Moonlight Mile Vol. #2 (also w/box) (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 09, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2008
What They Say
WHAT DO YOU BET WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE?
To realize his dream of conquering the moon, Goro Saruwatari will bet his all.
His hopes dashed when the Japanese H-3 rocket explodes during a routine test. Goro volunteers to man the dubious Russian rocket, the Gagarin, on its next mission to the International Space Station. But could his resolve be shaken by a beautiful Russian exotic dancer? And if he can make it to the ISS, will its tight-knit crew be able to accept a construction-worker turned astronaut?
As he struggled for his life in the desert, Lostman vowed never to let his destiny be decided by anyone else, but as he now languishes as the fifth-sting backup pilot for the shuttle, he seems to be doing just that. When an old Navy adversary shows up, and Lostman is suddenly, and mysteriously, moved up to the next mission, he gets a glimpse of what the US government has really been up to these last seven years.
After seven years of hard work, Goro and Lostman make it to space using very different paths much like when they scaled mountains.
Moonlight Mile is a rarity for a TV series in that it has a Japanese 5.1 mix to it. It and the English 5.1 mix are both done at 448kbps and are pretty good throughout in terms of clarity and directionality across the forward soundstage. Rear channels aren't heavily used but what gets a decent workout in several scenes is the bass level. Moonlight Mile isn't an out and out action show as it's more intent on dialogue and atmosphere - as well as various quiet space scenes - but when it is active it works pretty well.
Originally airing in the first half of 2007, the TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. While a recent series with some solid source materials, the show is one that looks like it's done on a budget and has some noticeable distracting issues. The main one is that there's a fair amount of gradients visible during a lot of the single color backgrounds, notably in space at times. This causes a bit of blocking in a few areas as well but never to a really bad level. Colors in general look solid but there are sections, again in the darker areas like the blues and blacks, where it's noisier than it should be. While Moonlight Mile isn't a standout show because of its source materials, the end result is fairly decent.
The front cover works fairly similar to the first volume of the series as it uses the lunar landscape as its main backdrop piece. Adding onto it this time though they bring in part of the ISS along the top while laying the image of Goro and Lostman in different uniforms over the moon itself. The pose and look of the two men is almost comical in how it harkens back to a different time and attitude about such endeavours. The back cover is oddly laid out with a lot of text to it. Each side has a small strip of shots from the show inside of TV monitors while the center has the basic premise of the series and these episodes. Below that are some mediocre taglines about the show which is followed up by the production credits and technical grid. The overall background image is that of a moonscape which fits in nicely. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
In addition to the disc only release, ADV Films has put out another disc+box variant for the second volume of this series. The box has a very similar design to that of the individual volume covers which shouldn't be a surprise but it has a very slick feel to it because of the paper design. Utilizing the character artwork from the second keepcase, each main panel features one of the two main characters looking off into the distance while having the backdrop of the Earth behind them and the moon in the lower foreground. It works rather well when you add in the image of the ISS spanning across all three panels to tie it together. With no cute girls to be found at all in this series, I'm halfway surprised it even got a box but they put together a really nice piece for it.
The menu design for Moonlight Mile isn't a surprise as it uses a lot of great looking space shots with the moon. What is problematic is that instead of letting the majesty of the scene speak for itself, they decided to use very large text for everything in addition to the already big logo. The font for the navigation text even goes for the obvious angle of using the NASA style which just makes it look all the more ugly. This was a design where less would have been better unfortunately. On the plus side, the menus are all very quick to load and submenus are easy to access and work with. Individual episode access is available from the top level and like just about every release from ADV Films we had no problems with our players' language presets.
The only extras that are included with this volume are the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It's now been nearly seven years since Goro and Lostman stood on that mountain and looked up at the space station above and wondered if that was where their next challenge really lays. And that passage of time is one of the things that has bothered me the most with this series as it just doesn't seem to show much change going on as the two men move through life in their attempt to achieve their goal. If not for that, one would be hard pressed at times to see any visual differences between the two men that would span that period of time. The occasional off hand remark by Goro here and there about his time spent writing manuals is one of the very few spoken markers about the passage of time.
Well, that and the serious number of women that Goro seemingly has the ability to bed. His time since the beginning of the series has seen him getting involved with a fair number of women and he's sowing his seed across the world as he admits at one point. This does provide for some interesting background material to the larger story, such as his time spent in Russia when he opts to use a Russian space shuttle in order to get out into space and join up with everyone at the ISS after things go badly elsewhere. The side story of the Russian ballerina who now does topless dancing certainly has its moments - and is more graphic than one would expect - it does come across as tacked on material similar to some previous episodes with the sexuality. It isn't sensationalized at least which is a positive and we do get to see Goro's personality through the women he beds and how easily he moves on.
Goro's ascent into space is something that the series definitely needed to get to and felt like it should have been achieved quicker for a thirteen episode series. If it had been longer, more lead-up time to it would have felt more comfortable, and hopefully a second season actually does get put into production. When Goro gets out into space and on board the space station, he's a bit more alive than he usually is and his gambling ways pay off in spades as everyone who makes it out there has a bit of a gambler in them according to the ISS captain. The sense of camaraderie that exists out there among this diverse crew is standard material but it's nicely done as Goro is put through his paces so he can show them exactly what he's made of. It may be dry material in a way, but if you're a 'space geek' at all you'll enjoy a lot of these things.
With its split focus between Goro and Lostman, it's little surprise that we get a fair bit of material for Lostman this time around as well. The split story method hasn't been too fair to him overall as he spent his time being captured and behind enemy lines for awhile and has spent more of his time away from actual events that will get him into space. That changes nicely this time around as a convenient accident helps propel him to the forefront as well as a few choice friends in high places that he's becoming closer to without realizing entirely what they're about. No unlike mountain climbing, he's being told that there are multiple ways to get into space and there are things going on out there that he's not aware of. The less than subtle hint about space being two thirds militarized gives a big enough clue, one that certainly gives him an inkling of where his future path may lead.
With both men eventually in space, events turn quickly to different things as small emergencies creep up and the two find themselves falling right back into a pattern they established years ago. The story isn't so much about that as it goes forward, nor with the things they run into, but more of the way the entire ISA works and how it's not really truly suited to be the framework through which mankind must go forward. The less than subtle hints of other methods for going there and reasons to do so are certainly justified and fit in with the general mindset of mankind at these kinds of levels for decision making, but it's also somewhat depressing since the 'space geek' mindset is always looking for it to be done for noble and just reasons. Whether Moonlight Mile can make it work is difficult to tell at this point, but with only one more volume for the 'Lift Off' arc, I'm not really expecting anything significant.
Eight episodes into this arc and I'm still not exactly sure how I feel about this show. There are aspects I certainly enjoy as it shows me a near future that feels realistic and accurate with the slow crawl of space development, but it hasn't quite gotten to that majesty part that will just draw me in completely. A lot of that is due to the characters and pacing of the show. The two leads are distinct enough but their personalities and minimal emotions really make them hard to connect with. They may have some of the personality traits required to be astronauts, but they're just not compelling people to watch. When you add in the train of women that they're bedding along the way and less than memorable supporting characters, there isn't much to connect with and that just leaves you with the theme of the show and what it's trying to portray. At this point, Moonlight Mile feels like a weak show in the genre that has given us such great shows like Planetes and Freedom. While it may not be in that rank of show, it's one that I'm enjoying on my 'space geek' level and will continue to follow in hopes of it getting better.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
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: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Moonlight Mile