Dual Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 07, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, September 26, 2000
Dual is a newer series released by Pioneer, and at least as far as I've noticed it's not getting a whole lot of hype. There may be a few reasons for this, but as near as I can tell from a trial viewing, it's certainly not because of the DVD quality. Pioneer seems to have a knack for making fairly nice DVD's, and Dual's first disc doesn't make an exception to the norm.
The cover of the DVD is very noticeable; when I looked at the rack in the store, it was very noticeable due to the blue and gold. It's also somewhat reminiscent of an Eva cover, which might be the intent based on a few other things about the series. The back cover of the DVD has some good shots, but not too many to make it cluttered. Like the front cover, the gold gradient background looks rather nice. One minor gripe about the back cover is that Pioneer seems to enjoy hiding information. The region information is there, at the very bottom, hidden near the FBI warning, and the audio information isn't even there. Maybe they're doing all their DVD's in Dolby Digital unless otherwise noted or something, but it'd be nice to see that outright somewhere.
The DVD menus are nicely done this time around. They're colorful, slightly animated, and seem to have good music selections in the background. They also are nice and quick with responses, something that older Pioneer DVD's such as Battle Athletes seemed to lack. There's nothing too elaborate here as far as functionality goes, however. And, I'll have to go back and check my El-Hazard and Battle Athlete DVD's, as maybe it's just this one, but Dual doesn't automatically start right into the movie as do many DVD's I've seen. Personally, I rather like this, but if you're the pop-it-in-and-sit-down type who doesn't like hitting Play, I guess this might be a nuisance.
Dual includes a few goodies as extras, which most people should enjoy: first, it includes a credit-free opening sequence. Woohoo! The second main extra is the line art and conceptual drawing section, which is fairly self-explanatory. There's a few neat images here, though nothing really earth-shattering. The third, and probably most interesting, extra is the character biography section. Pioneer took a less common approach here and did some biographies of Mitsuki Sanada (again, the girl on the cover) and the Hertzenen (the white robot), but wrote them as if the main character, Yotsuga Kazuki, was writing them. Considering Yotsuga's always writing stories in his laptop, this makes sense; the humor used to assume Yotsuga's personality is pretty funny as well. For the purists, the right half of the screen has the character's vital stats. Another extra, though not on the DVD itself, is that Dual is packaged with a window-sticker of Mitsuki in her pose from the cover. Woohoo again! Add to that, somewhat inexplicably, a cooking recipe on the DVD insert and you've got a nice package altogether.
Graphically and aurally, Dual is fantastic. The screens look much clearer and crisper than most DVD's, and there's very little shifting or warbling of the image at all. The audio portion (English track) is crisp and clean, with no noticeable background noise or other distractions, and the surround effects are done intelligently, as opposed to a "Hey look what we can do!" approach which some have taken. I would have liked a few more surround effects though, especially background sound and noises.
The story of Dual will seem very, well, hacked to many people, as will the robot designs. Two girls and a guy piloting really big robots with mainly hand-to-hand combat abilities. Hmmm. For anyone interested, take Evangelion, a little Escaflowne, and toss in some humor from Tenchi Muyo and mix it all up, and that's, roughly, Dual. Obvious rip-offs from Evangelion aside though, Dual looks like it may rise above being a typical hack. As opposed to the psychological overtones of Evangelion, Dual seems so far to be more of an action/comedy, with less emphasis on morality, self-importance, and anything else remotely deep. Dual's story centers on a boy, Yotsuga Kazuki, who sees visions of huge robots righting almost continually. As it turns out, a girl from his school has been reading his stories about his visions on his website, and confronts him about it. Dragging him home to her eccentric physicist dad, Yotsuga eventually ends up becoming a part of his visions: they're really a parallel world, and somehow, he's now in it. From here, the story starts mimicking Evangelion pretty closely, including Yotsuga being "drafted" into piloting; the third pilot being a subdued, mysterious girl; the flight suits the characters wear (although there's a hilarious dialogue between Prof. Sanada and Yotsuga about "shock absorption" there); and even the control room which monitors the pilots and robots.
Many people will probably write off Dual as a blatant Eva rip-off, and never give it a chance, but there's some new angles here which make it enjoyable. The humor is a big asset, as it keeps the story from getting too overwhelming and depressing. The characters are also fairly interesting, mainly because of some twists during the rip-off process. Prof. Sanada, for example, is an overly excitable semi-pervert, as well as being the commander of the Earth Defense Force. This should prove to keep the series from getting too dark, in my estimation.
For those people whose tastes won't be offended by some less-than-original concepts and a cookie-cutter story (at least so far), then Dual may be a good series to get into, with glimpses of action, comedy, and a few romance triangles growing (hey, it's by the creators of Tenchi Muyo, did you really think they could get by without a love octagon...?)
Pioneer Elite 610 HDTV, Pioneer DV-434 Prog-Scan DVD, Pioneer VSX-D509S DD/DTS Receive, Pioneer ISO-drive speaker setup, Monster component cables
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2