Mixing in huge amounts of fanservice with some very strong science fiction and a complex storyline, Diverge Eve plays to stereotypes and smashes it repeatedly.
What They Say
What more could you ask for than a bevy of beauties forced to put their lives on the line to answer the call of duty. DIVERGENCE EVE is a bold and imaginative voyage leading directly into the heart of evil. A dark tale enlivened by a shocking mystery, which will have you guessing until the final fade out.
Divergence Eve in its two seasons has a good set of audio mixes to it for its bilingual presentation. The series has a fairly standard Japanese stereo mix to it that does have some rather good directionality during a number of scenes, particularly the exterior ones inside the armor suits. With the characters, it's a fairly decent dialogue show and there is a lot going on but it's never excessively going to one side or the other though it does shift from time to time. The English language mix is bumped up to a 5.1 design and that adds a bit more clarity and a boost to the volume overall as well which gives it a stronger feeling, but not decidedly so since so much of the series is dialogue oriented. Overall, the dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we haven't had any trouble with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing back in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is spread across six discs for the twenty six episodes there are in the two seasons. Similar to the original release in single format, it’s done in a 5/4/4/5/4/4 format which gives each volume a good amount of space to work with. Just like with the singles, I'm hard pressed to find anything to complain or nitpick about. With such bright colors, solid areas and great looking computer animation mixed in, the transfer is essentially flawless here. Colors are solid without any noticeable blocking, cross coloration is non-existent and color gradient issues simply aren't here. Add in a lack of grain or aliasing and this is just a beautifully detailed transfer.
The packaging for this release is really very good and gives you just about everything you’d want from it. The main box is a solid chipboard piece done in some great shades of blue where the front cover has Misaki in her uniform, guns out, looking sexy overall with a bit of restraint. The back piece has her in the same pose but with her basic uniform on with its short skirt and high stockings. It’s a very good looking and appealing box overall. Within the box we get the six black thinpak cases which all retain the original character cover art and designs but tightened up a bit to give it a very together feeling. The spines all form a single image as well, something you very very rarely see with thinpak releases which is a shame. The back covers are given a very good split where a third is given over to a sideways breakdown of technical and production information and the rest is made up of shots from the show. The remaining two thirds for each volume has a very sexy piece of artwork of various characters in state of undress or little clothing in general. It pushes the fanservice side hard which isn’t a bad thing as it balances some of the other elements. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu designs for this set mirrors some of the previous releases that came out before it as I believe there were half season collections as well. The first season features the same kind of menus where they’re laid out nicely with expansive listings of the episodes, credited and language options with character artwork. The second season is a lot more barren looking with a solid color and just a small piece of character artwork to one side while the episode selection is kept to just the numbers and other selections all bundled up together. It’s a very tight and compact design, much like how a lot of more recent collections were done from ADV Films. I wish there was more consistency across the set but it also works in that these are two separate seasons as well with different names to them. Submenus – what few there are – load quickly and without issue. As is the case with the majority of ADV Films releases, our players’ language presets were honored and it played accordingly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From the start, Divergence Eve had a lot going against it with me. Just the character designs with their overweighted upper halves being so prominent and more so than most (but not all) other series was something that just gets the eyes rolling. Add in that it's a science fiction series and has the kind of tag line about five women in training at the ends of space and you can easily imagine what it would be like. Hell, it's been done how many times before. The final nail in the coffin came when I saw that Hiroshi Negishi was directing it. While he's done a few things that I've liked before, his resume reads more like a list of B-list fanservice shows that are mostly forgettable these days.
So you could color me extremely surprised when this actually turned out to be a very science (albeit pseudo-science) heavy show that's also very much character driven with lots of dialogue, atmosphere, pacing and an overall intriguing plot with a fascinating setup. It was so completely unexpected based on past history for me that it probably became even more interesting just because of that. The entire concept of the show from what was available beforehand just doesn't translate into what the opening episodes actually were and I'm still shaking my head about it upon repeat viewings years later.
The story is told somewhat disjointedly but it makes sense. The prologue of each episode follows a timeline in the past from the 21st century on where we see how mankind discovered a way of traveling outside of the solar system. By using the discovery of parallel universes and a gateway that could be used on the moon Titan, ships are able to go through the gate into the parallel universe and emerge at the other end of the gateway far across the galaxy. Over the years, we now have the farthest flung colony called Watcher's Nest where most people are going to and there are some ten million people living in this strange looking hourglass shaped world. Within the core of the split planet is something the size of a moon but with its layers and layout it looks to be something more.
What's kept secret from everyone except those at the top is that when people travel through the parallel universes, sometimes something tries to come along as well or tries to come out on its own at one end of the gate. Labeling them as Ghoul's, these massive demonic looking beasts are slick and powerful and able to cause massive damage. Their powers are intriguing and seemingly electrical based; depending on how quickly they can be contained upon discovery by the laser platform that orbits the small moon, they're able to send something called a sepular out into the main planet where it takes on a partial form of them and wrecks havoc all over. These have been happening more and more on Watcher's Nest lately and are just labeled as unexplained explosions or electrical issues.
The show actually opens with events three months later than where most of the series takes place. Initially we see a massive event taking place at the end of December with the four women going down to the contained moon and dealing with the Ghoul that's there and decidedly strange things happen across it. It has dialogue but most of what we get isn't helpful and the episode would normally be classified as a bad one if it wasn't so intriguing. This is done to provide a solid hook into the show and I think it works really well, since it then shifts to three months prior when the five women first arrive at Watcher's Nest to begin their training. One of them is set to become the new ace of the base as the current leader, Lyar, is moving up in position to something in the command chain. So she must work with and watch these five candidates to see which one will become the one.
The four are fairly standard stereotypes, and all quite chesty, that are mostly separated by hair color and then slowly by actual characters. As we learn, four of them were previously selected for such a duty but the fifth one, the younger blue haired Misaki, was from the reserves and was selected for some unknown reason. Through the training and diagnostics which cover most of these episodes, we start to see the spark that someone else saw in selecting her and for the most part we follow these five as they move through that training. Each of them slowly gets a bit more character so they're not complete stereotypes but the focus is heavily on Misaki, especially since she's the weakest of the five in her training and she's the one that ends up in the wrong areas at the wrong time. She ends up learning in a couple of bad ways about the Ghouls and it seems to get her even more motivated to do what has to be done because their introduction into her life seems to slowly unlock her real potential.
Talking about Divergence Eve is surprisingly difficult because it's built up in such a way, with the three timelines of the story being told, that so much neat information is revealed in subtle ways and much of the mystery still remains. Misaki's encounters with the Ghouls' come in different ways and each of them provides a different insight but also more mysteries. The encounters on the floor of the captured moon are the creepiest of them all but the tension of the one she encounters with the little girl is heart pounding. Beating all of them out though is a fascinating one when a sepular that appears aboard their descent craft and everyone gets introduced to the Ghoul in a very violent way. The revelations of the science and mystery behind the Watcher's Nest is seemingly done in such a slow and methodical way that works so well that I keep checking the credits each time to ensure I'm seeing Negishi's name there as this project is so unlike his past works.
The first season with its storyline at the Watcher's Nest ended in an interesting way with the Exodus back to Earth. We saw Misaki taking one of the Rampart Armors for her own and heading down to deal with the Ghoul, which in turn brought us back to the beginning of that season where we saw a good portion of the ending. Divergence Eve, and Misaki Chronicles as well, plays heavily with shifting back and forth in time to tell its story. With the end of Divergence Eve, we saw Misaki trying to make everything right as she saw it, which meant having her friends alive and well and moving forward into the future once again. Her wish turned into a rebooting of the universe in a sense and the series ended with her back on Earth and living her life once again away from the Watcher's Nest and the Ghouls.
But that's actually been a bit deceptive. Misaki didn't hit the reboot button as we were led to believe but rather she sought out a time in Earth's history where everyone could be happy and went back to that. But taking a cue from some of my favorite time travel books that deal in quantum mechanics, they introduce the idea that she didn't return to the same Earth from when she started and it's caused a freakish branching to occur. The arrival of the Exodus portion of the Watcher's Nest into the solar system brings us to the most obvious changes; the ring has settled to latching onto the moon and observing the earth which is covered with the hazy green energy that seems to symbolize the Ghoul nature. Through the technology that they have, they've identified that Ghoul's are making their way back to different periods in human history and attempting to sway things there. In order to figure out how and to stop them, Lyar and Kotoko have reworked the Rampart Armor and with the new weapon designed by the engineers there, head down for brief periods to eliminate them. Once the Ghoul disappears though, the window of time shrinks considerably, often down to seconds, before they lose their ability to return.
It's during these various journeys that Lyar discovers that the past is not what it really was as she comes across Misaki during her academy days in training with Kiri, but Misaki didn't even meet Kiri until they were going to the Watcher's Nest together. Misaki's rewritten past has inserted her into that group of friends far earlier and that revelation to Lyar marks a change in how they have to approach what's going on down on Earth. The first episode spends a good deal of time just focusing on Misaki and showing us her new life, the reasons she joined the military academy and the motivations that got her to go even further. It's interesting that she didn't go to rewrite this part of her past though since she's looking for a place where she can be happy.
With the idea that Misaki is searching for a place in time where she can be happy, the Ghoul events start happening at different dates and Lyar and eventually Kiri have to go back to try and stop it before things get out of hand. They have the potential problem of influencing history while doing so since seeing the Rampart Armor could cause a huge anomaly so they spend more time on foot trying to deal with it. But if time is not a constant flow but rather constantly splitting, does doing anything do any good in the long run? Interestingly, the show goes back to two distinct periods in time during the first volume. The first one runs across two episodes as it brings us to 1534 where Goemon Ishikawa is trying to assassinate Hideyoshi for the things he's done. Hideyoshi's actually controlled or influenced by the Ghoul and Lyar gets far too involved in things while not being able to track down Misaki properly but the two part storyline shows just how deeply connected Misaki's family, the Kureha's, are to the history of the country.
Another trip into the past brings us to a late February date in 1936 Japan which is where the country began its changes that led it deeply into World War II. Some of that event is covered but it shifts more to the relationships that are tied to the men behind it which Misaki tries to alter in order to save so much pain and anguish. These trips, naturally Japan-centric, are interesting as they play out since they provide so many divergence points for how history could change. These are the fodder of many kinds of science fiction stories by writers around the world as they write and talk about how changes locally and in their history could reshape the world, so seeing something fresh from a non-western perspective is something that I have to say I enjoy a lot. What few time travel shows there have been in anime tend to focus on a few particular eras or key events that are more well know and they don't really move away from those here yet but it's done with a straightforward look and without the inclusion of bouncy comical material.
The biggest hurdle I initially had with this show was the character designs, but I was surprised at how little of a focus their massive breasts are really given all things told. They are prominent throughout – how can they not be – but outside of a couple of scenes where they seem to be saying "hey, lookit these!" they're not something that's really used on a constant basis. Taking them away and you're still left with some really good looking character designs. I love the uniforms for the trainees, even though they are just adult sized sailor suits, but they're just so nicely colorful and attractive that I'm willing to give on that much. Each of the characters is nicely distinct and the animation for the show is well budgeted as it looks great. The numerous panning sequences are just perfect and free of some of the problems that's usually associated with them, from stuttering stops and rolling motions that just look bad, none of that is here.
Divergence Eve in its two seasons is a show that really does make out far better in marathon form than in single disc form. This is a show that requires watching the episodes close together in order to put the pieces together and to see the larger narrative. I enjoyed it when I first saw it in its single disc release but the collected editions, even if you watch them in the half seasons that they are separately, really paints a very strong picture. The story is strong enough that you don’t even notice the minimal fanservice that’s there nor the way the women are all so top heavy in order to actually get you to watch it. Divergence Eve is a show that I can easily see myself coming back to every few years to take in and to see if there are even more little things and nuances that I might have missed. Divergence Eve is the “don’t judge a book by its cover” series that I recommend to anyone looking for something serious and intriguing.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 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.