009-1 Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What They Say
She‚€™s faced death between the sheets, been captured and tortured by the enemy, and has raised the suspicion of her superiors for not being ruthless enough. Now Mylene Hoffman faces her greatest challenge yet when she sees the faces of mutant children exploited by the Eastern Bloc for living weapons research! Can she stop the program? Will she stop the children before they cause another nuclear explosion? From the beds of the enemy, to the surface of the moon, to a daring mission to preserve the innocent and the fate of the world itself, it‚€˜s the thrilling finale to 009-1!

The Review!
The series draws to a close far too early by presenting some standalone tales and a fantastic three part storyline.

The two mixes on this disc are pretty different though each of them has their appeal. The Japanese track is done at 224 kbps in stereo though it has a lot of bass to it. Sometimes it's almost overwhelming in how it plays out but it adds a lot of impact to the action sequences and to the music. The English 5.1 mix is done at 448 kbps and has much the same impact but it's spaced out a bit better with sharper clarity overall. Both tracks come across very good here both in terms of providing dialogue placement and overall action effects. While we listened to this primarily in Japanese, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With lots of varied locations, the series has a great looking visual palette to it that's almost theatrical at times. Colors are great throughout and there is a real slickness to it at times without it being too glossy. The show looks solid in general though there is a bit of aliasing cropping up from time to time during various camera pans. These aren't all that frequent however. The first episode has some noticeable noise in the backgrounds in a few scenes but it seems to become more minimal as it progresses and barely noticeable throughout the remainder of the disc.

Similar in design to the earlier volume, the cover artwork here looks great as you have Mylene in an action pose while wearing a yellow skintight suit as she fends off a mechanical animal. The back cover adapts the styling of the eye-catch for its layout and in-between the ribbons it provides a breakdown of the shows premise. A few shots from the show are across a strip while the bottom portion features the usual production information and clear technical grid. The release also includes a booklet that looks to be almost the same style and dimensions of the Japanese one. It provides several pages worth of character artwork and a breakdown of the world concept. A couple of very interesting interviews with the creative staff are also included.

Taking elements from the eye-catch for the overall design with the ribbons running across and then some of the character silhouettes from the opening, the menu design has a good of garish sense of color. Rotating large bands of color in the background while changing it out over the thirty or so seconds it runs, it's almost hypnotic to watch – until you get to some of the more garish colors. There's a bit of action instrumental music playing along to it which is decent and sets the mood well enough. Access times are nice and fast and the navigation is quick and easy. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets without issue.

The extras for this volume are pretty straightforward but as short as one of them is it's still fun to see. The clean opening and closing sequences make their final appearance and we also get a gallery/character bio section for the various agents of the Western Bloc. The interesting extra is a three minute interview piece with some of the staff about how they went into this and why they went after a particular director and worked him so hard.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the series, I find myself in the same position as the series director. I hope dearly that a lot of people have seen it and enjoyed it so that they can make more of it. The series, a virtual unknown at its licensing and arrival in North America, has been yet another great little discovery this year from ADV Films. Few shows really play up the concepts used here and does so in great episodic fashion while hinting at and laying the foundation for what will be the three part finale.

The final volume is a bit odd in that it has five episodes while the first two volumes had four apiece. The five episodes here have two standalone episodes and then the three part finale. What was welcome however is that the second standalone episode is a bonus episode that looks to have been a DVD only release. Placed appropriately after episode nine and before the three parter, it provides some hint at how events are being unfolded in that larger storyline. Revolving around a man suspected of being a double agent, Mylene gets close to him, too close at times, and starts to fall for him as his world of music and mellowness infects her. His methods of being a double agent, as well as the reason for it along with a group of similarly minded citizens, isn't unusual but it is well executed. Music is often considered a way to bring peace and they find a nicely creative way of utilizing that here.

The standalone episode that kicks off this volume is one that plays well on how deep things can get in this kind of world. After killing an agent that had been hunting after Mylene, she ends up taking a good bit of downtime for repairs and maintenance. Upon her release, she finds herself catching a ride with a family that's heading to the same place. The episode takes us through their family life nicely enough as the father shows Mylene and his family where he and his older brother grew up. The bonds between the two are given a great deal of time here and even if it feels a bit over the top once in awhile, it all comes across earnestly. Based on the opening of the episode and the character designs, it's easy to see where this one is going but it's a fascinating piece as it captivates you along the way. You know what will go down, but you have to wonder exactly when and exactly how it will play out.

As much fun as these standalone episodes are it's the three part storyline that shines the most. The series has kept to shorter stories so far but with this one it really gets to up the scope of things and give it a properly epic feel while still dealing with the characters in their own situations. The concept of this world in a lengthy cold war is one that gives them plenty of material to work with, even if it is at its basic level just a series of short spy thrillers. The trappings of this world are enticing since it gives us an almost nostalgic feel of something that was quite dangerous yet you could almost long for. The difference in this arc is that it uses the previously discussed mutants to great effect. The presence of these "test subjects" has been an interesting addition to the series since it lets them play with something unusual. How would such people fit into the scheme of things, particularly on the political level?

With one side exterminating them outright and the other using them as test subjects, it's just plainly bad to be a mutant. Admittedly, some of this feels quaint as I recall similar stories being done in old X-Men comics back in the early 80's. But the premise is still solid. If mutants could work together in some way, as not all of them would ever be captured or killed and some would definitely find each other, how do you deal with the threat? And even worse, what if those mutants figured out a way to remotely explode nuclear weapons at a time of their choosing if their demands were not met? That even gets topped off by the revelation to the general public that nuclear weapons even exist now as there was a disarmament treaty that outlawed their existence.

The storyline brings in various pieces from earlier episodes and ties them together beautifully. Loki makes a return appearance in which his past is slowly revealed to Mylene. Another story point involving Ironheart's past comes about with the mutant angle as well. There is even a wonderful trip to the moon which occurs after the first explosion happens up there. Who said lunar excursion suits have to be big and bulky? Mylene fills them out quite nicely. Over the course of the three episodes, the story that's woven covers numerous areas of the world and tackles the politics of the two Blocs, recent history, the mutant issue and plenty more. While the overall story is something that feels like it could easily come out of the James Bond franchise, it's one that I would love to see expanded a bit more and given a proper movie treatment.

In Summary:
One of the things that's really grown on me in the last couple of years is Shotaro Ishinomori's works. Thankfully there's something of a revival going on as his various manga properties are being adapted to anime and re-imagined in manga form. The 009-1 series is like the rest in that I had never heard of it but it has a great sense of style and design to it. Few shows really tackle the world of spies and politics in this form which made this an even greater treat. While it certainly qualifies as a babes with guns show, it's something that rises up a bit more than that. There's plenty of sexuality and violence here, a certain coldness to be sure as well, but the execution of it and all the trappings of the world design make it a very enjoyable show. This is a real hidden gem that needs to be discovered more. Very highly recommended.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,9 Number Agents,Bringing 009-1 to Life,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV MA
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
Series: 009-1