Freedom Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: D
  • Menus Rating: D
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 25
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Freedom

Freedom Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     June 11, 2007
Release Date: June 26, 2007

Freedom Vol. #1
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.

What They Say
Contains episode 1.

In the 23rd century, mankind has fled earth and emigrated to the moon. The last outpost of civilization is the Lunar Republic of Eden, where the omnipresent Citizens Administration Council grants residents everything they need "except their freedom. His mandatory education complete, 15-year-old Takeru is in a six-month period of freedom while the Council determines his social status. Uneasy about the future, Takeru and friends decide to race their customized Lunar Terrain Vehicle in the ultimate tube race!

The Review!
Please Note: This review contains a look at only the DVD layer of this release.

Even 300 years into the future, kids will continue to race hot rods in tunnels.

The audio for this release contains only language track which is the same as the Japanese DVD release in that it's a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix at 448 kbps. Though the mix doesn't have a lot in terms of rear channel activity, the forward soundstage makes out well in terms of placement and clarity. In particular, the bass comes across very well during the racing scenes and provides some added impact to the moment. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released to video in 2006, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The 3D CG animation blends well with the 2D animation and overall looks very good here. Colors are bright and bold without much in the way of background noise or blocking. Some areas aren't as smooth or as crisp as they could be though but that's just the view of it after seeing it in high definition. The gradients are the only areas that really come across as noticeable here, generally in the ending sequence though, where the shades of blue are very distinct and the transitions among the colors showcases some light blocking effects. With the video bitrate essentially staying at nine with only a few dips below, there isn't much that could be done to really make this look better at the limitations that DVD has.

The packaging for this release is something we don't see very often in the US and for good reason. The keepcase is actually one of the super jewel cases and it has a cardboard sleeve over it. The cardboard sleeve is minimal in its design for the front piece as it features the image of Takeru set against a white background. The series logo and volume number is included but it's small and in the lower corner. There aren't any of the usual logos here such as the DVD one nor one for Honneamise. The back of the slipcover almost hurts my eyes as it uses a white background with a black striped border. No artwork is here and about seventy-five percent of the cover space is made up of the summary that feels like one run on sentence. With no paragraph breaks and surrounded by the striped border, it's very harsh on the eyes. The bottom quarter of the cover is filled out with a deep technical grid that breaks down what's on each of the discs layers. The discs features are listed along the bottom and broken down by what's on each later. There are also plenty of notices about what each player requires and what will work where.

The super jewel case goes in the opposite direction as it's a black design for the background on the inserts for it with a silver pencil sketch design of one of Takeru's room. The series logo is through the center in the same font and style as on the slipcover. The back of the case is the only part with full color artwork as it has a grimy interior shot. The reverse side has the cast and staff breakdown on the left while both of them have technical schematics in silver similar to the front of the jewel case cover. An insert is also included that covers what needs to be in place to utilize the interactive apects of the HD DVD layer and the importance of being up to date on firmware.

The shrinkwrap for this release does contain a couple of stickers worth pointing out; one of them has the HDi logo which indicates that there is an internet interactive aspect to the release. The other is a bright red stick that has a bit of a pr plug for the show and the basic logos and what kind of disc format it is.

Though there is a top level menu for this release, the authoring has been set so that it goes directly into the show instead of the menu after the opening logos are played. This isn't really a bad thing as the menu for this release barely even qualifies as a menu. The screen is done in a letterbox style where a red filter is used as clips from the show are played in triplicate. The summary from the back cover is played over that in a scroll which is hard to read depending on the scene playing, not that it's designed to be read easily anyway with no paragraph breaks. The bottom of the menu has the only navigation spot with the title name which starts the show. You can turn the subtitles off on the fly but not from the menu. Bandai Visual USA again misses the boat by not providing trailers for their other series and promoting their line in general.

None. The back cover lists the next episode preview as an extra but that's sort of something that's expected.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the more high profile new OVA series from Bandai Visual in the last few years, Freedom is a six part OVA series that was produced with Nissin's Cup Noodle providing some advertising integration into the show. The integration was considered so well done that Nissin actually won a Clio award for it. Thankfully the noodles don't quite intrude on the show as badly as some other advertising done within shows do and we're still left with a very interesting series that's slowly starting to reveal itself.

With only one episode here there isn't a lot to go into but the foundations are clearly laid down. Taking place three hundred years in the future, we're introduced to a group of teenagers named Takeru, Kazuma and Bismark. Takeru has managed to convince his friends to help work on his racing vehicle by illegally modifying it so he can take it into the tube races against his rivals. No matter the century, there has always been teenagers racing against each other for status and even on the moon in the 23rd century it's no different. Life in the lunar city of Eden is fairly regimented and strict but the kids still find ways to do what they want and be like most every other teenager out there.

The backdrop against which this story is told is that of a place where humanity has apparently mostly died out after the Earth has been made uninhabitable. The story of Earth is barely even that of a fairy tale anymore, at least among the kids qualify as mild punks who don't spend much time with book learning. Takeru and the rest are an interesting mix as they're talented when it comes to the mechanics of things but they're also properly respectful when brought under questioning by the authorities. Add in that they are just kids and simple romances are in the offing as well as the usual disappointments make them seem quite human. If not for it being on the moon where we start to get small glimpses of how things have progressed, it could have easily taken place in any major near-future city setting.

With only one episode at just over twenty minutes of actual content to deal with, it does manage to cover a number of key moments in the setup and provides a hook for the future episodes. Between that and the preview for the next episode it appeals strongly to the kinds of humanistic science fiction stories I like to read about. Freedom does share a number of similarities to other properties though, most notably with Akira if only because of the influence that Katsuhiro Otomo has with this. Otomo's role in character and mechanical design is obvious here as it feels like an alternate take on Akira in a strange new form. With similar kinds of kids, street racing and the uncertain future of becoming adults, they share a lot of traits. It is something very different though and the episodic nature of it allows it to break away from heavy comparisons. Otomo's works are so few and far between and his style so striking that it's hard to make the break at times.

Where this show really stands out is in its animation. Using the 3D technique for the character animation brings in some new challenges but Otomo's character designs are ideal for use with it. The rounded faces and their overall body designs are well conveyed here. Some of it does come across awkwardly though, such as a scene where Bismark's hand seems out of proportion to his main body. Movements at times seem a bit stilted and unnatural and a little jerky but just like when the shift to digital animation came around I suspect that this will be smoothed out in term. Look at something like the SD Gundam series which employs some similar techniques and this one, the progress in the last couple of years is amazing. How it comes across here however is something that could really turn a lot of traditionalists away and even make newer fans unsure of it. It looks like anime a lot of the time but it stands out as CG in a bad way as well at times.

In Summary:
While Freedom doesn't have anything terribly new in terms of a story to tell here, it does have some beautiful moments to it in addition to an interesting enough storyline. The core storyline is something that I've seen in numerous novels over the years so there is an appeal to seeing another Japanese take on it. The sweeping vistas when they're outside in spacesuits and we see the lunar landscape are quite striking and come close to creating a sense of awe. The interiors live up to the kind of detailed worlds that people like Otomo have made over the years which makes it easy to envision this as a movie that's being broken up into six parts. This is a gorgeous looking release overall but one that leaves a lot to be desired in how its extra content is missing and the basic mechanics of the disc outside of the show itself.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Next Episode Preview

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player via HDMI set to 1080i, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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