With his parents killed, Thor finds himself cast down to the secret capital punishment planet of Chimaera where he has to fight to survive.
What They Say:
In the distant future, humanity has migrated into space to settle in the Balkan System, leaving behind them a dying Earth. With the loss of their native home, the race has suffered. Safety is an illusion...
Their parents murdered and their easy life at an end, young twin brothers Thor and Rai find themselves jettisoned off-world and abandoned to their fate: Chimaera, a hostile planet where only the worst criminals are sent to die. With extreme temperatures and carnivorous plants, it is a world ruled by brutality, a place where mankind has been reduced to a savage state of survival. And the only hope of escape lies in conquering the planet and its peoples to rise above them all as The Beast King.
Boy must become man and man must become beast. Death is the only other option.
Contains episodes 1-11.
What We Say:
Jyu-Oh-Sei gets a rather good upgrade in its English audio department by meriting a 5.1 mix done at 448kbps. Combined with the original Japanese 2.0 mix done at 192kbps, this bilingual release hits all the right marks. The English language adaptation isn’t a huge leap over the original stereo mix, but there are moments of better clarity and placement in comparison. By and large though, the original stereo mix is solid as it does really work more as a dialogue piece for a good chunk of it and when there are big action moments, they’re often more personal ones than massive epic battles. Both mixes work well and each of them brings something a little different to the table. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006 as part of Fuji’s early block of anime aimed at a wider audience, Jyu-Oh-Sei is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The eleven episode series is laid out across two discs in a 6/5 format which isn’t too bad but left me a little wanting at times. The early scenes on Juno and relating to the civilized world tended to look a little worse when it comes to the fuzzy noisy backgrounds, but once it settled on Chamaera, it came across much better. There’s some banding to be had in scenes and sometimes some quick motion isn’t quite as solid as it should be, but by and large it’s a solid presentation that’s helped by really fluid and vibrant animation. While I would have preferred to see it across three discs and given a bit more room to breathe, Jyu-Oh-Sei looks rather good here overall.
Jyu-Oh-Sei almost looks like a throwback to an old OVA with its cover as it features Thor sitting with sword in hand looking directly at the viewer. The outfit and character design alone give it a somewhat older feeling as does the costume design. Combining that with the planet coming into view behind him and it has a certain presence that grabbed me from the moment I first saw it. It’s understated and clean yet eye-catching. The back cover runs fairly minimal and gives a good chunk of space over to the artwork as the bottom half has a group shot of several key characters. The summary along the top has the basics along with a few small shots from the show to the right. The very bottom of the slipcover has the production information while the technical grid is placed on the bottom of the slipcover in a very hard to read red on black design.
Inside the slipcover are the two clear thinpak cases. The first volume has a very clean bright shot of when Thor first made it to the planet while the second has him from the very end of the series, a pairing that shows his growth well. The back covers are simple in that they feature character artwork along the bottom half while the top haf is really little more than the episode listings and what extras are on the discs. What’s really nicely done is that the character artwork on these back covers is taken from the reverse side covers. The reverse side artwork has the same character designs but uses them with their original backgrounds which changes the feel of them rather strongly.
The menu design for the release goes for the basics as it has a framed image of the planet Chimaera as the background, showing a good bit of space with stars twinkling, while the framed part itself has intertwined vines along the side. The navigation menu is along the bottom and has a very minimalist approach since there isn’t much to the release beyond the show itself, especially for the first volume, and there is no top level individual episode access. The menus do load quickly but as is usual, player presets are ignored and it defaults to English language.
The extras for this set are pretty minimal overall as the first volume has a staff commentary and the second volume contains only a small set of original commercials for the series as well as the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It may not seem it at first, but right now is a good time to be a fan of shoujo science fiction anime. With the releases of Toward the Terra and now Jyu-Oh-Sei, the science fiction anime genre is getting something that’s much needed – engaging storytelling without all the usual male bravado and heavy fanservice. As much as I like those shows, there’s something about these kinds of shows that bring me back to my roots within the anime world. These are the science fiction stories that have a different feeling to them, one that’s more engaging and I almost want to say more intellectually stimulating since it’s not dependent just on action.
Jyu-Oh-Sei is a curious release and property in general. Created by Natsumi Itsuki, the manga ran for a total of five volumes worth from its serialization in the shojo magazine Lala. That ran from 1998 to 2003 and BONES decided to make it into a series for the Noitamina block that was aimed at a more general audience. Even more strange is that it ran for eleven episodes and really does tell a strong complete story where some of the things you expect to happen don’t. Part of what was appealing about anime for me very early on was the way it would tell stories that were familiar but with a very different perspective from what Western science fiction was like but also because you never knew if someone was going to survive. Jyu-Oh-Sei is one of those series, made all the more stark by its runtime.
The series takes place some several hundred years from now in the Balkan star system, a place where humanity is having a hard time adjusting. Lifespans are reduced by nearly half from what it’s like on Earth and adapting to the various worlds in the area simply hasn’t worked well. Into this system, which uses a lot of names and places from Norse mythology, a grand plan is underway to try and reshape humanity in order to survive. The species imperative is alive and well and unlike in the past, it’s being guided by humanity itself instead of the conditions that they live in. Forcing the race to make the leap into something else isn’t exactly heard of in this kind of situation and scale.
Jyu-Oh-Sei is a bit awkward at its start simply because it’s trying to introduce us to this system and the way civilization is working on Juno, the place where most of humanity is. We’re introduced to much of it through the eyes of Thor and Rai, a pair of twins whose parents are rather respected and high up in the system of things here. The two are rather close but quite different even though they look similar. Thor is outgoing, confident and very capable while Rai is more introspective, quieter and less aggressive. So when they find that their parents have been murdered, Rai goes right to them and weeps while Thor realizes that they may be next and tries to figure out what to do. That doesn’t help though as the military swoops in, captures them easily and then puts them in a capsule and launches them into space.
When the pair awaken and find themselves on Chimaera, a planet they’ve never even heard of within their own star system, they realize just how much trouble they’re in. Thor copes with it well enough, but for Rai it’s a real challenge. Discovering that it’s really a penal colony planet with very strict rules only makes it worse as they have to find a “Ring” to get into and survive in. The colony is all about survival of the fittest with the best of the best known as the Top. He’s followed by his Second and Third who deal with different levels challenges. The women, which make up roughly twenty percent of the population on the planet, form smaller groups within each of the Rings and hold a lot of power. They’re able to choose a mate once a year and nobody in general can refuse them. The system that’s set up on the planet is one that fosters survival of the fittest and the two young men face an enormous challenge because of it.
Chimaera is as much a character in the show as Thor and those of his and opposing Rings as the series progresses. The planet has a very wild feel to it as the plants rule the world more than anything else. The planet has 180 days of sun and 180 days of night, so that puts the entire world in an interesting cycle where it’s either massively cold and dismal or it’s incredibly alive with very vicious plants that are doing what they can to survive. The plants don’t have a lot of real variety in terms of the ones that interact with the characters, but those that do are fairly vicious and the others really build up an incredibly vivid backdrop for the series to take place in. With the great color design and the fluidity to the animation, Chimaera is very much alive and has a definite impact on how the story progresses.
One of the things that I found appealing about the show is its character designs and use of the passage of time. Thor and Rai start off at twelve years old, though physically they look a bit older because of how time is kept in this particular system. Only four years progress in the show but the passage is longer in “our” terms as Thor grows into more of a young adult, one now shaped by events on Chimaera. That passage and change in the characters, the growth in general, also works very well because of the great character designs. They feel modern but with that old school style to it that you get from shojo manga. They’re not effeminate, but they’re not big bulking blocks of men walking around either. The women are attractive, and sometimes scantily clad, but they never feel like pure cheesecake shots either. The balance found here is really spot on.
Jyu-Oh-Sei was a real surprise considering that I knew absolutely nothing about it going into it. It’s a tough blind buy purchase for a lot of people with the lack of buzz about it combined with the price and that it is just eleven episodes. But to me, Jyu-Oh-Sei is a beautiful hidden little gem that will appeal to a lot of people that would otherwise pass it over. Fans of shows like Blue Gender, Toward the Terra and Please Save My Earth may find a lot to like here if they give it the chance. It’s definitely rekindled my love of the genre and is a real rarity out here these days.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Staff Commentary, Original Commercials, 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.