Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Bandai Entertainment
- MSRP: 29.98/39.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: IPGX: Immortal Grand Prix
IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix Vol. #1 (also Special Edition/w t-shirt)
By Chris Beveridge
February 10, 2006
Release Date: February 21, 2006
What They Say
In the year 2048, the world's attention has been captured by the Immortal Grand Prix, where hi-tech fighting Mechs race at speeds faster than 350 mph.
Fresh from their victory from the minor-league IG-2, Team Satomi has catapulted up to the major leagues. But Team Satomi is going to have to tighten up their team work if they're going to win their first race against Team Sledge Mamma, a team that doesn't play by the rules.
Watch IGPX as it was meant to be seen, with uncut never-before-seen footage! See where it all started with the first original pilot episode of IGPX!The Review!
Team Satomi has just made it to the top league in the IGPX and now have to really learn to work together in order to win the real thing.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The full release has a good set of audio selections as there are 5.1 and stereo mixes for both Japanese and English. The Japanese 5.1 mix that we listened to is very solid and the kind of track you rexpect from Production IG in that there is a good deal of activity across the rear speakers and plenty of directionality with the forward soundstage. The mix in general is really good as it's very strong right from the opening song and through the various race/fight sequences, such as when they go through the hoops and around the loops. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either of the 5.1 language tracks.Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Not unlike many other Production I.G. series, IGPX is a visual treat that takes the kind of work that they've done on Stand Alone Complex and shows that it can work with just about any other kind of show. The production values in the show are very apparent with the transfer here as the meshing of CG and animation looks fantastic, colors are beautifully vibrant and solid and there's a depth and feel to it that makes it feel so much more alive than many other series. While the Stand Alone Complex material is dark and beautiful, IGPX turns on the lights and shines it on a very interestingly animated world. The transfer here is spot on throughout and the only area where it's slightly off is some of the CG has some jaggies to it during various panning moments but these were only visible the closer I sat to the screen.Packaging:
The packaging for this release is sure to cause some problems though it's hard to avoid. The cover is laid out well with a good looking action shot Takeshi's mech racing along while a headshot of him is behind him a bit though the artwork is a fair bit dark overall but that can help to not give it a "Cartoon Network cartoon" feel. Where the problem on the front cover is is in the strip at the top where it lists the companies behind the show with Bandai, Toonami and CN. The problem? Since there's the regular edition and the Toonami dub edit only version, if someone knows that there's a difference and just sees the Toonami name at the top they're going to think it's the dub cut version. The back cover is lighter in tone as it has everything set against the wide open sky as it provides a decent summary of the premise. The discs features, episode titles and numbers as well as the extras are clearly listed but the technical grid is the usual minimal kind we get from Bandai releases – there isn't even any mention of the discs being an anamorphic widescreen release. No insert was included with this release.Menu:
The menus, done by a new company called Littlehaus, are pretty decent with the main menu has about half of it given over to a waving CG checkered flag that has the navigation and logo on top of it while the rest plays out clips from the show through an interlaced style filter. The menus load nice and fast, the layout is quick and easy to use and I like that they did the language selection in that once you select something it's highlighted afterwards so you know that it took. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.Extras:
The first volume of the show has a good set of extras included that will appeal to those curious about how it all came about and was worked on. The neat inclusion for me is that they have the pilot episode for the show included. The English side of the production is well covered here between an interview with Haley Joel Osment, another interview with the two main US producers from Cartoon Network as well as a commentary track by them on the third episode.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
IGPX has the historical mark of being the first show that Cartoon Network was involved with in as a serious co-production of an original property that would appeal to anime fans on both sides of the pacific. Working with Japanese studio Production I.G., the basis for IGPX was created between the two with the intent that it must appeal to not only US audiences but also Japanese audiences. The end result, going by the first four episodes here, is a series that's certainly shiny, sleek and potentially interesting.
Taking place in the year 2049, the hottest sport around is the Immortal Grand Prix races. Set up as massive tracks that are fairly high off of the ground with lots of loops and curves, teams of three pilot individual mech's across the course and attempt to win by either getting as far ahead of the others as possible or taking the other team out. Participants come up with strategies based on the three person teams that can use each of their skills to their advantage in order to win. Most teams are aggressive in their nature, either in trying to race fast while being covered by others or just outright attacking but some are defensive in nature and work to keep the opponent from getting ahead at all.
The series revolves around a group known as Team Satomi, an up and coming group that's seemingly been dealing more in luck than skill but have managed to really work both well enough that they've achieved a position in League 1. This is obviously the place where the best race and to win here is to win really big. The race team is made up of three interesting people. Takeshi, a young man whose sort of distracted at times but is generally focused on keeping his skills at his best. Liz is a firebrand type who speaks her mind though it often causes her to really chew out Takeshi since he takes more risks and chances than he should. Amy is the curious genius whose quite nature and pairing with Luca the cat that she can understand when inside the mech provides the strategic planner of the group. The team has plenty of people in support, from substitute racers that want a better position, mechanics, coaches and then the group's owner.
Mitsuko Satomi brings an interesting element to the show as she's the one that's managing the team as it's something that her dead grandfather had a vested interest in and she can't let it disappear. This comes into play throughout these episodes as even though the team has made it to the first league there are politics and business issues that have various sponsors pulling out of supporting the team which puts the entire thing at risk since no sponsors means no money. Mitsuko gets to play in this realm a bit which keeps her separate from the others for some time but it shows the larger world that the sport lives in. The support team, which Mitsuko really is, provides some good additional depth and potential plot points for the show as it moves on such as those who are simply there to cheer them on to those who work on the mech and others who want a shot at the spotlight.
The opening set of episodes here provides a couple of good races so we can get a feel for things and they're very well done. The CG of the mechs blends wonderfully here as it's something that gets better every year and Production I.G. has done some spectacular work in the recent past. A lot of the scenes do have that NASCAR feel as it pans over the machines and show off parts of the courses but it moves away from that with the sheer differences in the mechs that are involved and the combat aspect. Like most tournament and competition flavored anime series, the teams that Team Satomi go up against are varied and interesting. The folks in the Sledgemama team are as you expect, rough and coarse and intent on being pains in the asses even off the course while a team like Velshtein is more refined and in tune with what the real meaning of racing is and find something interesting in the potential that someone like Takeshi has. IGPX is fairly straightforward in this regard as the show really does hit a number of the clichés that are standard this kind of show.
But to my surprise, IGPX has a really interesting sense of energy about it when it gets rolling. There's a laid back nature to a lot of it due to the way Takeshi treats everything but that's part of the initial storyline that changes and grows as it moves forward and the realities of being in the first league become apparent. There are minor bits of secondary and primary character backgrounds that are touched upon and the varied cast has plenty of material to work with here in addition to whatever possible history of the IGPX that they can provide.
There's a lot of interesting material that can be worked with here just in how Production I.G. has animated this world. And that's the thing that I keep coming back to is how it looks. This is a gorgeous looking production. I had initially tried to watch the show when it first premiered on Cartoon Network but the broadcast quality of it just kept me from being able to watch more than a few minutes of it. Since Cartoon Network at the time was just on the analog side of the cable broadcast and the Analog Digital Simulcast transition hadn't happened yet it just didn't look good. Watching it here on DVD was like watching a completely different show, one that's much more vibrant and one that has a great soundtrack that does a lot of work with the rear channels.In Summary:
Plenty of people have a fear about influence of US producers when it comes to anime being made but that's going to vary wildly by the companies involved. As was said by the Japanese producers of the show, they needed a show that would appeal to their audience as well. I think they managed to do that on some level here because this doesn't feel like what you'd expect from a US producer in a lot of ways. You can see the influences here and there but if Cartoon Network wasn't involved I don't think you'd really notice all that much. Production I.G. has done some amazing work in recent years and with this show it's great to see them finally do something that's very bright and shiny instead of dark and moody. IGPX looks to be one of the real surprises of the year for me in how engaging it may turn out to be.
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Haley Joel Osment Interview, Cartoon Network producers Interview, Commentary track with CN producers and English ADR director
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.