Kiddy Grade Vol. #1 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 24.98/34.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kiddy Grade

Kiddy Grade Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     February 12, 2004
Release Date: February 10, 2004

Kiddy Grade Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
In Star century Zero-One-Sixty-Five, the Global Union was born. To provide an impartial mediator to the various planetary governments of the G.U., the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs, or G.O.T.T. was simultaneously formed to settle economic disputes amongst the member planets.

Existing in the shadows of the G.O.T.T., the ES Force serves as the G.O.T.T.'s primary law enforcement organization. ES Force members Eclair and Lumiere are on the front line, pursuing all manner of criminals and bringing them to justice. This is their story.

The Review!
Gonzo pays homage to Dirty Pair.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a rather good stereo mix with a good flair for forward soundstage directionality both in the dialogue and action departments. We also sampled the show in the English 5.1 mix that was done and noted some really good moments where particular effects come across much more distinctly. Dialogue is nice and clear in both tracks and we had no issues with dropouts or other distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for the first three episodes of this twenty-four episode series looks great. The transfer brings the vivid color palette used to life both in the characters and their backgrounds. The space background shots look fantastic as well with the blacks holding solid very nicely. Like other Gonzo series, there's no noticeable cross coloration throughout the program and aliasing is very little, resulting in a nice clean print. FUNimation continues their use of alternate angles for the opening and ending sequence, with one angle providing the original Japanese credits text (i.e. untranslated) while the second angle provides the translated bilingual credits.

Presented in a clear keepcase, the front cover uses a variant of the Japanese first cover by taking Éclair and placing the faces of other characters behind her, as well as transitioning the logo to the bottom. Both covers work well, but I think the Japanese cover is a bit cleaner looking and gives more attention to Éclair. The back cover has a number small character shot bubbles all over it and lists the three episodes and their episode numbers. The summary is pretty basic, but along the bottom is a mishmash of information. Placed into as mall space is the various production credits and a listing of the discs features. No mention of the English 5.1 language either, which is a definite selling point for some people. The reverse side of the clear keepcase has a cute almost doujinshi like image of the two leads in their kitchen/maid outfits while the other panel has action and character shots from the show itself, nicely laid out at that. The insert replicates the front cover and opens to a two panel shot where one side has summaries for the three episodes and the other has a large number of animation bubbles floating around it. The back of the insert just has an advert.

Those keepcases that have the burst sticker on it that indicate that there's cards inside, there's a double set of several cards showing characters and scenes from the show. A set to keep safe and a set to stick all over your computer or geeky place of choice! The cards are cute and have some nice shots on them.

The box set release is a good solid hard box that will hold all eight volumes of the series. One side panel has two characters we haven't met yet while the other shows characters that we've seen in previews. The large spine section showcases a really nice shot of two more characters that look like the leads but aren't. In fact, the only place to see Lumiere and Éclair is on the top of the box. This box really qualifies as shiny and filled with lots of slick looking character artwork.

A very limited edition of the box set was also released, limited to around 5,000 copies I believe, that came with a baseball cap with the series logo on the front. The cap has the Velcro adjustments on it and it's the first anime baseball cap I've seen so far that actually fits my huge freaking head. I'm thrilled!

The menu layout is pretty standard with a static series of images, such as the main menu having shots of both Éclair and Lumiere set to some music from the show. Selections are quick and easy to access though I don't like how in the language menu, when you make a selection, there's nothing to indicate that it took or what it's actually going to play.

There's a good selection of extras included in this release, starting with a nice full color video art gallery that runs about 90 seconds and shows off various scenes from these three episodes. The opening song is provided in clean form, though you can choose to listen to the dubbed opening and/or have subtitles on for it. The promotional video is included, something from the Japanese release, but apparently according to those who saw it originally, the song that was used in Japan for it couldn't be brought over so a different song is used. It's a great video regardless and it shows off the series beautifully. Rounding out the extras, there's a couple of commercials for the Japanese DVD release of the first volume and a series of seven character profiles that are pretty much single paragraph summaries.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kiddy Grade is the latest in a long string of Gonzo series that get snapped up and released fairly quickly after its original run. As seems to go between the varying shows coming out of that production house, they vary all over the map from more serious adventures to the lighthearted material. Kiddy Grade, going by these first few episodes, looks set to play up the lighter aspect while setting it against bit dark epic scale.

The timeline is set fairly far into the future, a few hundred years after the establishment of the Global Union that oversees all the star systems that humanity has colonized to. Within the Global Union is the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariff's, a group that exists to essentially to deal with trade and other disputes between the various planetary governments and the likely multiplanetary corporations that are bound to run amuck with such an open playing field. Within the GOTT, there are a variety of layers of personnel that deal with the issues, from your top-level diplomats down to the basic security services that keep things neat and orderly during a mediation.

Within an organization like this, it isn't surprising that there would be a group that's set to deal with the more dangerous situations. And often those situations call for the right kind of people to deal with things as they may go. The ES personnel perform the extra-legal activities required of them in the service of the safety and betterment of the Global Union. When you have devices or artifacts that can basically destroy entire planets, you need to have a group of people who are willing to do what it takes to stop that by whatever means necessary but while still keeping the higher ideals that the GOTT stands behind.

For this story, we're introduced to the team of Éclair, age sixteen, and Lumiere, age ten. Both of them have unique abilities that make them special among the members of the GOTT and possible to serve in as ES members, regardless of their age. Eclair, in addition to being highly athletic, has a powerful "lipstick" weapon that lets her draw out from the tube and then use the text or drawing as a whip that can be sharp or snugly wrap someone up. Lumiere has the ability to insert her thoughts into machines, something that doesn't seem like much at first but is proven to be highly useful as it allows her to send her commands through any electronics. Being able to sit in a command chair and send your power through the corridors up onto the surface of a ship to explode an invading power suit isn't something to be underrated.

When not on missions, the duo (and others like them) serve smaller functions in the GOTT headquarters, such as receptionists and the like. But when the need arises, they're off in a flash in their special ship named La Muse, which she has a conscious connection to due to her special ability. Both of these girls get along well with each other and have a simple cool exterior to them, though there is a life to them that shines through pretty regularly. When it gets time to act, they're all business however.

The opening volume to the series with the three episodes here are all standalone adventures, though there's enough hints placed throughout them to show something larger at work. Both girls are assigned to a mission and they go along with Armburst (or Armblast if you're watching the dub, a strange change I might add), an "inspector and auditor" for the GOTT that handles things such as negotiations for missions or procurement of goods during exchanges. The opening episode has him going to a planet that's the site of a blockade in space where he's to mediate a series of talks between the leaders, and it's Éclair and Lumiere's job to get him there. They go through all the action and adventure just so that he can get down there safely to ensure the best interests of the Global Union are observed.

With the three episodes here, I found the series hard to really put into words, partially because we're only given the basics of the leads and of the organization and not enough to really go on at length about. There's a lot to like though, based on my own interests. The design of the Global Union is one of massive and epic proportions. Huge ships traveling through space, massive fleets and all sorts of bizarre and giant orbital platforms from prisons to warp tunnels. The warp tunnels are of interest in particular with the way they provide transport throughout the known systems. Their design, as well as the designs of many other massive objects, is highly reminiscent of a number of early 80's science fiction anime series where the creativity seemed to know no bounds before things became "common" in design, a commonality that's continued in anime today.

The lead characters for the series are mostly ciphers during these three episodes, as we get only a few small bits about whom they really are. There's no "off" time or them as they're seemingly always on duty, so we don't see them outside of being ES members of performing the work of receptionists. Their work persona's come through well though, and while their personalities do not harken to the duo of the Dirty Pair, the way they operate at times does. From the massive collateral damage during the missions to the unique weapons (Éclair's lipstick isn't the bloody card, but it's one of the more unique ways of creating a weapon in recent memory), these two women seem to be taking on the modern day roles of the classic show. At times, even the mysteriousness of the GOTT seems to mirror aspects of the WWWA and how it chose which people for which missions and seems to clear the operatives afterwards, regardless of the amount of damage caused.

In Summary:
Kiddy Grade so far is a fun and entertaining show, and there are a few hooks that will grab people, but there's still something lacking that just jumps up and down and demands that you watch the next volume as soon as it comes. The show looks great visually and there's a sense of style to it that I haven't seen in many other science fiction series in awhile, but whether the story will turn out to be interesting, never mind any good, remains to be seen.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Promotional Video,Japanese Commercials,Character Profiles,Textless Opening

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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