009-1 Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, December 13, 2007
Release Date: Monday, December 03, 2007
What They Say
The battle between East and West continues to escalate as Agent 009-1 takes on her greatest challenge yet: trying to find time to relax! Just wait 'til you see what she calls a vacation! First she finds herself going toe to toe with a deadly cyborg that has “strategically-placed” golden guns!
Then she discovers that an old friend, who originally helped her defect, has gone double agent and is smuggling intelligence to both sides for extra cash! Will she reminisce with him about old times or have to take him out?
Meanwhile, Mylene's superiors think she's going too soft on the bad guys! Are they actually keeping an eye on the body count? More super-spy intrigue! More slam-bang action! Mylene redefines “sleeping over” at a friend's house! All the secret bases are covered in the second action-packed volume of 009-1!
5 – Woman of Gold
6 – Pop
7 – Port
8 – Calendar of the Past
All work and no play makes Marlene a dull agent, but no-one’s really giving her the chance to relax. Will she ever get any peace & quiet? Not likely in this series…
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, gun in hand a looking back over her shoulder in a rather nice action shot. 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. Some staff interviews are also included, with Yumiko Shaku (VA for Mylene) and Yoshikazu Iwanami (Sound Director).
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’s a collection of Japanese promo clips, the original pilot clip, and another text extra on the show’s weapons and gadgets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Mylene's in Italy, taking a holiday she really doesn't want to be on, when she stops to help a young woman whose car has broken down - and finds herself in more trouble than she expected. The girl claims to be being chased, and as she tries to explain herself to Mylene, a heavily-armed gang in a black limousine bears down on them and opens fire - the girls pursuers have caught up with her. The pair make a quick getaway in Mylene's sports car and are soon able to outrun the gunmen, but Mylene (while secretly relieved that her holiday has suddenly livened up) is soon looking for answers to some questions, starting with what the girl did to merit being chased, but the girl isn't the most talkative of travelling companions. All she'll say is that she needs to get to the Trevi Fountain in Rome - but there's more to her than first impressions would have you believe.
Later, there are missions where Mylene must recover information on an experimental drug, uncover a possible double agent, and assassinate someone who once meant something to her. An agent’s work is never done…
A bit of a change in tone for this volume – it’s still based around the missions that Mylene finds herself having to complete, but picking up on an aspect of Mylene’s personality that was first touched upon last volume, there’s a real focus here on what goes on inside her head during her missions. She’s not the compassionless killer that someone in her job really should be – these episodes all touch upon that, with the final episode revealing that it’s a quality that has come to the attention of, and is worrying, her superiors. Her mission in episode 8 – to kill someone she knows and who has helped her in the past – is as much a test of her own resolve as it is a genuine mission, and the ending of the episode is left open enough that it’s up to your own interpretation of events as to whether she followed through on her orders or not. 009-1 has a nice line in ambiguity running though it, and this is perhaps the best example of it.
While the final episode is probably the highlight here, though (and also provides some welcome information about Mylene’s past), the rest of the episodes are well up to scratch as well. Her motherly side is explored in episode 7, where young boy Billy catches her attention and soon comes to see her as a friend, while at the other end of the scale her dealings with the old and over-the-hill Ironheart form the basis of episode 6. The missions themselves provide a little action to lighten the tone, but they’re background to the show’s focus on Mylene and her personality – how she deals with her job and the people she has to interact with as she does it.
There are downsides to this approach, though. The rest of the 009 unit don’t make much of an appearance here – a few scenes in the first episode on the disc, and that’s your lot. There’s also no real sense of threat at any stage – thinking back to the first volume, there were some scenes where Mylene was in genuine danger, or where she was having to deal with someone who did have the ability to defeat her, but you never really get the feeling with this volume that she’s even remotely in trouble, and that does remove a lot of the feeling of suspense that this sort of show really requires.
The good definitely outweighs the bad, though. It’s quite rare these days that a series completely grabs my attention, but 009-1 has been one of the few to do that. It’s got enough aspects of the James Bond style of secret agent story that it catches your attention with that, but it’s different enough in its focus to still feel fresh, despite the age of the source materials, and the overall package works really well. Now if they could just have designed the males in the show to be a little less ugly…
Like most shows, 009-1 has its flaws, but they’re minor compared to the good stuff here. The show’s focus on Mylene and her nature, which is far more kind-hearted that you would expect from a spy, makes it different enough from other secret agent stories to really grab the attention, while the individual stories are a good combination of action and emotion that keep you entertained. 009-1 has been impressive so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing if the final volume can keep up the high standard.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Pilot Video,Japanese Commercial Collection,Weapons and Gadgets,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2