Zipang Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, May 10, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2007
What They Say
The days of Mirai as a neutral rescue ship are over; battleship Mirai has emerged! Forced into battle with its own countrymen, the peacekeeping effort appears doomed. Escalating tension evermore, Commander Kadomatsu is blindsided as the loyal-but-suspicious Lt. Kusaka finally reveals his true motives. When the rescue crew deployed at G Island comes face-to-face with the bloodiness of war, the aftermath of battle permanently stains their memories. Wrestling with its identity, are they the peacemakers or simply someone's pawn?
Contains episodes 13-16:
The Land of Gold
The Living and the Dead
The Will of Lieutenant Okamura
The first rule of war hits home as the plan to deal with Guadalcanal encounters reality where nothing goes according to plan.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a rather good stereo mix that at times brings in some really good moments where the sounds of the sea or the naval technology really comes through well. A lot of this volume is dialogue though as the crew member go about their jobs and trying to figure out their situation. It uses the forward soundstage well but there aren't a lot of very noticeable directional moments in how it's laid out but it does sound solid. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this looks very good with a lot of taking place in dark scenes as well as ones with lots of motion to it. Black levels look good and there are a lot of scenes where it comes in to effect. The transfer isn't problem free though as a number of the panning sequences really showcase some bad shimmering. It's much more visible in the side to side pans than up and down. There is also a fair bit of color gradient visible in a number of scenes because of how the digital coloring is done. Water, particularly under the waves, tends to suffer from this the most in background shots.
Using the artwork from the Japanese release, the red hued cover looks good if maybe a bit too dark as it has a split image of Kadomatsu along the bottom while a missile flies along the top. The brushed logo is really nice and gives it a bit of a rough look that adds to the starkness of it all especially since it's in white. The back cover feels a bit more streamlined and modern with its use of green and black to frame it all. It includes a few shots from the show and panels for the summary and episode numbers/titles. The production information is well covered and Geneon again has adopted a really great technical grid here that covers everything in a very easy to read manner. I was surprised to see an insert with the release considering how barebones it feels; one side replicates the front cover artwork while the other provides a shot of the Yamato in better colors along with the chapter listings for the four episodes.
The menu layout for this is one continues to be the weakest I've seen from Geneon. This installment mixes in the visual of a radar system while some full color shots are mixed into it of the battle. The faux military style text used in the navigation is unappealing looking with the color design to it. This looks even worse in submenus that don't have the extra highlight. And while some sort of instrumental music for the menu would have improved it only a little, not having it makes the menu seem all the more stark. The language selection for this volume was particularly painful as not only was it done in the awful font but sideways for a good chunk of it. Add in that the disc didn't read our player presets and it just failed in so many ways.
The extras for this volume aren't really extras but just another side of the way this release feels like it's one just pushed out the door and not given the same care. With the opening and ending credits left as is in the show itself, translated versions of them are available as text pages here. The ending sequences cover each of the individual episodes however which is a plus so we don't get just a blanket list of credits for the entire series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Another installment of Zipang continues to feel like the ugly yet very smart child of the family as everything about the release feels second class. The exception of course is in the content itself which is a real diamond in the rough. With the opening episodes dealing with the issues of whether to get involved or not the series is now full engaged in trying to change the course of the war. That brings in issues of its own, particularly that of what happens when you finally do meet the enemy. If you can even call them the enemy in fact.
The focus of the four episodes on this volume is squarely around the battle at Guadalcanal. Kadomatsu and his group have made their way to the Marine camp and have painted the target so that the supplies will be strewn about without an explosion. Doing this with such precision while not causing any injuries will let them show their strength and technology without having to cause any real problems. The hope, however naïve, is that it'll force the local General to reconsider his approach. Of course, said General is of the mindset that only the President can give him the order to retreat regardless of what happens. Even as good as the incident goes for Kadomatsu, it doesn't go well enough to reverse course.
Where the problem becomes greater is in that Kusaka has now arrived on the scene aboard the Yamato along with a number of other support ships. Their arrival gives the Marine General enough information to work on to believe that it's all just a major trap. Even worse is that Yamamoto on board the Yamato is intent on shelling the island in order to exterminate the Marines. In what turns out to be an insightful conversation, Kusaka relays his new dream of taking Japan in a different direction than it went in the past but also a different one than the command crew of the Mirai had in store. His dream of a nation that doesn't capitulate but rather forces peace through honor and resolution will lead them all to a far better place. Using a phrase that Westerners once used for Japan, he envisions a new country called Zipang.
While the larger battle across the ships where thousands of lives at risk is interesting enough, some of the best material comes with Kadomatsu's small group. When they finally get the order to move out they end up coming across some of the Marines that are out there. As quiet and stealthy as they are as they make their way to the pick-up point, bad weather plays a factor and tosses one of them out into the open. The brutality is quick and to the point but it puts Kadomatsu and the others into first hand eye to eye combat with the Americans. Kadomatsu in particular has been so adamant about not referring to them as the enemy has to confront his entire belief system over it because of this.
If there's anything to dislike about this volume in any real serious manner it's that across the four episodes there are several lines that aren't subtitled. The release has felt second hand since the start but now it's starting to feel a bit worse in that it's missing entire lines.
As the show has continued to shift away from the theoretical implications and some of the obvious parallels to the film Final Countdown, it has become all the more engaging. The course of the war is changing constantly now and things that could be predicted are no longer true. That puts the crew of the Mirai in a less than strategic position but they still have their technology to help them as well as their morality. Though this release continues to feel weak in general the end result is that we're getting a really engaging show. With it being such a niche within a niche though it's easy to understand why it's not getting more play. But therein lies the rub as people want the familiar and the easy to deal with. Zipang is solid entertainment for the older set and those who want something that's challenging to watch.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
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: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2