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

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, November 05, 2007
Release Date: Monday, October 15, 2007

What They Say
In a world where the Cold War never ended, East and West continue to battle for technological and political supremacy. Mylene Hoffman, field commander of the elite Double Zero intelligence division, exists in this world with her eyes open and her body always ready to do battle.

Liberating benevolent scientists, tagging along with would-be monster-slayers, meeting her match in the world's most hard-boiled assassin and navigating a deadly labyrinth of horrors are all in a day's work for Mylene. There's no problem she can't solve with the proper application of high explosives, fast-talk, deceptive jewelry, make-up and the right moves behind closed doors!

Episodes Comprise
1 – Infiltrators
2 - Holy Night
3 - Hard-Boiled
4 - Invitation from an Old Castle

The Review!
Time for a look at 009-1 ("Double-oh Nine One"). It's James Bond with women, Najica with no panties (no, not in that sense), a cold-war Ghost in the Shell - sort of. Sex and espionage, although with more of the latter than the former - welcome to the world of Mylene Hoffman and her team...

Audio comes in Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 versions – I listened to the Japanese track for this review, which is pretty much as you’d expect from a recent show – there’s good dialogue placement, effects sound as impressive as they could with just the 2 channels. There were no obvious problems.

Video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and for the most part looks pretty damn good. There’s plenty of variation in colour (reflecting the locations used), and the encode has been well done – there’s nothing noticeable in the way of defects. The only thing that ruins the look are some amazingly ugly character designs, especially for male characters – but that’s hardly the fault of the animators.

Mylene features on the front cover, highlighted by a spotlight against a wall and dressed in her working clothes, looking for all the world like a girl on the run. The rear has the usual screenshots, promotional blurb and technical information. A 16-page colour booklet is included in the package, and includes background detail to each of the episodes and some of the characters, illustrated with production artwork.

The menu is a simple static screen, with a background of slowly changing colour and the girls in shadow on top. Direct access is provided to each episode, along with further options for language select, extras, and the trailer for volume 2. A piece of background music from the series plays over the top. There’s an annoying transition animation when choosing an episode, but otherwise it’s quick and easy to use.

Decent selection of episodes on this disc – along with the traditional creditless opening and closing sequences, there a 16-minute video interview with the director and other members of the production staff, and text extras detailing how a 40-year-old manga became an anime series, and looking at the guns and gadgets used in the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
So when I say "Najica with no panties", I mean you just don't get to see them, not that 9-1 and her friends aren't wearing any. Now that would be fanservice. 009-1 is set in what's best thought of as a slightly parallel world where the Cold War never ended - the East and the West have coalesced into full nations, and although there's been over 100 years of peace between them, the enmity is still very much alive. Now, though, the East's leaders are beginning to tire of peace and are looking for reasons to get aggressive.

Enter Mylene and her team (their names aren't actually used in the show - they just refer to each other by their codenames), members of the Zero Zero Organisation and together forming one of its most professional units, the Number Nine Group. Highly trained and augmented with technological implants (the submachineguns in Mylene's breasts are a particular highlight, and used to good effect several times here), they're at the forefront of the West's undercover attempts to keep the upper hand over the East.

The disc opens with the tale of Zond Soyuz, a scientist in the Eastern Bloc, who has discovered what could be a devastating new explosive - more powerful than even a nuclear weapon. Fearing that his government will use his discovery to start a war, he tries to defect to the Western Bloc, but intelligence agents from the East manage to stop him before he has a chance to leave or to hand over his research data. Aware of what Soyuz was planning, Mylene and her group are sent to recover Soyuz - or failing that, his research. But Eastern Bloc are well aware of what 009-1 and her colleagues are up to, and have their own plans to stop them...

As you can probably guess, the stories themselves are fairly typical secret-agents tales - recover the scientist, prevent killings and so on - just with a slightly futuristic feel to them. While the world as its presented on-screen looks as you’d expect 60’s / 70’s Europe to look, the use of ray-guns and other neat little gadgets remind you that it’s not the world we’re used to, and that’s just one aspect of the show’s distinctive visual style. Another aspect is in just how ugly most of the characters outside Mylene’s unit are – while the girls are lovingly-realised and very easy on the eyes, the rest of the folks on view have mostly had numerous run-ins with the ugly tree, and if you’re the sort of person who’ll judge a series on first impressions that may be a little off-putting. Don’t let that bother you, though, as under the surface this is one worthwhile series.

Along with the Soyuz tale, Mylene has to deal with mutant children, ruthless killers, and revenge-obsessed scientists – all in a day’s work for an augmented secret-agent, but while the action side of the stories rightly takes centre-stage, there’s also some time spent looking at Mylene the woman, in how she reacts to her assignments, and in how she uses her killer body for practical advantage, both on- and off-duty. While the action gets a little over-the-top in places – I wouldn’t have it any other way in this sort of series – all the stories hold together well and make sense. There’s nothing thrown at the viewer that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what just happened. The missions themselves are reasonably varied, and while you don’t see too much of Mylene’s team-mates on this volume, they form a team that has a good range of specialist skills, leaving options open for a few different types of story later in the series.

What’s most impressive is that, despite being based on a 40-year-old manga, 009-1 still manages to feel fresh. Yes, some tweaking of the source materials was apparently necessary to keep it from feeling outdated, but that’s been done really well, resulting in a polished and entertaining show.

In summary:
If the original manga weren’t so old, I’d be saying that 009-1 borrows inspiration from a number of sources to build its world – except that the most obvious sources for quoting all came after the manga, so it’s amazing that the show still feels contemporary. Some good visuals (some character designs excepted), interesting characters and good storylines all add up to create a series which maybe doesn’t have as much immediate appeal as it could, but if you give it an episode or two you’ll find yourself quickly hooked. I’m looking forward to the next volume, and this one comes well recommended.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Interview with the Director and Staff,How the Manga Became an Anime,Weapons and Gadgets,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: 009-1