Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO Vol. #2 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, January 03, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, January 08, 2008



What They Say
The epic story of Gundam is taken into a new realm where it takes the viewer deeper behind the lines of the One-Year War than ever before. Now the war is reaching an end...

Episode 4: In the Skies of Jaburo, I Saw the Sea
A marine dives from space into the depths of Earth's atmosphere. When there is fire high in the sky, the enemy's death will rain upon the forests.

Episode 5: Cross the Path of Light
Zeon's young soldiers are thrown into battle on mass-produced weapons called "Oggo." Will the inexperienced souls shivering with fear make these flying barrels their space tombs?!

Episode 6: Spirits Returning to the Cries of Thunder
Return to the recovery point alive from the blood-soaked front line! In the red gigantic armor, Oliver May gazes upon the path carved by the men who fought till the end!

The Review!
The second half of the OVA series concludes with the Zeon retreating from Earth and dealing with their last stand against the Federation.

Audio:
Universal Century Gundam series have had an odd time of it in the US and MS Igloo only adds to that. While the original TV series came over in dub only form, the movies were sub only and the OVAs were bilingual. MS Igloo goes with the subtitle only route and utilizes both a stereo mix and a 5.1 mix. Bandai Visual USA puts just about everyone else to shame as I believe this is the first time I've seen a stereo mix encoded at 448 kbps, the same as the 5.1 mix. Both are quite good overall when it comes to the forward soundstage in terms of placement, directionality and depth. The 5.1 mix is one that feels like it should have been stronger with the rear channels and bass though as the potential is there but not followed through on. Some of the scenes have big battle moments to them that would have more impact if they'd done so. The end result though is both mixes are quite good and they convey what was intended.

Video:
Originally given a DVD release in Japan back in 2006, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Being an all CGI series, there are different things to look for here than with most other anime series. In general, this is a very slick looking production which has an average bitrate of 8.5 and several peaks into the mid 9's. Most of the time everything looks fantastic and what few issues there are seem to be source related. The most prominent one is the banding that's visible during certain sequences. These have the advantage of not causing any blocking or severe noise but the effect of the show is lessened. Some of the backgrounds, which use the drab military greens for walls, tend to show a touch of noise in some of the busier scenes. It's very minimal but on our setup it was noticeable from time to time.

Packaging:
Unlike the first cover which had a lot of white space that really drew you in, this one goes for the dark approach with a shadowed Zeon unit with its single eye glowing from within it. It has a very strong feeling to it that gives off the right amount of menace and danger. The back cover is well laid out with a brief premise along the top and a pair of lengthwise shots from the show that again really don't push the CGI angle that strongly. Each of the episodes is listed by number and title with a brief sentence or two of what they're about. The staff listing takes up a good chunk of space which abuts the bonus features listing. The technical grid is a very tiny strip that lists everything in a quick to read format if you hold it up close. While there is no reversible cover here, there is a booklet included with the release. While not a thick booklet, it has some real weight to it, enough so that you feel it when you pick up the keepcase. The first half of this all color piece goes through the stories of each of the three episodes and a rundown of the primary characters and the engineering challenges of the stories. What really makes this special though are the nine pages that goes through the series piece by piece with the director and how they approached many angles of it. With no big merchandising push behind this release, he's able to talk about how much freedom they had in the project. The remainder of the booklet is made up of episode highlights and a full staff breakdown.

Menu:
The menus for this release are pretty good though I continue to dislike how it stops the disc if you sit in the menu for too long. The initial load up isn't too long as it plays a few very short pieces from the show itself before settling on a dark and somewhat murky background image of various mechanical elements from the series. There isn't any music associated with it so no atmosphere is really built towards the show before you begin. Episode selection is at the top level as well as audio and subtitle options which isn't that bad considering its only one language. Navigation is pretty good throughout and I like that it defaults to subtitles on and the 5.1 language mix as well.

Extras:
The extras aren't anything that's going to wow anyone but they're welcome inclusions here. The bulk of it comes in the form of the next episode trailers for each of them and the clean versions of the single opening and all three endings. The endings are all similar in a way but having them in clean form is a plus so we can see the detail a bit more. The image gallery is interesting in that it's filled with character selections that have one or two pieces each as well as a mechanics section which covers the pieces from these three episodes, be it mecha or ships. It's actually split into two sections for each with one for the Zeon side and one for the Federation side. The Federation side is obviously far smaller, with only one page total, but these are really good looking design images.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second half of the MS Igloo franchise takes us through a very different phase of the 0079 war. While the first half was focused on testing out new equipment and seeing what works and what doesn't, mostly on Earth, this one is about throwing as much as they can at the enemy in hopes that they find something that works. The first three OVAs had the Zeon in control and with the upper hand, but this set has them on the run, frantic, confused and without a serious plan. Everything is collapsing right before their eyes.

As control of Earth is lost, the 603 Technical Evaluation Unit and those supporting them find that they're closer to the front line of battle than ever before. While they've field tested equipment in varying situations, there is a lot more tension and pressure now. The opening episode introduces a fascinating idea that they've been given to try with the Mobile Diver, essentially a platform that is dropped from orbit into the atmosphere that can then utilizes various weapons to destroy the Federation ships that are being launched into orbit. It's reminiscent of the scene from Dr. Strangelove where you can only visualize the Zeon marine waving his helmet on the way down as he tries to take out the ships. The marine for this is given most of the time as he's younger than many other pilots we've seen to date and his mindset is almost crazy as he seems to be subconsciously looking forward to meeting a glorious end.

This progression of age is something that the director comments on in the booklet, but it's very apparent in the show as well. The second episode, which deals with the Zeon forces being pushed back even further now that the battle of Solomon has gone poorly, brings a new commander in board the Jotunheim. Commodore Kuspen is an older man than some of those in the 603 such as Oliver and Monique and he carries himself as someone who hasn't exactly lived through a lot of experiences that would sober him up to the realities of war. He falls into the category of someone who speaks loudly of the pride of soldiers and what must be done for country, but not as someone who has made the sacrifices he asks of others. He's not all cruel though as the pilots that the Central Command sends him are all children really, in the teens, and he cannot believe that it has come to that.

The last two episodes focus heavily on the large scale battles that are now ongoing as the Federation forces have pushed massive fleets into space in order to savage the Zeon completely. The time has come for the battle of A Baoa Qu and the 603 is pressed into service for that. Swept up into the larger scope of things, the battles become more insignificant in feeling as the crew are kept to weaker positions that don't seem critical. Yet the dialogue is that they must throw themselves into the fire simply because they must. Tensions are high and Kuspen doesn't help with his strong personality. Even worse, Monique is devastated after earlier events with one of their new slapdash ships called the Oggos. Oliver finds himself moving unexpectedly from a position of evaluation to test pilot thrown into the fiercest battle he's seen yet.

In contrast to the relatively positive feel of the first volume, the Apocalypse 0079 series is decidedly dark and gloomy as is appropriate. The fall of Zeon is something that we've seen through the original anime series in the grand scale, but through this series it feels so much more real and personal. The Zeon side got its share of attention in the original, but it is stories like these that mine the real rich material that can be done. With a focus on a technical evaluation crew that showcases various designs that didn't properly make it into the field, and therefore into the original, the entire UC story is fleshed out in more detail than ever before. These last three episodes provide a look at the final days of the Zeon Principality in a new light as the men fighting and dying on the line away from the "heroes of the day" get their time in the sun. Their sacrifices are highlighted and understood with a surprising amount of emotion and connection.

In Summary:
I want more of this. It's really that simple after taking in all six episodes now. The series managed to correct some of its small flaws that bothered me in the first volume, such as the too frequent close-ups to showcase the CG capability. What we get here are much more detailed looking designs that move even better than before but without the gee whiz aspect being thrown in our faces. Quite honestly, this is one of the best and most intriguing incarnations of a Gundam series that I've seen and it rivals my love of the original UC OVA series from years ago. The idea of CG Gundam material has left me uneasy ever since I was treated to Superior Defender Gundam Force but MS Igloo has changed my opinion completely. It may not be what will sell to the younger generation of Gundam fans that they want to attract, but if they can put some of these out every once in awhile for the older die-hards, they'll certainly have me very happy. Definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of the serious side of the UC 0079 franchise.

Features
Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Next Episode Trailers, Textless Opening, Textless Endings, MS IGLOO Gallery

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: 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 Visual USA, Inc.
MSRP: 49.99
Running time: 85
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam