Arc the Lad Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Talk about a series that seemed to be dumped on. Arc was a series few people knew much about, myself included, and when asked the typical response (even the one I gave) was "Well, it's a videogame anime...so uh..."
This, in my opinion, is one polite way of saying "Yeah it sucks, but videogame nerds will buy it". And if you ask around, a lot of people don't have very high standards for videogame-based anime...but Arc the Lad is definitely a nice and pleasant surprise in that respect.
First up, the video is rather nice looking overall. While it's not exactly Gasaraki or BGC2040 (well, few are) it's very crisp, with strong lines and nice bright colors. There's not much bleeding, little rainbowing, and overall it looks new and flashy. Yay!
Audiowise, there's not many complaints either. The dub job is, surprisingly, not done by ADV's normal in-house (or close-to-house) studio, but rather by Bang!Zoom, who does quite a few MediaBlasters and Pioneer dubs. As such, when listening to Arc the Lad, you'll hear Kazuki Yotsuga (from Dual) as Elk, and Kaoru Kamiya/Miz Mishtal (from Rurouni Kenshin/El Hazard respectively) as Lieza. Jeremiah Freedman voiced Elk (and Kazuki) and I like his voice; he seems pretty well-suited to the role of Elk from what I remember of the import games way back. As usual, I like Dorothy Melendrez, although Lieza is a bit of a different role for her (kind of like Dorothy Wainwright was a different style of role for Lia Sargent in The Big O) since Lieza is quiet, shy and passive (so far), whereas Kaoru and Miz were both anything but. :) Still, the dub job is overall pretty good, and Bebop dub fans will be interested to know that David Lucas has a part as well.
Of course, he plays a big blue-gray wolf that just growls and whines, so I really can't tell if he does well or not. ;) It wouldn't be right to waste Wendee Lee, and she's there too, as the "narrator" for these first three episodes (she voices a character, actually, who narrates the story, but we really don't hear that character much in the first episodes).
Anyways, there are no extras on Arc's first disc that I can see, which is a true bummer, because I like the opening animation and its accompanying instrumental music, and I really also like the ending theme, weird though it is. Creditless opening and closing would have been fantastic. I guess there's always next time....so if there are no extras, I'll N/A the grade and abstain from mentioning it. If there ARE extras, ADV gets an F for hiding them. :P
The package for Arc is pretty standard, but it's catchy, with a nice picture of Elk on the cover, with Lieza in the blue background. No major complaints from a packaging standpoint, apart from the usual ADV-uses-Scanavo thing. ;)
Menus? I honestly don't even remember them. The one thing I do remember is that there wasn't an "Extras" menu option. :P Other than that it was your standard fairly-responsive unobtrusive menu. Nothing jumped out at me, so I guess it's typical, neither good nor bad. No front-loading trailers though! ;)
The content is where I like Arc. Where typical videogame anime series tend to be somewhat rushed and, in many cases, somewhat trite, Arc is based on a roleplaying game, and as such it seems like they'll take time to properly set things up. These first three episodes mainly serve as an introduction to the characters and settings in the land, but they do it in an interesting manner with a nice mix of action and background.
The story starts off with Elk and a fellow hunter (as in bounty hunter) hopping on to an airship in order to rescue some hostages that were taken. The whole first episode is basically the airship ordeal, so I won't go into more detail than what I've said, but it's a fun, action-filled introduction to Elk, Lieza, Pandit (the big blue-gray wolf thing), and some of the other characters. The second episode begins to fill in some of Elk's background, as well as some background for the world itself.
We find out that these weird monsters, called chimeras, are actually man-made, and that for some reason, the makers of these monsters want to get Lieza and Pandit. Cue the suspense music for me, would you? At any rate, yes, it sounds somewhat hashed, and make no bones, it is! But it's fun. The characters so far are pretty standard (hotheaded red-headbanded youth leader, demure and coy and uber-kawaii girly, big blue-gray furry wolf thing...well ok, maybe Pandit's not so standard) but they interest me, and not just because I played the RPG years ago in Japanese and couldn't understand a word of it. ;)
I really am looking forward to seeing the rest of Arc the Lad to see how things turn out, and that's a good thing considering I was turned off of anime for the past three weeks by a certain horrendous series that starts with "Angel" and ends with "Links". ;)
For many people, Arc was a middle-of-the-fence series because it was a videogame anime, and because it was 8 discs. Well, ADV has apparently lowered it to 6 discs (though this may be unofficial at this point, but since nobody reads my alternate angles, who cares if they change their minds?), which will hook some more buyers, but I have to admit, if the first disc was any sign, I would have bought Arc even at 8 discs; it simply interests me as a fantasy and sci-fi RPG fan. If you fit into this bill, you might want to give it a look-see; it might even help you forget that Final Fantasy anime series. ;)
Pioneer Elite 610 HDTV, Pioneer Elite DV-C36 DVD Changer, Pioneer Elite VSX-35TX Receiver, Pioneer ISO-drive speaker setup, Monster component cables and digital coax cable
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Arc the Lad