Great Dangaioh Vol. #1 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 104
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Great Dangaioh

Great Dangaioh Vol. #1

By luis     October 15, 2003
Release Date: November 12, 2002



The Review!
Take three young pilots, a horde of evil mechas, a few mysterious people, and one metal savior of man named Dangaioh. Have Dangaioh beat one or more giant mecha each episode. Lather, rinse, and repeat. The title may be Great Dangaioh but what you get is mediocre at best.

Audio:
For my primary viewing, I listened to the Japanese audio. While most of the action comes through the center channel, there were some good directional effects that occurred mostly during the combat scenes. Dialogue was clear and sharp, and there were no discernable dropouts during playback. Some of the incidental music provided a nice touch to the show as it fit the style of the mecha currently on the screen. For example, Dangaioh must face two desert-themed mechas; when they are on the screen, the background music takes on an Arabic touch that matches the Egyptian styling of the mecha.

Episode two was also watched in English as it provided some good character interaction. Each voice actor matches up well with their character and provided a decent dub to my surprise. Unfortunately, the dialogue they read does not match up well with the literal Japanese translation. At some points, the dialogue completely changed the tone of the scene for me. However, the show does not rely on great dialogue to move things along, so it becomes a moot point. Overall, I was finding myself enjoying the English track.

Video:
Simply put, this show looks great; there were no noticeable problems or defects during playback. Colors were vibrant creating a great background for the show and providing great detail on the mecha and characters. One would be hard pressed to find a flaw while watching this show.

The subtitles were white and rendered in a font I had never seen used before. This was a bit unsettling at first as I had difficulty reading them; however, it took only a few minutes before my eyes adjusted to the font. After that, the subtitles were both readable yet small enough to not detract from watching the show.

The opening and ending credits are hard subtitled in English onto the video, and the cards for the opening episode title and coming episode title are pure English. There are no Japanese title cards present. While the credits are extensive in their listing of the Japanese production staff, noticeably absent are credits for the Japanese voice actors despite their English counterparts being credited. Also noticeably absent is a translation for the opening and ending songs.

Also, the credits are cumulative; rather than just listing those who worked on a particular episode, the credits list each person with their function and what episodes they performed this function for. A great video transfer is taken down a peg by this lack of attention to detail.

Packaging:
The front cover leaves no doubt about what exactly the Great Dangaioh is. Set against a metallic background, the completed Dangaioh mecha looms over its three pilots. It is a simple but effective shot; my only complaint with the front cover is the large volume number in the bottom left corner. While the font for the number fits the style of the cover artwork, it would have looked better if it were smaller or written out as "Volume 1" underneath the logo.

On the back cover is the usual boilerplate description of the show along with a few stills. There is an extensive listing of production credits at the bottom next to the listing of features; it is a nice touch to see the Japanese production team credited so prominently on the cover. The back cover is marred by the "13 Up" sticker that was attached directly to the keepcase. While it is distracting, it was placed at the top of the case and only covers a bit of the logo.

Inside is a one-page insert that contains the front cover image on one side and a listing of episodes and chapters on the reverse side.

Menu:
The menus are simple, static images that provide quick access to the features. The main menu consists of a list of episodes; each episode has an option to play the episode or go to that episode's scene selection menu. Rounding out the main menu are options to go to the language and extras menus. While the menus are easy to use and get you into the content quickly, background music would have been a nice touch.

However, one might not even realize there is a menu as the disc just begins playing the episodes. If the disc only contained one audio track, this might be acceptable, but not everyone wants to listen to the disc's default audio track which was English.

Another niggling problem is that the "Play" feature for an episode did not work as I expected. After selecting to play an episode, the disc jumps right into the next one rather than returning to the main menu. I expected a "Play All" feature to be present to activate this behavior. This is a minor annoyance when compared to being dropped right into the show.

Each episode is divided into four chapters: opening, episode, ending, and next episode trailer; a better name for the scene selection menu would have been chapter selection. With only four ?scenes? to chose from, the sub-menu is almost unnecessary. The menu itself is rendered as a control panel for Dangaioh; this is a clever touch, but it still does not make up for the fact that you really do not have many scenes to choose.

Extras:
There is a decent set of extras included on the disc. A line art gallery for the characters and episodes are the main set of extras. Rounding out the extras are textless opening and ending sequences. These are probably the best extras on the disc as it allows you to view the great artwork of the sequences without the credits flying quickly by. I did wish Viz had made the extra step though of providing a set of credits that included song translations. It seems like a natural fit when have not translated the lyrics on the versions shown during the episodes.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Just another day in the life of a high school girl; she runs off to school hoping that today will be the day that she wins the challenge before her. All of that changes when a light from the sky obliterates everything and everyone around her. A glowing light hovers before her and appears to be speaking to her.

Ten years later... Professor Kato unleashes his army of giant robots upon the world raining death and destruction under the name Ex Tartarus. His four ultimate generals destroy anything in their path and are even immune to a nuclear attack. After conquering a significant portion of the globe, Kato turns his cycloptic gaze towards Futagami Island.

Futagami Island is prepared though and activates Operation D. Operation D is fairly simple; launch mechas piloted by three teenagers. After mopping up the smaller robots, let them be surrounded by Kato's ultimate generals and their seemingly unstoppable mechas. Even though it has only been simulated, have the three brave pilots activate Dimension mode to form Dangaioh. Proceed to kill everyone... including Professor Kato.

So ends the first episode; the next three episodes follow the tried and true mecha formula. Evil robots threaten our hero's base; form Dangaioh and save the day. Great Dangaioh brings nothing new to the formula and gives us four mediocre episodes.

While there is great attention to detail in the video portion, one wishes that the same could be said about the episode content. The second episode is the best example of this. After managing to annihilate forces around the world, the leftover Kato robots are being mopped up by UN peacekeeping forces. Where did this UN firepower come from all of a sudden? Granted, it has taken them seven operations to wipe out 94% of the remaining forces, but the devastation we see in episode one leads us to believe that all of the major military forces were wiped out. Instead of global outrage that this powerful force known as Dangaioh was not deployed sooner, we see the team on Futagami Island shooting a video to help bolster support the Dangaioh project receives from a "Foundation".

You can turn a blind eye to plot holes like these if you have exciting action sequences or interesting character development. Neither are present in this first batch of episodes. The actual battles with Dangaioh are brief and lack a sense of danger for the three pilots. They are so formulaic that you can almost predict how long it will be before they form Dangaioh and utterly trash the enemy.

The three pilots are standard fare complete with individual mecha that matches their personality. You have the quiet, intelligent girl Mishio Manami whose mecha disperses a field of "Brownie Dust" (mmm... brownie dust...) that disrupts the electrical systems of the enemy. Chidou Hitomi is the aggressive tomboy that wants to kick ass with her mecha's giant Bowie knife. Leading the three into battle with his big gun is Awaji Kuya, the quiet wonderboy who is trying to live up to the memory of his big brother.

That pretty much sums what we learn about the characters in these first four episodes. We learn little else about who they are, why they were chosen out of a group of ten million elite people, and how they feel about trying to be normal teenagers despite having to save the world. There are a few chuckles from Hitomi and Kuya as they continually walk in on each other in the shower. This always results in Kuya getting slapped about by Hitomi, but we do see that Hitomi has some feelings for Kuya. Kuya is oblivious to this because he is, as all teenage boys would be, only focused on Hitomi's developing "assets". Manami seems to care about Kuya as well though it remains to be seen if it is more than sisterly love.

Remember that girl from ten years before? She is working for the Dangaioh team as the second in command. She also appears to be channeling something that is only referred to as "she" or "her". This "she" can project thoughts across great distances as well as predict the enemy?s movement. The grown-up girl has no other dimensions though; in fact, I had to go on-line to find out that her name was Shikitani Miya. I was as disconnected from this character as she was from the fact that her entire family and all of her friends were wiped out ten years ago.

There is some hope though that the series may take an interesting turn. From flashbacks, we see that Kuya's brother may have met a tragic end in a test pilot program. Was it part of the Dangaioh project? Who is this mysterious "she", and what does ?she? want? Was Miya's life spared ten years ago by "her"? Yonamine, the project leader also drops a few mysterious lines hinting at knowledge about the real forces behind Kato and his minions. And who is this mysterious man in sunglasses that keeps appearing?

With only nine episodes remaining, can Dangaioh turn these plot morsels into a decent meal? I certainly hope so. Mecha fans will find some enjoyment out of this title, but it is not one they will be pulling off the shelf very often.



Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable.

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