Innocent Venus Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, August 16, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2007



What They Say
A mass of violent storms ravages the planet, and over 60 percent of the world's population is wiped out in an instant. What remains of life on Earth is a broken and barren existence - but in Japan, there is an exception. Here, the wealthy rule. They own the war machines, they suppress the masses, and they have a very dark secret. Caught in the middle of this conspiracy is an innocent child, a girl, codenamed Venus. The military has her in their crosshairs, but the rebels are determined to protect her. What is her purpose? What are her powers? Can she offer new hope for a world so drastically changed?

Contains episodes 1-4.

The Review!
After a series of storms ravages the world and kills off billions, humanity is moving forward again against all odds.

Audio:
The bilingual release for the series is rather well done though it makes out better in the English version than the original. The Japanese track is the original stereo mix which is encoded at 224 kbps and has a good forward soundstage presentation. Dialogue is problem free and there is some good placement of dialogue throughout. The English mix is given a bump up to a 5.1 mix and is encoded at 448 kbps. This gives the show a lot more impact during its action scenes with more bass and more throws to the rear channels. During the quieter scenes there isn't much difference between the two nor is there during most of the dialogue. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series deals with a mix of locales, from ruins to riches, and handles the varied palettes rather nicely. The darker colors hold up well though there isn't too much detail while the more vibrant moments really shine well. The darker areas tend to show more issues with gradients, especially when various lighting effects are used, but the gradients tends to not show much in the way of artifacts. Some of the blue sky scenes show off some background noise which is also in a few other scenes but overall it's a good looking release that conveys the material well.

Packaging:
Though the cover artwork is fairly striking in person, the images on the internet don't do it justice as it comes across as dark and muddied. The design is straightforward with a full color shot of the lead trio together in front of one of the personal armors that they use but there is a filter across all of it in the form of a red X. Everything outside the red is done in a dark green or black and the shadows come across poorly because of it. The central piece looks good when you have it up close but it's going to look odd on a shelf. The back cover is simple yet rather busy as the top portion has a lot of shots from the show across it. The background is a straightforward black piece that lets the text do all the talking as the summary covers the basics. The disc doesn't list what extras, if any, are on it but the bottom portion contains the usual credits section and solid technical grid. No insert is included nor is there a reversible side.

Menu:
The menu design is nicely done for evoking the right mood as bit of eerie music plays over a still from the first few episodes of a ruined building. There is some very nicely done animation to it as well with the clouds floating by in the background and a change in the light level of it all. The navigation strip is where the problems come in however as the main bar along the bottom is visible during all three of the main submenus. When you're in the extras, the text for the languages and main menu is visible but not selectable. It's like dangling a path in front of you but you can't walk down it at all. Access times are otherwise quick and fast and the layout works when you realize that visible selections aren't always selections. The language presets is nicely done as it read it properly and it has a section next to the selection that indicates what is actually selected.

Extras:
The only extras included for this first volume are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that runs for twelve episodes, Innocent Venus brings in a number of standard elements to create its story. The initial premise is an interesting one but once it settles into the actual characters and starts moving the story along, its poor execution and pacing quickly takes the wind out of its sails. Post-apocalyptic settings appear to be making a comeback in the last few years to be sure.

The world was radically altered in 2010 when a series of massive Hyper Hurricanes ravaged the planet and reduced the population from eight billion to just three billion. The map of the world isn't what it once was and much of Russia and North America are now encased in snow and ice. Regions along the equator are now the primary place where the population lives and all sorts of new alliances and power struggles have entered the picture. The biggest conflict to shape up in terms of this story was between the Asian Union and Japan. Japan, naturally, managed to stave off a good deal of the impact from the changes and has created new economic zones within the country where progress is solid and it feels like things did years ago. That has created a disparity with the rest of the country which is in ruins and its citizens live impoverished lives.

The make-up of the country in terms of its power is what sets the stage for the story. While there is a standard military component to the new government that runs the country, there is also something called Phantom which has a lot more power and a lot less to inhibit them from using it. Phantom also has a number of highly powered personal armor suits that allow them to be even more dangerous. Very few people can use these suits though and those that can tend to be a bit unbalanced and bloodthirsty. For those reasons the group is often reviled by others but they're still called in as they're the kind of people who can pull off the jobs that nobody else can.

A pair of Phantom members are the main focus of the story as we follow Joe and Jin as they free a young woman from Phantom's apparent clutches. The young girl, Sana, is apparently important to Phantom but the reason why is not yet given. All we know is that Joe and Jin went to great lengths to free her and are now on the run trying to get to someone who will either give her the protection she needs or utilize her in some way. It's in this area that the show loses most of its steam as the reasons for everything that's happening just isn't covered at all. With only twelve episodes in which to tell it, there isn't room for filler material nor is there room for keeping some of the most basic pieces of the puzzle away from the viewer. While there are some decent chase sequences and some very minor character moments early on to tell us who these guys are, the impetus for everything we're seeing is still an unknown. By the end of the first four episodes there isn't even a hook to really make you want to see more to understand why it's going on.

Like most series that play in this manner, there are a number of elements to the show that can either attract you more to it or alienate you from it. The comedic relief of the series is in the form of a jester-like character named Gora, a young boy who is looking to make his way in the world by being useful to others, selling information and providing directions. He's far more annoying than he is useful and his unsubtle manipulation of things highlights Jin and Joe's obliviousness to what they've brought in to help them. The other area that feels off revolves around a submarine that went missing some time ago and re-enters the picture with the Phantom members intent on bringing it back in. Led by a presumed dead member who likes to dress up as a combination of a samurai and a pirate, it adds another piece to the show that feels incredibly out of place and too filled with theatrics.

From a design perspective, the show has some good things to offer as the lead characters are all well done. The lead trio in particular is the best as they get to alternate between simple real world clothes and skintight piloting uniforms. Sana has a mildly frilly dress that is more functional than girly. The designs for the military side is generally standard issue material but the Phantom members have some good differences to them in color and approach while not being anywhere near gaudy or outlandish. The show does run into trouble with the amount of CG in it which tends to not blend as well as it should. The personal armor units look good about half the time while the rest they tend to stand out too much and not integrate properly. This comes into play with various ships and vehicles throughout as well which is disappointing considering that this is very much a mecha driven series.

In Summary:
Innocent Venus had me rather interested at the start as I love this kind of setting. But like another recent release that has some similar elements, the actual execution of the story has gone off the wheels. So much that during the first four episode it left me uninterested in what's to come. So much is still wrapped in a mystery at this point which shouldn't be both for such a short series and for keeping the viewer hooked. What we have here is a basic action show and potential for big events but with no indication why anything is happening. You can get away with that for an episode or two at the start of the series, but when you're a third of the way through it and it still hasn't explained much of anything you can't help but feel like you're spinning your own wheels.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clena Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver 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: C
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
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