DNAngel Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: DNAngel

DNAngel Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     October 22, 2004
Release Date: November 09, 2004

DNAngel Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© ADV Films

What They Say
Being a teenager is rough enough, but young Daisuke's got more troubles than any ten normal guys. Due to a strange quirk of genetics, Daisuke's been cursed with an ancient family affliction that's sure to put some major kinks in his relationship with the opposite sex. You see, whenever he becomes... enamored... with the object of his desires, Daisuke finds himself transformed into the legendary thief Phantom Dark!

Unfortunately, the only way to return to his true form is for his true love to love Daisuke for himself; but when she's only got eyes for Dark, how can Daisuke compete with himself? Stealing the heart of one's true love has never been as complicated... or intriguing...

The Review!
Not seen in forty years, the mysterious thief Dark returns through the DNA of a fourteen year old boy.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for this series is quite good with some very well done moments of directionality both for dialogue and for action effects throughout the show. The English track, which is in 5.1, is a bit louder and makes the directional moments a bit clearer, is also a good strong track. Listening to the Japanese mix in full, it felt more full and warmer to us. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or other distortions.

Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being a recent show, it has plenty of digital effects to it but it uses it an interesting style that makes the transfer a bit hard to pin down at times. In a number of scenes, the show has a somewhat soft and almost grainy feel to it, such as when it moves around the lower city and does some of the digital pans of the buildings. Areas such as inside the school and along the train all look very sharp though. The color palette used for the show is a mix as well with some dark earthy colors used for the city buildings and layout, lots of soft oranges and purples as well, while the character animation is very rich and vibrant in a different way. There's a lot of sections of solid colors that look really good here and avoid noticeable blocking or color gradation issues, in addition to no noticeable cross coloration and only a few minor moments of aliasing here and there during some panning sequences.

This is a great looking release from start to finish with the packaging. The front cover has a great shot of Dark that provides a strip of purple filtered character shots next to him. The purples and whites mixed with the heavy blacks works really nice here to create a very eye-catching cover. The back cover provides a small strip of full color shots from the show through the middle. The top half has a pretty good explanatory pair of paragraphs about the show while the bottom half displays all the discs extras, production and technical information in very easy to read and find blocks. The insert has a shot of Risa in her school uniform next to the episode listings and the extra listings while the reverse side has a cute picture of With by himself. The cover for this release is reversible and that front cover image is the same shot but done in a full way of Risa from the insert and it looks great. The back cover is the same as the regular back cover. This is actually a hard release to choose which cover to have on the front.

In addition to the disc release, a disc plus box release was also done. The box, which looks great, is unfortunately of the thick soft kind and is not a solid chipboard box. With the backgrounds done in the off-white color, it helps to really emphasize the artwork itself. One panel has the same piece as the disc cover itself while the other main panel has his polar opposite. The spine has a really cute image of With just above the logo and next to Daisuke. A similar image is used on top along with another character. It's a very attractive box, particularly the side with Dark on it, but it's disappointing that it's not a chipboard box.

Using an attractive static image of Dark along the left with the mix of blacks and purples to him, it stands out well against the white background and the floating black feathers. With the menu selections and icon using the purple shade from his hair, the layout for this looks really nice and fits well with the character. The only downside is that the music loop is really far too short and ends on such a bad way that it's almost annoying, which is a shame since it's such a good opening. The menus are quick and easy to navigate with no transitional animations and the disc correctly read our players language presets and played accordingly.

The opening volume has a good amount of extras included in it. The standard features are there such as the clean opening and closing sequences and the Japanese TV spots that we usually see on the first volume. Some of the interesting extras include the Japanese promo piece that was used to sell the show as well as the in-store promo reel for it. One really neat extra here is the mini documentary piece on the creation of the opening theme song which follows a few aspects of it. These used to be much more prevalent years ago but have seemingly dropped off for the most part so I was happy to see one again, showing how they work to get the right kind of mood for the vocals, going through the recordings and more. For English language fans, there's a voice actor commentary provided for an episode on this volume with the men behind the two leads of Dark and Daisuke.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
DN Angel is the kind of series where I enjoy a lot of it since it has a good time in messing with its characters and just yanking them around a bit but at the same time it's the kind of series that I get very frustrated with. The messing around part is fun, because you have things where the mother seemingly knows all about her son including who he's wanting to express his feelings to and that makes him constantly on edge about what she's going to reveal next. The frustration comes in the form of the lead character being yanked around so much that if he just actually sat his mother and grandfather down and demanded answers the show would probably have a better flow. It's the spineless nature like that in the lead that makes me frustrated, especially when it's so obvious.

This series takes place in a slightly different world than what we have but it's mostly the same. Differing rather strongly from the manga in a number of ways, we're introduced to fourteen year old Daisuke Niwa. He's a somewhat goofy and clumsy kid but that belies his true nature. He's a happy kid in general but he's just awkward around people and sort of comes across as a goof but he's not a bad kid. The town he's lived in all his life is split in an interesting way with half of being on the bottom portion of a cliff by the sea, where there are small streets and a very European feel to it with nothing in the way of cars, while the top half that you get to by a short train is much more modern and filled with cars and busy people. This contrast fits into a lot of things in the show and is one of the subtle themes.

Having just turned fourteen, Daisuke is intent on changing his image and not being the kind of guy he's been. He's intent on telling a girl he loves that he has feelings for her. The girl, Risa Harada, is a cute young girl who is very much a girly girl in a good way, as opposed to her twin sister Riku who is more into sports, has a shorter haircut and is a bit more outgoing in some different ways. His attempts to tell her fall short though when she pulls out that evil "friend" word and he finds himself crushed. Returning home on time as he promised his mother and grandfather, we get to see just how different his home life is again.

Ever since he was little, he's been trained to do all sorts of physical feats. The entryway of his house and the hallways are all filled with traps and other devices such as fall-away floors that are designed to push his limits. It's the contrast with his clumsy self that when he goes through these kinds of courses he's almost a different person and able to do it with all the confidence in the world. But his arrival home this time and successful completion of the course lead him to something different. As he's told by his mother, the males of the Niwa family have a special ability bestowed upon them on their fourteenth birthday; the "Dark" DNA inside their bodies is activated.

Much to Daisukes confusion, he learns that this is actually the DNA that's been handed down in a sense for over three hundred years now and that at that age when its activated, the boy must take on the persona of the Phantom Thief Dark and perform many things. For Daisuke, his transformation is activated when he sees an image of his beloved Risa. The feelings he has for her act as a trigger for the powers and over the course of his transformations he realizes that Dark is actually a separate entity with its own goals of keeping the body for himself and not letting go. But for Dark, when he sees certain images he finds himself losing control and Daisuke is able to take over.

Daisuke's mother sets the stage for things by sending out notices to the police of places and items that Daisuke will be at as Dark and the items he's going to steal. She gets him to go on these assignments and he steals the precious artworks, sculptures and other items as told and brings them back to the house where his mother and grandfather work some mysterious words over them. This is where the frustration part comes in. There's a reason why these particular works are being stolen and Daisuke can see it plain as day when specific chants are being worked over on them but he doesn't even have the curiosity to ask why these particular pieces. Some of the cryptic comments made by his two relatives give some idea of what the overall arc may be like as there is plenty of talk of the past and the other half so there is some sort of explanation, but not in the way I'd actually like to see.

Daisuke's life doesn't get away with just that being his only problem. He finds that while he has transformed into Dark, Dark has an affection for Risa as well. But even Dark ends up causing problems during his first mission when he lands on Risa's balcony and ends up seeing Riku out there and in an attempt to get her to stop screaming he ends up kissing her. So she becomes offended by it while Risa is convinced that Dark, whom she has seen through the TV spots on him, is the true love of her life and that something special she's waiting for. Toss in another creepy student who seems to be on to what Daisuke really is and some other mysteries starting to creep into the show and there's plenty for Daisuke to worry about.

The style of the show is really good in general. The layout for the city with its two layers and the disparity between the two, sort of an old town/new town kind of thing, is well done and each is very distinct yet similar enough to be believable. This is also well represented in the character designs for Dark and Daisuke. While the two are different, since Dark is probably a foot taller, has different colored hair and lengths and so forth, there are enough similarities that you can see one growing out into the other without it being a huge leap. The one thing that was changed that I thought wasn't a good move was that from my recollections, the twin sisters actually looked the same in the manga. But since this series was started up when the manga series was much further along and they were intending to stand alone but with similar concepts I'm not surprised that there are as many changes as there are. Some for the better and some for the worse.

In Summary:
DNAngel has an interesting supernatural mix into it that goes beyond just the arrival of the Dark character into Daisuke's life. This plays well in the town as it seems so normal and like everywhere else. The duality theme is one that plays into a lot of aspects of the show and is fairly obvious but isn't something that continually beat you over the head with. The series has a cute and fun cast but also tinges it with some dark characters and some early threats for Daisuke and Dark to deal with. Their relationship is one that will be the most interesting as each wants full control of things and it's something you know they'll be fighting over while the larger story starts to unfold. Small bits of it start to come out very early in the series here which is a welcome change, but at the same time you wish there was more told since Daisuke goes along with everything just a bit too easily for my tastes. DNAngel looks to be a fun show and an interesting adaptation of the manga series.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, clean open and ending animation, Voice actor commentary with Kevin Corn (Daisuke) and Vic Mignogna (Dark), Japanese promo trailer, Japanese TV spots, Japanese in-store promo, "True Light" - The Creation of an Opening Theme special

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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