Sol Bianca: The Legacy Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:Roman Martel
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2000



The Review!
Overall Rating: 4.4
(on a scale of 1-5)

-Disc Ratings-

Sound: 5
Picture: 5
Menu: 5
Presentation: 5
Goodies: 5
Overall: 5
-Artistic Ratings-

Animation: 4
Sound: 5
Plot: 3
English Acting: 3
Music: 4
Overall: 3.8
Intro

I wasn't really going to get this title. I heard about it and for some reason it didn't catch my attention. Then I learned that it would have a Animetronic music clip on it and that it was in 5.1 audio on both tracks. I was tempted. Then I saw the cover art and heard about the plot... female space pirates looking for lost treasure. (Yes I am easily willed) I had to get it. But was it worth it?

Technical Review

Yes it's another Pioneer disc. So we all know the drill here, right? Great picture. Great sound. The 5.1 was having lots of fun on my speakers. But what is this? Another excellent menu. Yep this was brought to you by the folks who did the Trigun menus and it shows. It's a recreation of the VR computer system used on the ship! It looks and sounds great. It clearly shows what you are choosing and there is no annoying wait for the menu to start up (my only problem with the Bebop menu). I just had a blast playing with the menus. Great job again. The presentation on this disc is also top notch. The cover art got my attention and the back has all the info you need to know, including regions, extras and sound selections. You also get a bunch of goodies on this disc too. The Animetronic Music Video, tests for the 3D ships, characters sketches, and a extra long trailer. This disc is just packed. So on the technical side, you got another great job from Pioneer.

Content Review

Now never fear, Sol Bianca the Legacy does not require you to have seen the previous incarnation (released by ADV) to follow its story line. This all new adventure is pretty much self-contained as far as I can tell. This is the first Sol Bianca show I have seen. So far this appears to be a sci-fi, action show with a little comedy here and there. The search for treasure seems to be the main theme here, as well as the girls kicking butt. No problem with that... but there is a slight problem. We'll get to that in a minute.

The first episode introduces our heroines, each named after a month. The captain, April, has lost her ancient gun, the Flintlock pistol. So it is up to her and the crew to retrieve it. Unfortunately the gun is being sold at an auction, and there is a very anxious buyer who will do anything to get the gun. As you might have guessed, April and the crew get into a huge battle with this mystery man and his crew, known as the Blue Comets.

The second episode follows the crew on their search for treasure on a lonely world that seems to be barren. Of course the girls enter the mysterious ruins even when they are warned of all the deadly traps inside. June and Mayo (the stowaway) become separated from the group and go searching on their own, with only the goofy hologram, Sancho, to guide them. However, all the traps inside the ruins are based on the Divine Comedy by Dante. Can June and Mayo survive this quest while deciphering an ancient manuscript and enduring Sancho's antics?

The first episode is your basic intro to the characters and to the world or Sol Bianca. It works pretty well in that aspect. We also get a little bit of info on April, and her yearning for the days of old. The second episode focuses more on June. From the preview of the next two episodes it looks like we will examine Jani and Feb next. So I'm assuming that the final two episodes will be more plot oriented. This is all speculation mind you, but it seems logical.

The back of the keepcase touts the phrase "Fully Computer Generated Digital Animation". That phrase has been known to send chills of terror down many an anime fan's back. It doesn't bother me too much, as long as it is handled well. Use of computer animation in Macross Plus, Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, and Princess Mononoke works fine with the conventional animation. But what about a completely computer animated work that is looking for a combination of 2D and 3D. Well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Sol Bianca has a certain look to it and overall it works fine, but there are moments that just scream COMPUTER ANIMATION. These moments do tend to pull you away a bit from the story. It bothers me a bit, but not enough for me to not like the show (feel the same way about Blue Sub). I do like the design for the Sol Bianca world. This combines the old and new very well (in a way like Trigun, but not the 1800's in this case).

My only serious design gripe is with Sancho. Why did we need a character ripped off from a couple of Disney movies in this show? Was this a tribute? Was this a mockery? What was this? Sancho is obviously a combination of Genie (from Aladdin) and Hades (from Hercules). I didn't care too much for his antics, and I won't be missing him if he never comes back (kinda like Jar Jar, but to a lesser degree ;-). I just wonder at the reason for the character and his very unoriginal design. Oh well.

Most of the sound work does an excellent job of supporting the action on the screen. All the ships have an individual sound, and all the weapons are distinctive as well. There are some good ambient sounds in the second episode that add to eerie atmosphere of "hell". The 5.1 mix does a good job of showcasing the work.

So far the plot isn't anything spectacular. It's pretty straightforward without any surprises. It's entertaining and all, but there is something lacking. Mostly character development. I do think that this will be resolved as the episodes continue. But like I said, this is mostly an action and sci-fi show. Character development is not the main focus here. The action is. Unfortunately I did have a problem with the action in the first episode. The free for all in the auction was well done and beautifully animated. But once you get to the aerial combat... things become fuzzy. Now the animation is still smooth and beautiful looking but things just get really confusing. I'm still not sure exactly how the crew of the Sol Bianca got out of their predicament... or if they even really did. Now there is a mysterious element to the whole end battle (I won't give it away), but that isn't the confusing part. There was just a whole lot of stuff that seemed unconnected, that was shown together and then... the episode was over. I was left scratching my head, and just shrugging it off. Luckily the second episode does not have this problem. It's much more clear and better put together.

The English voice cast needed some work. Well, maybe I should say that the male English voice cast needed work. I don't know if they got some new guys or if they just weren't into it, but they were all monotone and bored sounding. The main girls on the other hand were pretty good. They weren't spectacular, but they did a good job. I do think that this disc would probably work better in Japanese at this point. I did wince quite a few times in this dub (and most of you know that I'm pretty tolerant of most dubs). The guys just needed some work on this one. Maybe in the next disc...

I enjoyed all the music in this show. The score was pretty standard, nothing really leapt out at me. It fit the show and supported the action. I'd say that most of the music was above average but not quite enough to get me to want the soundtrack.

This one is a rental first. If you don't like computer animation or are really iffy about it, then definitely rent it first. It's a fun disc, but nothing that will knock you over or make you want to see the next one that badly. It's a fun romp that will keep you entertained. I hope it gets a little juicier in the next episodes, but if it doesn't it won't be that bad. I'd say Sol Bianca is pure entertainment, so far.

***A little bit about the Animetronic Video***

Well, I was excited to see what we were gonna get from Animetronic ever since they announced their plans. There are lots of possibilities here and I figured that Sol Bianca would make a great first candidate. What did I think about it? Well it wasn't bad. It was O.K. Just like the show. I don't think they had enough material to work with, using only the first two episodes. If they had combined footage from all six episodes then I think we could have seen something really cool. As it was, lots of times the images didn't quite work with the music. It just seemed a bit too long and didn't flow quite right. Looks like Dan Rockwell from ADV is still the master of this arena. It was a good attempt. But it would have been interesting to see what Dan could have come up with.

***End mini review***



Review Equipment
Panasonic A110, Pioneer Elite Pro-107 (45 inch screen), Kenwood THX certified 4.1 receiver, Boston Acoustics (5 speakers and 2 subs)



Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sol Bianca: The Legacy