Jinki: Extend Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Jinki: Extend

Jinki: Extend Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     August 30, 2006
Release Date: September 05, 2006


Jinki: Extend Vol. #1
© ADV Films


What They Say
In 13-year-old Aoba Tsuzaki's world, everything seems normal. An over-the-top modeling fanatic, she spends her days locked in her room, happily building plastic robots. But rumbling beneath the surface, an evil enemy of mankind (the Ancient Jinki) threatens to destroy the Earth. And when a cross-dressing kidnapper brings Aoba face-to-face with a real fighting machine, her robot dreams give way to frightening nightmares. She is unwittingly recruited into Angel, an elite fighting force who not only pits its giant robots against the Ancient Jinki, but against an unseen evil that is working behind the scenes. Jinki:Extend is a world of explosive action, arresting intrigue, and battle-trained babes who are bent on revenge! Nothing is what it seems, and no one can be trusted. But one thing is for sure " you're in for a seriously wild ride!

The Review!
Giant robots are a girl's best friend?

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. 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.

Video:
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. 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.

Packaging:
The cover artwork for this is really eye-catching to me with its simple lines and strong color choices. The main feature is having the two lead women with their vibrantly colored outfits standing back to back while the background has the blueprint style design with the Moribito-2 mixed into it. Add in a sideways angled logo with its very good looking design and it has a very high-tech and sleek feel to it, very modern and current. The back cover is a bit more traditional in layout with a couple of strips of shots from the show through the center while the top half has a decent summary of the premise and these episodes. The bottom half, which mixes in some artwork of Aoba and Ryohei as well as the technical information and the discs features and production info. The cover has a reverse side to it though it's not reversible in that sense as it has a text interview with the actress for Aoba and another for the shows character designer. A one page insert is included where the front side has a really nice cast shot of the various women while the reverse side has a relationship chart that covers only what we know from the first volume of the show.

Menu:
The menu for the release is pretty good and feels like a step-up from some recent ADV Films releases even though it is fairly simple. The navigation bar goes through the lower portion of the screen with episode selection dominant and languages and extras just below it while behind is blueprint versions of the scenes and equipment against a dark blue background. It has a strong tech feel to it and it complements the show very nicely in setting the mood and tone. Access times are nice and fast and we had no problems with navigation. While we had no problem with earlier releases from ADV Films in our player in terms of audio and subtitles reading our player presets, they seem to be not working at all now on our Samsung player. Our Zenith however still picks them up which is strange as there wasn't an issue for several recent releases.

Extras:
There's a good selection of extras to be found here. The opening and closing sequences have their clean versions and we get both the standard ones and the "on air" opening close from the first episode. There's a good bit that covers some of the location notes for the show and a glossary of terms to help smooth things over a bit. Some of the material in those two sections may be spoilerish though for this volume. The last extra on the disc is a video interview with some of the Japanese staff, with the sound director and the voice actors for Aoba and Ryohei.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Jinki: Extend is a thirteen episode series based off of the manga which is over at least six volumes in Japan now, though only three were released here before it went on hiatus. The series is something of an odd choice for ADV to pick up as part of their new upswing after the Sojitz deal since they aren't able to tentpole it with their manga release. But having taken in the first five episodes, it's a show that I wish had come over sooner than this because I would have liked to have seen all of it now and had the incentive to pick up the manga so I can see where the original creator is going with all of it.

On its surface, this show has all the hallmarks of something that we've seen many times over but similar to another recent show, the execution and style of this one manages to raise it up above itself at least for these initial episodes. 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 few episodes is small and it's kept mostly to Aoba and the two current pilots of the Moribito-2, the man made Jinki being used to fend off the ancient ones. 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.

Similar to Kannazuki no Miko, the execution and 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.

In Summary:
We went into Jinki: Extend with little real expectations to it since it was both a show from a couple of years ago as well as one whose manga didn't make it over here. Add in mostly mild to negative buzz by people when it was licensed and it wasn't something that we were eagerly waiting to see. It turned out to be far better than I had expected though and while it does have its moments where you cringe just a little bit, it kept me very engaged and interested in it for all five episodes. I think it works better during the first couple of episodes as once the cast starts to expand the dynamic changes a bit more but it's got an intriguing setup to it and with it being a short series with a short manga at the time it came out it should be fairly concise. I'm looking forward to seeing where the remainder of it goes as it has certainly exceeded my expectations.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Fumiko Orikasa (Aoba); Takuma Takewaka (Ryohei) and Kazuhiro Wakabayashi (Sound Director), Venezuela location notes,Glossary of terms,Clean opening animation, Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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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