The second half of the OVA series provides the much needed boxing material which gives it some much needed action.
What They Say
The two Joes are finally in the same ring together, both of them fighting for what they believe in. However, there can be only one winner!
Contains episodes 4-6:
The Silent Bell
Candor and Reclaim
The Majestic Festival
In a time when bilingual releases are starting to fall to the wayside, it was a good sign to see AnimeWho stepping up and putting out dual language tracks for their first release. It certainly sends a good sign to prospective buyers at this point in time. The technical aspect of this presentation has left me wondering though and somewhat conflicted. AnimeWho has made some changes to this release though by taking the PCM mix away from the Japanese side and instead giving us a stereo mix done at 192kbps. The English stereo mix is kept to its uncompressed PCM mix at 1.5mbps though so at least there’s one lossless mix. In a way though, I would have preferred to see both tracks dropped to 448kbps to give us a max stereo mix via Dolby Digital. Both tracks are quite clean and clear though and they sound solid without any noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released throughout 2003, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series has something of a budget digital OVA feel to it which doesn’t help how it flows here, especially with the reduced bit budget given to it because of the audio. The backgrounds have a fair bit of noise to them at times and the reds tend to show a lot of chroma noise which is very distracting. Aliasing is fairly minimal in general however and cross coloration is essentially absent, but the show lacks a really solid feeling for the most part which isn’t helped by the generally soft nature of the digital design. All in all, the transfer for this left me pretty disappointed as it just didn’t look good on our setup even with the increase in possible bandwidth due to the audio changes
The cover design for the series is one that definitely works well to sell the show for what it is as it features both Joe’s in action poses with their gloves swinging out with plenty of speed lines to give it an active feeling. The logo along the bottom isn’t overbearing and they actually do a nice bit of marketing by calling it “Collection 2”. The character designs look manly to be sure but there’s a good amount of detail to them as well which will appeal to the crowd looking for something different. The back cover is laid out well with a listing of the discs episodes and titles along the top and a brief summary of what to expect. The majority of the cover is given over either to character artwork from the show or a series of stills that highlight the animation itself. The bottom of the cover is given over to the production credits and a pretty solid technical grid that could just use a bit more clarity on the language features as it sort of implies Japanese subtitles as well. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout for the show utilizes some minor but decent animation to it that has it feeling pretty alive when combined with the fast paced instrumental music that’s playing along. The right side of the menu features the two Joe’s fighting hard against each other in a still shot while the background is made up of the boxing arena interior itself, which has speed lines flying throughout it to give the impression of the two boxers going at it. The middle of the menu has the basic navigation structure which is pretty minimal since there’s not much to the disc but everything loads quickly and is easy to access. The disc correctly read our players’ language presets and played accordingly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of Joe Vs. Joe was difficult to get through if only because it lacked something critical – boxing. There were some mild moments of it here and there, some training and discussion about it, but by and large it lacked what it needed in those first three OVA length episodes. This second collection, which brings the short run OVA series to a close, manages to take care of this problem by giving us a whole lot of boxing. This helps keep it moving rather nicely and the way it’s orchestrated even helps you to forget about some of the weakly animated areas of it all.
The three episodes here do a good job of keeping things moving well, getting us from fight to fight with decent enough transitions while making sure we have enough action to keep us satisfied. The opening of this volume drops us into the fight that Ryuichi has at long last since his training has paid off enough to get him a proper match. Of course, Ryuichi has a problem going into it as he’s starting to lose some of his vision in his left eye and that’ll make things critical when it comes to his fight. The fight side of the episode for him is pretty solid but with the knowledge that he’s not going to be the focus much longer as it has to focus on the two Joe’s, it’s just a matter of closing out a side story. The plus side is that what we do see of him and Setsuko is rather nice and adds a bit of charm to the entire thing.
The bulk of this volume is spent squarely on getting the two Joe’s, Akimine and Yuuki, in the ring together for the first time as proper competitors. The training that each of them has undergone is given a solid spotlight and we’re able to see just how different they’re approaching the entire sport. For Akimine, he’s come into the sport with a real love of it, a desire to box and enjoy being alive while doing it. His training under Takizawa has given him an increased respect for it but also more for himself as he’s unearthing his hidden talents and really mastering them. Yuuki is definitely presented as the by the bootstraps kind of guy who doesn’t back down and works his hardest to get where he is because he wants to enjoy it and revel in it.
Yuuki on the other hand is the kind of opponent that’s hard to get behind. When you get most sports series, the other side is generally portrayed eventually has having good reasons for playing as rough and mean as they are. This was apparent back in Champion Joe as much as it was in Hajime no Ippo. Yet here, Yuuki has no real redeeming value to him. Watching his training and vicious attitude that he takes with his opponents in the run up to his fight with Akimine doesn’t make him compelling in the slightest. He becomes bloodthirsty and is practically encouraged by his trainer to kill his opponent. The brutality makes him even more unlikable than he was when he was doing all of this to simply show up Akimine, a man he didn’t like because he wasn’t thinking competitively but rather to enjoy the experience of boxing.
Joe Vs. Joe is populated with a fair number of secondary characters but most of them are fairly bland. In a way, they come across as the cardboard cutout types you get in big Hollywood flicks where they’re there simply to help prod things along at times. The worst one of the bunch in this series is Maki, the fiery young redhead who is head over heels in love with Joe Yuuki but with nary an indication as to why. Nor any real return interest on his part. He’s often so dismissive of her because of his singular focus on Akimine that it’s hard to imagine why she’d really be interested in him long term. Of course, relationships are all pretty varied in different ways, so it doesn’t not make sense, but the lack of a connection visible on screen ends up causing her to seem more silly than anything else. This is even more so when she has her confrontation with her father and goes on about her anger in regards to boxers in general once again. It simply doesn’t make sense.
For an inaugural series from AnimeWho, Joe Vs. Joe is pretty much the best kind of show to work on. It won’t upset a legion of fans if they do it wrong and they get some extra experience working with dubs as well as figuring out exactly what works or doesn’t work for a mainstream anime market release. The release overall is decent, not without its issues as mentioned, but nothing that is truly killer. If AnimeWho provides more consistency with whatever it may try taking on next, they’re sure to grow a decent fanbase who will look forward to more releases. Joe Vs. Joe will be entirely forgettable, even among the hardcore boxing subset of fans, but it will be the release that got them to start looking at the right way to do things. I have hopes for AnimeWho to be a solid boutique company if they manage to grab a few more titles of interest, both in animation and story itself.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
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.