Blue Gender Box Set (Viridian Collection) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Mark Thomas
Review Date: Monday, April 14, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 04, 2008



What They Say
Yuji, a high school teenager, discovers that he has a new incurable virus. With life looking very bleak, he's left only one option - hope that the future may hold a cure. With his decision made, he opts to undergo artificial hibernation...

Hunted and on the verge of extinction, Mankind has fled. Now, their only chance for survival is to destroy Blue! Yuji must fight not only for his own survival, but for that of the entire human race!

Contains all 26 episodes plus the Warrior Movie!

The Review!
With all 26 episodes and the follow-up movie included, this is a decently priced set for those still waiting to pick up Blue Gender.

Audio:
For this viewing, I listened to the English dub; both the English and Japanese tracks are offered in 2.0. The language and music tracks are clear and well balanced, with no drop out detected. While technically sound, there is nothing spectacular here either. Directionality is kept to a minimum, though there are some nice shifts in track strength as different sounds or music need highlighting. Solid effort.

Video:
The DVD release for Blue Gender is shown in its original 4:3 aspect ratio and has a nice digital transfer. There were no technical glitches that I saw, and the colors are bold and separate. This is especially important for shows with dark palettes such as this. For this release, the show looks about as good as it could.

That said, there are a number of inconsistencies with the overall design of the show. There were numerous instances throughout there small portions of the picture became deformed for a moment, such as a foot ballooning in size or a hand becoming a blob. These were minor, and probably not all that noticeable if not looking for them. The bigger issue was numerous instances of clunky animation; in particular, during wide angle shots of people walking/running/standing, the people many times looked ill-proportioned and moved unevenly. This lack in quality even showed up at times during battle scenes. To me, this show looked and felt like a lower budget, sci-fi show from the 80s, which is a bit puzzling for a relatively newer show (1999). It certainly does not ruin the series, but it is a bit disappointing.

Packaging:
The case for Blue Gender is standard fare for the Viridian collections. A thick card booklet holds the DVDs, with a thinner card sleeve that contains the whole thing. The front of the sleeve had a headshot of a bloodied Yuji in his dual blade uniform, set against a background image of a Blue nest and cocoons. The back has screen shots and a picture of Marlene, along with technical details, series summary, and a list of extras against the same background.

The booklet has pictures of Yuji and Marlene on both the front and the back, still with the same background theme from the sleeve. The interior of the booklet continues the same theme, and has sleeves for each DVD, one per page. The bottom of each page lists the disc number along with the episode numbers and titles from that disc. The general look of the set is nice, but like all Viridian sets, it does not feel like it will hold up well in the long term, and the lack of any soft material in the sleeves will likely cause some surface damage to the discs. Still, you get what you pay for, I suppose.

Menu:
For the most part, I really like the menus on these discs. They all open with a small animatic, at which point the menus are drawn up along the right hand side, almost like a vector graphic. The series title appears at the top, and I found it very stylish and well fitting to this show. Selections given are for Run All, Factors (i.e. scene selection), Set Up, and Extras. The submenus and the menu for Blue Gender: The Warrior all have a similar look. The one drawback to the menus is that some of them have a significant delay when moving from the animatic to the functional menu. While it is fairly normal for animated menus to jump a little when going from one to the next, these menus can literally freeze for five to ten seconds. At times, it almost seemed like the disc completely froze, only to resume a little bit later.

Extras:
There is a lot on offer here, but there is nothing fantastic. Spread out across the nine discs, there are extended versions of the opening and closing themes, textless songs, sketch collections, image galleries, trailers, and informative files such as character profiles and cast bios. My personal favorites are the Blue Files which detail a number of the different types of Blue, which add to the overall understanding of the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Viridian Collection set of Blue Gender compiles the 26 episodes of the TV series along with Blue Gender: The Warrior, the movie that followed the TV series, in one neat package. While Blue Gender does not offer anything truly unique, it does have a quality story and is well worth the price tag attached.

As an overall idea, the premise of Blue Gender is a neat one, if not terribly original. Blue Gender takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2031. Unlike most post-apocalyptic futures, though, this one was not caused by a nuclear holocaust or natural disaster: this future is the product of the sudden appearance of a new type of creature known as the Blue. The Blue take many different forms, but their purpose is all the same: the eradication of the human race. The humans try to fight back, figuring out that the Blue have a 'core' which is their source of life; however, their efforts are made harder by the fact that the Blue continually evolve into bigger and stronger creatures, and each evolution puts their cores into increasingly difficult places to reach.

The show opens with the awakening of Yuji Kaido, a seventeen year old boy who has been in cryostasis for the previous twenty-two years. Yuji, along with many of his contemporaries, had developed an illness modern medicine could not cure. In order to save them, those infected agreed to become 'sleepers' until the day that science caught up. Yuji finds himself awoken in the same hospital he went to sleep in, but now that hospital is a warzone between strange robots and creatures.

As it turns out, the robots are being piloted by humans, and with nowhere else to go, Yuji decides to trust and join them. It is then he learns of the Blue and of humanity's plight. He learns that his recovery was part of a world wide operation to rescue the sleepers, though in his case, that mission was interrupted by the Blue, and he is the only sleeper recovered. He also finds out that the fate of humanity has been entrusted to those chosen to live and work out of Second Earth, a space station in orbit around Earth. While Yuji does not fully understand, or agree with, everything he is told, he decides that he wants to fight alongside his new comrades, in particular Marlene Angel.

Marlene is the soldier responsible for Yuji's rescue, and despite a frosty exterior, both she and Yuji find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. Through years of training and fighting, Marlene has become cold and desensitized to the violence surrounding them, and its Yuji's sensibilities that begin to make her realize how her perception of life is wrong. Together, Marlene and Yuji set out to discover more about the appearance of the Blue, the lies the High Council have been telling, and the sleepers' mysterious illness, which might be the key to the eradication of the Blue.

The strongest point of the show is that the character interaction is very well developed, especially that of Yuji and Marlene. Throughout the entire series, the relationship between Marlene and Yuji grows and changes in really interesting ways as the plot develops. In particular, the dichotomy of Yuji humanizing Marlene only to later need humanizing himself plays out well, and it leads to a strong connection between the two before all is said and done.

When other people start to get factored in, the complex web of human relationships builds well. Through much of the first half of the show, those encounters are a bit random, such as Elena's play for Yuji's affection, and Dice's easy-going camaraderie. Later in the series, with the introductions of Tony, Alisha, and Doug, these relationships and interactions are allowed to develop more fully.
In all, it is Yuji's introduction to all these people, and to Second Earth, that complicates the proceedings on Second Earth in a way that drives the ultimate need for change. The ideology of Second Earth had become rigid and unwavering, and Yuji's old world mentality gives it the humanizing kick in the rear that it needs to properly survive. In particular, it is his philosophy that opens the door for the plans of Medical Director Seno Miyagi to take fruition and wrest control of Second Earth away from the power hungry High Council, and try to stop the path the Council had set that would lead to certain destruction.

Something that is not really a problem but warrants mentioning, is that the story of Blue Gender is extremely dark, and the look and feel of the art and coloring only adds to this perception. At every turn, Yuji and Marlene find new people or new plans that are not really looking out for the greater good. This causes a lot of consternation among them, especially in the early stages of their relationship when they are still trying to figure each other out. The show is also pretty good at killing off people not named Yuji or Marlene. Again, just another aspect to an already dark storyline.

Unfortunately, the plot suffers from two flaws: one major and one not so. The not so major flaw is that for this type of show, it has a very slow pace. The show opens with a bang: Yuji waking in the middle of a battle in a strange world, and he quickly discovers that they need to escape to a shuttle and get back to Second Earth. Unfortunately, because of several setbacks, it is the twelfth episode before they manage to achieve that goal. While some of what happens to them on Earth is interesting, much of it felt as if the story was treading water, and it does not get fully interesting until they actually reach Second Earth and start pulling apart the mystery of the sleepers and why the High Council is so adamant to get their hands on them. At times, it was hard to fully engage with the show until sometime after the halfway point.

The more glaring problem I had with the show, ironically, is that it ends approximately three episodes too late. Episode twenty three finishes off a story arc that would have served well as the finale of the series, even if it left some ideas wide open. Yet, the show continues for three more episodes to close all the open doors, and ends more on a whimper than a high note. The story of the last three episodes would have served better as a follow up movie rather than as the ending to the TV series.

Which brings me to Blue Gender: The Warrior, the follow up movie to the TV series. As noted above, it was nice of Funimation to include Blue Gender: The Warrior with this set, since movies usually always stay separate from their companion series. Unfortunately, with the nature of this movie, its inclusion seems almost redundant.

For the most part, Blue Gender: The Warrior is little more than a 95 minute clip show of the entire TV series, ala Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death. Some scenes were redone, as the movie now ends in a different place than the series, and new scenes were needed to bring this new conclusion about. The new ending brings an entirely different view to the story, as Tony and Alisha's story is completely excised, and blame for everything is now laid in new directions; yet, much of the movie is still basically rehash from the TV series. The movie by itself could be a good introduction to the storyline, and a good snapshot for people who are unsure if they might like the show, but overall, the show is much stronger, and being part of the set, the movie cannot exactly be used in that way. It is good for what it is, but not much more.

In Summary:
For the price, and what is included in the set, there is a lot to recommend here. While slow moving, the story is decent and provides some nice actions scenes. The inclusion of the movie is a nice touch not seen in many boxsets. There is nothing present in this set that would warrant "upgrading" from previous purchases, but for those who are still waiting to get this, they could do worse than pick this one up. Though the series is not groundbreaking in anyway, it is still a good post-apocalyptic, sci-fi show. The dark nature of the show may turn off some viewers, but many should find something to like with this one. Recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Image Galleries, Character Profiles, Extended Music Videos, Rough Sketch Collection, Textless Songs, Cast Bios, Original Trailer, Audio Commentary

Review Equipment
Magnavox 37MF337B 37" LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (S-Video Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 536
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Blue Gender