Super Robot Wars: OG - Divine Wars Vol. #4 (of 9) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2008
What They Say
The DC uprising continues, this time targeting Izu Base. Ryusei races into action, but when he has to face off against Tenzan Nakajima, he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
The focus shifts to that of the new crew of the Hagwane as they attempt to deal with Zoldark and his mysterious army.
This TV series is presented in monolingual form with the original Japanese stereo mix. Similar to some past releases from Bandai Visual USA, it's a very well done stereo mix at a 448kbps rate which really lets it have a lot more clarity and impact. The forward soundstage presentation is good throughout, though it doesn't have quite the depth that some other shows might in a similar situation. With its TV origins however, there aren't a lot of high expectations here but the show does a good job with placement and clarity. The music in numerous scenes comes across very well with a rich feeling to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2006 and early 2007, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The visual presentation for this series is very striking with lots of big bold colors, rich looking CGI and an overall sense of depth and presence to many of the scenes. As has become seemingly standard for this company's releases, the bitrate is consistently high which results in some very solid looking scenes. The series has no real breakup or noise to its backgrounds or character animation which gives it a very appealing look on a large screen. It's not problem free though and the issues appear to be more source related. The first is that the CG tends to have a bit of line noise to it during the panning sequences, but this is relatively minor overall considering they avoid doing many pans and zooms over the machines. The other is that there are a couple of instances of visible banding which leads to some very minor blocking. Beyond that however, the show looks gorgeous.
Super Robot Wars doesn't stray from its designs much for this installment but it does swap out the mecha element for giant spaceships. These detailed CG ships look good, if a bit too shiny and clean at times, and provide a good balance to the cast of characters that are arrayed around them. The colors in general look really good and the designs are detailed enough where it counts to give it a very smooth feel. The back cover keeps things a bit dark and murky for the background but it provides several shots from the show and summaries for the episodes on the release. The bottom portion of the cover runs through the main staff and the voice actors as well as a decent looking technical grid that covers all the important information. While no reversible cover is included, we do get a very nice booklet that runs through several pages of character designs, mecha designs and information for what's introduced in these episodes.
The menu design for the series is simple but it goes against tradition in a small way in how most US companies do their menus. The menu is split in half with the cover artwork on the right side, with the blue skies filling the background, while the left side contains the navigation strip. With nothing on the disc but the show, subtitle selections are on the top level as well as individual episode access. The menu has a very brief bit of animation that it runs through at the start and then settles into its loop with music. This is where it's interesting in that unlike the standard design of a 30 second loop, they've done a 4 minute loop of music. Moving about the menus is easy, which isn't a surprise considering how little is here, and it naturally defaulted to having subtitles on.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The fourth installment of Super Robot Wars again has me unsure of the pacing and plotting of the series simply because it gives me some enjoyable episodes. The way the show has shifted between various groups has been frustrating, particularly with this low episode per disc count, because we get away from what I see as the core cast of characters for what's like an entire volume. This volume keeps us with Ryusei and the rest which is where a lot of my interest lies in the show.
With the DC group having gone public now and war is at hand with the EOT, the Federation forces are getting their ducks in a row to deal with Zoldark first and then hopefully smooth things out elsewhere afterwards. That means that the Hagwane is the main focus for the Federation as they get the crew together and finalize the preparations for getting underway. Amusingly, this also means that the DC turns its focus on the Hagwane as well since they realize it's a potential thorn in their side and it should be eliminated before they can really focus on their larger goals. That sets the stage for the first big real hands on conflict between the two sides fully aware of each other and their capabilities.
On board the Hagwane, the crew is coming together nicely as everyone is finding their way in the relationships with each other. There are some minor bits such as Ryusei dealing with issues with the R-1 and the T-link system and Rai is stressing his readiness due to the relationship he has with one of the enemy pilots. It's all given a cursory look due to the overall size of the cast so there isn't exactly a lot of depth to it. The most amusing part of all of it is the arrival of Kusuha as a military orderly on board the ship. Ryusei is obviously surprised to see her and she him but they don't fall into any sort of real relationship just yet beyond what they had in high school. Kusuha brings a bit of lightness to all of it and a bit of pain as she inflicts her super energy drinks on people that takes them out. These are actually cute simple moments since it lets some of the more serious characters like Plissken provide a bit of comedy.
What this volume gives us in spades beyond some of these basic crew bonding moments is a lot of action. The DC folks are intent on taking out the Hagwane early but the ship has a skilled older captain that can think things through well enough to let them get underway. And there's a certain craftiness to his methods when it comes to heading towards the island where DC's central influence is. There is a fairly standard feeling of dealing with the classic ship on a journey while being attacked issue here, but it's balanced out by some rather good action to it. The CG robots continue to look great to me which is still a surprise and watching how it all interacts is quite engaging. They do get a bit hard to follow at times in terms of the names of the mecha, which is similar to the numerous and diverse character names, but just like those I do tend to sort of glaze over at it. In the end though, just seeing it all out there moving about and going through the standard mecha action sequences is a lot of fun.
The basic weaknesses of the series is still present and the end still of each episode that shows the huge cast is emblematic of the biggest problem for me. With so many people running about it's hard to keep track of it all and all the relationships. When the show focuses on a smaller set of characters like this volume it becomes much more enjoyable. While this certainly isn't high art, I'm still having fun with it for the most part but I'm finding it to be a show that I can connect with on a deeper level. It's all very superficial and fun in that regard but there isn't any meat to it. Unless you're one of the really primary characters, you're not given much time and barely even a name mention in an episode. Super Robot Wars tries to feel like it's more than it is and I'll give them credit for trying that but it's still feeling fairly light and fluffy.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
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: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Super Robot Wars Original Generation