Kiddy Grade Vol. #1 -

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: 16 & Up
  • Region: 4 - Australia / South America
  • Released By: Madman Entertainment
  • MSRP: AU$29.95/AU$39.95
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:!
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kiddy Grade

Kiddy Grade Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     April 19, 2005
Release Date: April 21, 2004

Kiddy Grade Vol. #1
© Madman Entertainment

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 GU, the Galactic Organization of Tariffs and Trade, or GOTT was simultaneously formed to settle economic disputes amongst the member planets. Existing in the shadows of the GOTT, the ES Force serves as the GOTT'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!
Audio: A-
You get the option of an English dub track in 5.1 and 2-channel versions, and a 2-channel Japanese track. I mostly listened to the disc in Japanese, which makes good use of the channels available to convey a good sense of direction in both dialog and effects. A spot-check of the English 5.1 track revealed good use of the extra speakers, particularly with the action scenes. The dub's not half bad, either.

Video: A
As you'd expect from a recent GONZO series, the visuals & transfer here are top-class, with vibrant colours and nothing in the way of visible defects. Madman have used the same alternate-angle technique used by FUNimation to offer the opening an closing title sequences in both Japanese & English (where even the song is translated), which is a practice I wish more companies would adopt. The only problem is with the subtitle font, which is a little on the small side.

Packaging: A-
This volume comes in both disc-only and disc-plus-box versions. The DVD cover features Eclair, with her lipstick lasso in full flow, against a monochrome background that features a collage of faces from these episodes. The rear cover features Madman’s comprehensive technical information panel, episode titles and synopsis, and a selection of images from the series. The cover is reversible, with the reverse side featuring Eclair & Lumiere in manga-style artwork.

The box is of the sturdy chipboard construction that artbox fans expect, with each side featuring an image of a pair of ES-Members. Eclair & Lumiere make an appearance on the box top, while the disc technical information panel is repeated on the base.

Menu: B
Menus appear with a computer-style animation, but settle into a static image of Eclair with the various options on the left of the screen. There's no animation when switching between menu screens, which makes navigation quick & easy.

Extras: B+
Image Gallery - a selection of screen shots from the series, along with a few pieces of promotional art, presented as a minute-and-a-half slide show.
Character Profiles - text-only profiles of Eclair, Lumiere, Eclipse, Armblast, Mercredi, Alv and Dvergr.
Promotional Video - 5 minutes of techno-backed video, using both clips from the series & original sequences & stills, to give you a feel for the show
Original Commercials - 2 adverts for the Japanese DVD release
Textless OP - clean version of opening credits, using the Japanese OP song

Content: B-(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the far future, the GOTT - the Galactic Organisation on Tariffs and Trade - helps to keep the peace and control disputes between its many member worlds. Lumiere and Eclair, apparently two young teenage girls, can often be found manning the front desk at GOTT's headquarters, but their 'day job' hides their true capabilities - they're ES-Members, part of GOTT's elite and possessors of superhero-like powers. Eclair has almost superhuman speed and strength, while with just a touch Lumiere can hack into and control almost any technological system. Their adventures are the main focus of Kiddy Grade, although other ES-Members occasionally appear to spice things up - the first to make an appearance being Alv and Dvergr, whose powers are way beyond Eclair's and Lumiere's, and have attitudes to match their abilities.

The three episodes on this disc are pretty much standalone fluff - in Depth/Space, the girls are assigned to escort a GOTT official to mediation talks, but it seems one of the planets involved would rather have the mediator dead. In Tight/Bind, they're given orders to track down a missing shipment of Hi-G, a highly dangerous substance which could be lethal in the wrong hands, while in Prisoner/Escort, they're back on escort duty, bringing a fugitive back from the frontier while trying to avoid being pinned down by his comrades, who want him back.

Kiddy Grade marks Keiji Gotoh's first outing as an anime director - he's probably best known for his character design work on series such as Martian Successor Nadesico and Gatekeepers, among many others, and while he wasn't responsible for the designs here, you can certainly see the influence. Production company GONZO are also well known for visually impressive shows, which some might say are often sadly lacking in depth. Those naysayers will be pointing to Kiddy Grade as proof of their opinion – some scenes in these episodes are largely an excuse for throwing large doses of fanservice at the viewer, with lots of bouncing breasts and white panties on show, thanks to a range conveniently-chosen camera angles. While that alone will keep a large section of anime fandom glued to the screen (and possibly drooling at the mouth), if you're looking for something a bit more cerebral you'll probably end up disappointed, for while there are some well-executed 'set piece' combat scenes scattered throughout these episodes there's very little of what you could call 'development'.

In most shows, you would expect the first few episodes to work on developing both the main characters and the setting - both of these are important if you're to build any sort of 'connection' to a show. Kiddy Grade does a good job with setting up the show's universe, but the characters are left with only the vaguest outlines of personality. Eclair comes across as a typical teenage girl - light-hearted and fun loving - who only gets serious when she really has to. Lumiere is almost a complete contrast - apparently much younger, she's very serious and despairs of Eclair's attitude to life, and is definitely the more organised of the two. You get enough information to get a very basic feel for who they are, how likable they're going to be and the relationship between them, but that's about it. The other recurring characters - Alv, Dvergr and GOTT 'observer' Armblast - don't even get that, and are left almost as cookie-cutter stereotypes.

With all that said, as standalone fluff goes, Kiddy Grade is pretty good - if you're looking for a no-intelligence-required show to pass a few hours with, you won't find a lot of negatives here. There's a lot of eye-candy on show, both of the girls and some futuristic hardware, and that'll be enough to keep a lot of people interested, but it does also seem as if Keiji Gotoh was thrown in at the deep end before he was quite ready to take on the Director's role, and as a result you get the feeling that the show could be more than it is. By most accounts, that's something that's corrected later in the series, but that doesn't help this volume.

In Summary:
If I didn't know that Kiddy Grade improved noticeably in later volumes, I would have a hard time recommending it to anyone other than action fans - but it does improve, which makes this disc a bit harder to rate. These episodes provide a good introduction to the Kiddy Grade universe and a chance for the lead characters to strut their stuff in some eye-catchingly flashy ways, but there's not much depth past that. Enjoyable enough of itself, but it could have been much more.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Character Profiles,Promotional Video,Original Commercials,Textless Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 29” widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1-channel speaker system.


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