takeshi by any means, including using dirty tricks.

Their midfielder, Max, is revealed to be a child prodigy hacker responsible for Satomi's software problems. Luckily, Satomi has the ultimate in anti-viral protection: their feline teammate, Luca! But White Snow still has one last trick up their sleeve!

The Review!
Finishing out the race with Velshtein, IGPX pushes hard and fast into the race against White Snow which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

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:
The seventh volume of the series breaks tradition by not doing the sort of corner split imagery but rather puts the headshots of all the racers from Team Satomi along the top half while their machines race below them. The character artwork is decent but the IG artwork just looks a bit cartoonish compared to previous covers and in comparison to the actual show, leaving this a very weak entry in an already mild series of covers. 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 this volume are pretty basic in that the include the opening and closing sequences in clean format and the trailer for the PS2 game based on the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If there's going to be one true failing to the series release in my eyes, it's that it ended up as a seven volume release. The shows launch on home video was problematic in that they were trying to appeal to two different markets since they wanted the lower priced dub-only version to go out to mass market retailers, which was quickly shelved when interest proved minimal. The regular version ending up on seven discs means we get the final three episodes by themselves which leaves it all feeling quite anticlimactic.

The race against Velshtein was fairly intense in the previous volume but it ends within the first half of the first episode here as they have to move on to taking care of the last big race to close out the season. While some shows may take the risk in having the group failing to make it, IGPX isn't designed in that manner and there's no shame in it. But it does mean that it's very obvious that the final pair of episodes will be the race between Team Satomi and Team White Snow. Knowing that and having the Velshtein race and so quickly on this volume just doesn't feel like it runs all that smoothly.

The White Snow team has been mildly interesting since their addition during Satomi's second season in League One but for the most part they haven't had too much of an impact. Most of the teams have been like this unless a particular character stands out in their interactions with the Satomi team cast. Such as Takeshi's girlfriend or Andrei's bit with his former teammate. The White Snow folks get a bit more aggressive on the personal side before the final race kicks in by bringing a bit of Japanese centric honor to things. Led by Zanak, the trio comes to the dojo that Takeshi trains at and go through a dojo challenge. This brings all three of them into the match which helps cement for Takeshi that White Snow does not play by the rules. It hasn't come up much outside of the race where their IG's got hacked, but the IGPX tends to be pretty honorable for all intents and purposes. Understanding the dirty level that White Snow plays at while in League One is critical for Takeshi.

The final race is one that brings the show to a fairly good climax and definitely shows how far White Snow will go to win. There aren't exactly any real surprises if you pay attention so it's amusing watching the cast catch on to how they've been tricked, but the show does exactly what's done in just about all the other episodes and that is to entertain. The concept of the IGPX isn't bad and I enjoyed the way it played out, but they do take it a bit too far with the trick White Snow uses here, something that one would think would disqualify them right off the bat. There's a certain suspension of disbelief that goes into most shows, so I'm not holding it to the kinds of physics that I would give to a show like Gundam. But the dynamics of doing what they did towards the end just leaves me cringing since it doesn't fit in with the way the show has presented itself to date.

In Summary:
While the end of the series does feel a bit anticlimactic in some ways, the series as a whole has been surprisingly enjoyable. My initial experiences with it when it debuted on Cartoon Network left me less than enthused about it, but the home video release of it has been stellar in just about every regard. Each disc had a solid selection of extras, the audio mix was deep and strong and the video was some of the best Bandai has put to disc in recent memory. IGPX isn't a deep show or one that has a lot to say in the long run, but it's a solid team sport series that simply entertains a lot. It works far better with multiple discs at a time as the races really become addictive. The series got something of a bad reputation because of Cartoon Network's involvement but the end product here is very entertaining. I definitely recommend checking out the show.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

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: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: IPGX: Immortal Grand Prix