Iria: Zeiram the Animation Collection - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 39.95
  • Running time: 169
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Iria

Iria: Zeiram the Animation Collection

By Chris Beveridge     June 02, 2004
Release Date: March 30, 2004


Iria: Zeiram the Animation Collection
© Media Blasters


What They Say
Iria and her brother Gren, a pair of young bounty hunters, were dispatched on a rescue mission, but what they found was more terrifying than their worst nightmare. A bizarre alien was secretly imported for clandestine uses, and now it is loose and wreaking havoc on the populace. How can novice bounty hunters defeat an unstoppable beast like Zeiram?

Contains all 6 episodes in a 3-disc Collector's Tin!

The Review!
After five years and a change in distributors, Iria finally comes back to the market with a brand new DVD release, just in time for its tenth anniversary.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese but in the newly commissioned 5.1 remix of the original stereo mix. The 5.1 mix wins out over the stereo mix in a lot of ways, just in the raising of the volume level in general has helped it in that respect. From there the sound effects and music track comes across strongly and with some good directionality to the rear speakers. A lot of the dialogue doesn't fare so well though. The majority of it seems to still come from the forward soundstage, which isn't an issue, but the mix highlights the stage feeling of the recording, giving it a fairly hollow sound in a lot of places, particularly where it's just dialogue and nothing else is going on. When it shifts to an action scene and dialogue, it doesn't sound as bad. But the early moments in the first episode definitely wasn't a highlight. But in switching to the Japanese stereo mix, it was barely even audible at the same level.

Video:
Originally released in 1994, the six part OVA series is presented here in its original full frame format. The transfer here really works well overall and doesn't seem to have suffered from any aging effects. The colors are look fairly solid throughout, though there's some minor macroblocking in Iria's hair here and there, but the backgrounds and the bulk of the transfer looks solid. The colors are pretty dark and grimy throughout a lot of this and they're well reproduced here. The main problem that crops up in various places over the course of the six episodes is some cross coloration, ranging from a small sliver here and there to an entire character having it around them. It's not terribly frequent but it is there.

Packaging:
Media Blasters went all out for this release since it's a three disc set, but they chose one of the worse kinds of keepcase. First, the keepcase packaging is enclosed inside of a tin. The front of the tin has a great full color shot of a neutral faced Iria while a larger headshot of Zeiram is behind her in more muted colors. The back of the tin is done in black and white with a great illustration shot of Iria against an alien landscape while there's a summary and a full listing of the features on all the discs, as well as the very solid technical grid block of information. I really like the tin, but I hate that they arrived with some nicks and dents already.

Inside the tin we get what looks to be a double keepcase, but when you open it up it's mostly just empty space in the middle. On the left side, under the clipped in insert and promotional cards, you get the first disc. On the right side, it's got the two-layered disc holders, so one disc rests on top of the other in a secure fashion. I really and truly hate these kinds of holders, much like the Saikano one from Viz, because they're mostly just empty space and I dislike having the discs resting against each other, especially with one side being the data side. The keepcase artwork itself is pretty nice with a full red and black colored shot of Iria, Zeiram and Kei together while the back has a few very tiny small color shots and a replication of much of the information found on the back of the tin. The insert takes all three volumes and lists the chapter stops available on them and what extras are on the third disc.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty simple across the volumes, with the episode volumes having a faux widescreen look and a shot of one of the computer avatars with some interference playing over it while the music goes along. The same is done on the third volume but with the artwork from the back of the tin used, but in full color. Navigation around the menus is very quick and easy to use and everything is laid out nicely. Access times are fast and we had no glitches or odd responses.

Extras:
An entire third volume is given over to the extras for this release, something that prior releases haven't had anything of. The big extras included here are the two video interview segments, one with Keita Amemiya, the creator of Iria and Zeiram, and an interview with the character designer for the anime version, Masakazu Katsura. Both of these interview sections are interesting, particularly in the evolution of Iria herself from an end-story character to something more important. Katsura gets to talk about the freedom he had in creating the shows look and feel and how it wasn't forced to be like the live action picture. While not in video form, the interviews with the voice actors are quite a bit of fun as well, particularly Aya Hisakawa's as she was recording for Sailor Mercury at the same time and has some good comments on that.

A singalong version of the opening song (hard subtitled so the colors can change) is provided and there are a slew of production sketches and design pieces that are broken down into characters, production and concept. There's even a brief section one the various Iria and Zeiram models that were made back in the day. The video interviews are the big part of the extras here, though I wish I knew the actual running time since that information was locked out during regular playback for both of them.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With it being nearly six years since this was originally released, revisiting the title after so long gets to be interesting since it can show just how tastes changed. Back in much of the 90's and in the early DVD releases, titles like Iria were what we got a lot of, the babes with guns and general action titles. Iria was subcontracted out to another DVD producer at the time, so it didn't even get the immediate love of an anime company but rather a third party. But at the time, in those "heady days of DVD" when those who had bought players were ridiculed for buying such expensive beasts that would be "obsolete any day now", we grabbed on tight to just about any release that came out. When Iria came out, it was one of three titles that month.

In 2004, it was one of fifty-eight titles.

The plot for Iria is pretty straightforward, though it takes its time in telling the tale. We're introduced to the attractive but very serious looking and thinking young woman named Iria. She's just shy of her birthday and being able to register as a fully licensed Hunter, something that her brother Glen is. Glen's one of the best in the area and often gets the high profile jobs and the ones that really pay well, so he's quite active and often takes Iria with him as backup and to teach her the ropes. She's learned from the best and has that serious can-do attitude that lets her get away with doing amazing things once she sets herself to it. We see her dealing with a job that she shouldn't be doing since she's not fully registered yet, so when it gets hijacked by Fujikuro, another Hunter who competes against Glen but has the hots for Iria, she can't complain formally, but still manages to get some revenge on the man.

For Glen, things are about to change as the gent who assigns jobs around these parts of this planet, Bob, has just given him a high profile job to head out into space and rescue some cargo from a hijacked starship. Bob's heading with him since they're a good team but the entire job gets off to a bad start when someone tries to stop them from accessing the teleporter station that will let them jump out into space. A well done ground battle that has Iria getting herself involved in it leads to her joining up with them and eventually making their way to the starship. Once on board they're greeted with a grisly situation. Much of the crew is in bloody pulps but some have survived and are in hiding. Apparently the cargo that Glen and company have come to take ensure the safety of is actually alive and running around the ship?

Glen actually figures out what it is pretty quickly, realizing that it's the Zeiram project that's been reactivated against the greater wishes. Zeiram is some sort of near immortal humanoid beast that only knows killing and more killing. The design of Zeiram is creepy in general, with it being an overly thick humanoid structure with what looks like a mushroom head at the top but with a small ceramic-like mask in the front center. Taking a cue from Alien, that face can lash out several feet and its used to acquire the DNA of its victim, allowing it to feed and grow. While Glen does sense something of a challenge since Zeiram has quite the reputation, his first thoughts are on getting Iria and the other people off the ship. This leads to some good one on one fighting between the two as everyone else gets away, but it's bloody and very violent for its time.

From there, Iria's story turns in a sense into the last five minutes of some of the big Hollywood action movies of the 80's where the villain just doesn't die, except it happens over the course of the next five episodes. Iria ends up crash landing down on one resort planet that's not terribly up to code yet only to have Zeiram following her. And as she makes friends there and deals with a variety of issues, that world has to deal with Zeiram before they move on to their next location and so on and so forth. It's not bad per se because each new locale brings something new to it and there's a reason he's following her, but it does have an edge to that "why won't he just die already" to it.

At the time Iria came out, it wasn't exactly revolutionary but it was pretty evolutionary and it showcased great looking animation and designs and told a pretty well packed action story. Over the ten years since, it's held up pretty well but I can't bring myself to find it as interesting as I did the first couple of times around since my tastes have changed a lot since 1998. With this show, there isn't a lot of real subtlety to it or layered storytelling. You're essentially dealing with a young woman whose on her own and trying to deal with that as well as having an unkillable monster following her around the planetary system. There are some interesting moments with the kids that get caught up in the storyline that she befriends in the slums of the resort planet, but even that really feels fairly old and overplayed after so many years.

In Summary:
Iria was something that we really liked the first time around, especially since it helped eliminate that feeling we had after seeing the live action movie. Revisiting again after this many years has been interesting but it just hasn't captured me like it once did. The release in general is pretty solid and there's a good selection of extras and materials to make it worthy of a tenth anniversary release. US fans have been lucky since it hasn't been released on DVD in Japan (yet, it will later this year for about 120$ US) and have been able to get it all in one package for a great price. Fans of the show will definitely want to upgrade their release if they have the old Image Entertainment one and those looking for a solid science fiction alien action adventure series will find plenty to enjoy it. Maybe in another six years I'll have a more nostalgic feel for Iria and enjoy it more.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Video Interviews,Voice Actor Interviews,Production Sketches,Singalong

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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