Super Robot Wars: OG - Divine Wars Vol. #5 (of 9) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, April 08, 2008



What They Say
Loyalties continue to shift, as Sanger prepares to launch against the Federation, and Ryoto Hikawa - a former member of the DC - finds his convictions tested following the betrayal of his ex-commander. The Federation pushes forward with Operation Breakout, but when the United Colony Corps launch a major assault against Geneva, the Federation's nerve center, it will be father against son as Rai is forced into battle against Maier von Branstein!

The Review!
Tensions rage between the two human sides of the war as personal grudges end up becoming motivating factors.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Super Robot Wars doesn't stray from its designs much for this installment as it provides both a look at the cool super robots and a number of the characters that fill out this large cast. With all of it against a bright cloudy sky, it has a very strong look to it with vibrant artwork and generally appealing designs. The mecha in particular continue to impress with its modern CG approach to the classic designs. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Super Robot Wars: Original Generation - Divine Wars creeps past the halfway mark with volume five which just feels very odd to think about considering the length of the series. The structure of the show is one that makes these small batches of episodes difficult to deal with since putting it all together just doesn't seem to flow well. At the same time, I can imagine that it was far worse for those that were watching it on a weekly basis. But they must have been true fans of the show who had some connection to it. What keeps me coming back to this series and enjoying it on any level is the simple beauty of it all. The story is a jumbled mess and the cast is far too large but I can't help but admire how stunning it all looks on the big screen. It's pure eye candy.

The story across these episodes still centers around the pitched fighting between the Federation and the DC forces. The DC forces under Zoldark are still promoting the idea that what they're doing is to ensure humanity survives and grows into the future while the Federation is scrambling to stop them from what they feel is the completely wrong course of action. After the island attack during the previous set of episodes, everyone is sort of regrouping while each side assesses where they stand. On the DC side, we get to meet a new kid who shouldn't be old enough to go out alone, never mind pilot one of these machines. He's being used by the DC because of how well he did in the Burning PT games and thrown into regular combat far too early. It's amusing in that Ryussei gets upset by this idea even though he's really not that much older and went through the same thing.

The one part of the story that I'd been looking forward to finally happened with this volume and that was the formal awareness of who is who between Tenzan and Ryusei. The two have had at least one or two encounters so far without realizing who was on the other end but now they have some verbal sparring to go along with the combat. The way that each of them approaches the situation is different since Tenzan treats all of it as a game and is pretty light and airy about all of it. That just infuriates Ryusei who is treating everything pretty seriously and just doesn't like Tenzan in general. The way the two of them ended things during the Burning PT championship tournament is still a sore spot for Ryusei and Tenzan's presence alone without even saying anything is enough to set him off the deep end.

Beyond that, much of the show just feels like a fast paced blur of things going on. There are some cute character moments here and there, particularly as one young girl slowly becomes a woman after Ryusei treats her like a normal person, but for the most part the reason to watch the show is for the big shiny robots beating the snot out of each other. And Super Robot Wars does that exceptionally well. The numerous battles that take place across the surface of the ocean are just beautiful to take in as it has such a vibrancy to it, both in the backgrounds and in the CG animation of the robots. The characters are almost interchangeable at this point but there are some good bits as it gets up into space and there are more shipboard characters getting involved. It must be hell on the people who actually have to design those uniforms to make them work in that world however...

In Summary:
Moving firmly albeit slowly into the second half of the show, there's very little different going on here than there was in the last couple of volumes. This is just the problem of the low episode counts as the story progresses pretty slowly. Filled with lots of action, we're still seeing the first phase of things in the battles between the SRX/Federation forces and the DC group. If you can get into it from a purely action standpoint, Super Robot Wars is a fantastic show and should engage that audience beautifully. If you like a story with characters that you can connect to, it's likely not going to be for you. There are some moments of pure brilliance here when it comes to the presentation, but what little story hooks there were at the beginning for me have pretty much evaporated by now unfortunately.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
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.
MSRP: 49.99
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