Take a decent story and then halfway through shift the timeframe continuously and introduce uninteresting characters and you have the basis for Jinki:Extend.
What They Say
In Aoba Tsuzaki's world, everything appears to be normal. This model-building fanatic spends her days alone in her room, happily constructing the plastic robots that dominate her existence. But something sinister stirs beneath the Earth's surface - and a violent threat to mankind rumbles towards its deadly unveiling. In the calm before the storm, a cross-dressing kidnapper brings Aoba face-to-face with a brutal fighting machine, and her dreams of robots give way to horrifying nightmares.
As the world crumbles around her, Aoba is recruited into the clandestine Angel - an elite fighting force which pits giant robots against the ancient Jinki while an unseen evil lurks in the shadows.
Contains episodes 1-13.
This release retains the bilingual presentation that the series had from ADV Films in its transition to FUNimation. The Japanese language tracks is in stereo, encoded at 192kbps, while the English mix is done in 5.1 and encoded at 448kbps. The stereo mix for it is quite good with a number of solid scenes where directionality is strongly used across the forward soundstage for both action effects and dialogue. A good deal of it is standard dialogue material though so it's either a center or full feeling mix in a lot of areas but it's a problem free piece. We listened to the 5.1 English mix in a few places and it does sound a bit sharper and more defined in the action areas which has been the norm. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This iteration of the release is spread across two volumes in a seven/six format and generally remains the same as what we saw before. The design of the show and the overall quality of the masters here is excellent and the end result is a great looking transfer that really shines here. There are some interesting tricks in the style in which it's animated, notably in the first two episodes, which really gives the show almost a theatrical feeling at times in its quality, and it holds up very well here. Backgrounds look really strong and black levels are great while the transfer avoids things like cross coloration or aliasing. There's some visible color gradient issues but that's just from the way it was colored rather than an authoring issue. This simply looks wonderful.
Jinki: Extend has a rather neat cover, though it’s not one that I think will get it a lot of attention. The focus on two of the characters, looking cute in different ways, is pretty standard but there’s something not quite as flashy and attractive about Aoba that may keep from some giving it a second look. I like the look of it here, the colors and the way it has a mechanical feel with a very human touch to it, but it lacks something to really make it stand out in an attractive way. The back cover is a bit more straightforward, especially with the taglines, as it presents a few pieces of character artwork with the girls looking serious and silly. The bulk of it is given over to the plot summary though which is surprising. There’s a decent breakdown of what to expect from the release with its features and a clean technical grid along the bottom. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover for this single sized keepcase.
The menu design for the show is simple but fits in decently as it uses various pieces of character artwork of Akao and Aoba as seen on the cover and the silkscreening on the discs. It’s given a central block which has the series name and more text serving as a border while there’s an strip along the lower right with e navigation. The navigation looks decent on a TV setup but looks really block through a laptop to a monitor. Submenus load quickly and there’s some good atmospheric music added to all of it to add to the mood. The discs are typical for FUNimation in that they do not read our players’ language presets.
The extras have fallen short from what the previous singles had as only the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences remain. The on air opening is gone as are the location notes and glossary as well as a video interview with the director and some of the voice actors. The CG model tests are gone from this release too in addition to the live events and the art gallery. These extras were mostly Japanese produced pieces and it’s a loss to not have them here. I can understand the lack of any original ADV Films produced extras, but losing these are a bit of a slap.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on a manga series that takes place in two different time periods with several crossover characters, Jinki: Extend is a thirteen episode series that was made while the manga was still running at a glacial pace. When ADV Films licensed it, they also nabbed some of the manga but never got far with it and there was never any synergy between the two properties. With Sojitz taking their titles to FUNimation, we now get the TV series again in one complete collection. Having liked parts the first time around, spread out over multiple volumes, I was curious as to how seeing the show in one complete set would change my opinion of it.
On its surface, this show has all the hallmarks of something that we've seen many times over the years. The premise of the show is fairly straightforward but it's playing between three different years. The majority of the show focuses in 1998 and has a number of flashbacks to 1991 but there are a couple of scenes that deal with 2001 as well. This gets to be confusing at first as you try to figure out if they're taking place in parallel or something else as unless I blacked out during a couple of key scenes there wasn't any real notice that it was in the past, though maybe it's something a native could tell easily by some other sign. Once you know that bit of information however it really starts to shape how this show is building up.
In the 1998 storyline, we're introduced to thirteen year old Aoba who live with her grandmother. Aoba's a bit different from other girls in that she loves model kits and the precision about them, particularly the giant robot type. Her life changes suddenly as most characters do in these types of situations when her grandmother suddenly dies and just after the funeral she finds herself accosted and kidnapped by a strange guy in a dress. Before she even realizes what's happening, she's been whisked off to La Grand Sabana in Venezuela, a lush and beautiful region where there are dozens of table top mountains to be found. And more than that, there are real giant robots being piloted by people who are dealing with something called Jinki, giant alien looking robots that seem intent on destroying things. Little is really exposed about them over the course of these first five episodes but it's a situation some like Aoba can take in fairly easily and realize that it's something she wants to be a part of.
Almost, that is. As it turns out, one of the people high up in this base that's running the entire program is Aoba's mother, Shizuka. And she has a goal of turning Aoba's hatred of her into something that she can use as that hatred will fuel the innate ability within Aoba that makes her something called a Cognate, a person able to deal with the man made Jinki that are used to fight the real ancient Jinki that are moving across the land. Aoba doesn't realize this but it her natural curiosity and seeming aptitude for working the Jinki has her wanting to get really involved in everything despite her mother. The storyline is fairly predictable though as she gets into everything as she finds she's not quite up to speed as some of the other pilots and her lifestyle hasn't been conducive to her being a top flight pilot quite yet.
The cast during the first half of the series is small within this timeframe and that works out very well for it. The team is rather symbolic of many of the relationships in the show as it is a father and son team, with father Genta and son Ryohei. Aoba and her mother are the other main pairing but there's also another team of pilots that's a guardian and a child. This concept isn't too surprising though since the Jinki's that are manmade require two people, one to handle the bottom half movements and the other to handle the top half and most of the actual combat roles. There's a certain synergy that gets introduced to the teams and they work smoothly together. It's also interesting in that none of the teams have any real sort of romantic interest to them and instead are far more familial in nature which is real pleasant change of pace.
While the main storyline is around Aoba and the 1998 Angel base team, we do get to see a number of flashback scenes that deal with 1991 and how Shizuka traveled around Japan to get her team of initial pilots together to handle dealing with the threat of the ancient Jinki. This arc is a bit harder to get a handle on since it's told in small spurts and at first it's not really clear that it's in the past, present or future but it is intriguing to see Shizuka hands on in her attempts to bring on a new member, Akao, who eventually becomes much more critical to the storyline as the past plot converges on the 1998 storyline which will lead to the 2001 storyline that we get ever so briefly in the first episode. The show is very nicely layered once you get a handle on a few points and becomes much more fascinating.
It’s around the halfway mark of the series, much like the first time I saw it, that it really starts to fall apart for me. The flashbacks start to dominate more and Aoba and her time on screen becomes very minimal for several episodes. The focus on Akao certainly has its reasons which become much more apparent in the final episodes but there’s something that feels like a bait and switch almost. When Aoba is off screen, it feels like a different show and some of that comes from the fact that the transitions aren’t that clear for when things take place at times and because several of the characters really look alike. Even worse is that when we get into the cloning side of things, the story gets even more muddied up and confusing. Where Jinki: Extend lost me the most though is when we get the truth behind the villain and his reasons for wanting to cause so much destruction. Watching the time in the past when as a younger man he was shunned by a woman who didn’t even realize he had feelings for her, it changed him completely. It’s admittedly a fairly standard plot device, but it rings so hollow and poorly here that it throws the dynamic of the show off completely. When your main villain is little more than a spurned potential lover who is still throwing a fit over it a decade later – and clones his dead dream girl to execute his revenge – it goes over the top in a bad way.
The animation style of the show was an element that really played well into making this a far more enjoyable experience than I would have expected based on the premise of the show. The opening two episodes in particular really stand out in some of the animation in how they bring it all together, from the great looking backgrounds to the surprisingly fluid animation. The fade style used to shift back and forth between timelines is really good and I even liked the way they treated some scenes such as in the first episode with Aoba's hair coloring. While never the best barometer of animation quality, one thing I do use is to see how well a character's hair is animated when it comes to windy scenes. You see enough shows avoid those in general but Jinki: Extend has some really gorgeous moments where her hair is flowing in the wind in very detailed and fluid ways. When she's standing on the Moribito's hand and looking out at the table top mountains the animation really looks almost theatrical quality. While great looking animation can't make a great show, it can certainly enhance an average one and if the script is well done it can make it more than it would be otherwise.
Jinki: Extend had a lot of potential to it with its story and certainly its animation, but the execution made it a difficult show to get into. The elements I liked in the first half were tossed aside in favor of things that weren’t put together in a clear enough way and with characters that I really had little interest in. And when the revelations came along as to what the truth behind everything really was, it was the kind of thing that makes you roll your eyes and move on. There’s something about this show that just rubs me the wrong way in the end as it starts off so well and then just stumbles and shatters as it goes forward. There are a lot of things to like but it’s a fascinating car wreck for me that I was glad to revisit if only to be certain that what I felt in the single volume releases remained true when take in collected form.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.