Joe vs. Joe Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 20, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
What They Say
Joe Yuki, one of the coolest DJs in Shibuya, has a secret identity as the leader of gangs. Because of his traumatic childhood, he fiercely hates "weaklings" and sees winning as his only option in life. One night, an old man is being taunted by the kid known as "the human punching bag." The old man reminds Joe of his parents and childhood, and he uncontrollably challenges the kid to a fight. A fight in which he's defeated, and his pride is utterly shattered into pieces.
Contains episodes 1-3:
Seal the Nightmare
The Snowy Illusion
The inaugural release from the company tackles the sports genre with the first half of a three episode boxing OVA that features surprisingly little boxing.
In a time when bilingual releases are starting to fall to the wayside, it was a good sign to see AnimeWho stepping up and putting out dual language tracks for their first release. It certainly sends a good sign to prospective buyers at this point in time. The technical aspect of this presentation has left me wondering though and somewhat conflicted. Having been won over by lossless audio for some time due to the Blu-ray releases I enjoy, I'm quite glad to see that both stereo mixes here are presented un uncompressed PCM at 1.5 mbps. On the flip side, this represents about 30% of the available bandwidth of the release being taken up by just the audio. And they are only stereo mixes at that and not terribly active ones either. They likely would have sounded much the same at 448kbps and with only a bit more drop off at a lower rate. This would normally garner all praise on a high definition release, but on this standard definition one it just impacts the video too much. Both tracks are quite clean and clear though and they sound solid without any noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released throughout 2003, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series has something of a budget digital OVA feel to it which doesn't help how it flows here, especially with the reduced bit budget given to it because of the audio. The backgrounds have a fair bit of noise to them at times and the reds tend to show a lot of chroma noise which is very distracting. Aliasing is fairly minimal in general however and cross coloration is essentially absent, but the show lacks a really solid feeling for the most part which isn't helped by the generally soft nature of the digital design. All in all, the transfer for this left me pretty disappointed as it just didn't look good on our setup.
The cover design for the series is one that definitely works well to sell the show for what it is as it features both Joe's in action poses with their gloves swinging out with plenty of speed lines to give it an active feeling. The logo along the top isn't overbearing and they actually do a nice bit of marketing by calling it "Collection 1". The character designs look manly to be sure but there's a good amount of detail to them as well which will appeal to the crowd looking for something different. The back cover is laid out well with a listing of the discs episodes and titles along the top and a brief summary of what to expect. The majority of the cover is given over either to character artwork from the show or a series of stills that highlight the animation itself. The bottom of the cover is given over to the production credits and a pretty solid technical grid that could just use a bit more clarity on the language features as it sort of implies Japanese subtitles as well. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout for the show utilizes some minor but decent animation to it that has it feeling pretty alive when combined with the fast paced instrumental music that's playing along. Each side of the menu features one of the two Joe's while the background is made up of the boxing arena interior itself, which has speed lines flying throughout it to give the impression of the two boxers going at it. The middle of the menu has the basic navigation structure which is pretty minimal since there's not much to the disc but everything loads quickly and is easy to access. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
There isn't an actual extras section but if you go into the scenes menu, you'll find an outtakes section which runs through just over a minute of English language dub outtakes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Boasting its pedigree as having the man behind Ashita no Joe involved in the conception of the story, Joe Vs. Joe is a six part OVA series of which we get the first three of them here. Sports anime and boxing in particular are hard sells in the US but there is a small but hardcore following that will give it a whirl if the fans behind Fighting Spirit are any indication. Shows like this don't appeal to the typical anime fan but they are good low budget shows that you can bring out to see what you can do and how it all comes together when dealing with the mainstream anime world. AnimeWho's first release hits a number of things right but also points to things that can - and need - to be done better.
And unfortunately, Fighting Spirit has probably made getting into the boxing genre pretty difficult. It also doesn't help having seen one of the Ashita no Joe movies recently as well. Joe Vs. Joe is something of an awkward series to get into simply because the show doesn't seem to get anywhere in the first three episodes, and in fact, is the kind of series where if you rented/bought the first episode, it's hard to imagine most people going back for the next one, never mind five more. The story as it is revolves around a pair of men named Joe. You've got Joe Akamine, a deliveryman who is a naturally gifted boxer who is getting into the ring because of his friend Ryuichi with whom he works. Ryuichi is an up and coming star of the boxing world who is managed by George Takizawa, a former superstar in the ring himself.
While Akamine has a poor everyman kind of background to him, he's contrasted by Joe Yuuki, a well off young man who spends his off time DJing and having his way with the women. While not an excessive playboy or anything, he has that kind of cool confidence and dark look to him that draws many of them to him. The one that's hanging around him a lot right now though is an unusual one. Maki Takakura is an up and coming model who has a lot of big things going on as she's getting recognized all over the place. She's got a bit of an attitude problem though and she's railing against her past with her father, who is actually George Takizawa. She's not exactly keen on boxing because of past daddy issues and that carries over to her strange relationship with Yuuki. She's drunk most of the time, irritable and brash with her outgoing style. Yet Yuuki can't seem to shake her and the pair end up coming across each other numerous times.
Much of the story across this volume is that of the two Joe's meeting for the first time and trying to find their own way into the ring. The boxing aspect of it is relatively weak though as there is much more than some sparring in the gym from time to time and the first fight in the park between the two men. More of it spent talking about working through what they need to do to take the pro exam and getting to that point. It's an unusual rivalry simply because Akamine doesn't really know that Yuuki is intending to take him down and it's hard to really pinpoint why Yuuki has such anger issues with the light and friendly nature that Akamine has. Most of the time is spent on the character interactions or following Maki around which is simply terribly uninteresting.
Visually, the series leaves a lot to be desired as well. It feels like a show that came in a bit late to the digital era and it has something of a bargain look to it, more reminiscent of some of the first digital shows where things glide a bit more on top of each other and the characters aren't too dimensional, nor blend well with their surroundings. Everything is fairly vibrant, a little too much so at times, and it just doesn't seem to have the kind of polish that it should. It's not a bad looking show but it is one that already feels dated and without the kind of warmth that it needs to connect with the viewer.
From a technical perspective, outside of the audio and video issues we've covered, there are some things to be really happy about and displeased about elsewhere. Namely when it comes to the subtitles for the show. The release does a bang up job by offering Spanish subtitles, which isn't too much of a surprise since there's potentially more of a market there for it, and they also offer the choice of Yellow or White subtitles. This has been done on a few releases by another company so I'm happy to see it here since it's such a small thing. The main problem with the subtitle track is in the font used. All the lowercase i's look like an upper case I or a lowercase l. This turns into a huge readability issue during many scenes where some words have a combination of all three together and it just looks like goobledygook. There is also at least one line that wasn't subtitled which shouldn't happen, especially for a launch title.
The first volume of Joe Vs. Joe left me pretty underwhelmed in general though liking some aspects of it. The technical side is a mixed bag which can also be said of the content as well. After seeing the granddaddy of boxing anime in the last month and having seen the most recent and lengthy series with Hajime no Ippo, Joe Vs. Joe is the kind of show that just can't stand in the shadows of these other two. But it also has a hard time standing on its own as it's a very lazy show in getting to the story where there's excitement and interest. Everything I've seen with boxing has had edge of the seat fights, even ones that last multiple episodes, but Joe Vs. Joe just has a hard time holding our interest with the three initial episodes and that's simply not a good sign.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,Dub Outtakes
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: C-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: AnimeWho
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Joe vs. Joe