Mania Grade: B-
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 18 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Kitty Media
- MSRP: 24.99
- Running time: 60
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Countdown Series
Countdown DVD Review
By Chris Beveridge
April 08, 2010
Release Date: April 06, 2010
© Kitty Media
If one thing is true, you can't keep a good hermaphrodite down as Countdown finds itself a new home.
What They Say
Hiroyuki Utatane's classic short stories of power, lust, sex, and just a touch of comedy return to the small screen. In Alimony Hunter, Chizuru chances upon a young lady named Jun with a very special talent of sorts, and the two decide to spend some time comforting each other. Seek is the story of a brave swordsman who rescues a damsel in distress only to find that he's not in as much control of the situation as he thought. Virgin Road tells the tale of a bride on the verge of getting married who gets a last-minute private bachelorette party from Alimony Hunter's Jun. A Play on History, Hooligan Boy stars a madman conducting some sexy kidnappings, and only super heroine Mai and her partner can stop them.
This edition of Countdown, originally titled Countdown Conjoined has the same language presentation as the Critical Mass edition. That edition had received a brand new English language adaptation to complement the original Japanese dialogue. Both tracks are presented in a standard stereo mix encoded at 192kbps but it's pretty much a full on center feeling. Outside of some bits of music that are kept to either the left or right, there isn't a lot to focus on here in terms of directionality. The audio tracks do serve the material well though as they don't require any sort of heavy mix to them. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout both of them and we didn't have any troubles with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released back in 1995, the transfer for these OVAs is essentially the same as we saw with the SoftCel release. For a traditional animation show, it turned out pretty nice and avoids the big stumbling block of cross coloration by having practically none. There's some aliasing during some panning sequences as well there being some small amount of grain throughout the program. There is a fair bit of noise throughout it but considering the show, quality of materials and other factors it doesn't impact it much. Colors look good without any over saturation or bleeding. The dark blue skies and other darkened areas maintain a non-blocky look throughout.
This edition goes back to the cover artwork that Softcel had use, or at least the character artwork, which is fairly dated with the facial design but otherwise looks good with the detail to the lingerie and the murky green background that makes it stand out all the more. The character artwork is a real draw though and she looks good here with the way the colors look and the way the clothes basically fall off of her. The back cover uses the character artwork from the Critical Mass release of Akemi with the flimsy halter piece while laying a number of shots from the various shows to the right of her. The summary covers the basics of each of them while a solid technical grid is along the bottom. With a good looking cover, this incarnation of the show looks a good bit fresher than it has for awhile. No insert or reversible cover is included with the release.
Going with a simple approach, the main menu uses the character artwork from the front cover with the same background as the front cover. The main difference here is that the character artwork is zoomed in more so it's more just the top half of her body than everything in total. The logo looks good with the heightened lighting on it and the selections are all quick and easy to access while a bit of vocal music plays along. The menu is a pretty average effort but it works and gets you to the show quickly. Access times are nice and fast and the disc read our players' language presets correctly.
While SoftCel's release only had one extra and the Critical Mass one added more, Kitty's version has no extras. Technically, the staff comments is included from the SoftCel release at the very end of the episodes but it's untranslated which renders it pretty useless. The Critical Mass extras of the dub outtakes and the artwork gallery are nowhere to be found.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kitty Media has added another title to the rescue list, twice rescued now, as Countdown (originaly Countdown Conjoined) was first released by SoftCel Picture and then taken over by Critical Mass Video a few years ago. Like other recent titles that have come over from the Critical Mass library, Countdown is essentially the same thing with some cosmetic changes that are nice, minus a few simple extras. The show itself looks like it always has, albeit with a touch more clean-up with more advanced authoring since the original SoftCel release back in 2003.
Countdown is made up of a couple of OVA episodes which are then split into a couple of episodes each. Each of the episodes is of varying length, so they're not all say 15 minutes each, but rather all over the map when it comes to running times. This works out well since an episode isn't forced to run longer than it should and the ones deserving of more time actually get it.
The stories here are also what some may consider "vintage" hentai. They're the kind of stories where when they play out, my wife comments on how nobody seems surprised to encounter a hermaphrodite. When my response is, "at least it's not scat" and we both nod approvingly, it shows just how different things have become over the last ten years as the once soft-core hentai market seems to have all but disappeared.
The mix of stories is pretty decent. The opening chapter has us following an attractive woman who is returning from her kitchen coordinating demonstration and comes across two women making out late at night in the park at one of the small buildings. She's surprised by this but also finds herself interested in it. When she's discovered watching, she runs off and eventually catches her bus. While there, her fingers start sliding downward as she remembers the feeling.
Amusingly, one of the people she saw making out earlier ends up sitting next to her and the two chat politely, but eventually it all comes down to making out and getting as crazy as they can while at the back of the bus. As the two women make out, we learn that the previously engaged one is actually a hermaphrodite, which doesn't shock the other at all. So the two get even busier with each other, resulting in a fun little sequence. The two end up going back home together, where Chizuru introduces her newfound talented partner to a younger man that lives with her that's sick. Of course, things get even more intense between the two women and no man is ever sick enough to not get involved in sex, so the two becomes three and lots of sex ensues.
That takes up the bulk of the first episode, but there is enough time for a smaller fantasy oriented story where we have the cynical hero on the horse off to rescue the princess caught by the monster. He dispatches them quickly and the two head off towards her castle. Along the way, they room at a little inn where he pays extra to get the innkeeper to pretend that they're getting the last room available. As he works his plans to take her completely, she continues on her innocent way. He quickly manages to get her mostly naked and starts working her over but ends up running into something of a problem. As she reaches a certain point, her mental state changes and she goes from being the dainty princess to the S&M Queen, completely lording over the hero. And naturally, while he gets inflicted with a lot of pain, he loves it.
The Another tale in the the series brings us to the wedding chapel, the type that have many marriages occurring at once in the building and not the traditional church chapel. Our young couple is quite in love, but the girl isn't thinking too good at times since she keeps picking out the most girly of items for their bedroom of the future, which causes him some grief. That's all minimal stuff though, as both are getting ready later in the chapel only to discover someone from their past has returned. This dark haired young woman turns out to be something of a master of both of them and is determined to make sure the bride knows who truly owns her. This leads to some really good scenes between her and the bride in her dress as she goes about reminding her of their past. Of course, the dark haired young woman is a hermaphrodite, so there's lots of sex to be had here as she dominates the bride. This tale is the kind that hints of more story to be told to flesh things out but they opted to go more for the sex than the story.
The final tale is just insane. Taking place originally in a science fiction setting, then focusing on a feudal style town that's done up as something of an attraction or tourist town, we focus on a business owner woman who continually molests and has sex with her gorgeous female employee. This goes well until a huge robot appears that has started swiping women left and right, including said girl toy. Mass destruction and more sex ensue as the woman goes after her employee while also helping the other women get freed as well. This is the kind of tale that's just all over the map and is played up more for comedy than the actual sex moments, which makes it a good companion piece to the more S&M show that preceded it.
With this release containing the two short stories that were never licensed before, Kurenai and Zutto Amai Kuchibiru, Countdown finally has all its parts together. Sadly, Kitty Media didn't make any noise at all about picking up the episode that has never been licensed before by either SoftCel or Critical Mass so it flew under the radar for many people, myself included. Countdown has some great character designs and the excellent bride in wedding dress getting nasty scenes. Countdown has never been one of my favorites but it certainly has its moments that at the least make it interesting to watch. I'm always glad to see a title rescued and given a new lease on life, especially in the hentai world where licenses lapse and disappear with little notice compared to mainstream anime releases. Whether Countdown still has an audience out there to appeal to or not is a mystery, but hopefully some folks will discover or rediscover this title and have some fun with a varied set of stories of a classic nature.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 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.